Monday, December 28, 2009

Tools of the trade

Hey there
  I've been in "X-Mas" mode, and spent a few days wandering about, enjoying the country, but not deviating from the trail, and not much crossed that when I was headed down it :D

  Fact is we have a "Trail System" that connects Alaskan villages and camps, pretty much from Barrow to the Keni, so if a fella were so inclined to ride it, with dog team (as its been for thousands of years) or snowgos, like today, he could get pretty far. The Ididarod Dog race trail is popular for snowgo riding from Anchorage to Nome.....and I can be in Nome from my house in 10 hours on a clear day.........:D

 I ride Polaris, a 600cc RMK 144 inch paddle track'd..........a brand I favor because, except for the 550 series of engines, they are relaible and easy to work on. 
 The ride under me is 5 winters old , with less than 1/2 its original parts. 6-10,000 miles a year and a guy go's through alotta parts.  the cowling alone has been changed twice..~~LOL!!~~The best thing is that I "Know" my rig, litterally , inside and out, and can quickly diagnose a problem and fix it or perscribe some walking if its terminal..... Its a boost when its 50 miles to the next village, -40, dark and somethings going wrong with the ride. The top pix one of my machine bringing two others and a sled home. 

We dont use helmets, but with a couple ski masks and a padded Beaver hat, a guy can fend off some serious bumps and still be wearing the same head gear when hes chopping wood, aiming a rifle or walking. A helmet is a burden then.
 we do try to be safe, for sure. It starts with taking good care of your ride and being prepared for problems.
 We ALWAYS tell someone when we travle or hunt.

We all have "travle bags" that are stuffed with what each of us thinks they may need to get them through the night , outside in an arctic winter.
 I take basic survival gear, extra socks, gloves, and skimask , knifes and stone, 4 or 5 kinds of fire starting stuff, candles, a Zippo, with spare fluid, toilet paper,  a canteen with cup, spoon, coffee , candy, canned foods, an extensive first aid kit, spaceblankets, rope, a pocket book to pass the time with,(boredom sux and can mess you up) start a fire or wipe my butt, if need be.......and  a bag to carry it all insde the back pack.
 My Parka gos everywhere, as does my rifle.
In my inside pockets are my wallet, a pocket knife, a flashlight, xtra batteries and my VHF radio.......maby a small thermos.
 In my outside pockets theres toilet paper, lighter, food, ammo and whatnots.

Outside that be it my jacket or Parka, I sinch down my belt. It hlds my knife at the ready and hold my warm stuff down and the wind out. Besides, I can open my zipper and put stuff in therenext to my body for heat, to keep warm while its cold out.

 I also carry tools on the machine, spare lube oil,rope, spare belts, plugz, ect... and alcohol to deice my machine.

We often modify our rides to our needs and tastes.
  The first thing I do is mount ties for a rifle scabbard. I dont use one when Im in a village, but when I camp, thats where I store the rifle, and I carry more gear, as I need.
Some add little roasters to their mufflers to cook and melt drinking water, and some add VHF antennas for communicating and some just make them FAST.
 I add a decent hitch, because Polaris cant make a good one, and Ski Doo are worse. 
We weld and mount angle iron into a solid hitch that we can shackle sled to. 
I use a 144 inch track for the "Pull" and have it geard down for that Pulling.
 I put a taller windsheild and extended that, so -50 and Im not damaging my face permently from a little breeze.
 I put Gauntlet hand covers over my handle bars to keep the wind off as well.
We add extra wheels so our plastic hyfax slides dont get too worn and we suport our track better.
 Theres often alotta welding done for repair and reinforcment on the under carriage, front and back.
With todays blunt nosed look, theres no tub up in front of the suspention, and on the trail and off, theres alot more crushed up front ends and broken A frames now days. Its good to have a wide "Nose" on th efront of your rig for floatation and lift in dep snow and off trail conditions.
 Gaining weight it the price, though, and getting REALLY stuck can happen.....and can result in your long walk or death.
It will scoot open water for about 100 yards if Im alone, a good factor to have :D

   Ive used my snowgo in the summer as well, though its not advisable. 
 Using a fan cooled engine, we waited for a rainy week(To wet and cool our hyfax) and took our cowlings off, added 2 cycle oil directly into the gasoline, and pulled a basket sled because they are flexable and light. 
 Gone hunting that way as well as I once,when I Needed to get to a clinic, I cruized untll a river had to be crossed, but a few hours like that saved days of walking.

In summer we generaly bring our rigs "up to snuff" and ready to ride before it gets cold.
 We have almost no snow untill after Thanksgiving, though it freezes up in the first week of October (Though three weeks late this year)
I was glad I did this year, and our only problem so far has been a bum bering that shed a wheel, and since I run 12 wheels, it was no problem.

 Things break in the deep cold. Snomachines break ALOT.
I think of my ride like a kid that needs attention, care and proper feeding.
Putting  in clean gas can be a challang, and straining a ritual during fueling, as all gasoline this far beyond the road is suspect. Iso Heet and a Mr.Funnel rule! Theres nothing worse than icing up a rig out there, and defrosting it , with out heat or shelter, witha flashlight in your teeth at -30 on the dark trail home, at 4 am........
Shocks for the under carriage are a "Wear item" and are a most important part of the system. If your shocks go, things start breaking, so its best to think of a tracked vehicle as "High Maintainance"
 You must do a walk around inspection before you ride and when you stop.

We hitch sleds to em, of various homemade construction, and theres a few factory modles out there, mostly plastic, but home made "Basket sleds" of tied construction with thin planks for flex and strength, and  for pulling lighter loads and people, and theres "Flat sleds" made of solid bolted planks for hauling heavy loads of Fish, meat, wood and ice.
  Theres some "Best ways" to tie a sled and each learns on his/her own what will keep anything tied down, eventually~~LOL!!~~
 Every time you stop on the trail witha load, you look it over, and adjust where nessarry.

We ride these babys till early June down by the ocean, late May up the rivers as Sea ice stays longer but a 8 month season isnt long when your aving fun.....its the 6$ a gallon gas thats still putting a sober bit of thought into each ride, and how best we gain from that ride.

Horse, truck, boat or a snowgo, a guys gotta have a ride!
Best be hunting all the ride long :D


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Couldn resist

Thankgiving I had a bit of a bump on the trail, and I thought I got away with a knot on my head and a purple eye, witha a bit of a thump in my chest.
Not so.
Well, it turned out the pain in my chest only got worst, and after a couple sleepless nights, I went to the Clinik and confirmed the worst; I had 3 broken ribs. When I pinballed about on the snowgo, I had my knee shoved up near my nose and my hip bone felt like it went under my ribs. I bound them and with a couple loud snaps, the relief of having them back in place was soon gone as dull pain with each breath came on. 
There wasnt much they could do, so They gave me codine and told me to take a couple weeks off. 
This morning I felt good enough to go ride that snowgo and spring my traps, as the wife and I wont be around t o check them or care for the fur.
Came home with two fox and a Beaver I caught in an Otter trap :D

 Then I bumpe'd into 50 or so Caribou and caught two.

Slow work and a short pull of the rope with the snowgo to get them on the sled, and all was quite well.

Least Im getting better!