Stay out of the cabbage, Ray

Posted by Zoe Courville

Yesterday was a rough day. Anyone who has ever worked with me on polar
field projects knows that I am not a big fan of snowmobiles, and probably
finds this amusing that I am helping out with a very snowmobile-intensive
part of our project. Yesterday was a rough day for all of us, snowmobile
haters and fans alike, given the strong winds and low visibility that
started up pretty much as soon as we took down our tent and were ready to
head out.

Mike and a nice sundog

Mike and a nice sundog

The forecast was for 20 knt winds, and some blowing snow, but we quickly
encountered speeds well north of 20 knt, and pretty low visibility. We
worked out a bomber system of driving, with Chris in the front navigating by
GPS and continuously checking on loads and people. This is a very tricky
task even in the best of conditions, with no reference to aim for in the
distance anyway. Add the low visibility and the needs to keep in tight
formation to stay together, and it becomes grueling. Check out the
breadcrumb tracker, and you can see how difficult this can be. We weren’t
at the point where it was like “driving in milk” as the great Antarctica
scientist and explorer Charlie Bentley once put it, but it was enough to
make things hard. I rode just off of Chris’s upwind back corner, with Mike
in the same spot for me. That way, both Mike and I were visible in Chris’s
sideview mirrors, and he could make sure we were together, and the drift
from the strong side winds we were driving into pushed over our sleds, and
we didn’t have to drive in each other’s spin drift.

Chris's view all day...GPS, mirror with Zoe and Mike behind him

Chris’s view all day…GPS,
mirror with Zoe and Mike behind him

When our higher profile canopy sled, which I am pulling, tipped over due to
the side winds, we decided to take refuge in it and let the wind die down a
bit. It was much too windy to set up the tent at that point, as it would
have blown away. Holed up in the sled and eating some snacks (lunchitos and
caribou jerkey), Mike asked Chris and I what we had been thinking about all
day. Mike, being Mike, the eternal optimist, said he had been singing song
lyrics to himself, going through all the songs he could think of and
marveling at the glimpses of snow snaking along the ground and sun peaking
through the drifts. Chris, with the task at hand at keeping us together,
said that his entire day consisted of telling himself, “check the GPS, check
the loads, check the people, check the GPS, check the loads, check the
people.” For me, the thing that was stuck in my head was a line from
Youtube sensation Ray, the redneck lawnchair stuntman. If you’ve seen the
video of him jumping his redneck lawnchair over a large snow ramp, you’re
perhaps familiar with the line, “stay out of the cabbage, Ray” where the
cabbage refers to the rough snow piles along the sides of the snow ramp that
are apparently good to stay out of. I kept telling myself to “stay out of
the cabbage,” the drifted snow, Chris’s bumpy trail, the hard sastrugi, etc.

But it was all cabbage.

cabbage

cabbage

We got as far as we could, the winds died down, and we made camp. Here’s to
today being cabbage-free!

One thought on “Stay out of the cabbage, Ray

  1. enjoying the expansion of my snow/ice vocabulary: cabbage and the hard sastrugi.
    Mike should work on some lyrics
    I didn’t expect to be able to follow the adventure. Thrilling
    Proud of you guys
    Fran Stewart

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