Written by Mike Stewart
So you’re driving along on “Neptune”, watching Chris ahead of you, and Nate behind you in your rear view mirror.
As you may have seen in pictures already we snow machine in a formation called quartering, where we are stacked up behind each other’s left or right shoulder (depending on the wind direction). We keep a set distance between us and maintain the same speed. This takes some concentration and is quite fun, making what could be a boring drive into what feels like a special-ops maneuver! Because we all have the same machine, and a relatively similar load that we are towing, the engines are running at best efficiency when around 6100 RPM. That’s giving us an average speed of about 42 kmh. If you look in the photo, you’ll see the little throttle lever on my right handlebar, which I have to hold constantly to keep in formation with the guys.
My left hand can control the brake if I need it, but otherwise just helps in the steering and can be rather lazy. Until I get an itch on my head, need to dust snow off of my dashboard gauges, or have to adjust my goggles. I could of course just stop, take off my big gloves and fix with the minor inconvenience or scratch the scratch… BUT then I would have caused Chris and Nate to stop too (that’s what we do when something is wrong or when one of us has a GOOD reason to halt our progress). Nobody wants to stop the train for something so trivial! It would be like stopping your car every time you wanted to adjust your glasses a little. Silly and impractical. So I can just simply use my left hand while driving along with my right…
Except my left hand is like a small log in a sleeping bag! Like if you picked up a bunny rabbit and tried to adjust your reading glasses with it. And if you get a bad itch on your forehead while careening along across bumpy snow and trying to stay lined up with the team?
That clawless bear paw makes you steam up in frustration! And the worst part (those of you who drive snow machines will smile in understanding) is that you can’t help but squeeze your right hand on the throttle while you itch uncontrollably with your stupid giant boxing glove of a left hand! So you go speeding out of formation like you’ve got ants in your pants, everybody looking over at you, as you try to calmly return to your place in the line-up. Driving out here is like driving a small boat in gentle seas. The sastrugi are little wavelets and the air is fresh and sweet to breathe, it’s pristine… until the South Paw skips the record and throws a monkey wrench in it!