Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Cultural clash? Or crash?
We loaded up the sleds with 4 days worth of gear and started trudging up the snowmobile trail to the point where the trail to our back country cabin in the Porkies headed into the woods. This is always the most aggravating part of the trip due to snowmobiles that seem to be roaring by on a regular basis. In addition to the noise and the piquant smell of burnt two cycle oil, it seems about half of them don't even slow down or give you that little finger wave accompanied by the slight nod of the head that we stoic midwesterners seem to favor. I'm sure they are thinking 'look at those tree hugging jerks, dragging their hummus, granola, and yuppie wine into the woods on their skinny skis'. We of course, are thinking ' lazy ass beer swilling belt heads, blasting from bar to bar in a futile attempt to stay under .24 blood alcohol level'. It seems that we always have this need to embrace this conflict and the deep seated belief that the activity that we are engaged in is the 'correct' one in any number of ways, allowing us to look down on those who haven't quite reached our heightened consciousness. The powerboat-sailboat-kayak dynamic in the Apostle Islands of Lake Superior in the summer is a classic example and the snowmobile-cross country skier is its winter version. Both activities and the individuals who practice them have their pros and cons, their large proportion of responsible participants and their small percentage of idiots. Like our national political situation, its just difficult for us to say something positive about the 'other guys'.
All this changed, at least for a few minutes, as a line of snowmobiles came past us. RangerMark and I had fallen about 100 yards behind the VoiceOfReason and GreenThumbChef and were exchanging friendly waves with the snowmobiles, who had slowed down to about 30mph. Suddenly one sled ran up on the back of another, spun the guy out and sent both machines into the ditch, fiberglass flying all over the place. A third machine attempted to avoid the mess and wound up hitting the guy who had been thrown off the first machine. Ranger Mark and I unclipped from our pulks and ran over to make sure everyone was OK. Fortunately they were other than possible bruise or two, some cracked fiberglass, and a massive adrenaline overdose. We all pitched in to drag the two machines out of the ditch and get them running. As we clipped in to start our human sled dog routine again, a couple of the snowmobilers said, "Hey guys, thanks for stopping". And with that simple comment, which resulted from our simple act of human concern, for a brief moment it wasn't really 'us' and 'them' anymore.