Sunday, March 15, 2015

Ridin' in the Hills of Allegany State Park

Messy Messy Fail - A co-worker of mine did a great project with her students that I wanted to try with the toddler and the baby.  The project is called "If I were in a snow globe...." - you glue a picture of yourself to a piece of construction paper, then glue a clear plastic plate filled halfway with epsom salts and VOILA - a kid in a snow globe.  I printed some pictures, bought the salts, got a few plastic plates from my friend, but never did it with the boys.  But that's okay it always snows at the end of April here!

Tidy Victory - I have over 6,000 pictures on my lap top that is seriously about to expire at any moment.  Who knew purchasing an external hard drive and backing everything up onto it was so easy?!?!?!  This girl does now!

My husband and I purchased two used snowmobiles before the toddler was born, the fall of 2010.  We had some friends who had sleds and let us take them out a couple of times to try it out.  After all it is a rather large investment you are making.  Between then and now, there were two winters I couldn't ride because a) I had just had a baby (the toddler) or b) I was hugely pregnant with a baby (the baby).  This was the first season I felt really comfortable on my sled - it really takes some getting used to and some good old time on the sleds.

To drive the sleds, there is a simple accelerator on your right handle bar and a break on your left handle bar, which are heated by the way.  You do you have to use some arm and shoulder strength to control the steering - beginning of the season is always a little rough - but you grow accustomed to driving and how the sled handles.  That's when the fun begins.

In the county where we live, there are over 400 miles of trails that snowmobiles have access too.  The trails are groomed by several clubs that have volunteers who help to maintain the trails.  Snowmobilers can join a club and pay dues to help with trail maintenance, i.e. grooming, sign maintenance.  All of the trails have signs just like on our public roadways that show where there are bridges, speed limits, steep slopes, etc.  Typical driving rules apply too, like staying on the right side of the trail and stopping at all stop signs.

During the week of Presidents Day in February, both my husband's and my school districts had our winter break.  So, we decided to do some epic snowmobiling during our week off.

We (my husband) loaded up the sleds in the trailer and we made plans to meet some of his buddies at Allegany State Park.  It was a very cold day (shoot I didn't get a picture of the temperature reading!) but beautiful day.  I got some decent shots of our ride past the lake into the park.

Hello little clamshell trailer!

Breakfast anyone?  No time for that gotta get riding!

When we go out riding with a group of people, I'm usually the last person, aka the caboose.  For safety, you let groups riding in towards you know how many other riders are behind you by holding up fingers.  I always hold up a fist, as in there are 0 riders behind me because I'm the last one, aka the caboose.  I am also typically the only lady - up until this winter.  A few years ago another couple (you know who you are!) we know purchased a sled to try it out and then a second so they could both ride - I was never so excited in my life to have another female around!  We had the most fun on our last ride of the season when her sled broke down a few miles out of town, we towed it in and left it in a parking lot, then hung out at a local bar enjoying some libations while the boys rode back to the trailer and then came to get us.  We also have another couple who ride a two-up sled with us - way to go ladies!

Sleds have a speedometer and a tachomter just like a car.  The chord at the bottom of the picture attaches a key that starts your sled to a hook on your jacket so that when you are thrown from your sled (which never happens I swear!) the vehicle turns off.  The red switch on the right handlebar is my kill switch which currently isn't working, and the switches on the left are to turn the handle bar warmers on.

Sometimes while the menfolk are trying to figure out where we are, I like to take pictures of the scenery.  Unfortunately these pictures do not do justice to the true beauty of winter in the woods.

Exactly how many men does it take to read the map?  Good thing I just follow and document with pictures! ;)

There are signs on the trails very similar to regular road signs that warn you about sharp turns, steep slopes or blind hills.  It's always very important to stay on the trails.  There are many working oil rigs on the trails, which you don't always get to see up close.

One of the most important aspects of riding is making sure you have fun places to stop to eat along the way.  I wish I had gotten more pictures of this stop, but the restaurant was called the Cow Palace.  We had some great sandwiches and subs there.

It's also fun when you get an opportunity to check out some cool landmarks.  Pictured above is a small observation site called Stone Tower.  Below are some neat conglomerate rock formations called Thunder Rocks.

My husband can't help but go into the powder, he likes to live on the edge (literally ha!)

It's always fun to play in some powder.

My turn (in red) - someone finally takes a picture of the sled photographer.

My husband tells me I make lots of faces while we are out on a ride:

Uh oh face
Flirty face
         Why did you just do that face
                                              Happy face

Always look both ways.  You never know who is coming.

Many of the hiking and horseback riding trails serve as snowmobile trails during the winter.  However for trails that are for snowmobiles only, they have gates to keep unwanted visitors off.  They also make for great pictures.

The cabins at Allegany are arranged into loops - this is the loop we stopped at where some friends were staying.

The snow was coming down pretty good at the end of our ride for the day.

All you need for a tasty treat on the trails is a 50 cent habachi grill, some tongs and beer.

The cute (I mean manly) cabin some friends had stayed in the previous night.  Notice the multiple gas cans on the porch, don't ask.

Time to put the sleds back in the clamshell - great ride today!

A snowy drive home.

It's easy to put 90 miles on your sled when rippin' around beautifully groomed wide-open trails.

The temperature finally got up to a balmy 12 degrees - time to pick up the boys at daycare and head back home.

So you may be thinking to yourself, why would I invest in this hobby?  It's cold, it's expensive, and I don't think I could do it.  Reason #1 - yes it is cold but I SWEAR between your handlebar warmers and your gear, you really do not get cold unless it is truly subzero and blowing like the dickens, in which case you probably shouldn't be out riding anyways.  Nothing worse then breaking down in the bitter cold.  Reason #2 - yes it is expensive, an investment, but if you take the time to enjoy your investment, it is so worth it!  Depending on if you buy new or used, a sled can cost anywhere from a couple to several thousand, but it's all about what you want.  Typically you need to purchase a trailer to tow your sled as well.  There is normal maintenance that must be kept up (oil & gas) along with the occasional break down that can add up costs.  and There are so many trails and places in the New England area where you can ride, even make a vacation out of it and stay overnight for a few days or more.  It's so great to be able to get out of the house during the winter time and get some fresh air.  The boys will even be able to join us when they are older - they make sleds for 2 or more people, just need a helmet and the right gear.  Reason #3 - if I can do it SO CAN YOU!  I would certainly not describe myself as athletic, perhaps once upon in a time in high school.  You really just to put on your big girl (or big boy) pants and give it a try.  If there is someone you know who has a sled, ask to try it out in a safe area where you can go slow and get accustomed to it.  I have even heard of shops in the region where you can rent a snowmobile.  I'm telling you once you try it, you're hooked!

As our riding season comes to an end, my husband and I have lots of great pictures and memories from fun on the trails of Chautauqua County.  We would like to give a shout out to our club, the Chautauqua Lake Snowmobile Club, along with all the other local clubs for great maintenance this season with our nearly record snowfall.

Also thanks to all of my husbands friends who let me tag along on the trails this winter.  Always remember boys, happy wife = happy life! :)


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