Snowmobiling 2010!

My friend Aaron Benson and I just got back from a 4-day snowmobiling adventure in Michigan’s upper peninsula. The conditions were very good, despite a big thaw and lots of rain about a week before our trip. Thankfully, temperatures plunged back to the teens and plenty of snow had fallen by the time we arrived.  It was cold, but not too cold.  Because we were sledding Sunday night through Wednesday, we missed the rush of all the weekend warriors and the trails were fairly empty and in relatively good condition.

Snowmobiling Temps

Snowmobiling Temps

We stayed at the Big Buck Cabin, right next door to and run by the same people as B&L’s 38 Lodge, where we stayed last time. The cabin is very nice and the location is great, right at the intersection of major trails 12 and 13.

A few photos of the trip are on Flickr here.

I’ve put our GPS tracks below, courtesy of my Garmin GPSmap 60CSx.  Click on each image for the full-sized version.

All told, we covered 505 miles across 195 square miles of Michigan over the 3 full days and one evening of sledding.

This is the combined map with the tracks from all four days.  Day 1 (really just an evening jaunt for dinner) is in red, day 2 is green, Day 3 is blue, and day 4 is in magenta.

Snowmobiling All Days

Evening 1 – 36 miles – elapsed time 2h 54m

Carl from SRS rental decided to drop off our sleds (Arctic Cat F570s) the evening we got there, instead of the following morning, which was a nice surprise.  We suited up and headed to the Parkview Grill for dinner.  This was a quick jaunt up trails 12 and 3 from Greenland to Twin Lakes.

Snowmobiling Day 1

Day 2 – 129 miles – elapsed time 10h 30m

We headed west on our second day, stopping in Ontonagon for breakfast at the Harbortown Family Restaurant.  I’m pretty sure we ate at this same place a couple years ago, and the food was great.  We were amused that they offer a choice of wheat toast, or homemade wheat toast.  We had to ask whether anyone ever chooses the non-homemade variety, but the waitress claimed it was pretty common.  I found this review of the place particularly accurate, as I noticed the locals staring at us the entire time.  After breakfast, we headed through White Pine and Silver City along the Lake Superior shoreline to the Lake of the Clouds overlook (upper left of the map), stopping at the Foothills Restaurant for a break.  We then trekked down to Lake Gogebic and stopped at George & Carolyn’s Hoop ‘N’ Holler Tavern right on the lake shore.  This tiny place was jam-packed with snowmobilers.  Dinner was in Rockland, at Henry’s Never Inn, a quaint little place with good food and a major Marilyn Monroe motif in the Men’s room.

Snowmobiling Day 2

Day 3 – 233 miles (!) – elapsed time 12h 55m

We definitely did not start out this day planning to go all the way to the tip of the Keweenaw peninsula.  We started by taking trail 13, a very curvy route through the forest, to Twin Lakes for brunch at the Parkview.  We hadn’t been on the trail for 5 minutes when Aaron buried his sled in a ditch by taking a turn a bit too wide.  Unfortunately I was riding ahead of him at the time, so I missed the moment.  He was fine, but it took both of us plus some passers-by to free his sled.  Within another 5 minutes after we got going again, I did my part by tipping my sled over in a turn.  It was almost like it happened in slow motion – just a little too much momentum in the wrong direction.  Unfortunately (again) for me, I was still riding in front, so Aaron got to witness my misfortune and laugh at me.  At least it didn’t take 3 people to get me back in action, though!  After the Parkview, we took another loop on trails 120/121 (also very curvy through the forest) up toward Houghton/Hancock.  We were running on fumes by the time we pulled into a gas station there – my sled had been warning me it was on empty for the last 4 miles.  Our next stop was the Coppermine Bar in Hubbell, MI.  There was a sign for this place on trail 3, pointing down a very steep and narrow side trail.  This place was huge, and we were the only ones there.  The owner had a show about the worst celebrity divorces on TV, which was fairly amusing.  She asked us if we were heading all the way to Copper Harbor (near the tip of the peninsula), and we said “Oh, hell no!”  It was already after 3pm, and we were quite a ways from the cabin.  For some reason, though, we ended up continuing Northeast, and eventually we figured we were so close that we might as well go all the way.  We pulled into Copper Harbor after passing over the Brockway Mountain pass, which was way up there.  We gassed up and took a break at the Mariner North restaurant, contemplating the 100-plus mile ride back to the cabin that we were starting out on at about 7pm!  We took a different route back where possible, which started on a very dark and deserted trail out of Copper Harbor.  Eventually we joined up with trail 3, which is fairly straight and fast in most places.  After gassing up in Hancock, we made a final stop back at the Parkview for a break and a beverage after the long ride.  From there it was only about 18 miles back to the cabin, and we got back there at about 11:30pm.

Snowmobiling Day 3

Day 4 – 107 miles – elapsed time 10h 45m

After the epic 3rd day, we were both looking to go fairly easy on the final day.  We started off by having breakfast at Grandma Myrt’s in nearby Mass City.  We then headed back to Lake Gogebic and Bergland, stopping at Becker’s Bergland Bay Bar (interesting web site).  I don’t think I’ve ever come across a shrine to sock monkeys before.  A bit further down the trail we made another stop at The Root Cellar, down the East shore of Lake Gogebic.  This was a pretty cool place, and we enjoyed some jalapeno poppers (always a favorite).  After that, it was a very straight, fast, and boring ride down trail 8 (the long straight line toward the bottom of the map) to the burgeoning metropolis that is Ewen, MI.  A little known fact about Ewen is that the woods around Ewen in Ontonagon County (pop. 7,818) supplied the world’s largest load of logs—50 logs or 36,000 board feet of timber—pulled by a single team of horses, for the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. They are justifiably still very proud of that fact.  Finally, we headed back up to Rockland to Henry’s, dreaming of more jalapeno poppers.  Unfortunately, it was build your own pizza night at Henry’s, and the rest of the menu was unavailable.  The place was also jam-packed with sledders, including a group of at least 20.  We squeezed in and found a table crammed in the corner.  The pizza was fine, but it was definitely no Lou Malnati’s.  A short ride back to the cabin, and we parked our sleds for the last time.

Snowmobiling Day 4

Another great snowmobiling trip – I was really glad we signed up for only 3 days, because I think our bodies had just about hit their limit after 3 1/2 days of sledding.  We must be getting old.

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Crane Lake 2008

Just got back from a wonderful trip to Crane Lake, MN.  Did some fishing, boating, hiking, exploring, and hanging out with friends and family.

Placed my first Geocache up there: Tall Man of Crane Lake.

Pictures are posted to Flickr.  Here are a few samples:

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Mike, Melissa and me at the Crane Lake Voyageur statue

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Sand Point Lake, just through the narrows

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Look for the face in the rock

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The Great Snowmobile Trip of 2008

I previously posted pictures to Flickr, but am long overdue in posting the GPS tracks from the trip.  You can click on each one for a larger version.

In case you’re just joining us, this was a 4 day snowmobiling trip to Michigan’s upper peninsula, with my brother Mike and two friends.

Over the course of the four days, we covered 604 miles on sleds, visited countless warming huts (otherwise known as bars), and bought lots of $10 bottles of two-cycle engine oil.

Here is the overall map that contains the GPS track for each day, color-coded.  The first day is dark green, the second bright blue, the third light blue, and the final day is brown.  There’s some overlap each day, so the individual tracks are down below as well.

Snowmobiling All Days

Day 1 – 140 Miles – High 18F

We got a late start on the first day, after waiting for the sleds to be delivered.  We headed 15-20 miles to a place called the Parkview Lodge for lunch – this is easily the nicest “warming hut” we encountered.  The trip continued on up to Houghton, and finally looped around Calumet before heading back to the cabin in Greenland.  Below is the track for the first day, highlighted in yellow.

Snowmobiling Day 1

Day 2 – 153 Miles – High 14F

We got out on the trails early enough to make it to Ontonagon for breakfast, which was delicious and nutricious with a variety of meats.  After that we headed to the Lake of the Clouds overlook, which was quite breathtaking, even if it was a bit fogged in.  After some more riding, we ended up back at the Parkview for dinner that night.  I remember being almost too tired to eat.  Almost.  Here’s the track for day 2, highlighted in yellow.

Snowmobiling Day 2

Day 3 – 124 Miles – High 9F, Low -20F

This was an exciting day – the day the drive belt broke on my sled in the middle of nowhere, while traveling at about 60 MPH.  There was no spare on my sled, but luckily one of my compatriots had one.  The only problem was, we had no idea how to put it back on.  So, out came the tow rope, and Mike towed me back to the little bar in Rousseau that we had just left.  An experienced rider who we had been talking to before was able to manhandle the thing on there in about 2 minutes, including doing it twice since it was on backwards the first time.  This was Friday, and the trails were quite rough, probably because there were more snowmobilers out.  It was also by far the coldest day, but we all held up well until the late night ride home, when it was about -21 F.  Here’s the track for day 3.

Snowmobiling Day 3

Day 4 – 187 Miles – High 32F

We finally got around to doing a trail that we had been putting off for 3 days (the loop in the upper-left portion of the map below between B&L’s lodge and the Parkview), because we were always too tired by the time we had to decide.  After that and lunch, we decided to push all the way to the legendary Ojibwa Casino in Baraga.  It was a fun ride, but the indian casino was decidedly un-Vegas like, to say the least.  I lost $20 in a Wheel of Fortune slot machine rather quickly, had a rather good steak sandwich, and we played some pool.  Unfortunately, this was our last day, and the long ride back to the cabin was absolutely punishing in terms of bumpiness.  Some of my bones may have been jarred loose and left out on the trail.  Below is the map for the final day.

Snowmobiling Day 4

It was quite an enjoyable trip, except for the drives to and from Michigan.  We somehow managed to pick the worst days to travel in a 10 day period, with blizzard conditions both directions.  I think it took about twice as long as it should have to do the driving.

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Goodbye Novell, Hello VMware

I’ve been severely neglecting this site the past several months with everything going on.  Moving is about my least favorite thing on earth, and as if that wasn’t enough, I resigned from Novell at the end of December to take a job at fast-growing virtualization giant VMware.  Leaving Novell was something I agonized over for many months, but when the VMware opportunity came along, I just couldn’t turn it down.  Novell was a great place to work, and the company was very good to me over 8-plus years.  I will miss many of my former colleagues.

My job at VMware is similar – I’m a Senior Systems Engineer, but now focused exclusively on working with Chicago area customers, which is nice.  No more airline or hotel status after this year!

It’s been an interesting transition so far – down to the little things like switching from GroupWise to Outlook and Exchange, which I’ve never used in a company before.  After 3-4 years of running exclusively a Linux desktop, I’m now having to learn how much Windows sucks all over again.  I’m working on that part – I think I’ll either switch back to SLED, or take the Mac plunge.

You’ll probably see my posts focusing more on VMware and virtualization now, and less on Linux, although I’m proud to say I’m still running SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 at home.  Of course, it’s now virtuallized by VMware ESX Server 3.5.  More on that later.

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