Friday, 15 August 2014 07:12
Dawn penciled a long, thin strip of orange across the horizon as the line of vehicles inched forward. Sipping coffee, you've been on the road for hours, bloodshot eyes reflecting the headlights of the oncoming traffic. The heavily laden truck and trailer creep forward in a slow parade of anxious participants, all anticipating this big day.
Weeks, even months of preparation are on the line as you hope to hit the jackpot and bring home the big money. At last you reach the gate, pay the fee, and are guided to your spot. Lights shine bright in the motor homes of yesterday's arrivals; the tantalizing aroma of sausage and eggs hitting the skillet wafts through the air.
Hundreds scurry about as the sun, curious of the commotion, peeks cautiously out, then leaps into a clear blue summer sky. A huge, open field erupts into a snowmobile swap meet as dealers, collectors, and bargain hunters hustle down the rows searching for a deal.
Money and merchandise are changing hands long before the general admission gates open. Scavengers hurriedly rummage through boxes of parts being set out, hoping to uncover that coveted item, then move quickly on. Good bargains won't last long.
Complete sleds of varying condition, from old iron dogs to new models, and all years in between are bought, sold, and scrutinized. Honesty not a prerequisite, prospective buyers are assured whatever part being considered will surely fit their particular need, and all used engines run exceptionally well.
Large swaps can cover many acres, and sponsoring club’s providing trailer service to transport sleds and parts. Some allow browsers to use golf carts or ATVs for easy shopping. A family event, parents meander about, pulling wagons full of kids or pushing strollers, many with a snowmobile seat or set of pipes strapped to the back, under the watchful eye of a toddler.
Big swap meets can span a three-day period, attracting buyers and sellers from thousands of miles away. Through the haggling and the dickering, old friendships are renewed and new ones formed.
The swap itself is not always the main attraction. Snowmobile grass drags are usually the basis for the event; some featuring night races under the lights, and many offer vintage classes due to the recent surge in popularity. Antique and vintage shows and displays are highlights. Some have Kitty Kat races on the grass oval, and ATV and dirt bike exhibitions.
A carnival-like atmosphere is present, with all the frills of a State Fair midway. You can enjoy a pork chop on a stick, cheese curds or mini donuts. A quick stop at the beer tent will quench your thirst. Planes circle overhead pulling advertising banners, and air tours by helicopter are available. Freed from the confines of bulky snowsuits, snow bunnies prance in warm weather attire, leaving much less to the imagination.
Snowmobile and after-market parts manufacturers have hospitality tents displaying new sleds and products, showing videos and handing out literature. Publishers give away complimentary magazines and sell subscriptions. Clubs and organizations man booths offering memberships, trail maps, and raffle tickets. Promoters work the crowd distributing flyers for upcoming events.
Of course, there's the satellite experience. This can be somewhat disturbing for youngsters, first-timers, and the squeamish. Best to get your business done early before the long lines form.
When shadows grow long and the sun sinks low, weary swappers will pack it in, assess their gains and losses, and head for home.
Those who choose to stay are treated to a night of racing under the lights, or simply wandering from camp to camp, sharing a beverage and a tale or two. In classic snowmobiler fashion, the revelry and merriment will continue into the wee hours of the morning, much to the dismay of those wishing to get some sleep.
As dawn splashes orange upon the morning sky, the line is forming at the entrance gate. Thousands of enthusiasts again converge on the field to create a city of snowmobilers, each citizen basking in the camaraderie that bonds us all together, regardless of the season.
Reprinted with permission.
Sunday, 16 March 2014 10:36
This homebuilt snowmobile was made by Henry Schildt of Alexandria, MN. Henry was the head welder at the Bellanca Aircradt company, also located in Alexandria MN. Henry began the constuction of the sled in 1964 and completed it by the winter of 1965. The machine had it's share of bugs to work out, but by the end of the 1965 season it was a very realiable unit.
Around 1970, the machine was donated to the Rhuestome museum in Alexandria. It remained on display there until the late 1990's . The new museum curator deemed it " not museumworthy" and the machine was then stored behind the musuem until 2003 when a snowmobile collector found it and brought it home. The machine was then stored in an open field awaiting a new lease on life. I purchased the sled in the winter of 2004 and a partial restoration began in the spring of 2005.
The original engine was locked up beyond repair, the track was rotted off, and the seat was missing. After serveral monthes of hard work , and parts hunting , the sled was once again ready for snow or show. The sled was entered into the inaugural homebult class at the Midwest Ride In (Waconia) andit won first place in it's class. This snowmobile is also thought to be the inspriration that the Brut snowmobile engineers modeled the first liquid cooled production sled after.
The hardest part of the restoration was the engine/clutch combination. Rather than driving the machine from the PTO side of the engine, the flywheel was machined into a bevel so it became half of the homemade clutch system. This setup which caused many headaches trying to figure out, propels the sled perfectly.
The sled spent a couple years on display at the Top Of the Lake Museum and and now resides in a private collection near Brainerd MN.
Below is a list of the parts identified in the buliding of this one of a kind machine:
1965 Johnson track ( shortened) 1948 Plymouth bumper (skis) 1955 Johnson 25hp outboard engine. 1950 chevy radiator. 1964 chevy tallight. Homebuilt suspension (resembles Arctic Cat) 1946 Allis Chalmers Temp gauage Seat riser/ Toolbox in an I.H. Pickup boxside. Homebuilt manifold for exhaust/water cooling. Homebuilt Dash/ hood/ bellypan Homebuily primary and secondary clutches. Homebuilt go kart style V-Belt brake system
. motorcycle handlebars. Homebuilt tunnel. Gas tank ? Unknown.
Friday, 31 January 2014 21:16
No, it's not time for taxes, and it's not time to worry about finding you sweetheart something for valentines day.
IT'S BRAAPFEST TIME!
What: Braapfest a.k.a. The most fun you can have on snow. Trailrides, sled games, races, fine dining, friends, and so much fun you'll wonder if its legal.
When: Friday- Sunday Feb 21-23rd
Where: Springstead Lake Lodge, 1065 Springstead Lakes Rd, Park Falls, WI 54552
Contact info: Call the Lodge (715) 583-4403... ask for Craig.
Wanna know more?
Click here for the official Braapfest thread in the Vlsedders forum.
SEE YOU THERE!
The Thrill of the Chase...
Tuesday, 10 December 2013 10:16
I've been collecting old sleds since 1998. I have always loved to tinker with them and spent an enormous amount of time researching and rebuilding them.
I have developed a rather large number of friends who keep their eyes open for my next great treasure. Every salesman, every gas station attendant, every relative, and every person who I think would remotely find me another old sled stash has been recruited to help out.
Two weeks ago at work, a contractor who was to replace a tile floor stopped in to take some measurements for the upcoming job. After surveying the job, I had a chance to ask him. "You find any old sleds out there for me"?
He scratched his head for a bit, and said."No.nothing but a red and white Arctic Cat that was lying in the weeds behind an old barn"
My heart raced. I quickly inquired, "Where? When? WHAT??"
He replied," well it was earlier this spring, just north of Hecla on an old farmstead."
Not able to contain myself. I blurted "earlier this spring!" I thought, "when were you gonna tell me about the old sleds you found" to which he replied, "I'm been busy, and I forgot about it until you asked"
I calmed down and he proceeded to tell me all the details of the sled, location and owner (he thought) of the land it was sitting on. "I bought a 39 Chevy from the guy for 50 Bucks. He probably won't want much for that sled"
I thanked him for the tip and he left for the day. I followed up on the tip by first calling the owner who was not the owner of the land but gave me a few names to try. After about 10 phone calls I was finally on the phone with the owner of the farmstead.
I implied I would like to purchase an old sled, which was located out on this abandoned farm site.
He told me,"there isn't a snowmobile out there."
I described the farmstead and the remaining cars to him.
He replied,"well that's the place, maybe there is a sled out there."
I asked if I could look around and buy the sled.
He said, "Sure come look at it, I won't be around but you are welcome to look."
I told him I would be driving my pickup and his farmstead was about 90 miles from my house. I would really like to buy the sled and take it home with me.
He asked,"How much will you give me?"
I remembered that Chris had bought a 39 Chevy from him for $50 so I replied "fifty bucks."
He said,"Sure, that would be fine".
I hung up the phone and finished up work for the day. I called my wife to let her know I wouldn't be home after work. She seemed a bit apprehensive, "where are you going"? I told her, "old sled, real old one. RED and White cat!" She could tell by the tone of my voice I was on a mission, "See you when you get home" and she hung up the phone.
Hecla, South Dakota is about 60 miles from my work, so as the miles went by I passed the time thinking about the red cat. I knew just where to get parts, where to get the paint, and who was going to recover the seat for me. I knew that the cat would be heavy to load in the back of the pickup by myself so I placed another call on my phone to the owner of the local gas station in Hecla. He agreed to help me load the sled and would meet me there at 5:30pm
The clock said 5pm when I pulled the pickup onto the fenced off approach at the abandoned farmstead. The old buildings were just as Kris had described.
As I crawled through the barbed wire fence I snagged my pants and got a nasty little gash on my thigh. Determined, I trudged on through the tall weeds in search of the cat. I saw the 58 ford that Kris told me
about, next was the mid thirties truck on its side.
Behind the truck was an old scrap iron rack, as I passed by it my bootlace got tangled and down I went. As luck would have it a thistle bush cushioned my fall. I winced in pain and climbed off the ground. That cat was near, I could feel it.
I called Kris from the middle of the farmstead to ask in more detail where the sled was. The reception was horrible, he heard approximately every fourth word.
Something, something beside, something old something building, something, was all I heard, I love Verizon.
Ok. It was next to an old building. That narrowed the search as there were only 6 buildings on the lot.
I headed for the barn, must have been a dairy barn judging from the rocks piled around its perimeter. I put out my hand to balance myself as I walked. YEEOOW!!! I pulled my hand back to inspect the damage. My thumb had four large old barn wood splinters in it, and I was now leaving a nice blood trail for the rescuers to find me. I tried to pull out the slivers, each piece of the old wood broke off when I touched them.
Disgusted, bleeding and tired. I called Kris again, readjusting my head to find optimal phone signal between words. This time he described the iron rack. The sled was about 30 ft south east of it, lying next to a fallen down building and there wear two tires lying on top of it.
My heart was pounding, I ran, sort of, to the spot. I pushed back the 6ft tall weeds and found the remains of the building. I spied the iron rack and determined that the sled was just around the corner, I climbed over the empty barrels and pushed back yet more tall weeds as I rounded the corner.
THERE IT WAS!!! GONE!
Nothing, Nil, Nada, NO Taco!
You could clearly see where something the size of a sled had been, and the two tires where lying there.
I was defeated.
I walked back to the truck and climbed inside. I drove into the gas station and went inside. I put a coke on the counter and told the owner who I was and that I hadn't found the sled. He took my card and said he would let me know if he found any sleds or maybe where the old red one went. I thanked him and drove towards home.
As I drove home, I looked at the hole in my pants, and my thumb throbbing with the splinters firmly lodged inside. I was happy, not as happy as if I'd landed the cat in my truck, but I was happy. I guess sometimes the thrill of the chase is better than the actual catch.
As I sit here two weeks later writing about the events of that day, my thumb still has the swelling, I await my next chase.