Michigan Snowmobiler - October 2020

Page 1

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COVER PHOTOS: by Stephen King

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Visit Our Town Ads for Your Snowmobile Vacation This Winter

Editor’s Letter


Women in Snowmobiling


Fall on the East Jordan Breezeway


ON THE COVER: Karry Simpson:

Watercross Wonder Woman 18

Bikini Snowmobiling for a Cause


Vintage Sled of the Month: The Scorpion Stingerette


Inside the Beltway


Ice Riding: The Good, the Bad and the Wet


Eagle River Derby Hosts Fall


Remember When: October 1990


When All Else Fails


COVID and Travel


Gaylord ....................................... 5 Iron River .................................... 6 Paradise ...................................... 6 White Pine Area........................... 6 Lake Gogebic............................... 7 Grand Marais .............................. 7 Hulbert ....................................... 8 Curtis .......................................... 9 East Jordan .......................... 10-11 Seney........................................ 13 Christmas .................................. 13 Grand Traverse .......................... 19 Marquette ................................. 21 Merriweather ............................ 21 Manistique ................................ 23 Sault Ste Marie .......................... 24 Grayling .................................... 25 Cadillac ..................................... 27 Munising ................................... 27 Newberry .................................. 29 Naubinway ................................ 31 Silver City.................................. 31 White Lake Area ........................ 33 Indian River .............................. 35 Calumet .................................... 37 Irons ......................................... 37 Strongs ..................................... 37

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www.michsnowmag.com MICHIGAN SNOWMOBILER

OCTOBER 2020 3


PUBLISHER Peter Farago

EDITOR Ann Drzewiecki






Franklin Place 29200 Northwestern Hwy. Suite 114 Southfield Michigan 48034

T 231.536.2371 publisher@michsnowmag.com www.michsnowmag.com THE MICHIGAN SNOWMOBILER is an independent publication endorsing the goals of MSA, and other associations. Opinions expressed herein are the opinions of the editor or contributing writers, and do not necessarily reflect the official opinions of the MSA, or their board of directors. Reproduction of material in whole or part is prohibited, unless authorized in writing by the publisher - all rights reserved.






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*Models may not be exactly as shown. Shown with optional accessories. ©2019 Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A. All rights reserved. Product and specifications subject to change without notice. Professional rider on closed course under controlled conditions. Always wear an approved helmet, eye protection and protective clothing. Ride responsibly and always ride within your capabilities, allowing time and distance for maneuvering, and respect others around you. Know the conditions. Observe all state and local laws. Don’t drink and ride.




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y husband asked me a simple question the other day. What’s your first childhood memory? It might not be the very first memory, but it’s one of them. I can remember riding behind my Dad on our 1970 Arctic Cat Panther through the trails surrounding my Grandparent’s cabin in Grayling. For the little girl I was, there was absolutely no better place to be. To top it off, my two brothers were riding on Elan’s with us. AND, my cousins Jack, Mary Ellen and Bob also joined our little group which just made life the best. I don’t remember being cold, I remember feeling extremely safe and content. My happy place was to be hanging on to my Dad and looking around and seeing my brothers and Bob close by. They were young pre-teens at the time and I thought they were really something doing little loops off the trail. Compared to my own first sled, a Polaris Indy 500 – those little Elan’s were not the easiest to make look fancy – but back in the day, they were really something. After a long ride, we would meet back at the cabin where the rest

of our family would be waiting with a warm dinner and a fire blazing in the fireplace. The cabin seemed huge to me, but it was all of about 700 square feet. I just remember that little red cabin in Grayling being filled to bursting with my favorite people and the best memories of my Grandparents, parents and cousins. As you’re reading this, I hope you’re dreaming of ways to create new memories for your family. Michigan has so many truly amazing places to visit and enjoy. Scott and I are just starting our adventure with Michigan Snowmobiler magazine. We are lucky enough to talk with all sorts of great people that love to talk about their hometown and everything their area has to offer. We can’t wait to visit the wide array of favorite Michigan hometowns and share our experiences with our readers. We hope to inspire fun, memory making adventures for you, your families and friends. Until next month,



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OCTOBER 2020 7

Women in

Snowmobiling A BY JIM DUKE

s a precursor to the 2020-21 snowmobile season, I’ve been told October has been dedicated to the women who have contributed, in some significant way, to make snowmobiling in Michigan special — and to those who simply enjoy getting out on the trails and snowmobiling with the family. So many women of all ages fit into one or both categories and should be included, but I’ve been told to keep in mind how much space is available. So, in preparing this article, I’ve selected just five I consider very close friends and who I believe personify the women in snowmobiling, not only in Michigan but throughout the United States and Canada. I’ve received permission from each to share some of their contributions, personal achievements and a few of their thoughts about snowmobiling. Here are their stories. Christine Jourdain Barker has been a snowmobiler since a very early age, even before she could legally ride by herself. She continues to ride at every opportunity. She is

Christine Barker

a professional in every sense of the word and well respected throughout the nation’s entire snowmobiling community. Christine currently serves as executive director of the American Council of Snowmobile Associations, being selected to that position in 1995 at the International Snowmobile Congress. Among her many achievements is immediate recognition in the halls of Congress when bringing those snowmobile leaders to Washington, D.C., for the annual Fly-In, an event she devised to introduce snowmobiling

to federally elected lawmakers. She usually declines any awards nominations, directing attention instead to noteworthy members of the several snowmobiling states under her guidance. She has received a few, however, such as the Working Together Partnership award for the SnoCountry Byways Partnership back in 2005 from the Region Nine National Forest Service and, more recently, she was honored as the recipient of the Iron Dogs Brigade’s George Eisenhuth Distinguished Service award in 2019. She continues to serve the organized snowmobiling community and promotes snowmobiling wherever she may go. During ceremonies in Eagle River, Wisconsin, in September of 2019, Christine was inducted into the International Snowmobile Hall of Fame. She most definitely qualifies as one of Michigan’s Women in Snowmobiling. Karen Langlois Middendorp is a relative newcomer to the sport of snowmobiling. She didn’t become an active enthusiast until she accepted employment at the Michigan Snowmobile Association, first as a staff member and later as office manager, a position she held for about 20 years. She has helped guide the association through smooth and rough waters and has been a driving force in developing a variety of fund-

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promoted to executive director of the Michigan Snowmobile and ORV Association this June, a position vacated by Bill Manson in 2019. She says she’s still learning the ropes and has a way to go yet, but given what she’s already accomplished, she must be considered one of Michigan’s women in snowmobiling.

Karen Middendorp

raising activities and events. Although she is unable to participate in much random riding due to office duties, she does take part in the annual state legislators ride and when rides are scheduled along with some of the many meetings she must attend. She says she doesn’t have any awards other than having received the President’s Award in 2011 at the annual convention. She believes her greatest achievement was being

Amy Klinger Rottier says she really didn’t get seriously into snowmobiling until 2001, although her father owned a snowmobile dealership for quite a few years in the Upper Peninsula. A totally outdoors gal, she enjoys hunting, kayaking and riding ATVs as well as snowmobiling. She has served her local snowmobile club as a board member and as secretary for many years. She participated in many For Women Only Easter Seals snowmobile events and became very involved with the Pink Ribbon Riders annual charity ride in 2016, an event she continues to participate in

annually as a rider and volunteer. Amy says she would prefer to work behind the scenes whenever possible and does so on several activities for MISORVA’s Recreation Committee. She says even though her permanent residence is in the southwestern lower peninsula, she and her spouse have a second home in the eastern Upper Peninsula and spend many happy hours there as often as possible in all seasons. She continues to continued on page 10

Amy Rottier

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be an active member and volunteer of her local club and the state association and is always available to help at any snowmobile activity she participates in. For all she does, she is certainly one of Michigan’s women in snowmobiling. Debra McGee Manson would more than likely say she always works behind the scenes, but truth be known, for many years after MSA became the state’s one and only snowmobile association, she spent long hours every evening doing volunteer work like typing membership

Debra Manson

cards and sorting mail. This was before the association could afford computers or a paid employee. The office consisted of a single desk and a file cabinet in the building where Engineered Cabling (her husband’s business) was located. Deb was a full-time teacher in the Grand Rapids Public Schools system, having retired just seven years ago in 2013. A Life Member of MSA for many years prior to the organization becoming MISORVA, Deb was a person the association could always count on to help in any way necessary. She began snowmobiling way back in 1976 but didn’t get a snowmobile of her own until 1981. In 1982, she rode in the Easter Seals Snow-a-Rama. When the MSA’s charity of choice (Easter Seals) began the annual For Women Only fundraising event, Deb was one of the first to sign up; she participated in each annual event for the next 25 years. In other events, such as the MSA Snow Shows and Nelson’s Sno-Motion, Deb has always been an active volunteer.

As an avid snowmobiler, she continues to enjoy rides as often as she can, either on her snowmobile or with her husband in their Ranger side-by-side. She says now that she and hubby Bill are retired, she is hoping they can travel more in their motorhome. With all her other activities, she still has attended every International Snowmobile Congress for more than three decades. Definitely a recognizable person, Deb is one of Michigan’s Women in Snowmobiling. Karyn Duke Hautamaki’s love for the winter season started at a very early age and only amplified with the family’s move from the East Coast back to Michigan. It wasn’t long before she had her own little snowmobile, an Arctic Cat Kitty Cat, and would ride it in the yard and around the house until the path used up any available snow. She aced the snowmobile safety course a couple of years before she was even old enough to officially take it and snowmobiling has been a strong passion






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10 OCTOBER 2020



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ever since. She is a Life Member of the state association, has been an active member on MISORVA’s Board of Directors for many years and has served as secretary on two different occasions, including currently. Among her many awards is the President’s Award for exemplary Service and, in 2015, she was named the MSA Snowmobiler of the Year, but that was not her final award. Karyn’s passion for the sport has led her to the American Council of Snowmobile Associations, where she has been a very active volunteer working on various committees and assisting annually at the Snowmobile-USA Snow Show in Novi, Michigan, in the ACSA Booth. She is currently the elected Affiliate delegate on the ACSA Board of Directors. In June of 2016 at the International Snowmobile Congress at Rapid City, South Dakota, she was honored with the ACSA National Snowmobiler of the Year award. She says although she doesn’t get to ride as much as she would like, she still enjoys her free time the most when she’s out on the trails. She is the perfect individual to represent Michigan’s Women in Snowmobiling. •


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s I am writing this article, temperatures are climbing back into the 70s after last week’s cool and frosty weather. Many areas experienced a hard frost and local farmers have begun harvesting corn across the region. The leaves are changing each night and the vibrant reds and oranges are starting to pop along the Breezeway from Atwood to Ellsworth, East Jordan and onto Boyne Falls. If you are eager to get out and enjoy a memorable fall color tour, then you must plan a visit and tour to our area. “We own the fall!” The entire region boasts some of the state’s most beautiful color and viewing sites. The renowned and spectacular Jordan Valley features many spectacular overlooks, hiking trails, the wild and scenic Jordan River, plus much more. The 28-mile stretch on The Breezeway (C-48) will satisfy anyone’s desire to capture photos of vibrant fall colors, rolling hills, agricultural experiences, hiking trails, wine tasting, corn mazes, pumpkin patches, local attractions, art galleries, resale shops, great dining and lodging, and spectacular fall paddling adventures. There are so many

12 OCTOBER 2020

ways for residents and visitors to experience fall. It is up to you to choose your adventure! We have so many exciting things to do, you may need to visit us on more than one occasion this fall. To help plan your fall adventure to our region, the East Jordan Area Chamber of Commerce has color tour maps, hiking and nature preserve maps, along with information on points of interest, events, etc. Please contact us at (231) 536-7351 or visit our website at www.ejchamber.org. Our office is located at 100 Main St. in downtown East Jordan. We have literature available 24/7

outside in our lobby. It is not too early to begin thinking about the winter season. Our community is snowmobile friendly and we have great lodging, dining and shopping available year-round. Our 40th Annual Winter Sno-Blast will be held Feb. 19-21, 2021 in East Jordan. The Chamber has Jordan Valley Snowmobile Trail maps available as well as other winter activity information. Happy fall to everyone! Hope to see you along the Breezeway and in the communities of East Jordan, Ellsworth, Atwood and Boyne Falls! •



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OCTOBER 2020 13

Karry Simpson:

Watercross Wonder Woman BY STEPHEN KING


while back, I did a column each month where I highlighted a prominent racer. Called it “Racer of the Month.” It went over pretty well. Kind of humanized the big names everyone cheers for at the tracks. Now, this month, with our theme being “Women in Snowmobiling,” I thought what better time to highlight one of the watercross racers. I knew there were a lot of very good lady racers out there. From experience, I know if you call a lot of them “Powder Puffs” you might find yourself looking at the stars and hearing birds chirping. I have known a lot of lady racers, and many of them are as tough as most of the guys. So, when I went to the Jeff Moyle Memorial Water X Races in Lake Linden last month, I wanted

to find out which woman in this sport was really standing out. That did not take long. I saw a post about Karry Simpson, who has been winning just about everything. When I got up there, most of the people in the IWA also touted her as the best female racer. So, I made it a point to get introduced to her. What a wonderful person! First thing I noticed (all I have are exes right now, so I can say this safely) is that she is very pretty. Next thing, when I interviewed her, I found out she is a most wonderful person. Then, I found out that she was a farm gir lfrom Wisconsin. (How much better can this get?!?) She explained she has always liked racing. “I grew up on the farm, riding dirt bikes. I have

always enjoyed motorsports,” Karry said. A few years back, when she got into racing, she totally exploded onto the scene. She started racing motocross first and, right off the bat, she started winning races. Then, she started racing snowcross and started winning. As a matter of fact, she won her continued on page 16

14 OCTOBER 2020


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very first race. Then, the following summer, she got into watercross. “I loved racing snowcross and thought watercross would just be fun,” she said. In watercross, she took her skills to the next level — and she did have fun, lots of fun. She quickly became one of the biggest names in watercross racing. Then, last year, she had an awesome year. In 2019, Karry won the Women’s World Championship in the 600 Drags. And she also made history when she became the first woman to take a first for the season in the Semi-Pro Open Class — racing with the guys. And, in almost an

16 OCTOBER 2020

understatement, she is also the reigning champ in the Women’s Open Class. This catapulted her into the top ranks of the watercross elite. No other woman has ever achieved this level of success. However, her success has come at a bit of a price. Since winning the SemiPro Class Points Championship last season, she now has to race against the guys in the Pro Class — the fastest class in watercross. However, she is not at all intimidated. As a matter of fact, she acts as if she is enjoying the competition. Week after week, she gets out onto the track and goes

head to head against the fastest drivers in watercross. And, in the best compliment any racer can give another, they look at her on the water as one of their own. They do not take a win over them for granted. As a matter of fact, she is currently riding a wave that shows she belongs there. However, her success has not gone to her head. She remains a very personable woman. Very polite and, although proud of her success, she has no problem sharing that success. One of the things she highlighted in our interview was how much she appreciated and needed the


help from her crew. “To get here, I have worked really hard. But I cannot do this by myself. It takes an entire team to win,â€? she said. “I drive the sled. But I could not do this without my crew, Ryan Keith and Mike Doriott. Without them helping me, I would never have achieved the success that I have.â€? As for her sled, she rides a tricked out Arctic Cat that Mike puts together for her. She lovingly calls it “The Jungle Cat.â€? Regarding that, many racers get the urge to say things like “nice kittyâ€? or “Hello, Kitty.â€? But, a great many of the men and women she competes against, just wave good-bye as she leaves them in her wake. So, if you ever get a chance to see watercross racing in person, be sure to look for Karry. Chances are that she will be the one in the lead. •




OCTOBER 2020 17

Bikinis and Snowmobiles Heating Up Winter For A Cause BY STEPHEN KING


f that headline doesn’t get your attention, you don’t need a test for COVID-19; you need a test to see if you have a pulse. When you take some beautiful women wearing bikinis and they race in a radar run, this cannot get any better — except when they are doing it for a cause. And that is why Courtney Fender started the annual Bikini Radar Run in East Jordan. I met Courtney a few years back after hearing quite a bit about her. She was making a name for herself on the winter drag racing circuit. As a matter of fact, I featured her in my old column, Racer of the Month. Back then, I was totally impressed. She was totally pretty, a very nice person and an excellent racer. Having her in my column was a no-brainer because she really deserved the attention. Now, years later, I keep hearing about her prowess on the track. I have also started hearing things about the work she is doing for charity. She has gotten very involved in promoting snowmobile racing, women’s snowmobiling in

18 OCTOBER 2020

general, and in raising funds for charity. Almost three years ago, she started her Bikini Radar Run. Last winter, in only its second year, she managed to raise about $11,000 for charity — an amazing accomplishment for this young woman. She has done this in conjunction with the annual Sno-Blast in East Jordan. Last year, it was held Feb. 23. This year, with pandemic, the date is still up in the air; however, they have set Feb. 20 as a tentative date. If possible, the Bikini Radar Run will happen again this year. The actual name is TNT’s Ride Like A Girl To Save The Girls. This comes from women riders who have formed a group. The TNT stands for “Tits N Trails.” (Do not send me death threats over this;

they are the ones that came up with it.) Their group helps and supports women who like to ride snowmobiles —a worthy cause itself. For this, they are raising money for breast cancer research. That is where the “Ride Like a Girl to Save the Girls” comes from. I asked Courtney why a bikini run and she replied, “I have seen them and I thought this would be fun, something I just wanted to try. So, I had the idea to get some friends together and put this on.” To that end, it is quickly becoming a success. Last year, the event raised about $11,000 that went to help with breast cancer. Most of the money raised stays in the area and does not go to some far-away company. It goes to help local people. “We do not have a minimum


GRAND TRAVERSE Call (231) 536-2371 amount for racers to raise,” she said. “But the racers, like racers tend to do, have turned this into a competition. They work hard to see who can raise the most money. We even have a prize for the person who raises the most money.” Courtney said “person” for a reason. It is not just women who participate. A few guys also don a bikini and ride. (I will not comment on that. They are doing it for a good cause, and we need to support them. But forget the idea of me in a bikini on a sled. Not something anyone needs to ever see.) Then, I asked, “Do you guys get cold?” She replied, “No. First, with the adrenaline, you really don’t notice it. Also, we have a heated trailer, where we keep warm while we are waiting to run. “I want to encourage everyone to come out and support us. And if you can’t come in person, please contact us if you would like to donate. The money goes to help people who really need help. Also, we are always looking for new riders. So, if you want to have some fun racing across the snow in a bikini just get hold of us. We have a whole lot of fun, and it is for a very worthy cause.” • To contact Courtney about the Bikini Radar Run, call her at (231) 3570193, email her at twistedprinces15@ gmail.com or contact her on Facebook at TNT’s Ride Like A Girl To Save A Girl.


To Advertise Here!

Come visit

Grand Traverse OCTOBER 2020 19

Vintage Sled of the Month: The Scorpion Stingerette BY STEPHEN KING irst, I want to do a little something special this month. Before we get into the whole thing about the Stingerette, I want to give a shout out to a very special lady. She is Marilyn Vallier, a curator of the Top of The Lake Snowmobile Museum in Naubinway, which is perhaps the best snowmobile museum in the Great Lakes area and one of the best in the world. Marilyn has been there since the start. Her husband, Charlie, is a founder of the Naubinway Antique and Vintage Snowmobile Show, the forerunner of today’s Top of the Lake Antique Snowmobile Show and Ride, and the show that led to the start of the museum. From the start, Marilyn was always very involved. Since the doors opened, she has been the happy, smiling face most people see when they enter the museum. She puts in countless hours behind the receptionist desk.


20 OCTOBER 2020

Also, from years of accompanying Charlie literally all over the U.S. and Canada following shows and leads on old snowmobiles, she has become something of an expert herself. However, most times, it is Charlie that everyone talks about. But, for this issue, we are saluting the Women of Snowmobiling, and I want to give a huge salute to Marilyn Vallier, one of the unsung heroes of the snowmobiling world. She also does the museum’s newsletter and helps do most of the shows the museum attends, such as the recent Eagle River Derby Show. Along with Charlie, she packs and unpacks the trailer … pretty much endlessly as they go from event to event. But, at each event, and always at the museum, she comes across with her huge smile and a very warm welcome to all. So, this month, stop into the museum in Naubinway and give her a big “thank you.” Without her, this

museum would not be the same. Now, back to our regularly scheduled column: the Stingerette. Most of you diehard sledders might already have heard of the Scorpion. Back in the day, they were a very popular sled. They were made from about the early 1960s until about 1981. Then, Arctic Cat bought the Scorpion. When Arctic Cat had some issues, like a bankruptcy, the Scorpion brand was dropped, except for a brief return in 20002001. The Scorpion’s real glory days were the 1960s and 1970s. Then, they were one of the top sleds on the market. Scorpion began back in about 1959, when three guys, Glen Gutzman, Eugene Harrison and his son, Richard, formed a company called Trail A Sled. They started out selling what was basically an air boat made for snow, driven by a propeller. Then


With many companies making snowmobiles, everyone was looking for new markets. Wanting to be innovators, the makers of the Scorpion wanted to get into a market that had not been addressed, namely women. So, of course, they came Marilyn Vallier out with a pink sled. Called Midnight Sun Magenta, the color was one women would they noticed the “tracked snowmobile” that J. Armand love — or so they hoped. They also had a few differBombarier was selling. They ent designs. First, they made decided this was going to be the future of snow travel. them with lower compression So, they started to produce engines that were easier to snowmobiles. They had their start. And they made them first prototype in 1961. They more stable, plus a few other options. But the bigworked with it for a couple gest design was the hot pink years, while still making and selling their Trail A Sled color. Yet the women back then machines. Then, in somewere not all silly and giddy thing of a story from that over this idea. They never era, Glen literally strapped the company’s one and only quite took off the way the snowmobile to the top of his makers thought they would, and the run was short. The Volkswagen and headed last were made in 1974. out. He came back with a But they were the first contract for 100 sleds — and the Scorpion was born. sleds designed for women, and this led to the idea that They then became one of women like to ride sleds, the bigger sled makers of too. So, this sled really does the Golden Age of snowhave a place in snowmomobiling. They sold a lot of biling history. It was the sleds, with a lot of different first acknowledgement by a models and designs. major manufacturer that they In 1972, they came out with something totally differ- were looking at women as sledders. ent — the Stingerette. This Something we take for was made and designed granted today, with a little specifically for women, which had never been done help from the Stingerette. If you want to see one before. You have to remember that of these sleds in person, back then gender-based role you can find a 1972 Stingerette at the museum in models were still very much the norm. Dad went to work; Naubinway. And, as menMom stayed home and took tioned earlier, stop in and say “hi” and “thank you” to care of the house and kids. Marilyn. In honor of Breast Doctors were male; nurses Cancer Awareness Month, were female. And on and please help us honor the on. And snowmobiles were women of snowmobiling. • mostly a “man” thing.



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Inside The Beltway BY JIM DUKE


common term used quite Interior, such as the chiefs of often when describing the National Forest Service, the the happenings in and Park Service and the Federal around the Capitol complex in Highway Administration. Washington, D.C. is “Inside the One day is devoted to visiting Beltway.” Here is some news of the Capitol and meeting with interest to snowmobilers from each state’s senator and inside that Beltway. representative or a staffer. The It’s well known that Michigan delegates always snowmobilers are most have appointments with concerned about conditions both senators, who always within their own state and take time to see us, and 14 usually pay little attention representatives, about a third to what is happening in of whom see us in person. As other states, including close much as we are disappointed neighbors, much less what is that not all our legislators in the legislative works by our are snowmobile friendly elected federal lawmakers. and won’t schedule time for But the political arena can us, we always drop off an sometimes be a tinderbox informational packet to their of activities that could, and offices and hope that a staffer usually does, affect the very might take time to read it or recreational freedoms that we at least browse through it. snowmobilers treasure and Unfortunately, due to ongoing enjoy when the winter season concerns about the COVID-19 comes around. For that very pandemic, the annual Fly-In for reason, it is imperative that 2020 had to be canceled for the organized snowmobiling the first, and hopefully, only community keep a watchful eye on which legislative initiatives may have a positive impact and which might work against our favorite form of recreation. Over the past 20-plus years, the American Council of Snowmobile Associations (ACSA) has hosted an annual event in Washington, D.C., known as the Fly-In, where delegates from most of the states where snowmobiling is available and embraced as a lawful recreational activity ABOVE: Vickie Christiansen, Chief of the come together to discuss National Forest Service explains the huge issues of common concern. maintenance backlog within the NFS, the Delegates also meet with ongoing battle with wildfire suppression, agency leadership from the and how it all might affect the Recreation departments of Agriculture and Community.

22 OCTOBER 2020

time. Even with the current pandemic, there’s quite a bit of legislative activity in both the House and the Senate and some of it, once it makes its way through the entire process, will benefit motorized recreation in general and snowmobiling in every state that qualifies. Presently, 49 states qualify for some sort of recreational funding, with 27 snowmobiling states in the mix. Of particular interest to both snowmobilers and offroad vehicle users is Senate Bill S.3422 with the title of the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA). If approved as written, it will allocate about $1.9 billion annually to address the $20 billion maintenance backlog and provide for improvements on America’s public lands. After much debate in the Senate, the bill was voted on and received a strong bipartisan vote of 73 to 25. It is now in the House for more debate and considerations, but we will undoubtedly see some alterations and financial finagling to the original bill. Whatever we end up with is better than what we’ve had and getting rid of the backlog of maintenance projects on the trails is of primary importance. The entire powersports industry will benefit from this act as well as all motorized recreational enthusiasts. It will undoubtedly boost recreation opportunities and the economy in many different ways. Fast forward a bit and the House introduced its own version of the Great


American Outdoors Act as H.R. 7092 and, on July 22, the bill passed with a bipartisan vote of 310 to 107. The bill retained the $20 billion provision to address the maintenance backlog within and on public lands and waters across the nation. This benefits the recreational community immensely, not only for snowmobile enthusiasts, but also for other motorized trail users as well. With Congressional approval of both Senate and House, the bill has been signed into law by the president. As a result of this action, Secretary of the

Interior David L. Bernhardt has established a Coordination and Implementation Task Force for the DOI’s portion of the GAOA. Another important piece of legislation that passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee on July 29 by unanimous consent is H.R. 3879, the Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation (SOAR) Act, which is a close companion to H.R. 3458, the Recreation Not Red Tape Act, and includes most of the provisions set forth in that bill. Both bills have strong support from the recreation community.

H.R. 3879 is awaiting action on the House floor as this goes to press. Briefly, an update on the Federal Highway Administration’s efforts to obtain reauthorization has been somewhat successful with the passing of House Bill H.R. 2, better known as the Moving Forward Act by a 233 to 188 vote. The $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill will ensure that the states will continue to receive a portion of the tax dollars back from the money paid into the National Highway Trust Fund every time we purchase fuel for our continued on page 24



OCTOBER 2020 23

continued from page 23

recreational toys. Sources within Capitol circles indicate the bill could provide up to three times the amount of Recreational Trails Program (RTP) funding we currently receive. H.R. 2 is currently held up in the Senate for consideration, but it has been rumored the major concern is how to pay for the $1.5 trillion and the president’s displeasure with the several “add-ons” that would divert monies from the Highway Trust Fund to rail and other transit projects. The Coalition for Recreational Trails (CRT) extended the deadline for submission of nominations for the RTP Awards through Aug. 15. The outstanding completed projects that utilized funding from the RTP that were submitted by public agencies, trail administrators or other project sponsors are eligible. These awards recognize the significance of trail-related recreation supported by the Recreational Trails Program and brings attention of the importance of RTP to the

ABOVE: Christopher Douwes of the Federal Highway Administration explains possible changes to the Recreational Trails Program at a pre-COVID-19 ACSA meeting.

members of Congress. In other news around the Capitol, the never-ending conundrum of how to adequately fund for wildfire suppression, which seemingly is increasing at an alarming rate. With the number of fires burning in several of the Western states, hundreds of thousands of acres are under siege annually and, with shortages in both funding and personnel, is becoming much more difficult to contain and

control. But the Forest Service is far from just giving up and has other methods to put into practice Under the current administration, the Forest Service has increased the number of timber sales beyond previous years and has already sold more timber than in the past two decades. Although they still have a huge hill to climb, they have made significant increases in hazardous fuel reductions. How does this affect our recreation? Much more seriously than one might imagine. Consider the impact a wildfire has on the environment and the landscapes of our public lands. Consider the resulting hazardous conditions where trails once meandered through lush forests now must navigate past charred stumps and across devastated grounds. Consider why it became necessary to close huge tracts of land due to the unstable and deteriorated soil. The snowmobiling community has always supported efforts of the National Forest Service


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(NFS), National Park Service (NPS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in every opportunity to reduce or eliminate wildfire possibilities. It seems like a lifetime since the onset of the coronavirus and every recreationalist, regardless of which activity they embrace, wonders if it will ever end so we can resume our specific endeavors. Without question, every state in the nation has been affected, some to a greater degree than others, and for many the end still is beyond sight. That being said, some states are beginning to reopen and as they do they are increasing recreational access to roads and trails for both motorized and non-motorized sectors. Federal, state and local authorities are closely monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic and will continue to do so as long as the need

exists, and most, if not all, have established guidelines to ensure, to the best of their ability, the overall safety of every citizen within their respective jurisdictions. From the very onset, our recreational freedoms were threatened to some degree in that all maintenance and repairs to the snowmobile and ORV trails was ordered to cease until further notice. Any expense incurred went unpaid due to a temporary freeze of funding and was just recently released, but with stipulations for what would be allowed and what remained restricted. With the snowmobile season just a few months away, it’s imperative that the grant sponsors be given the go ahead to prepare the trails for a safe and successful season. As with most states, Michigan has a phased approach to stop, or at least slow, the

coronavirus spread and, obviously, the more populated the region, the greater the number of citizens who test positive for the virus. Likewise, the rural areas within the state have the least. It’s also been noted, especially in the Upper Peninsula, that those counties with communities considered “college towns” are the hot spots with the largest number of cases. As this crisis drags on, the growing unrest among those who have followed the increasing number of mandates by wearing a mask everywhere they go and avoiding even their closest relatives and friends by the social distancing requirement is reaching the boiling point, as witnessed by the number of protests. We can only hope this virus is contained soon and we can return to some degree of our normal lives. •


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OCTOBER 2020 25

Ice Riding: The Good, the Bad and the Wet BY STEPHEN KING


26 OCTOBER 2020

about me getting anywhere near those things. But a mile out at the island? Good, but not beyond the island because the ice could get iffy. Cracks, shoves and a whole lot of other stuff. In my later teens, I just loved following the shoreline. Mile after mile, not another sled or a person in sight. I loved it. The point is that this can be extremely dangerous. When I was about 9, I learned how dangerous. From my dining room window, I had a front row seat as a search party looked for my favorite uncle, Melvin Frazier, who taught me how to ride and a lot about the



write and rewrite this story every couple of years because riding the ice is one of my favorite types of snowmobile riding — but it is also the most dangerous. I learned when I was a young kid, but I also learned the price the ice can extract from those who love it. I grew up in Naubinway, an Indian fishing village, back in the 1960s when snowmobiles were just coming into their own. My relatives, the Indian commercial fishermen, took to them just as our Western relatives took to horses. I got my first sled at age 9 as a Christmas present, but Dad also used it on the lake to tend nets with my cousins. I would ride in a field behind the house until my cousin came over to ride with me — all the way from the other end of town. Being a kid, I had to follow him home, but riding snowmobiles on roads was illegal then. Unfortunately, the local CO lived just across the street. When he heard my sled coming by, he stopped over for a visit. Dad and mom were not impressed by their one and only son entering a life of crime before age 12. Dad banned me from shore. For the rest of the winter, I had to ride on the ice. My cousin was not allowed on the ice. That age-old strategy of divide and conquer worked. It also helped educate me. My limits at the time were basically Naubinway Bay, but not around the marina where they had bubblers on the piers and open water. Dad was pretty phobic

ice. He was missing. A huge crack had opened in the Bay right where his tracks ended. After a short search, divers found his remains. He died right near a spot where I often played. Each time I write this story, it brings a tear to my eye, but I hope my story can save a life. At safety classes I attend, they talk about ice never being really safe. I know that for a fact. So does Uncle Melvin. But, done safely, ice riding is one of the most enjoyable aspects of snowmobiling. If you’re looking for groomed trails and orange trail markers signaling everything is all safe, this is not for you. But if you’re a bit more adventurous, then give this a try. But use a lot of caution. Find a guide if you can. Watch for open water and wet spots on the ice — and anything else that does not look “quite right.” And bring a camera. Some of the shoreline of Lake Michigan in winter is totally awesome. •

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much work it takes and how much time it takes to put together an event like this. What is totally amazing is that the people at Eagle River pulled it off. They got in touch with a lot of vendors, almost a “who’s who” of the snowmobile world. Just about everyone who is anyone in snowmobiling was there. A huge variety of vendors, swappers and snowmobile fans were on hand. Everything from sleds, to local dealers, to groomers, drags, clothing and racers — and on and on. While wandering what was basically a state fair-type midway, coronavirus pandemic, the fall I saw some familiar faces. Charlie shows have become just about nonand Marylyn Vallier from the Top existent. Just about all of the shows of the Lake Snowmobile Museum in were canceled. However, one Naubinway were there. I also ran group did step up. into Stu Volker, chair of the EUP This year, Tom Anderson, along Snowmobile Council and an area with partners Craig Marchbank rep from the MSA. Then, I ran into and Russ Davis, who now own the an old friend, Jimmy McHugh, race Eagle River Derby in Eagle River, promoter and construction firm Wisconsin, really stepped up to the owner. “I just had to be here. This plate. is where it’s happening,” Jimmy When it was announced the other said, fall shows had been canceled, the I was like a kid in a candy shop, crew at Eagle River Derby Track going from display to display. decided to host one of their own There were many familiar faces Sept. 11-13. But, with only about and a few new ones. One was a month to prepare, they knew this a company selling studs called was a huge undertaking. Snow Studs. They were hoping to I have put on some events myself, get the “hole shot” on competitors nothing of this magnitude, just Woody’s and Stud Boy. some local events. But I know how Then, there were the people that

Eagle River Derby Hosts Fall BY STEPHEN KING


sually, fall means a lot of things to a lot of people. For most, it means the end of summer. The kids go back to school. Vacations are over and it’s time to go back to work. For hunters and fishermen, this is like their holiday season. The fall runs are happening in a lot of rivers and most hunting seasons are either open or about to open. But, for snowmobilers, fall is usually the time of year for snowmobile shows. With temperatures starting to fall and frosty mornings now the norm, there are usually a lot of snowmobile shows and/or swap meets to help snowmobilers get ready for their holiday season. However, this year, with the

continued on page 30

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Their show that night again showed that same commitment to hosting world-class events. They had a “freestyle” exhibition with guys flipping and doing stunts on motorbikes and even ATVs. Totally impressive. (They had planned on having a sled there as well, but their “sled flipper” had other concerns and could not make it.) But the crowd there was totally continued from page 28 impressed. Every stunt got a huge ovation from the crowd. As the make the “Ultimate Drag.” They smiling and talking to everyone announcer called out the trick, were hoping to use this show who passed by. Amused by me the crowd roared as each of the to show off their designs to the taking her photo, she introduced drivers pulled it off spectacularly. various groups and media at the herself as Jenna. She was there Overall, the event was a huge show. And, it looks like it worked. with the Ski-Doo dealer from just success. But, with the Eagle River They got my attention at least. across the street. A very pleasant From doing this for 25 years, girl, she is also very talented. Later Derby, it had to be. It is just what they do. I have seen a lot of drags. And, that night, she sang the National About the event, President and from talking to the reps, this Anthem and did as good as any Manager Russ Davis stated, “When looks like a pretty good one. It is I have ever heard. And, on a we heard that Hay Days and the reasonably light, easy to pull and statement of the type of people other events were canceled, we does a good job of grooming we have, nobody was taking a the trails. They also had a “mini” knee. Everyone stood and listened decided to step up and try to host our own event. But we had never version. to Jenna sing, with many singing done anything like this before. This had me a bit confused. I along. When we bought the Eagle River was impressed they had it hooked This kind of leads me into my Derby from the Deckers, we knew up to a “side by side,” but I was next bit. I would really be remiss we wanted to put on some different really wondering why? That you if I left out the “show.” Every time events, and we had talked about could pull this with the summer Trail I have ever been at the Derby, I Rider was just cool. But I could not have always been totally impressed doing a show. Then, when the other shows got canceled, we understand why anyone would by the level of show they put on. decided to put on one of our own. want to. They have never forgotten they But, with only about a month to Then, they explained to me that are at the top of the snowmobile people use the smaller version for world and put on shows up to that work with, we knew we had a big job to do. “personal” trails. Many businesses standard. have “spurs” running from the state trail to their business. And, the state frowns on clubs grooming private trails. Some do get groomed. but, for the most part, private trails are left up to the business owners. Hence, the smaller drag. Just the thing for grooming a short trail into a business or even just a camp. These days, a lot of people have “side by sides” and always need another excuse to spend time on them. Then, going down a different trail, what would something like this be without a lot of pretty girls? One got my attention. A very pretty girl with bright red hair. She was

30 OCTOBER 2020



And, with a lot of help, we were able to put on this show. I am very happy with how it turned out. We had about 150 swappers in the infield, plus all of the vendors and the freestyle show. We had a great turn out. The weather on Saturday was a little rainy and, if we could have had better weather, we would have had an even bigger turnout. We are very happy with how this turned out.” Russ continued, “As a matter of fact, we have decided to make this an annual event. Don’t ask me when we are going to have it; we haven’t got that far yet, but we have made the decision to do this again.” “I also want to mention

that we are planning to do a lot of other events. We are looking at doing more racing. We have a lot of interest from the Enduro racers to put on a race for them. Plus, we are exploring other options. What we do know is that we want to keep up the tradition of hosting quality events. And, for our racers, vendors and fans, we want to continue to put on some of the best events anywhere.” Now, if that first show was any indication of how this is going to go on, I personally feel that as fans of motorsports, we are entering into a new era at the Eagle River Derby Track. And, I think we are about to go on a very cool ride. •


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Wertz Warriors give rides to some Special Olympics people at one of their stops.

Remember When October 1990 BY BILL TISRON


ven with all going on in our world today, it is still October and the leaves are turning and the temperatures are falling. Football is starting to return, and snowmobilers are starting to get that itch. So, let’s talk about 30 years ago, October 1990. Wertz Warriors once again have proven successful! Fifty riders and their support crew garnered $265,000 to cover all on-site expenses for the 1990 Michigan Special Olympics. In addition, almost $100 was given to area programs statewide to support the local Special Olympics winter sports training and competition. (Note: In 2020, the Wertz Warriors are still going strong.) Again, this past February, Cadillac hosted the legislators snowmobile ride. Each year, snowmobilers spend millions of dollars enjoying our sport and they come from Ohio and Indiana as well as lower Michigan. We want to show our state legislators just where our trail money goes. Senate Majority Leader John M. Engler, who was running for governor, as well as State Reps. Jan C. Dolan, Glen

32 OCTOBER 2020

Oxender and Ted Williams were on hand after the ride at a reception held at McGuires Resort Center. Solidarity of members is what the newly formed Michigan Snowmobile Drag Racing Association (MSDRA) was looking for when a special pre-season membership meeting was held in July. Nearly 100 drag racers made the trek to this special meeting, gathering from all over Michigan and other neighboring Midwest states as well as Canada with one purpose in mind: Solidarity. Drag racing has become a very professional sport in the past few years and many racers and team owners felt it was now time for a racing association. Racers can drag race both summer and winter with the same intensity and competitiveness that has earned them their rough-and-ready reputation. Be it grass or snow, a drag racer has but one way to go — fasssssst. Indian River has it all! Just minutes from I-75 Exit 313 is a snowmobiler’s paradise with

Troy Pierce & Alan Haynes celebrate their Pro 200 win for Team Dog Patch.

Newly form MSDRA first group photo

access to more than 180 miles of groomed snowmobile trails through beautiful woodlands with breathtaking sights. Trails are easily accessible from most motels. Just 1 mile south of town, the Krosswinds K.O.A. has just been opened for the winter season, with 58 pullthrough sites for winter available. The 3rd annual Boyne Country Snowmobile Rally has joined with the American Cancer Society to add an approximately 200-mile snowmobile tour (Rally Run 200) as a pledge fundraiser with proceeds to fight cancer. Snowmobilers of all ages were invited to ride and encouraged to


line up sponsors now and join the fun. Participating businesses in 14 communities throughout Michigan’s northwest lower peninsula will be among the stops to complete the run. Riders can complete the circuit at their own pace anytime during the week. In addition to the fine trail system, Boyne country is a snowmobiler’s delight. The Munising Pro 200 Enduro Snowmobile Championship was held this past March on Munising Lake. Wet and wild aptly describes the weekend. The first annual Pro 200 Grand Island Enduro Snowmobile Championship was certainly something different,

especially to MIRA racers who have grown accustomed to racing on half-mile to 1-mile oval tracks. The LeMans-style racecourse certainly tested both machine and driver as they sailed at speeds approaching 100 miles an hour around the slush-drenched course amid a driving rain. The race was originally slated to be a 200-mile, 50-lap event but was cut to 100 miles and 25 laps because of deteriorating conditions prior to Sunday’s pro enduro. The track was worked on the evening prior to the race and in the morning when the rains came in. The race happened because, after all, enduro racers are rough-and-ready kind of guys anyway. Just a little ice beneath their sleds and they are ready to go racing. With more than 3,500 enthusiastic race fans on hand, the race must go on. The Williams-Benner Top Gun Racing Team, with drivers Jeff Kipfmiller and Rick Zudell, got off to a flying start, taking the lead for the first two laps of racing, but it was not meant to last. According ABOVE: Jim McGuire welcomes Senator to Kipfmiller, the radiator hose John Engler who is running for Governor, came off his motor because the found out just what snowmobiling does for hose clamp wasn’t tight enough Northern Michigan Economy. TOP RIGHT: Yamaha ad, when we used pretty ladies to and he was stranded on the backadvertise our sleds. side of the track. Realizing he had

to keep fluid in the radiator until he could bring it back to the pits for repair, he looked around and noticed a spectator standing near the edge of the track drinking a beer, so he ran over and grabbed the beer out of his hand, saying, “I need this!” The man didn’t know what to think, but assumed Jeff was broke down and just need a brew, so he let him have it. The team finished ninth. Hooray for the beer. Troy Pierce and Alan Haynes, drivers for the Dogpatch Team 2, took top honors of the day. Plans are under way for next year’s event. Sure, we still have racing like we did back then. •

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OCTOBER 2020 33

When All Else Fails – What Then? BY JIM DUKE


here is unsubstantiated evidence throughout the snowmobiling community that more than one category of winter enthusiast exists, and, in many cases, a particular sport dominates in some geographic areas of the United States and Canada. For example, ice hockey is the most popular winter sport throughout the Canadian provinces as well as in several locales across the northern tiers of the USA. Another very popular winter recreational activity is skiing, whether it is downhill, cross-country, snowboarding or some variation. The common thread that binds them all is snow! But the majority of us are interested in that motorized winter recreation known as snowmobiling! There may be occasion, however, when one or more of the activities listed in the first paragraph have merit for mention. In some cases, both motorized and non-motorized user groups experience some of the same safety concerns, hazards and

34 OCTOBER 2020

dangerous conditions that winter may throw at us or that some other source has caused in one way or another. As we enter the winter months in Michigan, grant sponsors to the snowmobile program attended the various pre-season meetings scheduled by program administrators. They gave updates regarding any changes in necessary paperwork and the proper procedures for completing forms required for any fund reimbursements to cover the cost of grooming duties, once the official season begins. I should mention that this event was completed just prior to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Almost all such activities have been suspended, postponed or completely canceled until further notice by the governor’s executive orders in efforts to stop, or at least slow, the spread of COVID-19. For many years now, the Michigan Snowmobile Association (recently renamed MISORVA to include some categories of ATV &

UTV users) has sponsored and hosted a Groomer Workshop during the season. Grant sponsors and groomer operators can participate in roundtable discussions and breakout sessions designed to make the process easier for everything, from understanding the weekly reporting procedures to best grooming practices. Although the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has a major role to play in all this, so does the Snowmobile Advisory Workgroup, which worked to bring about the improvements on our trail system today. Without the several vendors and manufacturers’ reps who devote the entire weekend to this event, grant sponsors would not have the opportunity to see and test the newest innovations in grooming equipment. Some possible dangerous conditions and safety hazards come with each season — some prior to start up and some encountered daily when groomers go out. Many could be avoided if those responsible would just follow the requirements set forth in their contracts. I’m speaking primarily of loggers, who had successful bids and received contracts from the DNR Forestry Division or the National Forest Service to extract timber during the winter months and, in many cases,


use the designated trails to get to their specific work sites. Not only does this destroy the grooming surface of the trail due to rutting by heavy equipment, but the common practice of leaving excessive debris, scrap logs and even stumps in or near the trail — which become covered by snow — may cause severe damage to grooming equipment. Even worse, if the groomers get past without incident, the hidden stumps, debris and ruts from the logging crews are a serious threat to unsuspecting snowmobilers. This burden should not fall completely on the loggers, however, because history shows every contract issued has a clause that states the bearer must return the trail surface and immediate area to the same condition it was prior to the work beginning — minus the timber, of course. It is as much the fault of state or federal personnel responsible to inspect the area before and after completion of the operation and cite the contractors for failure to follow through with their obligations, if any should apply. Understand that there is plenty of blame to go around, and the common denominator is most likely lack of communication! The DNR personnel who approve the timber sale could fail to relay pertinent information to those who write the contracts, who, in turn, could fail to inform the personnel in the field what is expected of them. For the contractors, the boss or his/her designee that reviews, accepts and signs the contract might fail to notify the foreman of specifics within the contract; but if the foreman does have that knowledge, he

might fail to let the crew doing the actual cutting know what is expected of them once the timber is down and the logs transported from the job site. There have been many instances, from minor infractions to gross negligence, not only to the trail surfaces but to the narrow buffers on either side that require serious repairs to put the trail back in a safe condition for use. In extreme cases, damage has been so severe that culverts have collapsed and required replacement, and the trail surface so deteriorated that it was necessary for tons of gravel and road fill to be delivered to make repairs. Most contracts have boilerplate language that states all stumps within 20 feet of the trail edge must be removed. Rarely, if ever, is this accomplished and the contractors usually opt for paying the penalty rather than spending the additional time to remove stumps or even do a basic cleanup once the work has been completed. I think it all boils down to that old seed of greed: “Time is Money!” The organized snowmobiling community is not suggesting suspension of timber sales during the winter months, nor are they recommending restrictions on when and where logging operations may take place. What is needed is to hold the contractors accountable to comply with the terms of their contract. Snowmobilers, like all other trail users, are bound by rules and regulations that pertain to safe and responsible use of the trails. Shouldn’t any other users of the trails be held to the same standards? The question here is when all else fails … what then? •


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OCTOBER 2020 35

Traveling With Covid BY STEPHEN KING


nybody who has not heard of COVID-19 and the pandemic has certainly self-isolated much too long. For months now, the entire world has been obsessed with COVID-19. Not exaggerating. And plenty of people worldwide now have become germaphobes. That is, they are terrified of germs and of catching the disease. However, many people have decided that life must go on. And, in a peculiar way, they have invaded the U.P. With much of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan still under many state rules, many who have chosen to vacation anyway have come to the U.P. That includes not only Michiganders, but also people from surrounding states. For many U.P. businesses, this has been a banner summer. However, many people are still wondering if they should travel — and if it’s safe. On this, I chatted up Dennis Jankowski. He owns the Grey Wolf Lodge in Manistique and is a leader in the local tourism group made up of motel and hotel owners. “What we are telling people is that good motels, like ours, have always had a policy of keeping their properties in good shape,” Dennis said. “And that has always meant cleaning them often and completely. Now, with

36 OCTOBER 2020

COVID, we just clean a little more. We clean all touch surfaces and have strong disinfectants that kill all germs.” He also assures me that the pool is kept clean and safe for clients, with proper chemical treatment. The chlorine and bromide “inactivate” the virus and should prevent its spread, according to an online posting by the Centers for Disease Control. Dennis adds that with COVID, person-to-person transmission is possible, so the number of people in the pool is limited. Social distancing is encouraged, and people are required to wear masks. “For us, we have beach access, and this summer many people have chosen to use the beach rather than the pool,” Dennis said. “They are outside and can social distance much better. Many just feel safer. They go down and swim, sunbathe and picnic and have bonfires at night. They are having a lot of fun. “But,” he says, “there are still people who do not feel safe. For them, I suggest they look at staying home. We do all that we can to help stop the spread of COVID, but there is nothing anybody can to do totally eliminate the risk. So, if you do not feel comfortable, stay safe and stay home. But if you do want to come up here, we want you to know that we are doing

everything possible to make your stay with us as safe and as enjoyable as possible.” Years ago, I used to travel a lot; some years, perhaps as many as 100 nights a year in a motel. This was something else Dennis and I discussed. The majority of places I stayed were very clean and well kept. Just something motels have to do. Otherwise, they will get very few repeat clients. However, from time to time, I did run into the occasional “flea bag hotel.” As in any industry, there are those places that are not an advertisement for what a motel should look and feel like. So, I highly suggest, even during normal times, that if you walk into a motel and the place is not clean: Do not stay there. Leave and find a better place to stay. Why take the chance? One of the other factors in traveling is gas stations. On this, most are now requiring that all persons wear masks to enter. Basically, the law of the land. However, again, some take this more seriously than others. So, when you stop for gas, you do have the option in most places to pay at the pump. That may be an option if you are worried about COVID. Then, another bit of personal observation — namely, gas station


restrooms. Most are cleaned pretty regularly; however, in some of the busiest gas stations, with all of the traffic we have been having in the U.P., there are usually lines of people waiting to use the restrooms. And no matter how hard they try, there is just no way that the owners, operators and staff can completely clean a restroom every time somebody uses it. Just cannot be done. So, think that one over. Suddenly that bush beside the road looks better and better. Also, this one just baffles me completely. In their ultimate wisdom, the state has shut down many of the restrooms at boat launches and parks. Instead they have now provided “porta-potties.” Why? To stop the spread of COVID? Seriously. Using a “porta-potty” is safer than using a standard state outhouse? Not really sure on that logic. But it is what it is. And I am thinking that bush that my dog waters is looking more and more inviting. Finally, restaurants and bars. Now, again, I am doing some personal observing. In the last couple months, I have spent quite a lot of time out on the road, eating in bars and restaurants. Almost all require masks to enter. But, once again, I am baffled. Like a few days ago, I was up in Big Bay. Ate at a very nice bar/restaurant there. Masks were required. So, I walked in … about 10 feet. Sat at the bar and was now no longer required to wear a mask. Few minutes later, two nicely dressed ladies come in. Do the same. Sit about 6 feet from me. Again, we are all legal. Now, way back when, I used to own a restaurant. Back then, smoking was legal and popular inside restaurants and bars. I can remember the smoke drift-

ing about the places. So, I am sitting there, thinking, if the smoke drifted all over the restaurant, why can’t this COVID bug? I am sitting there, smelling all the smells, the cooking food, etc., and watching the smoke from the grill going up the blower and really wondering how long COVID hangs in the air. On this, I recall recently listening to NPR Radio and hearing a discussion about how safe it is to ride bikes in public. Outside. On bike paths and trails. They were talking about a “breath plume” that follows along behind bike riders. Sometimes a fair distance behind the rider, it will still hang in the air. Was thinking about that, and the two ladies sitting a few feet from me. Not really so sure it is completely safe. But I am an adrenaline junkie. Motor sports photographer. Snowmobile rider. Former commercial fisherman. Former lumberjack. Ran a chainsaw, cutting down trees all day. Scared of a bug. Not so much. But I do admit the disease is out there. And I do not blame some people for being worried, especially those with health conditions. But from what I have seen, and from talking to Dennis, traveling is OK. It is not “completely” safe. And, probably never was and never will be. So, if you are OK with the risks, then by all means, get out there and travel and have fun. Those in the industry are doing all they can to keep you as safe as possible. But if you do not feel comfortable, then stay home. If you go out, you will not feel happy. And, I have seen this, your personal concerns may also affect the enjoyment of those you travel with. So, your choice. Stay home and stay safe. Or, accept the risk and get out there and have fun. •



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