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Yessssssssss!!!!!! I do not believe that I have ever started a journal with a picture, but there is always a first for everything and that one word and that one picture says it all. I'm back in action! As mentioned in the last journal I did get the sled up and running Saturday morning and took it for a ride Saturday afternoon. On Sunday Brian and I decided to take a trip through the back country and we also got to have Nora and Brian's wife Sherry come along. This was Nora's first ride in the back country and she did excellent. Actually, it was only about her 3rd or 4th ride on a snowmobile period. I wasted no time in building her confidence as I took her over a 5 foot snowbank leaving our neighborhood. I knew she could get over it and also knew that once she did that then she would have the confidence to get over anything we would encounter on the ride and would not have to compound any concerns over her abilities along with doing it in front of a bunch of other riders. On the way to Brian's house she had one mishap. I did not see it actually happen, but it was as much my fault as hers. We were going through a field with about 3 feet of powder in it and I was having fun laying the RMK over, back and forth and back and forth. I came to the corner of the field and really laid her down and dug about a 2 foot trench at a 90 degree angle. I did not explain to Nora that when we were going through the fields she did not have to follow my tracks exactly. I looked back to see how she was doing and saw the sled coming to a stop rider less with two boots sticking up out of the snow. She had tried to stay in my tracks but got to that deep trench in the corner and lost it. Now, for all of you thinking I am a jerk for doing that I had no idea she was going to follow my tracks exactly through the field. There were a few others that went straight through the field and I thought she would just follow them. Plus, I have a feeling she will get even with me sooner or later!
We made it to Brian's just fine and I told her that she did not have to follow my trail exactly when we were going through the fields. Our group of 4 had one added to it with another friend "Chico" joining in for the ride. There is a little hill that drifts over right near Brian's house and that was our first play stop for the day and where the opening picture was taken. The snow was pretty deep at the top, with a sluffed off drift making things about 6 feet deep. The RMK managed to make it through just fine, but it proved to be a little too much for Chico's short track. Man am I glad I have that long track! I have yet to get stuck and even though I have only about 200 miles on the sled, there have been spots that I know the Pol-Cat would have been stuck. Normally my plan would have been to let a few of the long tracks go up first and then take a path that used their tracks through the deep stuff. This time around, I was first up the hill and made sure that all my other trips up the hill carved a new path through the deep stuff. Of course Brian had his fun too and his 151" track had no problem making it up the hill. We even have some video that Nora was great enough to shoot. Here is me climbing the little hill and here is Brian on the "it". He nicknamed it the "it" because it is about 4 sleds combined to make one.
We decided to take a trip through the bush to Gay, have lunch and then head back. I had more work to get done and also wanted to make sure the hounds got their afternoon walk in. Nora really did awesome riding off trail. In fact she seemed more at home off trail than on! The Pol-Cat has a very bad darting problem on the hard packed trails and if you are not used to it, it can be very intimidating. I would go and get some dual runner skis for it, but do not really want to spend a couple of hundred dollars on a 10 year old sled with over 12,000 miles on it. Especially because I have a feeling we will be hooking up with Joe and the gang at CrashedToys.com to get Nora a new ride for next season. I made the serious mistake of letting her ride the RMK and she got to see what 10 years of improvements in sled design, performance and suspension has made! I'm thinking a crossover sled like a Switchback would be best for her. The long track will help in the deep snow, but the sled will also be a little more trail happy than an RMK. We need to get past the wedding and all of it's expenses, but I am pretty sure that she is going to want a new ride for next season.
We made it to Gay and had lunch and then headed back. I can say that the RMK ran great the whole trip. It is amazing what a little thing like having all the parts in the engine can do for a device like that! The Pol-Cat was as trusty as ever, but it was not as good a day for Team Arctic or Team Doo. We had one Arctic Cat freeze a carb and Brian's Doo blew a belt. I felt sorry for them, but was also glad it was not me! Both were able to be fixed pretty quickly though. While stopped on the beach, Nora snuck the camera out and took a shot of the ice on the Big Lake. Quite a bit of ice for that side of the lake. Even though it is the sheltered side, it usually is pretty open. I am not worried about the lake freezing this winter. I have seen some good photos of the lake and it is still over 90% open, with some of the bays and shoreline froze- nothing that is unusual for this time of the year. Sure the lake will get more ice on it and maybe in a few weeks that could start to have some kind of an impact on the LES formation, but for now we are safe.
Got home safe and sound and it was great to put away a fully functional sled! Plus it was great to not have to worry about wrenching on a sled this afternoon. I learned a lesson and that is to always go back and check to make sure that any extra parts are not mine! Al had a suspicion that those bolts were for where they were for. All I would have had to do was remove the pipe and muffler, then the oil pump and recoil housing (a 20-30 minute ordeal) to check to see if that is where those bolts went. Upon seeing where they go all I would have had to do was put them back in. I would not have had to remove anything else. Less than an hours work would have saved me about 4-6 hours work. I am just lucky that I did not have to replace any parts, so it was strictly a labor issue and the labor was mine.
Today the hounds and I took a ski in the school forest. It was my plan to start breaking trail on some of the other paths we like to take. As luck would have it, someone had gone out with a snowmobile and done it over the weekend. I am pretty sure it was the person who is sort of the caretaker of the school forest. He works for the school district and is also out there doing lots of the maintaining of the school forest. He did a great job, not leaving any big piles of snow from hitting the throttle too quickly and also kept the sled balanced so that the trail did not have any "embankments" to it. It sounds nit picky, but just those two little things can have a huge impact when trying to cross country ski on a trail broke with a snowmobile. Plus, I know how hard it can be to keep the sled nice and stable in the deeper snow and not leave any snow piles from a spinning track. I went out and broke trail a few years ago in March when we had a few big storms in a row. At any rate, we were able to ski some trails we have not been on yet this season. We did not do our full loop, my arms were a little sore from the weekend riding and the wrenching and skiing from late last week. Now that the trail has been broke we should be able to ski it for the rest of the season without serious problems. That is unless we get another 70" of snow in a little over 2 weeks again. Which in that case I will not be complaining either!
Speaking of the weather, things have calmed down for the time being. We continue to get snow on a daily basis, but it is in the 1-2" range for the most part. This morning we had a burst of almost 4" in an hour again. I was right in the middle of writing my forecast for the Keweenaw and it was really a difficult thing to do. The forecast indicated the potential for some light lake effect snow, but here it was dumping on us. It turns out that the band producing the snow on my house was pretty localized. Houghton/Hancock did not get it nor did the airport. It looks like areas to the north did not see as much either. While the radar in Marquette is totally useless for LES in the Keweenaw, usually I can look at the satellite imagery and get an idea of what is going on out over the lake. But this morning, the storm hitting MN was spilling it's high clouds over the lake and those were covering the lower LES clouds, so I had no clue what was happening out there. Sometimes weather forecasting is nearly 100% guess work and this morning's forecast was just that. It showed as I was calling for about 1-2" in most areas, with some heavier totals in Keweenaw County. Well, we had flurries at most in most areas, and I do not know if Keweenaw County had any more.
And speaking of guessing, there was some pretty serious weather guessing going on this weekend! The models were about as all over the road on things as I have ever seen them, even for the 24-48 hour period! I really felt sorry for the forecasters on duty this weekend and was glad I was able to sit on the sidelines. The forecast for the Keweenaw was no problem and the NWS Marquette nailed it. However, the storm in areas to the south of us was full of twists and turns and changes in the models at every chance. Hopefully this event will be studied and some improvements in the models can be made. The NWS does have a team of people that do just that, study the models performance and looks for ways to improve things. It was also interesting to read all the comments of frustration on a few posts in the Ask John. I am not going to take sides on things. Weather forecasting is simply making a guess. An educated guess for the most part, but still a guess. What I am wondering is if any of the frustrated people out there have learned that it might not be as easy to forecast the weather as they seem to think it is. I for one am glad it is not easy. I like the challenge. Plus if it were easy, anyone could do it and I might be out of an occupation! But I have never heard a meteorologist claim to be 100% accurate and when forecasts are tanking all over the place, might that give a clue to some folks that it might actually be a very difficult situation at hand? Oh well, enough of that. I can certainly sympathize with the frustration. That is actually a big part of why I became a meteorologist, I was frustrated with the lousy forecasts! Now I only have myself to blame!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
My, my, my, what you all have missed since the last time I wrote. If you remember I was going to try and get out a journal in record time last Tuesday so that Nora and I could go for a ski and then a ride. Well, we were successful in both. Although as those of you who also visit the Ask John section may have noticed, the RMK died on me again. It was not the sleds fault this time, but mine! As you probably remember from my rebuild of about 2 weeks ago I had two bolts "left over" when I was done with the engine rebuild. Both Al and I racked our brains trying to figure out where they went and in Al's defense he was busy fixing cars and just answered questions that I had, so he was not really there to see me miss where those 4 bolts went in. In my defense, it was my first time doing anything like that and although I was not in over my head there was a steep learning curve! Anyway, seeing those 4 large bolts I really could not imagine that I could have missed them. There is always lots going on in Al's shop and I just figured the bolts belonged to someone else. Well, I was wrong, they belonged to my sled all right!
Tuesday evening Nora and I decided to take a ride. I figured a loop down to Hancock and back would be a good trip. So we started out by heading up to Calumet and then down the upper trail towards Hancock. The trail got really bumpy just south of Calumet so we decided to cut the trip short and head back home. We were taking a short cut down one of the county roads and all of the sudden the sled started to backfire terribly and also made a pretty nasty grinding sound, so I hit the kill button as fast as I could. Once stopped I popped open the hood, but it was so dark out I could not see a thing. I tried pulling on the starter rope once just to see if I could hear where the grinding sound was coming from and the engine was froze and would not even allow me to pull on the starter. I could not believe the engine had seized! I really was not angry, just in a state of shock and disbelief. We towed the sled back to a bar and then Nora and I rode home double on the faithful Pol-Cat. Got the truck, Al's trailer and went back up and fetched the RMK. We got home and it was late, so I just left the sled on the trailer in the driveway.
The next morning after getting most of my work out of the way I went out and tried the started cord again and it was froze. Al told me to try and turn the primary clutch to see if it would turn and thankfully it did! Only one direction, but that meant that I did not fry the engine or at least it meant that the piston(s) were not seized in the engine. Al has been home all week with a bad back, so I just decided to use my garage as the shop. I have all the tools needed to take the engine apart, except for one and I was able to borrow that from Al. It turns out my four "extra" bolts were to hold the housing for the flywheel/stator/water pump housing to the engine. All that was holding that housing to the engine were three small bolts that are really only designed to hold the stator plate snug. Those small bolts could not hold forever and gave out on the Tuesday night ride. I was able to get things apart enough in the garage to see that no damage (other than the 3 bolts being snapped off) had been done to the engine. The bad news was that I could also see some metal shavings had gotten into one of the bearings in the crankshaft. That meant that I had to once again take the entire engine apart, clean up the crankshaft bearings and then put things back together. I also had to get the rest of the bolts that had been snapped off out of the crankcase so that I could put new ones in.
I had been able to heat the garage somewhat by turning my gas grill on high and keeping it there, but I figured the engine rebuild would go better in the warmth of my basement workshop so I got the engine out and hauled it down into the shop. The tear down and rebuild went very quickly this time. I do not know the exact hours it took for both the first tear down/rebuild and the second, but I would say that the second one went at least twice as fast, if not faster. I did run into one problem extracting one of the snapped off bolts, but was able to get that problem fixed and after just starting on things Wednesday afternoon, basically had things pretty much done by last night and the engine back in this morning and I rode it on the loop I had intended on Tuesday this afternoon. It ran great and Nora and I are planning on going for a ride with Brian and his wife in the back country tomorrow.
I feel much better about the health of the sled now. I'm not sure if those 4 bolts had me nervous or the fact that it was my first time rebuilding the engine or what, but I did have a certain bit of uneasiness riding the sled prior to it's latest breakdown. However, that uneasiness did not last too long on today's ride and except for the knot pulling out of the starter cord and getting sucked all the way into the recoil this afternoon, I felt like the sled was back together the way it should be and should be good for the rest of the season at least. I did order the repair manual for the sled and was able to pick it up at Dan's Polaris this afternoon. Hopefully I will not need it, but it might make for some interesting reading once things slow down this spring.
So I'm not sure if my latest repair job was all that exciting for you, but to tell you the honest truth, it was what took up just about all of my spare time since I last wrote! As mentioned, Nora and I did take a ski on Wednesday afternoon. We went out to the school forest and actually had to ski through some fairly deep snow. Wednesday we had a burst of heavy snow for about 3 hours. We got about 4" of snow from 10:30 to 11:30 am and then another 3 1/2 from 11:30 to 1:30 some more fell after 1:30 as well. It was the lake effect fluff type, but it was still awesome to watch it come down so hard for those 3 hours, especially the first hour when 4" fell. With the trail already broken by all the skiing we did last weekend, the hounds were able to handle the 8-10" of snow with no problem, although Burt discovered that going off the trail was a different story. I could not get the camera out and ready fast enough while he was in the really deep stuff, but when he was fully off the trail the snow was up past his back.
It is just amazing to be out in the woods with all of the snow we have picked up in the past few weeks. Everything is just coated with snow. Some tree limbs are breaking under the load and I have seen some pine trees that have been pulled down so that their tips are touching the ground under the snow load. Even the mountain ash berries are covered in snow. Most of the roofs have been shoveled at least once and I have actually seen a few in the neighborhood done twice. The snow banks on the side of the road are up past the roofs of all cars and most trucks, which makes the intersections very interesting! You have to ease your nose out to be able to peak around the snow banks. There are a few more popular intersections in my neighborhood that I drive very cautiously through just in case. The plows are running almost nonstop up here now. Not because they need to keep clearing fresh snow off the roads 24 hours a day, but because just simply plowing the snow off to the side of the road does not quite cut it up here. They actually have to raise the blade of the plow and run it across the top of the banks to push the snow back away from the roads even more so that there will be room for the next load. I am not sure if there is such a thing as snow plow drivers school, but if they were looking for a classroom, the Keweenaw would be about as perfect as it gets- especially in winters like this one.
My plan for the next two weeks is to ride as much as possible. I would like to have that sled fully mastered as there is a videographer coming up to shoot a video (actually it will be released as a DVD) of me and the KSE boys playing in the snow. He is selling two of his previously created DVD's on the site and is one of the banner ads. I like his DVD's because they are not of riders doing insane things, but rather cool, technical riding. I'm not sure how much of my riding will make the cut, but it will be fun to partake in as well as watch the other guys do a little showboating for the camera. He is coming up and we will be out doing the shooting of the riding Feb. 7th and 8th. We also hope to get some footage of the snow statues at Tech that will be about a week old as well as some scenic shots of the Keweenaw. It should be a really cool video...er..DVD.
Well, I guess that gets you caught up in all of my doings. I will be sure to bring the camera tomorrow and on any future rides to start providing more entertainment of that variety. I cannot believe it is already the end of January, this month just flew by! If I could only figure out a way to make the summer months go by that fast!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
I am going to try and hammer out this journal in record time. It is only about 1 pm and I am in my "cruise control" time of the day for my regular work. The daily updates for the web site are done, so I have about an hour and a half of time that can be dedicated to a journal so long as the phone does not ring! I then need to shoot over to the trail cam and reboot it and then get back in time to take a ski with Nora this afternoon. My brother and uncle were up for the weekend and we got lots done and took lots of pictures. I think I have about 19 ot 20 to share with you all, so I am going to try and let them do most of the talking.
We did not do any snowmobiling, this was mainly a ski weekend. My brother arrived Saturday afternoon and so he, the hounds, Nora and I went out to the school forest for a ski. It had been quite a bit in time since we had been out there and a ton of snow had fallen, so I was interested to see if anyone else had been out there and kept any kind of a trail open. There had been a few skiers, so some of the routes were a little packed down, but others we were pretty much breaking trail through 2 feet of fresh snow. On skis that is not that hard, but the hounds were really struggling, especially poor Baileys with all of her joint issues. Here is a shot of her following me and you can almost see the panting she was doing by working so hard to get through the snow. Now she was walking in a trench and not through snow up to her back, but she was still sinking into the snow about 3-4" and that is like trying to walk in soft sand. In this shot you can get a better idea of what they had to deal with. We made it out alive and also packed down the trail pretty well. So as long as we keep going out every few days the hounds will not have to struggle too much now that there is a bottom to the snow.
Saturday evening my uncle arrived, so he, my brother and Nora went up to the skin trails at Sweedtown near Calumet to do some night skiing. They have some lit trails, but do not allow dogs, so I stayed home to baby sit the hounds and my brothers two dogs and get some guest shots done. They brought the camera along and here is a shot of my brother (left) and uncle.
Sunday morning had a little work to be done. The snow was getting pretty deep on my roof, so I employed the help of my brother to clean it off. As I am sure many of you know, shoveling my roof is the only thing about all the snow we get up here that I do not like! It is not that I hate to shovel the roof, but it really is quite a workout. I must admit the first time I ever did it, I thought it was pretty fun, but the novelty of it has worn off and I would just as soon not have to deal with it. However there is really no way to get the snow I like and not have to shovel the roof and unless I am physically unable to, I just cannot bring myself to pay to have it done. So every 100" or so I climb up and clean it off. My brother was more than willing to help me out and actually was looking forward to the experience, so we decided to let him clear the roof and I would clear the snow from the ground when it came off the roof. I was just keeping my fingers crossed that the novelty of it would not wear off for my brother before he had the whole roof clear! I usually do 1/2 at a time because it can almost be as much work to clear the snow off the ground as it it to clear it off the roof.
Anyway, I did climb up on the roof to get things started. I cleared off a small area and showed my brother the techniques and tricks to it. There really are both and if you don't know them the work can be twice as hard. At the rate it was snowing while we got started, I was afraid that we might have to turn around and do it all over once we were finished! After clearing a small area for my brother, he got to work on the roof and I fired up the Ariens and took care of all that was dropping off the roof. We had a pretty good system going. Although he did seem to take special pleasure in dropping as big a load of snow as possible off the roof onto my head! He got me a few times too! We finished up with the front and then moved on to the back. It was not as deep on the back side of the house as it was on the front. The prevailing westerly winds really piles it up on the downwind side. I think it took about 20 minutes shorter to do the back than the front and total time of working was about an hour and 15 minutes or so. I was very relieved and grateful to have it all done! I should be good for a few more weeks. I just wonder if this will be a 2 roof shovel year or three!
Sunday afternoon I had planned to go down to Krupps Resort in Twin Lakes to see about getting that camera going. I was aware that there was a cross country ski trail down there too, so I figured Nora, my brother, uncle and the dogs could go for a ski while I got the camera going. As it turned out I figured out why the image could not be uploaded to my sites server very quickly and then had to wait a while for them to finish up the ski. It seemed to take a little longer for them to come get me after the ski than I had thought. Nora did finally arrive to get me and explained why it took them a little longer. It seems that Nora got a little confused where to drive to get to the parking lot for the ski trail. The signs point to an area where the snowmobiles drive to get from the gas station to the trail and so she took that, thinking it was the way to go. The blazer did not make it too far before it got stuck in the snow and if that was not enough, my brother did a very good job of following her and got his vehicle stuck too! They were able to pull the blazer out with two snowmobiles rather easily, but my brothers car was a different story. It has 4 wheel drive but that is not much good when you are buried up to your axles in hard packed snow! They first tried to pull it out with my truck, but that was not enough, so a bunch of snowmobilers came over and pushed the car while the blazer pulled. That worked and they got the car unstuck. So if you were part of the group that helped them get unstuck Sunday near Krupps Mini Mart, Nora, my brother, uncle and I all thank you! Just shows how great snowmobilers are!
So I missed all that excitement, but got to share some interesting stories with Richard Krupp. I also missed the ski, but did not even bring my skies or boots because I thought I would not have any time because it would take me a while to debug the computer problem. I am sad that I did not get to ski, but am glad that Nora brought the camera and took some shots. The snow is as deep in Twin Lakes as it is up here and the forest was just beautiful (fsv). It looks like the hounds were having a good time, they actually do not allow dogs on the trail, but since we were about an hour away and did not want to leave them in a cold car and did not have anything else to do with them, we broke the rules just once. I really do not like to do that, but it was figured that the trails would not be trashed by them going just once and they might not even know. Of course I bet they do now! Nora captured shot of a snow ghost (fsv) for me. And here is a giant snow ghost in the making (fsv). I am not sure if that was a pine tree that was folded over, or is just very stout. In any case, you can get a feel for the size of it by comparing it to the skier on the right. Here is one last shot of the trail.
Yesterday I had off from my regular duties, so all I did was the website work and a few other chores I usually need to do on Sunday's. Nora had to work though so my uncle, brother, dogs and I went for a midday ski and then another ski in the school forest with Nora in the afternoon. The trail was nicely packed down for the hounds, even the 4-5" new did not phase them. There was a bottom to the snow and that is really all they need. I will still need to get out and keep the trail broken. But now that there is a bottom, the hounds will not struggle. I would also like to get a few more of the trails broken open and will try and chip away at that in the coming days. Yesterday late afternoon it was really nice weather for a ski. Temps in the upper single digits, no wind in the woods, a light snow falling from time to time and even a few peaks of sunlight from time to time (fsv). Arriving back to the vehicles safe and sound, we took a group photo of me and my family members and one of Nora and I, oh and Burt too!
My goals in the next few days and weeks will be to get in as much snow play as possible. I will try and not let the website be too sacrificed, but I am going to be a little selfish here for a while. We have the weather that I moved up here for. I have my health, the dogs and Nora have their health, the sleds are running fine, so it is time to have some fun. That does not mean that the forecasts will not be updated daily, but things like the guest shots and Ask Johns might not be gotten to right away. I will get to them, but the past two weeks I have been spending an average of 4-5 hours on the site and that is in addition to my 8 hours of regular work. Not complaining here, just letting you all know to be patient with me, I am trying to have some fun!
Good night (afternoon really) from the Keweenaw..
Things have finally slowed down around here! I got the sled back together Tuesday evening, spent about 2 1/2 hours and I took care of the pile of guest shots last night and got a few that had come in since in today and have all the other chores I needed to get done (except shovel the roof) finished, so I figured I may as well spit out a quick journal. I would first like to thank Joey at CrashedToys.com for all of his help in getting me the parts I needed to get the RMK back in running form. I called him on Monday and he had them coming to me by that afternoon. We are going to see about having Polaris help us out since the sled was just past warranty and only hat 490 miles on it. I am very glad and lucky that I was able to use both Al's shop and his experience. There were a few mishaps like me breaking a crankcase bolt off as I was torching them down. I was mistaken how the torque wrench worked and went a little too far! Thankfully we were able to split the case again and get at the broken end with some vice grips and back it out. I also had a funny thing happen as I was finishing things up. I was careful to keep all the bolts and parts in one spot and also keep all the associated bolt and nuts with the pieces they belonged to. I was at the point where all I had left was the air box and pipe and I saw 4 bolts sitting on my seat. I will also point out that I did not leave any bolt on my seat unless they were part of an assemble/dissassemble process currently going on. So here I have just about everything in and these 4 rather large bolts (9/16th heads and about 1 1/2 inches long) sitting on my seat. So I asked Al if he knew where they went. He looked at them and could not come up with anything. His only thought was to hold the case for the flywheel on, but I distinctly remember them being allen head bolts because they were a real bugger to get out. I was worried about them being for the crankcase and causing an air leak and a lean condition which would lead to another blow up, but that was not the case. So, we decided that they were not for my sled and have no idea how they got there. I must admit that I was a bit scared when we first started it up, but all has gone well so far. It has a bad bog at the high end (above 8000 rpm) and also does not respond well to a quick full throttle either. So Al is going to ride it tomorrow and figure things out. I really cannot tell the difference in a clutching problem or fuel delivery problem. Last year when the Pol Cat was running poor, I was convinced by the symptoms that it was a fuel issue, but turns out it was a clutching issue.
So I have been out playing...er working at breaking her in. I have put about 20-25 miles on it so far and hope for about that much more before I will feel good about letting it all hang out. I did get to float trough some nice deep powder and it is great. Kind of strange not to have the nose pointing to the sky, but also nice to be able to stop in waist deep snow and know I will be able to get going from there.
Yesterday I was able to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, by taking the sled down to see what was up with the trail cam. Sometime around the middle of the day the image started pointing into the tree tops rather than the trail. I figured the arm that the camera is on somehow rotated, but was wondering why. My guess was that the snow had somehow caused it to do it, but to me it would have seemed like the camera would have been turned down, not up. So I fired up the RMK and headed down the snowy trail to the cam. My guess that it was the snow was right. It had piled up on the 2" pvc conduit that connects the camera with box housing the computer and had caused the pvc pipe to turn and thus point the camera into the sky. A lot of the snow had already fallen off by the time I got there, so I cleared the rest of the snow off and straightened out the cam and headed back. Before I headed back though I took a shot down the trail towards the road crossing to show how close it is and help explain why the trail at the cam might look "dirty" from time to time. As luck would have it a car was driving up the road, just as I took the shot.
I have not been out for a ski since last Saturday, but my brother and uncle are coming up on Saturday for a few days and I am sure that we will be taking plenty of skis then. I have Monday off from all my regular work duties, so that will work out well. My uncle has been up a few other times, but early in the season, so he has never seen the Keweenaw under it's mid season blanket of snow. My brother has, in fact I was with him the very first time I set foot on Keweenaw soil- or shall I say Keweenaw snow.
Speaking of snow it stopped snowing for about 4 hours today, so I guess I can officially say our streak of constant snow ended. There were a few times that we were in between snow bands and it would not snow for 20, 30 even 50 minutes. But since early on the 3rd, it has been snowing. Tomorrow might be kind of iffy on the snow as well, but a clipper looks to smack us with snows Saturday followed by lake effect for Sun and Mon and a new clipper by Tue or Wed followed by more lake effect and maybe more clipper and more lake effect to follow. I am already glad that I am riding a long track sled and I think I will be very glad in a few weeks. That same clipper this weekend looks to hit northern MN, northern WI and northern lower MI pretty good, so many of the traditional winter playgrounds will be in good shape this weekend and that makes me very happy to know that lots of folks will be up having fun in the snow and that the businesses in those areas that have struggled to survive the poor winters in the past few years will get a good shot in the arm. Now if we could just get some snow in to the southern 1/2 of MN and WI, then those folks would be happy too!
Well, I think I will sign off for now so that I can get this all loaded up before dinner. I am glad that tomorrow's Friday and it's a three day weekend (I will be doing the forecast for this site though) and it just started snowing again. Life is good!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
Today was our 16th day in a row with measurable snow and it has been snowing pretty much straight for 9 days straight now. I bet that in the past 9 days there have been a few hours when snow was not officially reported, but I bet no longer than 2-3 hours in a row. That is quite a stretch, even for this neck of the woods. Everything looks just beautiful all covered in the snow. The winds have been light for the past 5 days, so the snow is just piling up on anything it can. I am a little amazed that it is not deeper in my yard, but I guess it is all just compacting down and forming one heck of a base. I do know that there are spots with a whole lot more snow on the ground than in my yard. Reliable reports of about 30" on the ground not too far away. What seems even more amazing than all the stats I have just given is that I only have about 70 miles ridden so far this winter! Things have really just worked out to keep me off my sled this season. The Pol-Cat is in the garage and I could have been riding it the past week or so, but I really wanted to get the RMK going and then got sick late last week, so I could not ride with the boys on Saturday. My little cold is just about done running it's course, the RMK is just about all back together, so hopefully tomorrow night Nora and I can take a leisurely ride for dinner and back so that I can break in the new pistons and cylinder. There is a KSE ride for this Saturday, so I would not mind hooking up with that too.
Al was able to fill me in on the ride this past Saturday, only one broken sled (trailing arm), but lots of deep snow. He told me about a seasonal road that they found that had yet to be hit this year and the lead guy was on a 136" SKS and got buried! All the 144's and longer got through just fine. I almost hit my knees when he told me. I want to fly my RMK through a snow like that so bad! I just keep telling myself: "It won't be long, hang in there!".
I am very grateful for the snow though. It is really great to look out the window at any given moment and see it snowing- sometimes quite vigorously! We did manage to get out for a ski this weekend. I had a few moments when I was not totally run down and the school forest was just magnificent. I have been feeling a little guilty lately because I have not been taking the hounds into the woods. They don't seem to mind just sticking to the neighborhood for walks, but they sure do seem to enjoy the woods more. Nora and I also enjoyed getting into the woods, of course who wouldn't when this was your path (FSV)? As mentioned, with the snows falling almost constantly for the past 9 days and the winds being light for the past 5, the snow flakes will collect on just about everything. Here is a blackberry thicket coated in snow that Nora captured.
We were breaking trail (FSV) the whole time, except for the few moments that we were actually following deer trails through the woods. Nora grabbed the camera to take a few shots and then decided to take one of yours truly. Sorry no full sized version on that one, but I bet there are not too many disappointed folks out there! As we skied through a stand of planted red pine I was struck by the beauty (FSV). The snow sticking to not just the branches and pine needles, but even the rough edges of the bark. There was almost a geometric pattern formed by it all. We finished up the ski and will be back later on this week. My brother and Uncle are arriving on Saturday, so I am sure that we will ski just about every trail out there once they are here.
On Sunday, I felt a little too tired to do much of anything, but my regular work and a few Guest Shots that had come in. Nora was gracious to take the hounds for both their walks and on the afternoon one took this shot of a blue spruce slowly becoming a snow ghost. The tree in the foreground is almost completely covered and there is one in the back that is the bare branches you see at the top. Another foot of snow with little winds and that tree will be completely encased in snow. My roof is slowly filling up too and soon it will be time to deal with the only part of all the snow I am really not that fond of. Of course, maybe I will just wait until my brother and uncle are here and put them to work! Nora has already informed me that she is not going up on the roof until she can walk up there without having to use a ladder. Back in 2000-2001 that was actually able to be done. I had my broken leg, but I paid Brian and another guy to shovel my roof and Brain was able to just step off of it when he was done.
The walk that Nora took the hounds on must have been a long one or maybe Burt just put on some extra mileage, 'cause he needed to rest a bit when they got back. It's just amazing how well their fur coat insulates them from the cold. I have seen them lay in the snow for over 30 minutes before and look as relaxed as they do laying on the carpet in the living room. Baileys is really doing well from her surgery this summer and decided to do some exploring of the front walk when they got home. You can also get an idea of how deep the snow is getting in that shot.
So hopefully tomorrow at this time, Nora and I will be coming back from a nice ride on the sleds through the winter wonderland. As I type, a west wind is giving us some decent lake effect snow. It is coming down at a little more than an inch an hour. My depth at the snow stick is 22", the deepest it has been all year. The forecast does not really hold anything but more snow for just about every day for the next week or more. I don't know if we will break a record for January. We probably need to get a few more big storms under our belt for that. But this looks like it will turn out to be a rather healthy January, snow-wise.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
January has got to be the busiest month for me because it really seems like the past week or so there has just not been enough time in the day to get done what I want to get done. I think I may have pushed a bit too hard and that resulted in getting a little head cold. Right now I am in that stand up and get dizzy phase, but I know that I am probably at the worst right now and each day it will get better. Sleeping is the worst right now. But Nora went and got some good medicine and tonight should be better.
So, we got our big storm. It was a little bit less than I was expecting, but when you add it all up, it looks like about 20-30" of snow has fallen since Monday morning. We have actually had snow falling at one rate or another since early Saturday morning. That's about 130 hours straight. It looks like snows could very well keep going right through the weekend and early next week. Now that's the Keweenaw that I moved up here for! On Tuesday the NWS posted a Blizzard Warning for our neck of the woods and hit the nail right on the head. I bet when most folks hear the word blizzard they think of big huge dumps of snow. That can happen, but a blizzard is really more about the wind and it's effect on the visibility due to blowing snow. If you were ever wondering what a blizzard looks like- here you go. That was the look down my street Tuesday afternoon. Pretty safe to say that the vis was below 1/4 mile, more like a few hundred feet. Schools were let out at 10 am which was a good idea as it just got worse and worse as the day went on. Imagine a bus trying to get down a country road with that going on. It was probably even worse in the country as my street is fairly sheltered from a west wind.
Unfortunately I have not been doing any riding or skiing the past 4 days. I have been busy with my regular work, the website and rebuilding my sled. On Tuesday I finally go to split the case and have a look at the crankshaft. I took an auto repair class in high school and even though it was 20 years ago I can still remember the shop teacher saying "you cannot go any deeper into an engine than the crankshaft, that is the heart of the engine". So it was kind of cool to see my crank sitting there, the heart of my sled. I then got the scare of my life when it appeared that two of the crankshaft bearings had been damaged in the breakup of the piston. The way those crankshafts are made you basically have to replace them or have them rebuilt, in either case a fairly expensive operation. Al said they could just have some pieces of the piston still in them and I could try and clean the bearings out and maybe they would be ok. So I brought it home, put it in the kitchen sink and started working soapy water into them. They seemed to be getting better but I wanted more water pressure to spray into the bearings and I remembered a post in the ask Johns about putting the crank into the dishwasher. So in she went with a tiny bit of liquid dish soap. I let it run for about 15 minutes and checked them. They were even better, almost perfect, so I closed the door and let it run for about 20 minutes more and then took it out and ran it down into my shop in the basement, where I then sprayed everything with a spray lubricant. I then used a high pressure air stream to blow my 2 cycle oil into the bearings and get everything all coated up and the bearings ended up being just fine. I could not even tell the ones that had problems from the ones that did not. I am very grateful that I decided to take the extra time to split the case and have a good look at the crank. If I ever have a similar problem I will always be sure to go that extra mile (or ten as the case actually is!)
Yesterday I was able to put the crank back in the case and put the case and all of it's components on and back in the sled. I still have to hook up all the oil and fuel lines as well as the electrical lines. The parts for the sled came in today, but Al will be on a KSE tour tomorrow and then I doubt I can coax him into the shop this weekend. So it may be next week before I can put the rest of the engine together and fire it up. I was going to hook up with the second half of the KSE tour today, but came down with this cold and just decided to make it a day of rest. Ya right! I have still been running around, taking care of all the chores that have been piling up all week. They are all done and then I again debated on doing a journal or Guest Shots. I figured I would write a journal and then if I have time and energy get some Guest Shots done. The Guest Shots do not take that long (about 20 minutes each) and do not take as much brain power as a journal, that's why I decided to put them off until after the journal. Tomorrow I take a little road trip south to Twin Lakes to set up a web cam there. It will be at Krupps Resort. I am excited to have the cam there as it is a place that gets lots of snow, but is too far to the south for me to really get to very often. So if all goes well, by tomorrow evening, a new cam in the Keweenaw should be alive. Keep those fingers crossed. I do NOT want to have to make multiple trips down there!
One of the chores to get done today was to clear the eves of my roof. This is what two feet of fresh snow and a west wind will do to the edges of my roof. It's really quite easy to take care of that. All I do it break out my roof rake and break the drifts off. It's cool to see how big an avalanche I can cause. Last year Nora actually got caught under one of the avalanches and it knocked her to her knees and pulled her hat down all the way over her face. Thankfully she was not injured and I did not do it on purpose!
I had some business to tend to up in Calumet so the hounds and I hopped in the truck and headed up the hill. It was sort of sunny and snowing here, but by the time we got up to the top of the hill it was completely overcast and snowing a little heavier. It really is amazing how different the weather in just a few miles up here. Not as extreme as the mountains out west but still quite dramatic. With the fresh snow and the strong winds the Laurium Glacier has been busy swallowing up all the small trees in it's vicinity. Another two months and it will be time to start guessing when it will finally melt. Sure looks big this year already!
The snow banks in Lake Linden are pretty impressive now, standing at about 3-4 feet high, but nothing like the banks they have in Calumet and Laurium. Most of those were 4-6 feet tall and it looks like they have been busy with the snow go up here as well. The piles behind the high school are about 20-25 feet high, I sure wonder how they get them so tall? After pulling out of the bank I spotted a snowed in home across the street and snapped a shot of it to let you all know what it would be like to live in Calumet MI. After the bank I decided to take the hounds to the north shore for a little walk. Not the actual shore line, even with the winds down to about 5-10 mph, it would likely be a little brisk there, so we just walked the road that parallels it. I really like that road for a quick walk. In almost any weather at any time of the year it is quite peaceful. More and more cars seem to find it in the summer and because it is a dead end, you have to see each car twice. But in the winter it is pretty much dead. It was so quiet there this afternoon that my ears were ringing while straining to pick up any sound at all. The only sound they could register was the tiny snowflakes hitting my jacket. Now that is peaceful. Sure am glad that I get to be able to experience that whenever I want. You could probably not pay me enough to leave this area, at least not for very long, maybe the month of April!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
Been a busy guy lately, with both work and play. I have a ton of guest shots that have come in in the past 24 hours and I was debating whether I wanted to spend the last 2 hours of my Sunday doing them, or doing a journal. I initially chose the Guest Shots for fear that more will come in tomorrow from all the folks out playing in the snow this weekend. But then decided a journal would probably be more appreciated and I can always chip away at the list of Guest Shots. I will make one request on the Guest Shots submission though (actually two). I have put a page out on the rules and guidelines for the Guest Shots, a link is on the Guest Shots page. The other thing I would like to ask is that folks submitting Guest Shots if you have a bunch, but only have like three ready right now, please wait until you have them all ready to send to me. I have received a few separate submissions from the same person in groups of 3. They send me 3, then a day or two, send me 3 more. It is a bit of a chore to add a new submission page, so to do one with 3 shots one day and then another with 3 the next gets to be a pain and only takes time away from me that I might use to write a journal or even concentrate on the snowfall forecast. There, I have spoken my peace!
I hope everyone's new year was good. Ours was. Quiet, but good. I did not make it to midnight, but that is par for the course. Unless new years eve falls on a weekend, I have to work. Which means starting work at 4:30 in the morning. That makes for a very long day to try and stay up until midnight after waking up at 4:30. I think I made it to about 9 or 9:30! Not even to Labrador new years (10:30 eastern time) like I usually do. I am looking forward to 2004, it will be the year of my marriage to Nora and I am sure lots of other good things. I am hoping for a few less health issues for myself and the hounds and of course I am hoping that Nora keeps her record clean! I am also still hoping for some good winter weather! Parts of the central Midwest seem to be finally joining the snow party. Chicago has finally surpassed Las Vegas in snowfall for the 2003-2004 winter! I wonder how many times we can get to the first of the year with Las Vegas recording more snow than places like Chicago and Rockford IL?! I am also glad that they are getting the 4-8" because I had my forecast hanging out there all weekend. I see that the patience of some is better than others. At 5:30 there was already some poor soul writing off the storm. So "JOE34" hang in there, the storm is just starting! Snows extend all the way back to Omaha Nebraska, that's at least another 6-8 hours of 1/2-1"/hr snow for the Milwaukee area, you do the math.
Our big snows still look to be headed in for tomorrow and Tuesday. We have be having snow fall since early Saturday morning. Yesterday, we picked up about 3-4" of windblown snow. I took my first big ride on the sled with friends and snapped this shot of the trail while the wind was whipping the snow around pretty good. A few moments later, the wind had died off and this was the look. We had quite a group for this early in the season, ten sleds in all. I guess the lack of real snow up here lately has made the natives restless. It was interesting to see how the types of sleds have changed over the past few years. A similar ride a few years ago might have had 1 long track. Yesterday's ride had 7 long tracks and only 3 shorties. Despite what we would consider "marginal" snow conditions (12-18"), there was enough snow to get into the bush and even get into some trouble. That was Matt, he has a real knack for finding trouble. Fun to watch, as long as he is not on your sled! I think Ski Doo should buy his sled back and put it in their hall of fame. It is amazing that sled has held up so well. It was great to put the RMK through the paces as well. I did not do anything too nuts, but we did get into some pretty deep stuff and it made it through just fine. There were a few spots that the Pol-Cat would have never made it through. But the RMK and it's long track had no problems. I did encounter a problem at the end of the ride and will talk about that in a bit.
I did take some videos on the ride as well. For some reason, they are all of the guys climbing some hills or rock piles. Here is the first video of Teddy climbing a rock pile on his RMK 800. This next video is also of Ted climbing a hill, and this last one is of Al climbing the same hill on his new Ski Doo Highmark 800. I think we might have to start calling Al James Bond with that sled, or at least a helmet that matches! Can't tell he was a hard core Cat guy could you?
Back to the quite side of the ride. We did find some nice bush trails to go on and at one point I found myself breaking the trail. This is where the RMK did just great. I was able to go slowly, yet keep the sled from getting stuck in the nearly waist deep snow. Not everyone was as lucky. Here is Brian with his sled stuck in the snow. So there is enough snow down in spots to get a 151" track stuck. It was about waist deep there. Amazing how some spots up here can have so much more snow than I have in my back yard. We also found some water to skip. That was Brian crossing his step brothers creek. I also tried my hand at some water skipping and was pleased to find that the RMK does much better than the Pol Cat! I still do not think I will make a habit of it, but at least the next time the group comes across a patch of water they need to skip I will not have to get all worried about doing my submarine imitation! My last shot is of Ted climbing a hill.
So all went well until about the final mile or two of the trip. We were heading back to where we all unloaded for the ride and the sled started making a nasty sound, almost like something was flapping. At first I thought I was shredding a belt and that was what was making the flapping sound. I did not waste too much time shutting it down. After shutting it down I flipped open the hood and looked at the belt and it was fine. Al and the others either stopped or came back to see what was up. The sun was just setting, but we checked the plugs and saw that one was cylinder was not firing right. We checked for compression on that cylinder and it had none! Now, I do not consider myself to be a mechanic. I can turn a wrench and do just about anything if given a little coaching or help. But it does not take a mechanic to know that if you do not have compression in a cylinder there is something seriously wrong. So, thankfully we had just jumped out of the bush and onto a plowed bush road when the breakdown occurred. So the group rode back and Brian returned with my truck and the trailer and we loaded it up and got home. I got it over to Al's this afternoon and with his coaching, pulled the cylinder heads off to discover that the sled had basically eaten a piston. Al could not really tell what had caused that to happen, but the best we all could come up with that a ring had failed and had caused the catastrophic damage to the piston. The walls of the combustion chamber were also trashed, so I need to get a new piston, rings and "jug" or exhaust valve cylinder.
Really a head scratcher as to why that would happen. The engine was getting enough oil and coolant and everything was running just fine right up until it broke. The sleds past history would not have anything to do with it, as it was all a front suspension issue. Only 450 miles on the sled, so that is really a mystery. So if anyone has a spare jug for a 2003 700 RMK laying around, let me know! I think I am actually going to replace both pistons that way I will have two fresh ones in there and will have a spare, just in case. I have my work cut out for me though. I have to "split the case" as Al' calls it. That is basically taking the entire engine apart so that you can clean the crankcase to make sure that any pieces of the piston and rings are not down in there and will cause problems later on. The engine is out and I am getting there, but still have a ways to go and then I have to put it all back together again! I have always wanted to do something like this, but I would rather it be in the summer, not when we could be getting feet of fresh snow! The Pol Cat is in the garage and ready to go, so I can always get my fill on that. But I was really hoping to bust my first powder of the season on the RMK.
So, if it seems like I am pre occupied in the next several days at least you will know why. I will not sherk my duties on the forecasts and other regularly updated aspects of the site. But if an Ask John goes unanswered for a half day or so you will all know why. Plus I can add that if someone knows the answer to a question posted in the Ask John, please feel free to answer them. Of course if it is weather related, you can let me have a go at it. But it seems like a lot of the questions are more general in nature and almost directed at the general public, so I have no problems with folks jumping in and helping me out. Hopefully I will get the crankcase opened up and cleaned out tomorrow and be getting on to putting things back together by the middle to end of the week and riding on it next weekend! That's the hope anyway!
Good night and good year from the Keweenaw..