Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Snowmobiles, Safety, and a North Dakota Levee

"State cautions snowmobile riders"
Daily News, Wahpeton North Dakota (January 5, 2010)

"As conditions around Wahpeton and elsewhere have grown perfect for snowmobiling, the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department advises riders to be safe before they head out.

"Snowmobiling is a great way to maximize recreation in the wintertime, said Wayne Beyer, Wahpeton Parks and Recreation director, but riders still need to follow the rules.

" 'It's just like driving,' he said. An annual snowmobiling certificate class held by the parks and recreation department has been helpful in educating young riders, with 25 in attendance on Dec. 4. But some continue to drive in areas that violate city ordinance, such as Wahpeton's south side levees. Wahpeton Police Chief Scott Thorsteinson said the city wants to maintain the integrity and condition of the levees...."

Remember the big 2009 Red River of the North flood? Wahpeton -Breckenridge is one of the twin towns in the Red River valley: one's in North Dakota, the other in Minnesota.

Folks living in that part of the world are, for the most part, rather interested in keeping those levees in good condition. But, they're also a whole lot of fun to ride snowmobiles on. Which isn't a particularly good idea - and illegal in some places.

I suppose there are anti-snowmobile people somewhere, but I'm not one of them. My son-in-law brought his snowmobile down, and we had some fun on it. Not me, though: kiyiing across Minnesota snow with my fever didn't seem prudent, somehow.

I'm told that his machine can get up to 77 miles an hour, given the right conditions. How that was determined, I didn't ask.

My Take on Snowmobiles and Safety

I think that anything: snowmobiles, motorcycles, pogo sticks - anything can be dangerous if it's not used sensibly.

I'll grant that there are more opportunities for disaster on a snowmobile than on a pogo stick, but not by much. Think about a pogo stick, a rope bridge, and gasoline, and you'll see what I mean. Think that's ridiculous? You haven't seen reality shows.

After all, a snowmobile isn't much more than a motorcycle adapted to snow conditions.

And yes, I know: some people get killed each year, using snowmobiles. A frequent scenario involves lake ice, a fresh snow cover, and the spring thaw. Unpleasant for all parties concerned.

I'm looking forward to getting a crack at my son-in-law's snowmobile: but I also know the sort of forces involved when 800-plus pounds of snowmobile and rider encounter an open snowfield. And I'd just as soon see another summer.

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