A Girl In Boy's Clothing
Ok - so I'm not exactly the proverbial wolf in sheep's clothing, but this week I am trying to be one of the guys. You know, I am trying to be laid-back and just go with the flow. Ugh.
You see, I am surrounded by the male gender - always have been - I grew up with 3 older brothers, and I can tell you this much, when I was old enough to break free from my tomboy ways, I did (for the most part) and I have been fairly successful (I think?) at being a girl ever since.
Until recently. With the additions of Oliver and Greg into my life, I am thrown back into a world surrounded by loud noises and things with motors that go fast. I do not know a damn thing about cars, trucks, motorcycles, snowmobiles, boats, RVs, etc. - except what color they may be - and even that is questionable since I am slightly color blind. Now, don't get me wrong. I will happily grab a wrench and help on whatever project is being worked on in the garage (and there is ALWAYS a project). But, I will need to be pointed in the right direction and walked through whatever process is about to happen. Obviously, I am very helpful and handy to have around.
So, when we hear the Snowmobile Hill Climb Racing Association (SHCRA) will be holding an event in Hamilton County at Oak Mountain Ski Center it immediately goes on our to-do list. I'd like to take a second to point out I am a glutton for punishment, obviously, since I am the one that emailed Greg with the information after seeing a sign. But I knew that he and Oliver would love this snowmobiling event.
Load Em Up, Move Em Out (but first a quick side trip)
We wake up on a gorgeous wintry Saturday morning with a full agenda laid out in front of us. The plan is to head out from home with a quick detour in Tupper Lake. We will stop at The Wild Center for an hour or so - Greg wants to catch the Tick Talk that is being presented by Paul Smith's College, and I will spend some time touring the museum with Oliver - he's never been to see the otters. From there, we will head down to Speculator and Oak Mountain to catch the races which are scheduled to start around dusk. The great thing about living in the Adirondacks is that within a few hours, you can be to so many outstanding places. Sounds like a good, solid plan, hmmm.
So, we get to Tupper Lake and we are on time for the talk but have forgotten to schedule in lunch. No worries, we can grab a quick snack and wait until post-talk to have a nice sit-down meal somewhere along the way.
The Wild Center is awesome. Oliver loves it, but sadly - while I want to watch the otters play, he is much more intrigued by the BONES!! The skeletons and fossils have caught his attention and there is not much that will pry him away. Except the Owl Room - where he can use a flashlight to find animals and slay bad guys. Sigh.
The Talk is very-well attended, and from what I gather very informative - it actually lasts for two hours or so. But before we leave, Oliver has to show Greg a few of his favorite finds - especially the cloud simulator. By the time we are ready to leave the Wild Center, we are all starving - it's after 3pm, we still have a good 1.5hr drive ahead of us, and the roads are getting a bit questionable.
And, thus, my relaxing un-rushed plan falls to pieces. I decide to suck it up, and here is where I pretend I am just one of the guys and cool with whatever. Whatever being: cold slices from Little Italy balanced on my lap as we drive down the scenic route toward the races. Granted, they were delicious slices - even without being heated (we thought that would be too messy for a 5year-old in a Jeep) BUT, I wanted to sit and eat like an adult - with napkins. And utensils. However, I kept my mouth shut and quietly shook my head in dismay at the grease stain on my jeans - I am going with the flow, remember.
We pulled into Oak Mountain a bit before 5pm and I will straight out say: I was overwhelmed. Oliver was in awe of the huge pickup trucks and amount of cool snowmobiles, and Greg threw the Jeep into off-road action and had some fun before finding us a spot to squeeze into. He quickly hopped out of the car, threw on some heavy boots and a hat, and went to survey the action while I pulled out the parent-card (not the girl-card) and insisted Oliver put on his snow gear - layer after layer - including the extra socks and neck warmer.
Looking like something out of A Christmas Story, we toddled our way toward the action. I was a bit out of my element - even in the parking lot. Snowmobiles were whizzing by us in every direction, I was holding onto Oliver's hood and his arm - fearing he would try to hitch a ride on the next sled to speed by.
We checked in at the entry booth and joined the crowd - a mix of drivers and sleds, support teams, and innocent bystanders (aka us). There were well over 200 people, and the energy was great. Finally, winter had decided to show itself and deliver enough snow to leave a decent base for the race.
Two by Two by Two by...
We wandered through the lines of racers. The boys enjoyed the fact that you could literally get within feet of the competitors, check out the sleds, talk to the owners. (This kind of made me nervous - I'm clumsy and with the snowy base, and my heavily boot-clad feet, I had visions of tripping and becoming part of the track. This did not happen.)
Now, as I had never been to an Uphill Snowmobile Race before, I wasn't sure exactly what to expect: how far up the hill, how many racers at a time, any special rules, etc. Luckily, it was about as straightforward as a newbie could hope for. Two racers at a time, flag to start, cross the finish line first. I didn't get the specifics of exactly how far the race course was, but I could see the finish from the start line, so that's about all I needed to know.
We found a good spot along a fence line used to corral the racers into the correct area - and presumably to keep the sleds out of the general ski area. The racers started their warm-up rounds, lining up two-by-two and quickly taking the hill. The action was quick and the lines moved along in a non-stop motion with one pair starting almost the moment the previous pair crossed the finish. Oliver was in heaven calling our attention to "look at that cool one" at just about every sled that went by. Greg seemed to be enjoying it just as much. As did the crowd in our general vicinity. I, in my just-one-of-the-guys mode, nodded in agreement with all the technical observations that were being voiced. (Wisely keeping my mouth shut - I don't think anyone needed me to point out the colors.)
Bar, Boys, Beer & Babies?
We decided to take a little break from the action and try to supplement the cold slices from our pseudo-lunch. As we entered the lodge, we noted that we could grab a couple of slices (served hot no less) at the snack bar. But Greg must have heard my mental sigh of resignation, because he suggested we could grab a seat in the Acorn Pub & Eatery if I (aka the lame-one of the group) wanted to. And I, never looking a gift suggestion in the mouth, promptly jumped on the offer.
We were quickly seated and there was a great view of the race track from the restaurant. I can just imagine that this is a favorite spot for families to gather during the ski season. I can't wait to come back and hit the slopes and then end the day Oliver's favorite way - enjoying hot cocoa!
For now, I am going to make up for the lunch on the run. I survey, discreetly, the meals on the tables around us - I've made my decision, as have my dining partners. We place our order and Oliver gets to work coloring a picture for our hostess. Greg has an eye on the races - and one on the game on the big screen. So, while we are waiting for our meals, I decide to talk to some of the other diners. They have come from all over: Buffalo, Rochester, Albany, Malone, Pennsylvania... I think I even heard a tell-tale eh? or two.
It seems like this is the perfect opportunity for an Adirondack weekend away. While there were definitely other girls in attendance - even some moms with babes-in-arms, the majority of the crowd was male and several proclamations of "don't let my wife/girlfriend see these pictures" were laughingly thrown at me (I made no promises, but agreed to not name the culprits).
Our food arrives and we dig in. I went with a bacon blue cheese burger, Greg had the hot wings, Oliver chose the grilled cheese, and as usual, I had to sample the fries - so we go with their waffle fries and special maple based dipping sauce (we are in the Adirondacks, no doubt).
The beer was flowing, the conversation loud and animated, the general atmosphere laid-back and welcoming. I am not sure if it was the long day, the cold air, or the general festive atmosphere, but we were all pleased with our selections, and plates were soon finished.
On To The Races
Back outside, the air has gotten a bit chillier, what had been a packed snow base beneath our feet has turned to alternating patches of ice and slush. This is a wet, wet snow, and I am so glad we are dressed for the mess. As it's fairly dark now and the crowds are a bit more carefree - if you will, we let Oliver play in the fresh snow on the opposite side of the corral fence. This relieves my anxiety, as he is no longer attempting to build a snow fort in the center of the snowmobile track. Instead he is working off his second wind making snow angels and very blatantly ignoring my "do not go more than 10 steps away" directive when he spies my co-worker Shaun photographing the event, and decides to join him on top of the perfect rolling-down hill.
Greg and I check out a few more sleds and he explains some of the basics to me. I had no idea why some were longer than others, or why some of the riders were catching a lot of air as they took off. I wouldn't have noticed that some sleds had plastic covers and some were modified, I learned that the different models ran differently - even in how they switched from forward to reverse. I'll admit, it was pretty interesting. I would go again for sure.
And, this just in... there is actually another SHCRA race newly scheduled for this coming weekend - December 20th at Oak Mountain.
The cold was settling in, and we knew there was a long drive ahead of us. Three hours at the races was the perfect amount of time for our first outing. Oliver had seen his fill of cool snowmobiles, rolled down several hills, threw a handful of snowballs, and managed to stay up for almost an hour past his bedtime. When he came up to us and actually asked if he could lay down, we knew it was going to be a quiet ride home. Success!
I was a bit of a curmudgeon before attending the race. Maybe martyr is a better word? Perhaps. Sometimes I feel like all we do are guy things. Then I see the look on my little boy's face as he excitedly points out the action happening around him, and I can't help but realize how lucky we are to live where we live. There are just so many activities, events, and fun things to do in this region. You can even download our free trail map to help plan your next snowmobile trip.
Unsolicited Mom/Girl Tip:
In this case, I'll concede to follow the good ol' boy scout oath: Be Prepared.
With the right planning this turned out to be an awesome day - it could have gone a totally different way. A wet, cold, kid and a two-hour ride would have been a disaster - yikes. And, he was literally soaked to the skin by the time we made it back through the puddle-jumping parking lot to the Jeep. Luckily, not only did we remember to bring really warm standing-around-outdoor-gear, at the last minute I over-packed and threw in an extra warm change of clothes and a couple of blankets so a worn-out 5 year old could comfortably fall asleep and dream of racing snowmobiles.
As we pulled out of Speculator, the snow was gently falling, and we slowly followed a plow truck and parade of 6 cars for miles and miles along winding Route 8. And, since I wasn't driving, I may have dozed off for a minute or two. Hey, if that's the perk of being a girl in a boy's world - who am I to fight it.
See you at the races?