Traverse City Record-Eagle

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February 24, 2013

Snowmobile trip is 'ultimate U.P. adventure'

(Continued)

Mother Nature is the one thing he can’t control, and she recently dumped lots of snow, he said.

“I’m always nerved up because some of the snow banks are as tall as the sled,” Houston said. “When you cross roads, you have to ease out. The snow banks make it impossible to see. Sometimes, you have to stand on your snowmobile to see what’s coming.”

As the day rolls by, deer becomes the biggest hazard, he said.

“They’re like a car. They decide whether to run at you or not,” he said.

Blinding snow around Newberry forced him to throttle down. Freezing rain also was “exciting,” along with a breakdown in Eagle Harbor on Monday.

“It was about 1:30, and I saw green on the ground,” he said. “I said, ‘I hope that’s not me.’ And I looked under the sled and it was gushing anti-freeze. At some point, I must have picked up something on the trail.”

Houston considers himself lucky because he broke down at a bar and restaurant. He was doubly lucky because he was put in contact with a college student who could fix it right away.

“I called him and he was 20 minutes from going to class,” he said. “So he sent a friend with a pick-up. That’s what they do for extra cash. They pick up sleds that go down.”

The breakdown put an end to the next day’s ride, but a storm slammed in just about that time, anyway.

“They got her back on the trail,” he said. “They welded the heat exchanger, put on some brake pads. I picked her up Wednesday morning.”

For safety, Johnson carries a SPOT satellite tracker that allows his friends and co-workers to follow his whereabouts.

“Every 10 minutes, it puts a bread crumb on a Google map. I can send a link and you can see exactly where I am,” he said. “It’s also a safety thing.”

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