Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Sunday

February 24, 2013

Snowmobile trip is 'ultimate U.P. adventure'

TRAVERSE CITY — Jim Houston’s idea of a fun vacation is riding 1,600 miles on a Yamaha snowmobile through freezing rain, blinding snow, and atop massive snow piles. Not to mention deer that dart out of nowhere.

He calls it his “ultimate U.P. adventure.”

His coworker, Teresa Wahl-Beck, on the other hand, plans to head to sunny Florida.

“How can someone do that?” she said. “If I was 28, I think it would be fun, but I’m not that adventurous anymore.”

Wahl-Beck and the banquet crew at the Grand Traverse Resort are following co-worker Houston’s progress since he left on Feb. 15 for Copper Harbor. The Record-Eagle reached Houston on his cell phone in Calumet.

Houston reported he began his journey a little behind schedule. He couldn’t get his snowmobile off the lift; then downed trees on the trail slowed his pace. Even so, he drove a whopping 318 miles to Grand Marais — 30 miles more than he intended, thanks to having to double back when a trail abruptly ended. But Houston is ready for the unexpected.

“I always pack everything,” said Johnson, 38. “Space blankets, water, matches, compasses, and gas on each side of the sled. It looks a little ridiculous — like the Grinch that stole Christmas.”

Johnson found water, not ice, when he reached the Mackinac Bridge, so he paid $15 to get a lift for himself and the sled. He knew from past experience that it’s important to arrive between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Arrival time at the bridge is one of scores of details that Johnson attends to, from mapping the trail route to booking motels to finding gas stations within reach of the trail. He picks up paper maps as he goes along because they tend to be most accurate. And he carries cash because a lot of places refuse credit cards.

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