By Brian G. Schommer Antique. Vintage. Collector’s Item. These words and many others such as outdated, classic, obsolete and “old as dirt” often are used to describe things that have become …
By Brian G. Schommer
Antique. Vintage. Collector’s Item. These words and many others such as outdated, classic, obsolete and “old as dirt” often are used to describe things that have become useless in comparison to similar things that have become more “modernized” over time. What does this have to do with the outdoors? Nothing by itself, but my opening comments do set the stage for what is to come. I collect more of what would be classified as “vintage collector item’s” meaning, not over 100 years old but at least 20 years old with an established following of people that collect the same type items. For example, I collect cheese boxes made from wood. This form of packaging originated in the late 1800’s and if I had any of those boxes in my collection, they would be considered antique. I do not have anything that old (yet) with most of my collection dating to the 1940’s and 50’s. My collection would be considered vintage. The same would be said for my cigar boxes, hunting and fishing type items, Coca-Cola stuff and even some of my sports collection. While some may see this just as a collection of worthless stuff; I see it as so much more. Collecting is a way to remember the past and those who led the way to innovate, create and make the world a better place. Now, the stage is set for me to get outdoors.
The Hastings “SnoMos” (pronounced Snow Mo’s) is a snowmobile club that has been a part of the Hastings area for over 50 years. The club helps maintain nearly 75 miles of trails from Hastings to Hampton and from Rosemount to Miesville. The conditions for snowmobiling this year have been above average and the area trails, for the most part, are in good condition. While the amount of snowfall we have received cannot be attributed to the club, the volunteers who maintain the trails deserve a “tip of the cap” for giving their time so others can enjoy the sport. The club also holds an annual “Vintage Ride and Show” every year. I bet it is even clearer where we are going next.
I was able to convince my lovely bride Mary that it was a great idea to get bundled up on Saturday (February 20) and head out to the Frandrup Farm for the annual SnoMos vintage ride. The weather was in the upper 20’s which for this time of year is decent. This made the persuading part a bit easier. I promised that I would not ask to buy a vintage sled, should there be any for sale and that I purely wanted to get out, enjoy some people time, watch some vintage sled racing and maybe win a prize or two. She was okay with all of this, unless that prize would have been the 1972 Polaris Charger that was up for raffle. She also knew THAT was the only prize I really wanted to win. Despite purchasing five tickets, I was not the lucky winner and Mary was able to take a big sigh of relief… for now. We did however get to enjoy each other’s company away from the office and home. The turnout this year was bigger than most in the past which with the combination of great weather, trail conditions and people in general feeling the need to socialize, was not a surprise to me. For me, it was also a great way to appreciate the advancements in the sport of snowmobiling, being able to first-hand see, smell, touch and hear sleds dating as far back as the 1950’s (thus the Vintage tag). There were of course the old Polaris, Arctic Cat, Skidoo and Yamaha machines that have stood the test of time but, what caught my attention the most are the brands no longer in existence. There were a few Kawasaki’s and John Deere sleds that people from all over Minnesota and Wisconsin brought for the show. The Kawasaki brand, which began production as the “Sno-Jet” brand in 1965, ceased production in 1982. Deere stopped manufacturing sleds in 1984. For younger sled-heads (especially anyone under 30 years of age), brands like Rupp, Evinrude, Johnson, AMF or Columbia would not even be known without events like the Hastings SnoMos put on each and every year, simply to honor the past and promote the future. The amount of time, money and passion that so many people put into preserving the history of the sport of snowmobiling amazes me… in a good way. I come away from events like this intrigued and interested in maybe following their lead by joining them. I am far from mechanically inclined so, the thought of taking on a project that includes restoring a classic, vintage sled is not what drives the intrigue. Thankfully, I have a lot of friends that have a talent when it comes to turning a wrench. My intrigue comes from the preservation and appreciation side of things. For now, I do not have a vintage sled. If I never add one to my collection of vintage stuff, I appreciate those in the area that not only have them but, share them with anyone who wants to remember the past. Watching the vintage races reminded me of how far we have come with electric start. If you have never seen a vintage snowmobile race, I highly recommend it. The races at the SnoMos event is held on an oval track with two jumps that most of the racers maneuvered without much problem… most. None of the spills or mishaps resulted in any major injury and based on the gasps, were appreciated by the crowd. Like most motorsports, the crashes are often more fun to watch than the race itself; just so nobody gets hurt. The racers start about 20 yards away from their sleds, which are not running. Upon the “ready, set, go…” the racers run to their machines. Once at the machine, they need to pull start them in order to get in the race. Some of them started on first pull… a couple… not so much. It is easy to forget that it was not always as easy as going out to the garage, flipping up the choke and turning a key. Watching the sleds land off the jumps is a reminder of how far suspension and shock absorbers have come. I did hear a few people who went on the vintage ride (10 miles) that started the event talking about a sore back only a few hours after the ride. Like so many things in our life, technology and advancements have made life a lot easier… yet, I feel in so many ways… life is much more difficult than it was in the past. Maybe it is just what we make of it… maybe life is not as difficult or “bad” as we make it? Maybe if we look at the lessons of those who have gone before us; people who lived through bad and made the best of it… life could be more enjoyable? Maybe if we take a ride on a vintage snowmobile occasionally, we will appreciate the advances of the newer sleds even more? Maybe, if we go ice fishing with a simple jig stick, no reels or sonar devices, we will appreciate where we are more now. Maybe we can grab a cane pole and a can of corn like we did in the early 1980’s and go fish in the Vermillion River off Highway 47 we will appreciate the trips to Lake Michigan Salmon fishing a little bit more. It is all perspective… but just maybe? Get Out and Enjoy the Great Outdoors.