Outdoor Adventures

Posted 2/3/21

Brand Loyalty By Brian G. Schommer I imagine that I have just about as many “Chevy” friends as I do “Ford” or “Dodge” when it comes to the vehicle they drive. We all know people who are …

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Outdoor Adventures


Brand Loyalty

By Brian G. Schommer

I imagine that I have just about as many “Chevy” friends as I do “Ford” or “Dodge” when it comes to the vehicle they drive. We all know people who are very loyal to not only the make of the vehicle, but often, to the model. I drive a Jeep Cherokee and I will be honest; it is the first Jeep I have ever owned. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the parent company overseeing the Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram, Fiat and Alfa Romeo brand is “not” my go to auto company. I have no brand loyalty when it comes to cars and trucks. My motto is, “on the road more than in the shop.” I have no produ… well, only one brand that I am loyal to but, that is because, snowmobilers in general are worse than car folks.

Growing up, I never had a snowmobile. It was not something that my mom would have ever allowed, even if we did have the money for one. I remember my first snowmobile ride (43+ years ago) like yesterday. Going out to George and Kathleen Leifeld’s farm was something I loved doing. Mom and Kathleen were first cousins and back then, texting and Zoom were not around. As a city kid, going to the farm meant doing things that were not options in Hastings. Shoot BB Guns, climb up the silo, walk through the woods (okay, it was a windbreak behind the house, but to me it was woods) and see barnyard animals up close and personal. I got to run under the irrigator on a hot July evening and subsequently get an ear infection but dang… was that fun and… I got to ride a snowmobile. Mom was scared to death, but Kathleen assured her that John, Jim and Jeff were all very good drivers and would take it easy. I rode with John first, around the yard and through “the woods.” Jim took me for a quick ride out into one of the fields and back. Then Jeff (we are the same age, so… he may have been 11) to me for a little longer ride and as luck would have it, we got stuck. Sleds back then did not have reverse, electric start, heated grips and such. We dug ourselves out of the drift, caught our breath and went back to the farm telling nobody about us “getting stuck” as my mom would have never let me say the word snowmobile again. That sled… was a POLARIS.

All through high school, college and beyond, the opportunity to get on a sled did not present itself too often. I took advantage of riding with friends off and on but had never driven one. The itch seemed to be filed in the “yeah, that would be fun file, but…” and other hobbies became more present in my life. I did marry into a family of slednecks so, I held out hope that maybe opportunity might come my way. In the winter of 1998, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law asked if I would be interested in coming out to Atwater to participate in their snowmobile club’s safety ride which was a safety course for new and youth riders and a controlled trail ride. “Sure, that would be so awesome,” I said as the itch had been restored. Once I got to drive one, the adrenaline rush I got when I opened it up for the first time, attempting to keep up to Ron, was all I needed to get hooked. He is a veteran of deep snow mountain type snowmobiling and it was trial by fire for me… the best way to learn. He was maintaining the posted speed limit on the trails so, I now realize that I was not really opening it up, but as a rookie… it was for me. Now, I no longer had to convince my mom that a sled would be a good purchase… I had to convince my wife.

Mary was more than open to the idea and, why not, she grew up on a farm and those around her had sleds. I was not going to look at anything other than a POLARIS. Sure, I knew there were “Ski-poos and Ditch Pickles (Arctic Cat) and Yamahammers” out there, but the ONLY sled I would ride would be a Polaris. I did not do a lot of research or read reviews… my brand loyalty was to Polaris and there would be no changing my mind. My first sled was a 1995 Polaris Indy Sport with aftermarket plastic skis, two-up seat and it was clean with a two-space trailer as a bonus… do you see where this is going? Not long after, we bought a 1996 Polaris Indy Trail 500 that had extremely low miles on it, with a cover and it started on one pull. We went from a no sled family to a family with sleds, a trailer and… here comes the brand loyalty part… helmets that said Polaris on them as well as Polaris snowmobiling jackets, Polaris gloves and I put Polaris emblems on our van. I guess that there is one brand loyalty that I most definitely have.

Not long after my mom passed away, I purchased what will most likely be my last sled. I am not what most would call an avid snowmobiler, despite my loyalty to Polaris. I am a leisurely sledneck. I enjoy taking little “whips” on the sled versus all day rides coving a couple hundred miles. I am up for those all-day type trail rides but need to put them on the schedule as I have a lot of other hobbies that take my weekends as well. I do love getting out on the trails because there are so many things you encounter that you are not able to see from your car. Like what, you may ask??

I took a little whip on Saturday, January 30th around 10am where I saw a handful of other snowmobilers (mostly Polaris… or I just didn’t acknowledge the others… not quite sure), two deer, a kitty cat that was quite confused as to where I came from and in the distance, the lights of a baseball field, a steeple of a small town Catholic Church and the very familiar smell of fresh, hand-pattied and never frozen burgers on the flat top. As I stopped and just looked around, I realized how a different perspective truly changes the perception of the view. With that, I turned around and headed back the same way I came and was amazed at the things I was seeing that I missed the first time. There was the deer stand that I missed the first time past and, from the other side of the trail, I did not realize how close I was to the big wheel of the irrigation system. I saw a couple more snowmobiler types out enjoying the day and I saw the back of the solar farm off of 316, noticed some excavation going on behind the sand coulee and what appears to be construction of new homes going on at the south end of Hastings. It was a nice little whip of 22-25 miles that allowed me to clear my mind for a bit. No matter how you choose… Get Out and Enjoy the Great Outdoors. (but only on a Polaris).