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Sled together, crash together, stay together

Posted Nov. 29, 2012, at 3:37 p.m.

Some people call two-person kayaks “divorce boats”; paddle one with your spouse, and you’ll understand why. But how about those folks who spend their winters riding around on two-up snowmobiles with their significant others?

These riders face their own challenges. Think they have their share of chilly disagreements? Crazy crashes? Mid-forest meltdowns? You’re right, they do.

We asked you to share your stories about marital snowmobiling bliss … or how you returned to marital bliss after a snowmobiling mishap.

The question: Can couples who snowmobile together stay together after a sledding accident?

At least some can, based on hopefully accurate memories. Here’s one reader-submitted story, and the author’s own tale of woe (or, more accurately, his wife’s tale of woe):

Wife OK … but about that camera

Jack Gifford, a retired BDN ad rep who divides his time and attention between Bangor and Pensacola, Fla., loves to snowmobile.

“There isn’t a prouder moment in a snowmobiler’s life than riding your first new [Arctic] Cat,” Gifford said. “And making the wife feel good about writing the check for it by investing in a new Cat for her.”

Jack and his wife, Lu, often sledded together, with Jack usually leading the pack and Lu scurrying to keep her beloved hubby in sight. The Giffords occasionally had problems where land encountered water, from an icy break-through on Pushaw Lake to the “particular fateful day involving a washout on a Hampden-area club trail,” Jack recalled.

“I convinced my partner to lurch from a standstill over a waterhole that I had managed [to cross] with little difficulty,” said Jack, always known for his braggadocio. “‘You can do this,’ I urged her. ‘Just [turn the] throttle and hold on!’

“It just somehow didn’t dawn on me that she’d not release the throttle,” he admitted, “and, lo!” Lu “landed atop the rear end of my Cat, with me still sitting astride” it.

Poor Lu had endured “her first [snowmobiling] fender-bender” by pulling a kamikaze dive on Jack’s sled, which had “a Bangor Daily News 35mm camera in the storage compartment,” Jack said.

He escaped unharmed, but the poor camera “did not function well under the weight of a 440 Cat.

“Suffice it to say, that camera never took another snowmobile photo for the BDN,” he admitted.

Despite all the mishaps they have encountered on Maine snowmobile trails, Jack and Lu remain happily married. The last time we heard from them, Hurricane Sandy was dogging their Maine-ward trek from the Gulf Coast.

Girl meets tree … hurts knee

My dear Susan will never forget the beautiful, cloudless January day when we rented a two-up and all the related snowmobiling accoutrements from Twin Pines Camp.

We started east from Millinocket Lake on a trail winding through thick woods. As we eased downhill into a shallow left-hand curve, the sled slid right and lightly bumped a ragged birch as I hit the brake.

The collision tossed us into the fresh powder. I hopped up to check the sled; Susan struggled to her feet and suddenly screamed.

Susan, an experienced nurse, attempted self-diagnosis. Seems her left knee had developed a mobile mind of its own.

“I think I’ve torn my ACL,” she said, grimacing.

We got her reseated on the sled, which had a slightly bent spar or rod or strut or whatever on the starboard ski. Susan stopped sobbing; the pain had vanished when she sat down.

“Great,” I thought. “We’ve ridden three miles, and if we turn around now, we’ve spent all this money for nothing.”

I asked Susan what she wanted to do. “We’ve ridden three miles, and if we turn around now, we’ve spent all this money for nothing,” replied my thrifty County bride.

So onward we rode, cruising another 97 miles across the gorgeous Katahdin-area landscape before returning the sled late that afternoon. Susan gimped into the Irving Mainway at Sherman for lunch, I paid for the sled’s repairs, and we eased her into the Accord for the trip to Millinocket Regional Hospital.

We celebrated Old Home Week in the emergency room. Someone knew someone whom Susan knew, and the medical personnel fussed over their patient. They agreed she had torn her left ACL.

I told someone how Susan had been injured, and suddenly I was repeating the tale to a tall game warden. Seems I had failed to report a sledding accident involving an injury. Seems he could cite me for failure to do so. Instead he sternly warned me about how bad a boy I had been.

After we arrived home, I helped Susan maneuver with her crutches up the steps and into the house.

That’s where we met, for the first time, the commercial pilot who would soon become our son-in-law.

We made a great first impression on him — and our marriage survived the accident and Susan’s subsequent surgery and recovery. Susan even went sledding with me again — some years later.

 

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