Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Erline the Super Wide Track Skandic

It is snowmachine season in our little corner of the world and I have been out putting down some miles.  I recently broke out an 85 mile trail into the Brooks Range with some friends of mine and it was quite an adventure.  By "broke out" I mean there is now a 40" wide trench of snow in the middle of nowhere that you can follow until it snows or blows in and 8 weeks from now it will just melt away into nothing.  But for now it is a super highway to happiness.

Of course there were many breakdowns and setbacks along the way.  The first day one of the guys froze the shock on his track which collapsed his suspension.  We flipped the machine on its side and within 5 minutes there was a crowd of villagers around us poking around and offering advice.  A few minutes later we towed it into the fire hall's heated garage, pulled the bad shock and replaced it with a new one that was offered up on the spot.  Village hospitality can be amazing.  We hit the trail and my SWT Skandic Erline took on the mighty task.  I bought Erline 2 winters ago from a man named Earl T. Boone.  So I christened her Erline and we have formed a rocky partnership.  She breaks down every 100 miles, which is a lot.  But her track is 24" wide and most other machines are 16" wide so when she is running I love her dearly.  She mashes snow with wild abandon.
Two days into trailbreaking a massive blizzard descended upon us.  It snowed 18" and blew over 50 mph for 2 days.  We were forced to turn around and brake trail back to the village of Bettles.  It was a bitter defeat and on the way home Erline broke a ski leg which is the main vertical support for the ski.  I patched it with an alder branch and we limped home through neck deep powder.
Luckily I found a dead snowmachine in Bettles that resembled Erline and I was able to patch her back together.  I assembled another trail breaking crew and we headed back for another assault.  14 miles later Erline seized her engine.  We dragged her into the fire hall and me and a buddy (who happened to have a rebuild kit available) put new pistons, cylinders and gaskets on Erline in the middle of the night and had her running by 5:30am.  At 10am we hit the trail again.  This time there were 3 other snowmachiners with me and a sled dog team of 14 dogs.  We made it 30 miles the first day, broke out another 15 miles the next day, then 10 more miles the day after that and finished 25 miles of trail on the 4th day.  Driving Erline through fresh snow is like wrestling a couch.  It wears you out and produces a lot of bruises.
True to form Erline broke a steering arm on the return trip and I had to wire her skis up with a tree branch once again.  I'll fix that today and she should be good to go again.

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