The Sublette County Journal
Volume 4, Number 30 - 3/23/00
brought to you online by Pinedale Online
Panic was taking over as I struggled to extract my body from under my five hundred pound snowmobile. Obviously wrecking and winning don't go hand in hand, and I was definitely in a wreck!
It was the annual Pinedale Snow Explorers race weekend. The club had decided to have a hundred mile cross country race on Fremont Lake. It had been several years since the Snow Explorers had put on this particular event. Several teams had signed up and the race was on. Each team consisted of three men or women. At least one machine on each team had to be a factory stock machine with a 600cc motor or smaller.
The race course was a ten mile loop that started at the lower boat dock and zigzagged across the lake to the east bank. Then the course ran up through the rocks to the road leading to the campground. From there, it wound around on the campground road down to the upper boat dock and back onto the lake. After that it was just a full out race across to the west bank and then south down the lake to the starting line.
All race teams would be on the course at the same time, but the men's class would leave first and then the women's class would follow after five minutes. Both the men and women would be sent in three waves, one team member in each wave. After completing the first lap each team had to have all three members in the pit before they could leave on their next lap. With this system, the teams were only as fast as their slowest machine.
I had a Skidoo Summit 600 and figured if I could find a couple of other girls willing to race we could win the thing. Jennifer Meeks is a hard core rider from Big Piney and knew a thing or two about racing. Kim Tanner had done quite a bit of riding also and both gals had access to Summit 600s. We were looking like a team.
We met the day before the race at the track to make a couple of practice runs. I was so nervous I couldn't even spit. I had been on a ride with Jennifer a couple of years before and knew how good she was. I had never ridden with Kim, but halfway through the first lap I found out I was the "weed" of the team. We ran a couple of easy paced laps to get the feel of the course, then we ran two hard laps just to see what we could do. I felt pretty good, I was keeping up and we were running pretty fast.
The morning of the race I had the jitters again. Four women's teams had signed up. One was a really tough team out of Jackson. I knew two of the gals on the Jackson team and both were tough competitors. Their third girl was on a 700. They were going to be tough to beat.
The race officials gave us a run down of the rules and then took us out for a hot lap of the track. The track looked good except the campground road. Going into the campground were a series of huge bumps, it was a given that every lap was going to make them worse.
My plan was to cut my speed in half coming into the campground and try to increase speed from there. The rest would be seat of the pants.
My team decided I would run the first heat, Kim would be in the second wave and Jennifer, being the fastest, would take the rear and try and catch us coming out of the campground. We would run together the rest of the race.
I watched as the first three waves of the men's class took off. My stomach was jumping and I felt like I needed to take a nature break. Not good timing at all! The flag went up and I was off. I hooked the first corner on the inside and looked back, everybody else in my wave was just leaving the line. All right! I was doing it! The next corner came up fast but I was ready, I powered around it and hit full throttle. I was off across the lake and not looking back.
I had a couple of minutes flat out running before jumping up on the road. We had to weave through the rocks and hit the road with a sharp left turn, then barrel down the road for a couple of miles to the campground. I glanced down at my speedometer and was happy to note I was doing 85mph, full speed for my machine.
I saw the campground coming up and throttled back to about 45mph. Pete Leibee was the safety man on the corner. I was feeling confident enough to give him a quick wave as a sped by. I whipped around the corner and hit the first bump in the campground. The bump didn't look that bad coming into it, but it grew as I climbed over it.
The hole on the other side of the bump swallowed my whole machine. I hit the throttle and launched into the middle of the next bump. It reared up and spit me out. The next thing I knew, I was watching my boots fly through the air with nothing but blue sky behind them. I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach - this was not a good thing.
When my world settled down, I took stock of my situation. I was pinned under my machine and could barely breathe. I was trapped from the chin down. Both of my legs were stuck under the track. My ribs were sandwiched between the snowmobile's belly pan and the hard packed snow of the race course. The bottom of my helmet was hooked on the machine's front bumper and my left arm was stretched over the hood of the machine, still attached to the tether cord. Fear ripped through me at the thought of another racer coming around the corner and hitting the back of my sled. I had to get out from under the beast above. I wiggled and squirmed, nothing helped. I was definitely trapped.
I could hear a couple of sleds coming. The first one was Robyn Grigg, one of the Jackson girls. She went barreling around me with barely a backwards glance. (Later she confessed to thinking I had stopped for a trip to the bushes!) The next one was my teammate, Kim. Thank god, she was here to save me.
"What the hell are you doing Cheeney?" she yelled as she lifted up the front of my machine. I wiggled out, staggered up and hollered at her to start my sled for me. I climbed back on and took off with Kim in hot pursuit. Nothing hurt, but I couldn't feel my left hand. I could make it work, but not very good. Great, all I needed was a broken hand.
We made it through the campground and onto the lake. Jennifer caught us about where we planned and we full throttled back to the start. The rest of the race we stayed together and rode hard. I stayed between Kim and Jennifer. I felt a little rattled, but managed to hang on and ride. By the last lap I was wanting the whole thing to be over. Body parts were starting to hurt and the campground was getting ugly!! Every lap the holes got deeper and the bumps bigger.
We had passed both of the Jackson girls on the six hundreds with the seven hundred still ahead. The finish line was coming up, the seven hundred was in sight. All three of us crossed just behind the seven hundred. Fifty yards past the finish line the big seven hundred burned down. Being the good sports we are, (snicker, snicker) we hooked onto it with my six hundred and towed it off the track.
We had won the race, wreck and all. High fives were passed around with congratulatory hugs. One hug and I knew I would be getting x-rays the next day. (Two broken ribs and damaged cartilage, the hand was fine). But first we had to cheer on the guys and celebrate our win. No second place finishes here!
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