Sunday, January 20, 2013

New Year=New Life!

Greetings to any and all that may still visit this blog. 2012 was a trying year in many ways, but the corner has been turned and things are going in a much more positive direction. As posted previously, my hip was in dire need of replacement, due to an accident 20+ years ago, plus 20 years of wear and tear. I finally succumbed and scheduled in July of 2012 to have it replaced. On the day of surgery, the actual replacement took about 1 hour from the time I kissed my wife goodbye till the doctor came out and told her and my dad and kids everything went great!. I was out for 2-3 hours, and when I woke up the pain was gone. I was sore from all the cutting, pushing, tugging, and everything else they did, but I could tell it was already better.

Since I had surgery late in the day, I wasn't walking till the morning. But 8 AM the next day, they got me up on my feet, and I walked like 25 feet. Later that day I doubled my walking. I spent 4 days in the hospital including surgery day, and each day my progress was amazing. (to me at least)

Following the hospital, I went to a rehab facility for a week. There I was subjected to 2 a day therapy sessions, and I was pushing every time, wanting to get better as fast as possible. Then it was home, and out patient therapy. I spent 6 weeks out of work total, and felt pretty good when I went back. On my follow up with the doctor, I got my first look at my new parts.
Amazing cannot begin to describe it. Still some soreness from surgery, but all of the agony I was feeling before was gone!! I can't say enough about the doctors and staff, from the orthopedic doctor to the rehab facility, and also my family for their support during this time. I truly feel like its a new life!
Onto my favorite topic-Snowmobiling! After a few test rides on the ATV, I realized that things were so much better already. I was able to sit like a normal person on the seat again, whereas before I was so far back, I was practically off the seat. The snowmobile felt the same, but of course I was in street clothes, not full riding gear. The true test came between Christmas and New Years, when there was enough snow to go riding, and try it out for real!
I had some friends meeting me up at our place, but I was waiting and couldn't wait any longer. I threw my leg over the sled, and fired up that willing engine, and off I went! Around the back to our connector trail, merged onto the main trail, and open up the throttle. Ah, that fresh smell of gas and oil-the two stroke cold smoke, the cold air on my face, was so refreshing! I dropped my visor, and accelerated down the trail, getting the feel of riding again. I was in heaven!!
A quick 25 mile shakedown cruise, and everything felt good. The trails varied from thin in some areas to plentiful in others.

After returning home, my friends showed up, and we went out and did a 50 mile jaunt around the local trails. We all wanted just to get those muscles moving again, and shake the cobwebs off the snowmobiles. After a good dinner, we went our separate ways for the evening.
The next day we left early, and headed west and north, following the snow pack. As we got further away the snow was definitely deeper. Going through some of the fields, drifting snow covered the trails, and you had a feeling of floating on fresh powder much like the skiers on that first run down the hill after a snowstorm. Deep was the word of the day. Light snow was falling most of the day, and a stiff breeze in the open fields was ever present.

We kept going north, with a target of Derby VT. Snow in the woods was mixed, sparse with water bars (patches of running water in otherwise snow covered areas, usually from a spring), and several good bumps. All the while, I was cringing at every bump, but I was navigating them without feeling any pain. As we got closer to our destination, we passed a marshy area with extremely tall grass, which formed a natural tunnel. The view was amazing to be sure. 
After navigating the last of the remaining trails, we arrived in Derby. There was plenty of snow, and temps were just under 20 degrees. Perfect weather for snowmobiling. We topped off our gas tanks, and crossed the street, heading to the Cow Palace for lunch. The Cow Palace is a restaurant who's claim to fame is Elk Steak and Elk Burgers, literally fresh from the back yard. There is an elk farm just next door where there are around 350 elk. Originally starting with 25 females, and 1 bull from Idaho. The day we came we were the only sledders, and only 2 other cars there. You can see the arch outside, make from elk horns.

After a late lunch we headed back towards home. The wind was picking up, snow still falling, and the sun was setting, although we only saw the sun for a few minutes all day. Going home was a quicker ride, partly because we were familiar with trails, partly being re-energized by some food. Driving through the fields proved challenging at times. The wind picked up even more, and at times you couldn't see where the trail went. Other times my riding partners got a little bit ahead of me, and their tracks would disappear with the wind blown snow. Finally arrived back home, with 170 miles under our belts, and 240 for the weekend. I was a little stiff and sore, but mostly in my back and shoulders. My hip still felt great!!
Fast forward to the next weekend. Ryan had to go back to school from Christmas break, so we went up Friday night, and Karen and I went out riding Saturday. Based on last week, the direction was west and north. Light to moderate snow was on tap early in the morning. I was leading, and when I got to the junction, hopped off and got a picture just as Karen came along.

As we traveled further along, the snow let up, and visibility improved. Toward the end of the first leg of our journey, we passed several farms. One caught my eye as we passed, and came to the stop sign. Outside in a fenced in area was what  I first thought was an ostrich, but after further research, was an Emu. Strangest sight to see in Vermont., but apparently there are several farms, which provide a variety of product made from Emu oil, and also sell meat, both of which are supposed to promote faster healing in our bodies.

 After a quick stop for fuel, we continued on our journey, and came across 2 deer bounding through an open field. I stopped to get my camera out, but they bolted into the woods. Disappointed, I drove forward, still with the camera hanging from my wrist. Suddenly out popped one, then the second deer. I hit the kill switch so the motor would spook them and snapped a true "deer in the headlights" pose of the two deer standing in the middle of the road.
A moment later Karen came up for a better look, and they took off into the woods again, but I got one in mid flight over the snow banks.

This would not be the end of the creature spotting. A little later on as we transitioned from one field to another (almost always a small cutout with a narrow band of tree as a separator, and often with a dip in the contour that wakes you right up) There was probably 20 or more turkeys plodding through the snow. Now the snow again was kind of wind blown, and at my estimation 12-16 inches in depth. This created the illusion of these little critters swimming across the surface, much like a duck in a pond.

We rode on past the pack and made our way to Derby once again. This was turning out to be the longest ride Karen has ever done in a day. After warming up and a nice lunch, we headed back towards home. Our route led us past  Al's, a snowmobile repair/parts shop which had the coolest old time snowmobile.
Stopping hillside nearby, we took in the view of the distant hills and I got this panoramic shot.
In another direction was a frosty looking mountain peak.
And in yet another direction, a sign of progress, were the turbine blades of a wind farm along the ridge line. The jury is still out on these, whether they are an eyesore or a valuable resource. They are formidable when seen up close though. I think each blade measure around 124 feet.

We mixed up the route a bit, going down through towns like Orleans and Barton. Eventually, we found ourselves chasing the sunset. The temperatures were slowing dropping, and we started feeling the cold a little more, but we pushed on. Sunset on a cold winters day can be beautiful. This was a farmhouse we came up on as the colors were starting to brighten.
As we headed further south, the sky starting glowing with more orange and yellow, seemingly on fire. Here are 2 shots, the first a normal view of the sce, and then a zoomed in shot of the brightest hues.
Simply amazing, no? Within minutes the sun slipped below the horizon. We rode the remainder of the way by headlight. Unfortunately due to the lack of snow, the last few miles were bumpy and it made it that much harder. As much as you wanted to stop, you had this voice saying 10 more miles, 8 more miles, and then your done. So we rode onward, pulling in around 6 PM. Total ride was 175 miles for the day. The nicest thing about the ride was this was the first time in a few years I was still feeling good. Over the past 2 years, it seemed like I was always sore, and eating Aleve or Ibuprofen to dull the pain and every other stop. This time I was feeling good, and needed nothing till I went to bed. I have shared some of the pictures today, but still have some editing to do on some video taken during my rides. I hope to finish those soon, and will either add them on to the end of this, or possible start a new entry and include them at a later date.
The next week we received a major warm up, melting 75 percent or more of the snow. As I write this on January 20th, we have received colder temps, and several 1-3 inch snow squalls which is building the base back up. The groomers have been out and extended cold is in the forecast, so I think it is almost time to put down the computer, and hit the trails again. I have 415 miles so far, surpassing last years 100 four fold. I am totally happy that I have been able to reach this small milestone considering it is just 6 months since my hip replacement. I was really thinking if I got 300-400 miles I would be fortunate and grateful. My goal is now 2000 miles this year.
Stay tuned to see if it becomes a reality!

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