February 10, 2008

Adventure At Full Throttle

The smell of gasoline is still in my nose. Or maybe it's the pile of petrol-stink clothes on my floor.

But I'm OK extending the experience of my day, a great day of snowmobiling in the Poconos.

I've been on the Adventure Society mailing list for a while now, but their only event I've actually attended so far has been their very strange holiday party. By the looks of their newsletter, they have great excursions that tap into the thrill-seeking side of adults with enough disposable income to feed it. Hangliding, skydiving, horseback riding, sensual massage...whatever tickles your...fancy.

Today's snowmobiling trip was paired with a brewery visit which just sounded like heaven, but for a while it looked like it wasn't going to happen. It hasn't been the snowiest winter - thanks to global warming - and they warned us that there wouldn't be enough snow and we'd probably have to do ATVing instead. But on the drive across 80W into Pennsylvania, I kept pointing out all the mounds of snow in driveways and fields and on lakes, wondering why they just couldn't import some in.

When we finally got to Long Pond Rentals after a two-hour drive, we were greeted by...snowmobiles! And just enough of a white dusting.

Much like skydiving, they don't really tell you anything before you get on. And lucky for me, I had one of the old rickety snowmobiles that doesn't go in reverse and really stinks the air and my hair up with the smell of gasoline. On top of that, my snowmobile had a really hard time steering left, something I discovered conveniently right before I crashed into what turned out to be a small creek covered in snow. I had to hitch a ride back to the office and get two burly guys to lift it out for me. That was within the first five minutes. At least I didn't wrap it around a tree. (Don't worry, Edith is fine. Pictures forthcoming.)

I had a really good time though it was totally a foreign experience. I haven't ridden a bicycle even in probably fifteen years. And I've only ridden the back of a motorcycle once. Never jet-skied. And with little instruction, they allowed me all by myself on that thing.

At first I explored the wooded trails a bit, very leisurely while I got a handle on the operation of the machinery, but once I crashed and started to avoid the really narrow passageways, I decided to go out the wide open and break in the virgin snow in the middle of a big field. A combination of driving around in big circles and doing a bit of off-roading on some bouncy territory with gas fumes pumping into my lungs made me a little nauseous, especially when I kept squeezing the throttle over every big bump. I think I only used the brake once. And that wasn't even when I crashed.

You're not doing much, but the adrenaline rush and the tense navigation is tiring, so we had a full day out of an hour and a half of snowmobiling. Then our trip leader drove the van back into New Jersey for a late lunch at Long Valley Pub and Brewery, where of course I had to order the seven-beer sampler paddle. The Long Valley's Best Bitter was great, as was the seasonal pale ale and the food too. We heard they have a big Oktoberfest celebration so I suspect we might find our way back there at some point.

There are a million reasons to go back to the Poconos, and not just the proximity to so many Arby's, Friendy's, Perkins and Cracker Barrel. There's the Caesar's with the champagne glass hot tubs, the Great Wolf Lodge, the Stock Car Racing Experience and so many historic brown signs!

I'm really glad my takeaways of the day were a wet butt, some gassy clothes and a full belly rather than the mudbath I would have gotten four-wheeling. But now that I think of it, I kind of want to do that now too.

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