Next Issue: December 2018

Print Date: November 28, 2018

Please allow one to two weeks for delivery.

Update on Houghton/Hancock and the Keweenaw Trail Damage

This month I traveled to Bronson, Michigan to do a spotlight on White Star Motorsport Auctions, a long time advertiser and friend to this publication. The people at White Star have been with us from their beginning, back in 1974. Brent and his wife, Gynny Wilbur, have kept this place up and running with a lot of had work.

It has been over 20 years since I have been to the auction and boy have things changed. They have put up new buildings and did some remodeling, that has made things more organized and easier for seller and buyer.

I was looking through our archives from the last story we did on them. The pictures of Brent haven’t changed at all, he still looks the same. Brent is a retired Fire Fighter, of 37 years, 10 of which he was Chief, and has been involved in law enforcement as a County Sheriff.

Brent told me it takes about 34 people to put on the auction and most of them work all year round. He said most of them have been with him for many years. Talking with some of the employees, they all said the same thing, that the Wilburs are great to work for.

Spotlight on: White Star Motorsport Auction

How many times has that question “What Does It Hurt” been asked? Probably thousands through the ages, but at least a dozen or more to me personally when I catch my friends or family doing something contrary to what society dictates as normal behavior. There’s plenty of causes, some unintentional and some without knowledge of the situation, but as they happen, I remember an old saying I’ve heard many times… “ignorance is no excuse”. But better yet, a saying used to warn us of the consequences is “What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You”, and so it is with many of the warnings associated with recreational activities during all seasons, but especially during the winters, and specifically for snowmobiling!

One condition that brings out that question most frequently is when snowmobiling in our favorite riding areas around the state, and the trails happen to run near some open farm fields. Yep, we’ve all seen the signs for “stay on the trail” and even once in a while, a “No Trespassing” sign. Since there’s no one else around, one thinks to one’s self “what will it hurt” and decides to have a little fun by making tracks in an otherwise pristine field where no one has been before… Now there is more than one answer to the question, and each should be considered, but what it hurts most is the integrity of the club volunteers who convinced the owner to permit the trail on his or her land in the first place, and the promise that snowmobilers will abide by their wishes to remain on the proposed trail.

What Does It Hurt

Well, it’s December, and that Jolly Old Elf guy is starting to get his lists all finalized and the flying deer all warmed up and that red nosed one ready, just in case things get foggy. So, this month, I have to think of the little ones. Those special ones that we all think so highly of. No, not those disease carrying little midgets, the mini-sleds. So, this month, in celebration of the Holiday, (December 1st, the Official Opening of Snowmobile Season, not that other day.) I am featuring a pair of sleds. The Wee Lark and Ski Lark.

Now, as you can assume, they are kind of related. The Ski Lark is for little kids. The Wee Lark is for even littler kids. Both were made by the Larkin Company, of Freedom California. Both were manufactured back in the 1970’s. The Wee Lark was produced from 1970-72 and had for a power plant a Clinton 92cc 3 h.p. engine. But, later, the rights were sold a company called Zurow Ski Enterprises of Waterson California. That had, get this, a huge 5 h.p. Tecumseh engine. They listed the Wee Lark as having a top speed of about 12 mph. Not exactly setting any world records on the Drag Strip.

It’s big brother, the Ski Lark, was also made by Larkin. These were made from about 1970-75. The machine listed as weighing about 106 pounds. And, this one had a 4 h.p. engine.

Vintage Sled of The Month: Wee Lark and Ski Lark

The Eagle River World's Championship Derby Track facility has been sold to a group of snowmobile minded businessmen who are rebranding the facility as the World Championship Derby Complex. The 30+ acre property has hosted World Championship snowmobile races for 55 years and is a vital contributor to the tourism and economic health of not only the snowmobile community but also the Northwoods.

Their mission statement reflects the group's objectives: “A regional group of enthused and experienced recreational business leaders are passionate about investing and working together to help grow an existing World Class Venue, presently known as the Word Championship Snowmobile Derby Track, into a true Northern Wisconsin "Destination".

Our group is looking beyond the existing facility, as it is the ideal location to be able to host other numerous large events throughout the entire calendar year. It is an opportunity for us to maximize that growth and create additional business.

There is no end to what we as a strong, dedicated and experienced business team can achieve as to its success and profitability."

Eagle River Derby Track Sold

As I put pen to paper for this article, I realize that I may never again be invited to attend or participate in an Antique or vintage snowmobile event, however, during the past couple of years I’ve become somewhat dismayed at the behavior of a few folks, although not at anywhere near all of those taking part in these special events. As it is with almost any reenactment of an activity from years past, there are some who will press the limits of current society, proclaiming that “this is how it was back then”! Be that as it may, there are laws that must be obeyed, if for no other reason than for the overall safety of the public domain.

How it was back then may not be appropriate today, and as it is with almost everything, improvements in technology, mechanical innovations, and overall performance will almost always be accompanied by new or amended standards and regulations. That’s just a fact of life and something most folks readily accept without question. Take for example, back in the day it was widely accepted to carry and consume some sort of alcoholic beverage when snowmobiling across the frozen tundra, to ward off winter’s chill and make the experience more exciting. When I say widely accepted, I refer to those participating in the ride, not by the authorities who were sworn to uphold the law.

Perhaps it was also widely accepted to run helter-skelter through the woods with wild abandon, and oblivious to the dangers one might encounter, hidden beneath the snow, or over driving the headlights of their sleds. Sure there were very few limitations imposed on snowmobiles, but then, most of them rarely exceeded, or could exceed, what was determined a safe speed anyway, and wearing a helmet was a personal choice, not a mandatory requirement.

Relic and Renegades

As some of you may know, for a while now, the DNR has been taking an inventory of the back roads in Michigan. This is being done primarily for use by the ORV people. The reason it is being done is because of PA 288, which was enacted in 2016. This mandated that the DNR take an inventory of all back roads in Michigan. The main reason this was being done was to find out which roads would be good for ORVs to use.

Now, in the Lower Peninsula, this caused quite a stir. Because, down there, most of the roads were designated “closed unless posted open.” With this inventory, the idea was to open more roads for motorized use. For the tree hugger types, this was almost an end of the world scenario. Understandably, there was much debate about this.

However, in the U.P. things were a bit different. Up in the U.P., the roads were pretty much “open unless posted closed”. Now, downstate, the process ended last year. And, the end of the world did not happen for the quiet people. But, up in the U.P. the process is just now reaching it’s end.

On this, at the recent Western U.P. Citizens Advisory Council meeting, the issue was again addressed. This was in a report from Don Mankee, DNR Forest Resources. He noted that this survey is nearing it’s end. He also noted that this was brought about by PA 286. This mandated that the DNR survey all the roads in Michigan. This was primarily for use by ORVs. However, there is a big difference. In the Lower, in general, roads were open unless posted closed. In the U.P. it was the opposite. Therefore, there was much discussion and comment concerning the Lower, where many more roads were opened for ORV use. But, in the U.P. there was little concern because most roads were already open and it was thought they would be asking for very few closures.

There was discussion on this at the meeting. With the issue of roads being potentially closed, there was much interest from all user groups. Especially snowmobilers and ORV users. For snowmobilers, this was an issue in which they had a keen interest. Namely, if a road was closed that is part of the trail system, that trail could be lost or have to be rerouted. Thus, they have a vested interest in making sure no roads that were important to them were closed.

DNR Road Inventory of UP Coming to an End