By Jim Duke
And, so it begins … the 2020-21 snowmobile season is upon us and the nation is still in the grips of the coronavirus crisis that started more than eight months ago and shows very little sign of disappearing anytime soon. So much for the pandemic, but what about this pandemonium, huh? Well, one of the definitions in Webster’s dictionary says a pandemonium is a wild roar, and that’s what we are hoping for on the trails, on back-country adventures or even on a trip out west for some deep powder riding.
But, with so many delays, rescheduling or cancellations of holiday celebrations thus far, other definitions can apply as well, such as “infernal regions” or “tumult,” which is further defined as “disorganized agitation.” Certainly, all can be used to appropriately describe the anxiety and frustration even the most avid winter enthusiasts have been feeling lately as we prepare for what we hope will bring some stress relief.
In conversations with some of my longtime snowmobiling companions, this pandemic has brought about some changes in lifestyle, and you has to wonder if it is for the better or possibly a mistake in judgment. Either way, I will miss our annual snowmobiling outings and the camaraderie we once enjoyed together. It seems as we get a bit older, we often prefer the warmth of southern or western climates rather than the uncertainty of cold — and sometimes brutal — winter conditions when we may or may not even be able to get outside to snowmobile.
During the past several years, many of my snowmobiling friends have transitioned to “Snow Bird” status and moved to a central Florida location where they’ve traded their snow machine for a golf cart and can play golf throughout the winter. Some only reside part time at these secondary homes and return to their primary residences once the snow has melted; others have found that solitude in the tropics fits their new lifestyles well and have moved there permanently.
Another alternative to snowmobiling, a season of only about four months, is off-roading, which can be enjoyed year-round in the warmer, and usually snowless, states. For example, in southern California, Arizona and New Mexico, the desert sands beckon for roadless adventures in a similar manner as an abundant snowfall does in the upper Midwest and New England states. It all depends on whether one prefers bundling up in layers of warm clothing or just wearing cut-off jeans and a T-shirt!
Bear in mind that none of this is directly caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. This transition has been taking place for more years than most of us have been around; it just seems to have become much more popular recently as some folks are using the pandemic and social distancing to justify their decisions.
Early last year when the virus first was discovered and the extent of it was still unknown, citizens were told this would probably run its course in the same manner as various strains of the flu have done. We were told we should take basic precautions to avoid contracting it. Our governor suggested social distancing as an additional means of prevention. The recommended period was just two weeks, and then we could return to our regular routines, but then word came that this virus was a much more serious concern than first thought. That’s when mild panic hit some folks. I’m not really sure where the determination to buy up as much toilet paper as one could afford came from, but “panic purchasing” soon had market shelves bare or with goods in short supply. Again, pandemonium would be the appropriate word here.
Among my snowmobiling acquaintances, I’m pleased to say not one succumbed to the panic profile and, for the most part, maintained a sensible demeanor. Also, for the most part, they all listened to and abided by the guidelines set in motion by the state’s elected leadership. Not everyone was happy with the restrictions, but all, or at least most, complied, believing the period of concern would be short lived and the final week or two of snowmobile season could still bring a degree of happiness before the sleds were again put into storage.
Then came the extensions, first for just another week, then the “stay home-stay safe” orders. Only those performing essential work should be allowed out. Eventually, more restrictions were applied so there could be no more dining in at restaurants, bars and taverns were forced to close … and the pandemic rages on.
So now we are into another snowmobile season where we may or may not be able to enjoy our favorite recreational activities. Sure, social distancing is not a problem and wearing a mask under a helmet is more for comfort than for safety, so what’s the problem? Unless one is prepared to carry the essentials along on the ride, there may not be available stops for food fuel or convenient rest stops. The longer overnight adventures are out of the question because most lodging facilities have fallen victim to the pandemic restrictions, too.
With the rise in active cases of the virus, more restrictive measures have been implemented. We are being told we are not permitted to have family or social gatherings that exceed a certain number of participants, so which relative or close friend do we eliminate from the list? Not a pleasant decision for anyone to have to make. Hopefully, this pandemic will soon be under control and we can get back to our lives like they once were; but I’m sure there will be some far-reaching effects that will not allow everything to return to normal. Many small businesses will have a very hard time recovering, if at all.
The pandemic that was predicted to last just two or three weeks has been with us for nearly a full year and there is no end in sight. We have been subjected to more restrictions — reportedly for our own good — than ever and, in many cases, we are unable to even see our loved ones. Yes, this pandemic has escalated into pandemonium and we are all ready for it to end.