Families work on
their snowmobiles, hosing down the manifolds, spraying soapsuds on the slide
rails for lubrication, packing the overheated blocks in ice. It is bizarre,
like watching someone practice his backstroke on the sidewalk, but eventually
the strangeness wears off and only comes back in flashes.
A mechanic boasts
proudly: "This snowmobile has a suspension that weighs only 30 pounds. It
has bogie wheels instead of slide rails on top of the track and the carburetor
is tuned like a piano. We wouldn't even try to run this beauty in the
Harvey Mannor, a
mechanic on a souped-up Yamaha from Ann Arbor, watches the machines shoot off
the line in the 440 Mod class. They do the equivalent of a "wheelie,"
nose raised in the air, skis flapping like a dog on his haunches begging for
food. "Well, I don't know about all this," he says almost
apologetically, "seeing Arctic Cats go by in the middle of summer." His
driver, Kenny Northrup, a lightweight teen-ager who simply hangs to the bars,
pushes his 650-cc. Yamaha to the starting line and rips off a tremendous cloud
of blue smoke. "It's just that if you have a $2,400, maybe $3,000, machine
in the garage, you have to use it year round," Mannor says.
It is 90� and
spectators recline in their lawn chairs, eager for a better tan. Over the
loudspeaker a man announces that the 1974s are at local dealers everywhere and
why doesn't everybody stop in and take a look.
Dick Allen once
said of artificial turf that if a horse couldn't eat it he didn't want to play
on it. A spectator at last winter's Eagle River, Wis. Snowmobile Championship
remarked about summer drags: "If your wife can't melt it and use it for
coffee, you shouldn't ride on it."
AstroTurf now at White Sox Park, and Allen seems to have adjusted. In Eagle
River last January the sun came out and melted the snow, so the 1973 World
Championship races were run over several tons of sawdust. At Croswell, Mich,
farmers figure they have less than four months until the first big snowstorm.
And in a twisted sort of way, it all seems to make sense.