I can check off another item on my “Bucket List” of things to do before I die … or get too old.
After thinking maybe I was off the hook — when a previously scheduled snowmobile ride was canceled because of weather — I couldn’t get out of going the second time around.
And I’m glad I didn’t.
My shoulders were a little sore the next day — probably from tensing up so much — but I had a blast in my first experience with upriver snowmobiling. Even for a first-timer like me, just witnessing the spectacular scenery was worth any risk to life and limb.
The White River Snowmobile Club invited me to go along on its annual club ride Sunday upriver.
“For a flatlander, it’s a whole other world,” said club member and avid snowmobiler Stan Wyatt, who, like me, came from Kansas, where the most popular winter sport is basketball.
But now I know what all the fuss is about.
“It’s addicting,” said Stan, owner of Wyatt’s Sports Center in Meeker.
When I first climbed aboard the Polaris snowmobile — generously donated for the day by Don Hilkey — I definitely felt out of my element. Back in the day, I would have been much more at home on a basketball court — I used to have some game. Or, nowadays, I’m far more comfortable pounding out stories on my computer.
But snowmobiling? That was foreign territory for me.
However, that’s the nice thing about the snowmobile club, they welcome riders of all skill levels, from advanced to novice. I’m not sure novice would qualify, in my case.
There were two rides Sunday — one for people like me who stayed pretty close to the trail — and another one for those who like to blaze their own trails.
Actually, the other riders in my group were just being nice — hanging back for the benefit of a beginner like me. They would venture off and do their own thing, and then rejoin me and the one other newbie, just to make sure we hadn’t done anything stupid.
Ron Hilkey — Don’s brother — was the guide for my group. And I can’t imagine a better leader. I knew I was in good hands.
Ron, who is an outfitter and does the trail grooming for the snowmobile club — fees for registering snowmobiles (required by the state) pay to keep the trails groomed and maintained — knows the upriver area like nobody’s business. He can point out where this pass, or that canyon, or this creek is located. He’s such an authority, if he had told me the Royal Gorge was over there, I would’ve believed him.
Thank goodness an experienced snowmobiler always stayed back to make sure I didn’t get lost, or they may have had to bring in search and rescue to look for me. I’m directionally challenged anyway, and up in the high country where we were snowmobiling, it’s not like there are any street signs. Without help, I would have never found my way back.
Nor would I have had the necessary gear, but thanks to borrowed ski pants and boots — plus Nathan and Suzan Pelloni loaned me a jacket, helmet, goggles and gloves — I actually looked like a snowmobiler. That is, until Troy Hilkey had to help me start my machine.
There were some very experienced — and expert — snowmobilers in the group. Then there was Nathan Pelloni. He’s in his own category.
Watching Nathan fly through the air was like watching one of those X Games daredevils you see on TV.
Actually, that’s not far off. Nathan placed second in the 2009 Jackson Hole (Wyo.) Hill Climb amateur division — the promotional Web site says “It is not an event for the meek.” And for the past five years, Nathan rode for Sled X and Alticity Films, producers of extreme snowmobiling DVDs.
When I asked Nathan if I could take photos of him snowmobile jumping, he said simply, “You won’t be disappointed.”
“He’ll do that all day long,” said his wife, Suzan, herself a former professional skier.
While my sled’s skis never left the snow, I did accomplish two things. One, I didn’t get hurt, which amazed my friends.
“So glad you lived to tell about it,” one friend back in Kansas said.
Even my dad, after I e-mailed him a couple of photos as proof that I actually did go snowmobiling, told my sister, “I am not sure it is really Jeff (in the pictures).”
As for my second accomplishment, I did manage to get my machine stuck in the snow. Twice.
But that wasn’t the day’s record for getting stuck, was it Bernie Gantt?
• • • • •
Politically, things are heating up in Rangely.
“For little ol’ Rangely, it’s getting a little hot,” said Peggy Rector, a former Rangely mayor and Rio Blanco County commissioner. “It seems like it’s getting pretty interesting. I just sit back in amazement. I don’t recall ever seeing it like this.”
Some of the alleged shenanigans have involved the unauthorized placement of political signs.
“Evidently, we have some people who don’t know the laws,” Rector said. “Everyone has a right to their opinion, but I just think people should know the rules.”
Unlike some years, this election has competition. There are two candidates running for mayor and five candidates vying for three seats on the town council. The April 6 election is by mail ballot.
“I’m tickled to see the people running,” Rector said. “It gives us all a choice. Our system needs more people stepping up. I’m just kind of dismayed. I just want our little town to run a good election.”
• • • • •
Four-year-old Kacey Pozorski of Meeker underwent five days of experimental, intensive radiation treatments recently in Denver for a rare brain tumor.
“She was the first one ever with her type of tumor, and the second kid ever to do it,” said Kacey’s father, Kurt, of the procedure.
Kacey’s parents opted for the experimental procedure because doctors said “they might be able to give us six months (with Kacey), and if that’s all we had, we didn’t want to spend six weeks in the hospital (for standard radiation treatments).”
Kurt said the family is holding out hope.
“We’re still waiting to see if the radiation worked. They can’t tell right away with the radiation,” he said. “But she’s showing signs of improvement.”
The Pozorskis will return to Denver so Kacey can have an MRI on April 5.
“We’re hoping the tumor is gone or something, even if it’s reduced,” Kurt said.
• • • • •
Locally, reaction was positive to last week’s announcement by Williams that it plans to double its number of rigs operating in the Piceance Basin.
Reportedly, Williams intends to expand its number of rigs operating in the area to as many as 20 in 2011. Williams has nine rigs operating in the basin now.
“I do see it as one of many positive developments in the gas industry. Doubling the number from two (in Rio Blanco County) is, of course, not a huge change, but does reflect the need to keep pipelines as full as possible, drill as much as is required to maintain current leases and have enough excess capacity to meet any increases in domestic demand,” said Rio Blanco County Commissioner Ken Parsons. “Williams is not the gigantic corporation that ExxonMobil is and probably is a better indicator as to the general status of the industry in our area. That they have funds available to drill these additional wells is a positive sign for the industry. Williams has been a good energy partner in our county and we are glad to see them becoming more active here.”
Jeff Madison, director of the county’s planning department, was cautiously optimistic.
“When the companies refer to the Piceance or the Piceance Basin, they are referring to the geological basin which extends from Grand Mesa to Moffat County,” Madison said. “We usually refer to the Piceance as the Hydrologic Basin, almost all of which is in central Rio Blanco County. Much of the drilling has been and will continue to be in Garfield County, but it will move north with most of the drilling on us in a few years. Williams has already started to ramp back up in the county with the addition of a rig this spring. They are back to where they were in ’08. I would expect that about a third of their projected new rigs will come to us next year. Of course, all of this is subject to gas prices, but they do have capacity in the pipelines and in the new plant they want to fill.”
• • • • •
In a sign of spring, Rangely’s Golf Course officially opened Monday, while Meeker golf pro Jim Cook said he anticipates opening the course next week.
“There is still a small amount of snow, but the course is in relatively good shape,” said Rangely golf pro Chris Hejl.
• • • • •
Rangely Superintendent Barry Williams said no date has been set for demolition of the old Parkview Elementary School.
“We are waiting for the weather to break,” Williams said.
• • • • •
Meeker Elementary School Principal Jason Hightower said the move to the new building is still in the planning stages.
“We haven’t finalized our plans for the move just yet,” Hightower said. “I do know that we won’t be moving over any of our ‘stuff’ until June 1. The furniture for the new building will be installed in late April, sometime.”
• • • • •
Rangely five-sport athlete Kindal Cushman plans to attend football tryouts in April at Western State College in Gunnison, his father said.
“He wants to see if maybe he can get a scholarship as a kicker or punter,” Mike Cushman said. “His favorite sport is probably baseball, but football is another favorite sport.”
• • • • •
The public defender representing Jerry Snider Jr. in a first-degree murder case handed out her business card to members of the Snider family at last week’s preliminary hearing. Snider Jr. is charged with killing his father, who lived in Rangely, over the Fourth of July weekend last year.
“If you have questions, you’re welcome to call me,” attorney Tina Fang told the family members.
• • • • •
Klark Kindler, Meeker High School basketball coach, and his wife, Jewell, will attend this weekend’s Final Four in Indianapolis. “I don’t really have a favorite,” Klark said of the college basketball semifinals. “West Virginia is my least favorite. If any of the other three win it, I would be pleased.”
• • • • •
I met Jerry and Denise Martin the week of the memorial service for their grandson Stone, 9, who died Jan. 20, the day after being involved in a two-vehicle accident on Highway 13.
Stone’s older sister Alahna is recovering from injuries she sustained in the accident.
“It puts things in perspective,” Jerry said.
Jerry and Denise, who now live in Tennessee, lived in Meeker from 1991 to 1998, when Jerry was the minister at the Church of Christ. Jerry also served four years on the Meeker School Board.
“We loved Meeker,” Denise said.
The Martins’ son Paul followed in his father’s footsteps and is now the minister at the same church.
“It’s so hard, as a mother, to see your child hurting,” Denise said. “I wish times were still simple and I could kiss and make it better. But this is real life.”
Jeff Burkhead is editor of the Herald Times. You may e-mail him at email@example.com.