Warnings on the Trail (Dan Gould)
A flash of light caught my eye. It was about 3:30pm in the Adirondacks of New York and I thought I saw a warning light flicker on the dash. I tend to keep an eye on the sled’s gauges, it’s a good habit. However, warning lights are never good.
For the next five minutes I stared at the dash, wondering if I’d accidentally hit the high beam switch or if the engine was about to grenade. Nothing happened. You can only take your eyes off the trail for so long and the group I was with was getting away. The trails were smooth and we put on another dozen miles when the light flashed again. That time it caught both eyes. It was the low oil light, not good.
I’m not the type of person who rides unprepared. A well-stocked tool pouch is stuffed in the trunk of my sled. A second bag holds midnight mechanic items, like baling wire, nuts and bolts, wire ties, a spare headlight bulb, fix anything tape, and so on. Yes, I was a boy scout. No, I did not have extra oil.
Even though the oil reservoir on my sled holds enough lube for two days, I always top it off in morning, regardless of the level. But my routine had been skewed. I had trailered in someone else’s rig and the oil jug wasn’t next to the sled, as it normally would be, and I forgot. Apparently getting old does suck.
As the miles clicked on the light’s intermittent call for two-stroke juice became regular. Blinky, blinky blinky, I couldn’t look away, my retinas burned. What were my options? The area was fairly remote, we wouldn’t see a gas station or store for a while, at least not until the engine seized. Would I siphon oil from a friendly donor, maybe use four-stroke oil or simply park and wait for FedEx? None seemed attractive, all would result in ridicule and torment from my riding buds.
When the group stopped for a break, I discretely surveyed the two-stroke riders among us. I struck gold, someone had an emergency quart tucked away and it was even the right brand. The exchange was made under the cover of dark, there was no witness, I had my fix. Ahhh… my shoulders relaxed as I poured the oil in, all my worries went away, I was enjoying the trip once again.
That night, as we finished dinner, a couple of snowmobilers wandered into the hotel. One stood at the front of the dining room and openly asked if anyone had any oil, he was out. It was late, cold, the store was closed and he couldn’t make it back to where he came from. Talk about déjà vu. Yup, I had plenty to spare, hadn’t used a drop all weekend. Flashing dash syndrome, I can sympathize.