As the season draws to a close, there are still a few recreational trips being organized. The challenge for participation is that these trips are run by lotto drawing. You enter your name and hope to get chosen.
The Room with a View trip has lower odds because it is very popular. Everyone drives snowmobiles out to the base of Mt. Erebus. Most people are attracted to the idea of riding snowmobiles. I happen to find them loud and smelly. But I was attracted to the opportunity to get away from McMurdo for an evening, getting closer to Erebus and taking in the supposed amazing view.
So, I put my name into the drawing and I was chosen to take part in the first running of the trip. (Just as an example of the odds, Richard put his name in 24 hours later and has yet to be drawn — so getting in early must have increased my odds.)
We met at 6 p.m., grabbed full-face snowmobile helmets and drove over to the snowmobiles where they are kept parked on the ice sheet. The group was two guides and 11 tripees.
My friend and fellow galley worker, Jennifer, was on the trip, too. We decided to share a snowmobile. Jen lives in the wilderness of Alaska but chooses to travel by foot or boat most of the time. She had no interest in driving the snowmobile. So, despite no experience driving the machines myself, I decided it was best to learn, and quickly.
Fortunately, they are very similar to ATVs, which I have driven. It steers like a bike with the throttle on the right handlebar.
The 14-mile drive out to the Room with a View site took 30 minutes or so. It might have gone quicker, but I went much slower than the other drivers (like, half the speed), so they had to keep stopping and waiting for me. But I had very little interest in traveling at 80 kph (nor did Jen), so the dudes had to wait.
The weather was amazing! There was very little wind, clear skies, soft light. It was so wonderful to see Ross Island like that.
We were very lucky for weather. There have been another 5 or 10 trips to Room with a View attempted, but many have had to be postponed due to poor visibility. One trip went, but the participants said they couldn’t even see Mt. Erebus, the most prominent landmark.
We hung out at the Room with a View site for 45 minutes or so, then took the snowmobiles back. Both Jen and I said we would have preferred skis or snowshoes to the snowmobile, but it was certainly an interesting experience.
When we got back to the parking spot of the snowmobiles, we all lined up to refuel the machines. I drove up to the pump and the trip leader told me to say when the fuel gauge read 3/4 full. (Apparently, the gauges are slow to register the real amount of fuel in the tank.) Although, my gauge read 3/4 before we started fueling. He was surprised. I guess I’m a overly fuel-efficient snowmobile driver. Or maybe that’s what happens when you don’t drive 80 kph while going uphill. It’s still fun to drive 40 kph, promise.
P.S. Last night I dreamt that I spent $500 on fresh blueberries. I really want fresh food!
P.P.S. Renee, here’s the hat I made this week.