Area 51 Project - The Story of Sled Sooley:
Sled Sooley, the Man, the Myth, the Legend. Legend because Sooley’s attitude, friendship and love for sledding accurately represents the pulse of our whole crew. This is a crew who will get in a ride at every opportunity, who are always eager to try a new jump, hill climb, etc, who are not afraid to wrench on a machine and always eager to help out a buddy or stranger in need. He's also the crew member who is tangly as a bag of cats when it comes to riding! Falling off, beating stuff up, Sooley is the top prize winner in that category in our crew.
Sledding for some of our crew started quite a few years ago, Bill had grew up on sleds and the old Enticers were always at the Sooley's Cabin. Things really got into full swing in 2003 when most everyone finally had their own machine. That winter as most of us were getting used to our machines we also started documenting our adventures on digital camera which led to the creation of the websitewww.sledsooley.com as an online medium to share our adventures.
Sooley’s journey into sledding started with the acquisition of his fathers 1989 Enticer 340T. To say it wasn’t in the best of shape would be an understatement because the whole Sooley clan are hard on equipment! A run-in with an unmoveable object at some point had badly damaged the front frame, the sled had been a victim of many "Johnny Repairs", and overall it had seen better days. But this was now Sooley’s sled and it would be the best that it could be, and also the very first Area 51 project.
In a marathon like effort starting in October 2003, we completely scrapped the machine right down to separating the front steel frame from the aluminum tunnel. An afternoon’s road trip to Horsechops dump rewarded us a free Enticer frame found sitting under an old washing machine. We returned with our treasure, re-skinned the belly with new steel and attached it to the tunnel. This was the crucial first step in rebuilding the Weapon.
We worked day and night to clean, paint, replace worn parts, and slowly reassemble the Enticer. Sooley added a final touch by applying a fresh coat of Tremclad Blue paint to the hood. Like most things Sooley put his hands to, this simple project turned out much more involved then it should have been. This is frequently due to the excitement (read: rush) of seeing the project finished! Problems with the paint running and cracking led to Sooley using four cans of spray paint to finish this rather small project and thereby covering of every object in Maffer's shed with a fine coat of Tremclad blue paint!!! (A lot this Area51 location is still blue to this day!) Sooley then added the crowning jewel to complete the rebuild process, a brand new perfectly clear windshield. Alas the sled was finished, reassembled and running well which was a major accomplishment for our crew.
On its maiden test flight in the Goulds Sooley removed the blue protective plastic from his new windshield only after arriving and unloading the sled from his trailer. This early season test flight was a great first day riding with marginal snow conditions in a relatively safe rock & stump free farmer's field. Sooley gathered a lot of speed crossing the field following Crew Member Bill Hillyard on his Vmax 700. Unfortunately that field had a drainage ditch running up the middle that Bill easily jumped but Sooley grabbed the brake and slid straight into the hole. The Enticer stopped immediately but its rider did not as Sooley was thrown over the bars right through his brand new windshield! A few oaths may have been sworn, but they certainly weren’t heard over the laughter of the crew! Heck, that’s what buddies are for!
Later that season with no snow around town the Crew took a trip to the Terra Nova Area unloading in Port Blandford riding to Gambo and back. Like most trips it was filled with fun, mishaps, and machinery break downs, but none quite as funny as poor ol’ Sooley (well funny for us anyway). The engine of old enticer decided to act up that afternoon in Gambo, the trouble was found to be a crack in ignition coil which caused the machine to break down on one cylinder whenever it got wet. Not having a spare we decided to head back to the trucks in Port Blandford. On the return trip the sled would run great one minute, and horrible the next as one cylinder lost fire then mysteriously came back to life.
On one particular stretch, a very frustrated Sooley held the throttle wide open as both cylinders began to fire in perfect order. His luck (as historically demonstrated) ran out quickly as a big drift appeared on the trail in front of him pitching the sled skyward with the rider hanging on (read: being dragged on his belly) for dear life! A broken throttle lever was the only casualty other then the hurt bellies of the crew from laughing so hard (Sooley was found to be in mostly good health!) The Enticer logged a lot of airtime for the next couple winters on runs in the Goulds and Annual Cabin trips to the Sooley Cabin in Whitbourne as evidenced in the pics on the Crew Adventures page from that time.
In April 2004 Sooley was rewarded with the purchase of a much newer sled, a 1997 Mach1 700 triple, a beautiful machine and in great shape. Through the 2004 -'05 riding season, the new sled ran very well and was a heck of a lot of fun. A little pre season maintenance including the replacement of some bogy wheel bearings and adjustment to the clutch alignment was about all the mechanical work required that season, a far cry from the work needed on the old Enticer!
Unfortunately the life of the Mach1 was abruptly cut short during the 2005 Easter weekend trip to Mount Peyton, but more importantly the life of Mr Sooley was spared, a close call indeed. As recounted in Sledworthy Magazine (Vol 1, No.1), Sooley climbed the wrong part of the hill, on the top of which there was no place to stop. The sled skidded down the far slop as the rider kicked himself free but slid behind it right to the edge of the cliff. Fortunately a rock right at the cliff's edge arrested his decent, and he watched the sled tumble and fall over the far side of Mount Peyton directly in front of him. There was nothing salvageable of the sled and thus ended the riding season for Sooley that year. On a bright note, Sooley was OK and it led to the 2nd resurrection of the ol’ Enticer!
The 2006 season was relatively uneventful, the steel rear rack fell off the enticer, so a Sooley solution was created as he bolted a fancy blue milk crate in its place. Carburetor problems (mostly caused by Sooley’s attempt at cleaning such a device) took awhile to troubleshoot but were finally resolved with a visit to a local mechanic. The machine continued to run very well as Sooley was proud to demonstrate one evening on a vacant lot across the street from his house in Paradise. A group of onlookers stood by and watched as Sooley rode around then gunned the throttle from the far side of the lot. He didn’t slack off one bit as he hit the plow roll with a facial expression of great concern, he landed 20+ feet away dead center in the middle of the road - a pretty mean feat for an old sled indeed, but Sooley wasn’t finished yet! The throttle remained wide open as the sled again picked up speed, climbed the snow bank on his own front lawn, shook free of the rider, and jumped the snow bank into Sooley's driveway. The Enticer stopped with a rather ominous THUMP jammed under the bumper of a buddies car and the engine still running at full throttle. Apparently the throttle had stuck wide open, and the location of Sooley’s personally designed push and hold kill switch didn't work out well. The Enticer rear-ended his buddies car damaging only the muffler tip and once again the bellies of all the spectators as they fell to the ground in a fit of laughter!
The 2007 season saw the creation of another modification that only Sooley himself could conceive. The purchase of a new 110 volt welder immediately required a project, and that was found in building custom steel running board reinforcements for the old enticer. Basically, small angle iron tubing was welded together to form a ladder and then was bolted to the running boards to add extra grip and support while standing.
In February 2007 at the annual cabin trip Sooley picked up a beautiful used sled a 1994 Mach1 670, a much needed step up from the now very tired Enticer. After riding it the rest of the cabin trip Sooley later installed some new skis, performed some clutch maintenance and installed new handle bars donated from a REV chassis machine. This sled ran very well and even completed a week long trip to the West Coast in February 2008.
In October 2009 the Mach1 was retired and passed to a new owner as Sooley upgraded to an awesome machine, a one year old 2009 REV-xp Renegade 800. This sled came with a 137x1.75" deep lug track, lots of power and suspension, all things he wasn't accustomed with!
I'd like to say he finally got used to it, but Sooley will always be Sooley, but regardless of how many times he tried to follow Maffer & fell off, he always got right back up!
Sooley sold the Renegade in 2013 and currently spends a lot of time at the cabin with his kids Liam & Erin passing on the snowmobiling bug using the family sleds - the 1994 Enticer, and a newer Arctic Cat 570. So the story of Sled Sooley is far from over, we're all just waiting for the next exciting (and tangly) chapter!
Copyright © 2011 Michael Smith