While Steve and Gail’s hospitality was amazing, it was the “Busboy Ninja” who stole the show, the trip to Halfway Haven is well worth the effort just to see this kid work a room. He’s work ethic embodied, as he kept every one of our 23 glasses topped off, while simultaneously serving food, taking orders and busing tables. His family should thank God that I couldn’t fit him in my backpack or I would’ve surely stolen the kid for myself.
When we heard there’d be 40mm worth of rain the next day no one seemed overly concerned; maybe it was the prime rib–induced coma we were slipping into, but 40mm sounded like child’s play. In actuality, 40mm translates to roughly seven hours’ worth of rain. We started day two with another binge eating type of meal before attempting to head out early in order to avoid the impending monsoon. Breakfast was followed by an elbow-throwing scramble as we secured the ride of our choice. As luck would have it, Eli and I ended up with the yellow Sportsman 800 again, which was fine by me, and a Solar Red Sportsman Touring 850 H.O. with EPS. It had rained enough during the night to keep the dust down, and we got to enjoy a couple of hours of dust-free dry weather. The scenery was once again awe-inspiring, and we spent the early part of the day staring at scenes that were postcard worthy. We spent much of the morning swapping machines with other members of our group, and split time pretty equally between the 400 H.O., 550 X2, 800 H.O. and 850 Touring.
There’s a fine line between being smart and lucky; apparently, I’m just blessed with luck. It seemed like every time we swapped, the machine I ended up on was the ideal pick for whatever conditions happened to be coming up next. The 850’s Power Steering, high ground clearance and narrow width absolutely shined in the extremely tight and rocky section that I had the pleasure of riding aboard the machine. While the 800’s plush seat, 2.5-inch-lower seat height and wide stance were perfect for the higher-speed power-line trails that we bombed at high speeds.
The rain eventually came and wreaked havoc on vision and depth perception thanks to soaked goggles. Luckily for me, I had a nice weather-resistant jacket to keep me dry, for a short while. The 90-mile ride quickly went from sheerly amazing to soaked, blind and coldly amazing. Let me tell you, you could’ve dumped ice water in my pants and it couldn’t have put a damper on this ride, and I’m pretty sure everyone else would agree. The rain just added to the experience, and while cold, it was still better than anything else I could possibly imagine doing.
The trails got slicker and grew increasingly more technical, but the Polaris fleet never so much as hiccupped at what we were throwing at them. Remember when I said I was lucky with ATV selection? The final segment of our ride consisted of roughly 20-plus miles of wide-open logging roads, and I just happened to luck out with a windshield-equipped 550 X2. While windshields have never, ever even crossed my mind as a must-have accessory, I can tell you that after 20-something miles at 60 mph while soaking wet in 50-degree weather, you really, really learn how to appreciate that goofy-looking piece of Plexiglas that just kept your fingers from falling off. The ride ended without incident, and smiles plastered on faces that you couldn’t beat off with a hammer.
Polaris couldn’t have picked a better way to introduce its 2012 models and accessories. You certainly learn to appreciate the nuances of each machine when given the opportunity to test them for two straight days in real-world conditions, over the course of 150-plus miles. It’s hard to appreciate minor upgrades and accessories like rearview mirrors, cargo boxes and windshields until you have to rely on them for long periods of time. The entire 23-person group was comprised of laid-back personalities with a common goal of enjoying every single minute of the opportunity, which made things stress-free and that much more kickass. The consensus among everyone we spoke to was that the machines performed flawlessly, and while I didn’t have the opportunity to swing a leg over an 850 XP, I was told that the airbox changes on the 2012 made a noticeable difference in power and the way it’s delivered. We only wish we could’ve brought along some of Polaris’s side-by-side fleet as they enjoy some good changes for 2012 as well (see sidebar).
The best part of this adventure is that anyone can do it; just contact the Algoma Sled Tours www.algomasledtours.com for the Tracks To Trails two-day ATV getaway, or contact Halfway Haven Lodge www.halfwayhaven.com in order to create your own adventure. If anyone even thinks about stealing the Busboy Ninja, just remember that we’ve got dibs. On behalf of Eli and I, we’d like to thank the guides (Chico, Willy and Bob), the staff of Halfway Haven, the BBG crew and Polaris for giving us memories that we’re sure to hold on to forever. ATVR
The 2012 Polaris lineup enjoys small, yet significant changes across the board. The end result is a slightly tweaked product line that does everything a tad better than in previous years.
Full-size Ranger: The 2012 Ranger HD 800 EPS now enjoys Polaris’s exclusive Engine Braking System (EBS) as a standard feature, while EBS is also available as an option on the other Ranger models.
Midsize Ranger 400 and 500: The midsize Rangers now have a “speedkey” accessory option that basically acts as a governor and restricts power delivery when using that particular key. The option would be handy in most cases where you must let someone other than yourself drive your machine. Outside of that, it’s just new color options for the midsize line.
Multipassenger Ranger 500, 800 and Diesel: There’s now a Ranger crew diesel. The 904cc diesel engine produces 90 percent torque at 1,600 rpm and will surely become a staple of workplaces everywhere.
The RZR 800 and 800S lineup gets a new-and-improved dash sealing which reduces heat transfer from the engine to passengers, as well as dust. A 33 percent thicker skid plate and anti-rattle bushings in the passenger grab bars round out the 2012 changes. While minor they should add up to a more comfortable ride.
The RZR 4 800 gets the same changes, plus an external clicker knob on the Fox Podium X 2.0 shocks, making adjustments a tool-less affair.
The RZR XP 900 gets all of the above changes, plus a redesigned front suspension geometry for improved ease of steering.
As far as ATVs go, we pretty much told you about the improvements and how they work throughout our Canadian adventure story, but for those of you too lazy to read about it here’s a CliffNotes version.
There’s more power for the Sportsman XP 850 H.O., Sportsman Touring 850 H.O. EPS and 850 H.O. EPS thanks to the dual balance shafts. How much more power, you ask? How does 20 percent off the line sound?
The Sportsman X2 550 and Sportsman Touring 550 EPS now have a lower idle rpm (1,425 as opposed to the 1,750 of previous models), which results in a smoother ride.
The Sportsman 400 H.O., Sportsman 500 H.O., Sportsman Touring 500 H.O., Sportsman 800 EFI and Sportsman Big Boss 6x6 800 EFI now have integrated front storage with 6.5-gallon capacity. Both 800s now have Kenda K590 tires as well.
There’s a bevy of new stuff including a new-and-improved HD 2500 winch, Snow Glide plow blade and over 75 other new accessories including gazillions of wheel/tire combos.