© Guardian photo by Mary MacKay
Carole Blenkhorn and Owen Haynes of Amherst, N.S. prepare for the first day of the P.E.I. Snowmobile Association’s 2014 Celebration Ride. It begins Wednesday and wraps up on Friday.
The P.E.I. Snowmobile Association hosting a multi-day tip-to-tip ride that has drawn more than 100 sledders from across Canada
Owen Haynes and his partner Carole Blenkhorn of Amherst, N.S. are having an entirely different vacation experience in 2014.
This year they packed up snowsuit gear and sleds instead of swimsuits and snorkel gear and headed for Prince Edward Island for the 2014 Celebration Ride that starts Wednesday and wraps up Friday, Feb. 21.
“We usually go south; this is my winter vacation. He told me there was an island and there was white stuff. It was the wrong island and the wrong white stuff,” laughed Blenkhorn as they uploaded their practically brand spanking new snowmobiles from the trailer in preparation for the three-day tip-to-tip ride.
The ride is being presented by the P.E.I. Snowmobile Association (PEISA) as part of the year-long 2014 Creation of Our Nation Celebration.
“It would be the first time for this big of an event. We’ve never had anything like that before,” says Dale Hickox, president of the PEISA.
“(Nation-wide) a lot of people would have something like a Snowarama Day but that’s a one-day event. Maybe they will get 200 people to come in and ride for a day. But nothing like this that you could say, ‘I rode a whole province in three days of riding.’”
The PEISA received support from the P.E.I 2014 Fund, which was established as part of the 150th anniversary of the 1864 Charlottetown Conference.
“It looks like we’ve got 113 registrants and it looks like we’re going to be riding with 95 to 100 machines. . . ,” says Hickox.
“It’s mostly visitors, from as far away as British Columbia, Yukon, Northwest Territories. There are some from Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland and, of course, there are an awful lot coming from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.”
Registration was cut off a month ago to keep things to a manageable level. Even so, there was a waiting list of those hopefully to join in on the ride.
Hickox said they wanted to keep everything at two hotels (Brackley Beach Northwinds Inns and Suites and the Loyalist in Summerside), they didn’t want to send participants out to satellite accommodations.
“And we ... wanted to make it a manageable ride. We want to still make it a good experience for people. The more you get, the more (challenges) you run into.”
In order to qualify for money from the P.E.I. 2014 Fund, certain criteria had to be met.
“One of them was to do something (in conjunction) with our history, which is what the 2014 Celebration is all about,” Hickox says.
“That was a no-brainer. That was really simple for us because a lot of our ride is on the Confederation Trail, so there are some significant points on the Confederation Trail that we’re going to talk about. We may even stop at a couple of historic sites.”
P.E.I. history experts, such as Boyde Beck, who is curator of history and exhibits with the P.E.I. Museum and Heritage Foundation, will be guest speakers in the off-riding hours at the host hotels.
The first day will encompass an exploration of the eastern end of the Island, passing through some of P.E.I.’s many fishing villages. For the second day of travel, sledders will head west to experience the well-known West Point Loop, which features wide open potato fields and towering windmills.
The final day will encompass the central part of the province, which is known for its extensive series of well-marked cross-country trails through logging roads and scenic coastline.
Included in the participant mix are media representatives from local radio, off-Island television, national magazines and The Guardian.
“We wanted to make it an Island-wide experience as much as we could,” Hickox says.