Every snowmobile trip to the upper peninsula of Michigan there was always a stop to see Seney Claus on the trail. Many of you are first. wondering if I spelled Santa's name wrong and second, why are you going to see Santa all the time. Well, Seney Claus and his wife had a hot dog stand out in the middle of U.P. Wilderness on the snowmobile trail and he could have passed for Santa's brother.
As you drive by it was hard to miss. It had a large hot dog on top of the little red barn. There were several flags waving in the great Northern wind one was a bright yellow with the John Deere emblem on it. Jerry or Seney Claus was always leaning out the window either talking with other snowmobilers or hoping for more to stop.
When we first started going to the U.P. regularly that was our kids favorite stop. There was nothing like a hot cocoa and hot dog on a brisk winter ride. Or to be able to use his primitive porta-potty instead of squatting along side the trail where your backside is completely exposed to the freezing wintery wind.
The hot dog stand was even a ceremonial wedding spot for a couple. Riding up on their snowmobiles. One on a Ski-Doo, one on an Artic Cat, dressed to the nines in proper snowmobile gear sporting their favorite snowmobile brand.
In the beginning of the season when you stopped at the hot dog stand you would look up into the stand to place an order but as the season progressed, after the great Nor'easter storms pounded the U.P. with several feet of snow, the little red wagon would shrink in the snow. When you placed your order you were looking eye to eye with Jerry.
Jerry and his wife were dedicated to their job. It was much more than a job to them. They knew many snowmobilers, some were locals but many were avid snowmobilers like us from all over the state of Michigan or even other states. There wasn't any electricity out there as it was completely remote. Heating their small trailer with a propane heater. Every morning they would load up their toboggan hooked behind their snowmobile and haul in all the supplies they needed for the day.
Over the years we got to know him and he got know us. He always remembered us the next season asking about everyone. The year we lost our son he grieved with us. letting us reminisce about the days that our kids were young and the highlight of the snowmobile adventure was stopping to see Seney Claus. He also hosted our memorial ride that we had every year to honor those snowmobiling memories.
Jerry actually lives downstate, growing vegetables his other job in the summer. We learned this after buying a jar of his homemade salsa that was hotter than hell.
When we go Jeeping and quading in the summer and fall it's so strange to drive by the place where Jerry's stand is in the winter because there is not a single sign that he was ever there since he hauls his trailer and porta- potty away when snow season is over.
As I drove by his spot this winter, I slowed down out of habit, it was sad to see no sign of Seney Claus, no familiar red trailer, no John Deere flag, no big wooden hot dog and no Jerry hanging out the window with his familiar grin. The only sign that he might have been there were the many tracks from snowmobiles pulling in maybe to reminisce, maybe wondering.
You see Jerry had some health issues that prevented them from coming up north this year. I think this might be an end of a tradition. I'm sure all those people that made the hot dog stand a tradition were thinking like I was about how two people with one simple idea could make so many memories for so many avid snowmobilers.