Riding My Way To Happiness

Having vacationed here in the Valley for some 50 odd years, when the opportunity to move here arose, I jumped on it like a flea on a dog's back.

It didn't take me long to realize that having an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) would open up the back country to these tired old Kansas legs. Watching others zoom past me as I trudged along on some logging road only whetted my appetite for a machine of my own.

Living on a farm in Kansas, I had made the progression from a three-wheeler, otherwise known as “an instrument of death,” to a Honda 200x. This was one of the early four-wheelers and didn't have 4-wheel drive or many of the new amenities found on the machines today. It was a great tool around the farm but, having a carburetor, it suffered at altitude. Those were the fun days when you could almost count on being stranded at some high altitude destination with a fuel air lock.

With the advent of fuel injection, the fun of having to be rescued has been diminished and while that lessens the outdoor experience for some neophyte to the sport, it does make for longer days afield actually riding.

In selecting an ATV of any kind, the end use of said vehicle must be taken into account with careful consideration. I visited an ATV dealership and the salesman gave me all the specifications such as the need for power steering, the downhill assist feature, the suspension and things I had never imagined a toy having. But when he mentioned that I needed the two seater to take “friends” along Ol' Dutch’s eyes lit up like a kid on Christmas morning.

Being a single man at the time, I saw myself riding high country trails in glistening, glorious sunlight with some hot young blonde on the back of my new ATV.  As the salesman rambled on and on about the machine, Ol' Dutch could almost smell her sweet perfume and feel her soft tender hands holding tightly about my waist.

Cash left my wallet like lemmings leaping off a cliff into the ocean and I drove home singing and smiling. I could feel the days of loneliness just falling off Ol' Dutch like so much roadkill along the dusty highway.

And true to the salesman's words it didn't take long for me to be inundated with requests for rides from agile young ladies of the dating nature albeit not all of them were blonde. But they were willing. Now I am not sure whether they really liked to ride and were having fun or were just out to catch Ol' Dutch.

In my advance age, readers, I’ve learned one thing to be true: when a single woman of a certain age finds a man who is all about the outdoors, the woman will suddenly discover the thrill of riding, fishing and even hunting just to snag the old buzzard. Little does the man know that she will revert back to her couch surfing ways once she catches him.

As for my daydreaming blondes, they faded away into their bleach bottles and I wound up with a stunning brunette with sweet smelling perfume and comforting hands that wrap around my waist as we ride. Trixie not only loves to ride but hikes, fishes, hunts and basically wears me out. Therein is the curse of a younger model.

But, even the old can find new fun. Take my dad, for instance, who at 83 years old bought his “first ever” ATV. 

Now we kids could not believe this product of the Great Depression would ever part with that kind of serious cash for a toy and I offered to find him a good deal on a used one. He told me he was “just looking” but soon there were pictures with not just your average 4 wheeler but a brand spanking new UTV, 4 seater, camo paint decked out with all the bells and whistles and a fantastic trailer to boot.

All of us, including my mom, wanted to have his head examined and I envisioned my summer helping him load and unload the beast. Little did I know the best feature of these new machines. Somehow they seem to take about 20 years off a person’s life and he can load and unload faster than any of the rest of us experienced riders.  

I was more than a little concerned as he had never had one before but at the first high water crossing he and mom proved their mettle and roared across. Later mom did confess to closing her eyes and my dad chimed in, “so did I.”

In addition to water, his machine takes steep rocks and mud better than the rest us. It didn’t take long before I and Trixie’s dad, Shot, were fired as guides and now my Dad is off roaming the mountains alone.

Whatever your reason for trying out this sport --- be it blond, brunette or the call of the wild -- find the one that brings you courage and give it a whirl. Just remember that one person needs to keep their eyes open and on the road --- preferably the driver.