Have you ever looked at the sand on a beach and said, “Hey, it would be fun to surf those dunes?” Ever felt like you just want to be free? Off-roading is very fun! It can also be very humbling. It is a sense of thrill and freedom, mixed with a healthy dose of fear.
Back in 2005, I was a seventeen-year-old that had been driving for a year and that had developed a taste for going fast! I had friends that liked to go off-roading with their families. It was something I wanted to try. My family was more of the let’s-take-a-cruise-to-South-America motivation and less let’s-camp-on-a-beach-and-ride-all-terrain-vehicles-on-dunes. I remember saying to myself with a little laughter, “This is bumming me out!” I had to devise a way to ride those dunes!! Buying a quad cycle was out of my reach at that point. And a trailer and insurance were not even on my mind, not to mention upkeep costs. Plus, I got the HELL NO look from my mother. I felt like Ralph in A Christmas Story just wanting a Red Rider BB gun for Christmas and everyone saying, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!”
I talked to my uncle. I said I really want to go off-roading. He could see my deep need. He said, “I may have a solution to this.” My uncle, Steve, was the one that was there for me when my father died and my world fell apart. He was the one that said, “I will take you to do all these things that your dad can’t.” My uncle looked into renting four-wheel ATVs (All Terrain Vehicles). My response to this news? “OH YES!!” Images of flying off the lip of a dune on a bike, doing a full back flip filled my head. At just seventeen, I was about to be given the keys to a four-wheel dirt bike. I was in heaven!!
My uncle and I drove to Pismo Beach. I got out of the car and it was like a painting. The ocean was perfect, with calm waves gently creating the perfect mix of wet and dry sand. The air was full of octane from off-roaders. There were quads, dirt bikes and sand rails (4-wheel off-road cars).
We got to the check-in counter and were given a waver. It explains that the company is not liable in case of bodily injury or death. Now, I’m a seventeen-year-old going, “HMM.” My uncle signed my waver, taking responsibility for me. I was too young to sign. We were given a list of rules and we got a crash course in quads.
The rental guy drops us off at the dunes and says, “Have fun!”
I strapped on my helmet and followed my uncle. I was on a Honda Recon quad bike. I have never been on any bike that has to be shifted. The word “shifting” wasn’t even in my vocabulary at that point. I felt bad for the mechanic that had to do the maintenance on that bike. Humorous laughter, “Sorry!” We got to the foot of a dune and my uncle said, “You have to haul up this thing.” I hit the gas and got stuck in the sand. We had to dig my bike out!
At one point, my uncle said, “Stop.” I did and down shifted the quad. Then, he had me come over to where he was standing and said, “Look down!” I looked. Before me was a twenty-five-foot drop, off the edge of this dune. The same dunes we had been up and down all over. You know how in A Christmas Story when all these annoying people say, “You’ll shoot your eye out!” Well, I heard, “You can drop from this and die, kid!!” It was a realization that you really are “in God’s hands on the dunes.” It was a sobering moment. It’s no joke. I had no idea there was this huge drop till my uncle showed me. We looked at each other and said, “Ya, let’s go around this dune, not over it!” A little later, I saw an ambulance speeding by with its lights and siren on. A person had gotten hurt on the dunes.
My uncle and I sat on our quads on top of a dune, sipping our water bottles. It was close to 100 degrees if not over. My uncle said, “Oh, it’s Sunday. We forgot to go to church.” We looked at each other and looked at the beauty of the beach and agreed that for today, this is our church, looking at the beauty God made in this picture-perfect “painting.” Two hours flew by! We had to return the quads and then we met my mother and aunt at a restaurant. I was so dehydrated I was gulping water, so the waitress brought out a pitcher. What an eventful day!Quads are fun! We had the time of our lives! I have gone a couple times since and encourage you to give try it. It was my own version of A Christmas Story. My “Red Rider” was a silver Honda Recon quad cycle. And, no, I did not “shoot my eye out”—a great relief to my mother.