Twenty and Three Thousand …
Two seemingly random numbers. No hidden meaning, no answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything is contained within. To the average person, they are meaningless.
For me, those numbers represent something much more. Give or take, they are the number of months since I have been an avid ATV rider and the total distance I have covered since purchasing a brand-new ATV last year (in km).
For ATV veterans, that may not feel like a lot. But I don’t ride for the praise of others. I ride my ATV for me.
As a youngster, I was never around motorbikes, had only a fleeting interest in cars and ATV’s were used to haul wood or complete other chores around the yard. So, you can imagine my shock when, at the ripe, old age of 48, a good friend suggested we should all get ATV’s to participate in a local TV show highlighting our native New Brunswick. Incredulously, I asked myself “He wants us to get on ATV’s, drive 1000’s of km all around the province”? Why not?
Until that time, my sum experience on an ATV was approximately 50km. Lifetime total. I was in fact, an ATV noob. Power sports were not part of my life experience.
Growing up in Ontario, I knew very little about New Brunswick. Other than the Fundy tides and Magnetic Hill, this Upper Canadian was ignorant to the wonders that lay hidden just below the surface.
I was about to be schooled.
As with all stories, my introduction to off roading has a beginning, a middle and an end. Each of those phases contributed to my experience as the last 20 months played out.
20 months ago, I could not tell you what driving an ATV at 60 km/h down a dirt track felt like. The New Brunswick woods were still covered in snow and the spring thaw was starting to make trails treacherous. In fact, one of my earliest lessons was about what to do when (not if) the quad went through the ice (which it did) and how to keep dry in doing so (invest in good quality boots and rain gear).
As spring gave way to summer, I encountered a growing number of experiences for the first time. Discovering hidden waterfalls, caves, endless trails and mountains and out of the way places we could stop and eat lunch became a welcome addition to getting out in the woods with friends.
I say ‘we’ because nothing compares to the comradery of heading off on an adventure with friends and completing a 300km round trip through unknown territory. Experiencing the wonders of New Brunswick is even better when you have good friends to share the experience with.
This is the phase when I liken to removing the training wheels from your child’s bike. I was able to start pushing myself farther to see how far I was willing to go on the quad. Driving on flat trails is easy and you find yourself yearning for more adventure to push your limits. Hills that seemed like mountains the year before, suddenly became doable. Top speeds crept up by 30 km/h. Ditches, logs, bushwhacking, quad swallowing puddles all became the new norm as we were able to go farther and farther an overcome all manner of terrain.
Easily, the biggest obstacle for me was verticality. I don’t like driving ‘up’.
We did a run to Turtle Mountain in Saint John last year, which culminates in a 400 m run up the side of the granite face of the mountain. It’s not incredibly high and is not incredibly steep, but from where I sat at the foot looking up, it may as well have been Mt Everest to me. The encouragement (and occasional shaming) from the group pushed me forward to conquer that mountain. And I have not looked back since. In retrospect, I enjoyed beating the mountain.
Subsequently, we had revisited Friar’s Nose in Sussex New Brunswick this past summer. Friar’s Nose is an impressive outcropping overlooking the forests but is only accessible by ATV from the back via a steep, narrow trail. When we originally had visited the year before, there were not many of us prepared to risk riding up that trail. It just wasn’t possible (to me).
A strange thing happened on that revisit. When we walked up the trail before attempting to ride it, I knew it was possible and furthermore, I knew I was going to do it. In fact, that day, the entire group made it up and it was a wonderful sense of accomplishment for all. Riding an ATV is a great boost to your confidence.
The term ‘ending’ for this little missive is inaccurate. I’m nowhere ready to call this an ending. The past 20 months have allowed new friendships to cultivate, existing ones to strengthen and all while experiencing sights and sounds I never thought possible…especially in my home province.
This year the quad is not getting put away for the winter (as it did last year). In fact, I am eagerly awaiting the first snow so we can get a run in before Winter settles in. Then we will be off to find some groomed trails, so we can whittle away the winter months until spring. Rinse and repeat.
The ending, at least for now is a distant point in time, not even being considered. I neither fathom it, nor worry about it. Instead, I am enjoying the quad, my friends and my adventures for as long as I am able.
Safe and Happy Trails,
2019 Kawasaki Brute Force 750