I had thought about titling this post “Mud Max”, but Mario Kart offers a better sense of my first ATV ride on the Part To Park Trail as part of the 2015 ATV Ride of Hope this past weekend.
I am not an ATVer. My involvement with Park to Park is based on my interest in non-motorized sports; I like to bike and hike. I don’t have an objection to motorized sports, but cycling and hiking provide a better opportunity in my opinion to ‘stop and smell the flowers’. For me it's more 'stop and photograph the flowers'.
As a volunteer at the 2015 ATV Ride of Hope I was offered a ride on one of the new CF Moto Side-by-Sides with Don, a rookie driver. I refer to Don as a rookie only because he hasn’t driven a side-by-side on a trail as challenging as the one we faced on Saturday. He is an experienced sledder and drives a smaller ATV on a groomed trail. The 2015 ATV Ride of Hope was a different experience and he did a great job.
About the Mario Kart reference. I have played Mario Kart pretty much from when it first came out. With each generation of Nintendo console it becomes more realistic and challenging. The game has kept a pretty standard cast of characters over the past two decades while adding and removing others. If you are familiar with the game you will recognize that they range in size from Toad on the small side, to Mario, Luigi and Princess as the mid-weights, to Bowser on the heavy end.
Well that pretty much describes the cast of characters that went out for the 2015 ATV Ride of Hope on Saturday. On the Toad end of things there was a young man riding a small green and white older ATV that I suspect was a Polaris Scrambler. It looked like a toy, but he more than kept up, taking what amounted to a bath along the way.
In the Mario and Luigi class there were a large number of mid-sized single rider, and 2-Up, ATVs that represented the majority of the ATVs participated.
In the Bowser class there a dozen or so Side-by-Side ATVs, many of them CF Moto, along with a few Polaris machines. These machines looked like dune buggies, with tall suspensions and hard tops.
The first sense of living a live Mario Kart experience was at the start of the ride. As the rookies we were asked to stay at the back of the pack with a sweep riding behind us. That gave me a chance to watch the group roll out. There was no specified order, it wasn’t a race, but it looked like the start of one. Toad was quick to hit the trail. This was followed by the Mario/Luigi class ATVs with the Bowsers mostly waiting a bit before heading out.
We hit water almost as soon as we started, passing through the Highway 400 underpass. This was followed by a steep uphill, more water and a rough ride until we hit the smooth trail west of the 400.
It took a good three hours working our way along the trail until we reached Sprucedale for lunch. There were hills, rocks and water; lots of water. In one puddle, or was it a lake, I felt our side-by-side start to float. We were a few feet from the next piece of dry land and our momentum carried us to solid ground. It was at this point that I learned to keep my feet up, or be guaranteed getting them soaked above the ankles.
I met 'Toad', I mean the young man on the small green Polaris, at lunch and asked him how he did in the puddle that almost floated us. He was splattered with mud and showed told me he was wet up to his waist. I then understood why a couple of the riders had shown up wearing neoprene hip waders. This wasn’t their first rally.
The ride home was quicker. With the ride out Don had developed confidence with the CF Moto (it was very stable) and at lunch he was told the washboard sections and bumps are not so rough if you ride faster. Well, I’m not sure about that. When it came to the few washboard sections, it actually felt rougher but we spent less time on them. So all-in-all it was perhaps a little more comfortable running faster.
It certainly wasn’t a race, people regularly stopped to let others pass and to see if anyone needed help. One thing missing from being a full-on Mario Kart experience were the red and green Koopa shells. We had the expected Mario Kart hazards, including rough sections of trail, off-road segments and water, lots of water. There weren’t any Power Ups, but I’m not sure we would have been able to handle them.
I'm pretty sure that I'll stick to the non-motorized side of trail riding, but there were times it would have been challenging running the Park to Park Trail without an ATV. In spots there were large ponds on either side of the trail, and a one to two foot deep puddle on the trail. Hmm, I guess wading and swimming still qualify as non-motorized.