FALL-OUT FROM THE FOURTH OF JULY
BEHIND THE WHEEL: THOUGHTS FROM INDEPENDENCE DAY
Posted on the Fourth of July, my last column talked about what Independence Day has meant to me, and how UTVs increase our independence from a increasingly co-dependent world. My weekend started out at the market buying hamburger patties and buns for a BBQ on Saturday night. I watched a great NASCAR Xfinity race at Road America and reflected on how much motorsports have played a part of July 4th, starting with local dirt-oval stock-car races and the Pikes Peak Hillclimb. Then I rode over to a riding buddy’s man cave, and several of us watched the traditional July Fourth weekend AMA Motocross National at Red Bud. It was great racing, and congratulations to Eli Tomac and the whole Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing team for the 450-class win. Congratulations to the Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki team for Jo Shimoda’s first-ever 250 National win with a 1-3 day.
Sunday started with MavTV modified racing and then NASCAR Cup qualifying at Elkhart Lake’s Road America. July 4th revelers highlighted the NBC Sports programming, Countdown to Green, and then the Road America 250 itself. It looked like it was going to be Hendrick Motorsports’ day with Chase Elliot winning both stages and defending Cup champ Kyle Larson leading the waning laps, but Tyler Reddick stole the lead from Larson and drove away for his first-ever Cup win in the #8. It was great racing and a world-class burnout and fireworks show.
Then Karel Kramer came over to borrow UTV Action’s KRX4 1000eS and the Aluma trailer. As we loaded up, he asked me what I was doing the rest of the day. I was planning on riding dirt bikes with a friend, but Karel invited me to a ride from Rosamond (CA) to Bean Canyon and another BBQ. He was taking the KRX4 to do a comfort-comparison with our RZR Turbo R4, so I quickly gathered my riding gear and filled an ice chest. Adventure on! We unloaded and ate some great food while bench racing.
The two four-seaters were loaded up and we headed out and into the hills. I’d never been on these trails before, and we passed the huge wind-mill forest erected between Tehachapi, Mojave and Rosamond. We skirted the wind mills on obviously a service road. I have been riding the Antelope Valley since 1969, and it got its name because it used to be loaded with antelope. Highway 14, Palmdale and Lancaster weren’t built yet. We would take Sierra Highway and to Rosamond and Mojave, sometimes taking a side hop to Quartz Hill for supplies. We would camp in Honda Hills or Garlock and ride the north rim of Antelope Valley. There were lots for sale but little else.
Turning west in the Turbo R4, we followed our guide Jay in the KRX4. He led us past a huge solar array, which was completely denuded of vegetation and completely fenced off. We rode along the California aqueduct and then a access road for the high-tension power lines connecting the solar and wind farms to LA. Jay turned off into an awesome sand wash towards the hills. It was epic. We rode some ridges and over hills, dropping into another wash. We stopped to switch vehicles and took off in the KRX4 to what jay called Didsneyland, because its an E-ticket ride of ridge trails and tight, twisty canyons. One trail stood out with wall-rides around switchbacks, and I fell in love with the KRX4. It was an epic trail, and we climbed onto a ridge and turned back toward camp in the waning light, passing yet another huge sea of solar panels.
Other than the Click-6 harnesses and the Turbo R’s passenger grab bar, which allows upright grip like a steering wheel or horizontal along the top, I preferred the KRX4 cabin comfort and elbow/leg room. The 68-inch KRX4 was also more nimble in the good stuff than the 74-inch Turbo R4. It’s pretty sporty, too, and easier to drive in the tight stuff. The Turbo R4 ruled in the faster stuff, though. With the sun setting, we went under more power lines back to Jays. It was an epic ride, but how long before the entire Antelope Valley is nothing but wind and solar farms connected by power lines? The Green New Deal will make encroachment more severe. I thought about losing the trail Ride Command had just mapped, along with all the other epic trails in this area. We loaded up and returned to Rancho Lumpy. I set the alarm to get to Acton’s Independence Day Parade early and get a good seat.
I loaded the Harley and rode to downtown Acton. I folded out the Honda Racing chair and set up in the shade of a road closed sign at the end of the parade route. Latino families were on either side of me, with several kids and squirt guns. Across the intersection, one family had two EZ-Ups and several large tube of water for filling Super Soakers and water cannons. Another family was on the opposite corner with the same set-up. I dug out my Nikon to get shots of UTVs in the parade. In years past, one Angeles National Forest float had Smokey the Bear in a RZR. Smokey didn’t make it, and there were only two UTVs. There were several floats with many horses and a handful of floats with Mariachi bands and show horses strutting their stuff. All had American, Mexican and California flags; how cool was it to see so many latinos celebrating America’s birthday and their heritage at once. Many LA County and ANF fire trucks and other floats sprayed water on kids and adults alike.
I thought back to my youth and the bottle rocket fights we’d have in Houston and Alvin, Texas, on every Fourth and New Years. In Alvin and later in College, we’d have water-balloon fights on the Fourth and Halloween. There would be strongholds in every neighborhood and at Dairy Queen, and high school kids would ride around in the back of pickups with trash cans full of water balloons. It was total war, and a total blast. The parade over, I loaded up and rode home, where I texted friends and family photos of the parade. One responded with “six dead in a Chicago July 4th parade.”
Wait, what? Some nut job shot up a parade full of people having a good time and wishing the USA a happy birthday? I turned on Fox News and was horrified to see videos of families running for their lives. I couldn’t take it and switched over to a comedy movie. Later, I switched back to Fox News, and they had arrested the shooter. Fox showed a photo of the nut job; if I owned a gun shop, I wouldn’t sell that guy a bullet, much less a gun! By Thursday, his body count was eight, with another 36 injured. Pure evil!
On Thursday morning, KTLA5 reported on another horrific tragedy over the 4th. Near Apple Valley, a 12-year-old boy and 11-year-old girl were riding a 4×4 ATV after dark, double. No safety flag, no lit whip. A RZR Turbo S or S4 comes ripping through and runs the kids on the ATV smooth over. The ATV looked like a ball of metal, like it had been through the crusher. The boy died on the spot, and the girl is in intensive acre with a broken back. The Turbo S driver never stopped. Unbelievable! We’re supposed to be better than that, people!
So-called renewable energy destroying the Antelope Valley and soon the entire Mohave Desert, evil nut jobs shooting up July 4th parades, hit-and-run UTV drivers? Most empires last around 250 years, and the greatest experiment in the history of the planet just turned 246. How many more USA birthdays do we have left?