Late in the 1990s, I had the pleasure of spelunking caves with GNCC founder and Racer Productions patriarch Big Dave Coombs while in Davis, West Virginia, for the Blackwater 200 dual-sport ride. I had been in several caves growing up – Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave, New Mexico’s Carlsbad Caverns, and South Dakota’s Wind Cave (all are now national parks) – but all were guided tours. Spelunking is exploring wild cave systems, and we explored a handful that day, wading sometimes in water chest deep. Little did I know that, a decade and even 2.5 decades later, I would be part of the real UTV Underground, spelunking in mines deep underground in UTVs. Spelunking comes from the root word “speleology,” the scientific study of caves and cave environments. While caves form naturally and mines are man made, we didn’t make them, so they’re new to everyone who goes in to explore them.

There’s night riding, and there’s riding in total darkness at high noon, underground.

In 2009, Kawasaki held a Brute Force ATV press event at Mines and Meadows ATV/RV Resort in Wampum, Pennsylvania, and we also had a Teryx 750 there to carry The Fonz’s studio-lighting equipment into the 65-acre limestone mine. We rode over obstacles made by the M&M crew as we navigated the labyrinth of caverns, and there’s even an underground lake to churn through. The mine stays at a cool 55 degrees and at 80-percent humidity year round, so it’s a great place to beat the summer heat and winter cold (it’s also a mushroom farm). Mines and meadows (.com) guides daily afternoon rides during the week in March through November and three daily rides on weekends. During the winter months (December-February), mine tours for groups of four or more are by appointment only. Daily passes for riding M&M’s 877 acres and 84 miles of trail are $25, and mine tours are $5. Mines and Meadows LLC, 1307 Old Route 18, Wampum, PA 16157; (724) 535-6026.

We have also ridden UTVs in an old talc mine at Red Rock Canyon State Park and also in an old  mine outside of Bishop, California. The talc mine is large enough to get any UTV or 4×4 into with room to turn around and drive out. It may reopen for mining operations soon, so it’ll close for tourism. There are also several mines in the Red Rock/Dove Springs area that are destinations of UTV enthusiasts, but they’re not big enough to drive into, like the Burro Schmidt tunnel.

When we rode inside the Mines & Meadows mine, Lumpy tested a Cyclops Solstice HID helmet light. LEDs have come a long way since 2009.

There are mines throughout California with several large and famous ones around Bishop. One east of Bishop is large enough to drive UTVs into, and it’s one of the stops on Cain’s Mojave to Mammoth tour of the Sierra Nevada Range. RJ and Ronnie Anderson were on one such ride, and they set up an underground course and had timed races within the mine with Cain. The thing is, nobody was crazy enough to go inside to photograph the underground sprints against the clock. The tunnels weren’t anywhere as wide as the mine used in the RJ Anderson XP1K video, which was filmed near Desert Center.

Arizona also has a lot of mines, and Mike, owner of Doc Holliday’s in Tombstone, took us on rides in the Dragoon range to the old China Mine and further up to an old tin mine. Once we crouch through the entrance, the tin mine opens up into several large caverns, some with crystal-clear water. With a vent further up the mountain, the tin mine has great air and is a great place to escape the summer heat, and we have stopped for lunch on the cement foundations of the China Mine. Further north along the Dragoons, there is Council Rock, another lunch spot among granite monoliths below Cochise’s Stronghold, where a peace treaty was signed between the US Cavalry and the Chiricahua Apaches.

RJ Anderson made driving UTVs underground famous in the original XP1K video.

UTVs are the best and fastest way to find America’s hidden treasures, like mines big and safe enough to drive around inside, but there are also other layers of the UTV Underground. The Friday Night Pizza Crew has had several under-the-radar night rides to restaurants near the palatial Hi-Torque offices using local trails and power line service roads. They’ve only had one mishap, when one of the group drove to get some gas and was spotted by the Sheriff’s Department. An air unit was dispatched, but we stayed under the oaks and power lines so it couldn’t land. They eventually flew away (I wasn’t driving, and no loan units were involved).

Round the corner, and there’s the mouth of the mine near Bishop.

Imagine, with all the serious crime and defund-the-police craziness going on for more than two years now, why spend time and budget chasing people for having fun in UTVs?

Going back to the 1990s and my Dirt Bike days, Joe Shedron of Moose Racing and I found a mine up above Ouray, Colorado. He backed his bike into the mine and rode out for photos. After a few passes, a couple of miners came charging out to see what all the noise was about. Whoops! We all had a big laugh over that one.


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