WHAT’S MORE INDEPENDENT THAN UTV-ING?
BEHIND THE WHEEL ON JULY 4TH
July is one of my favorite months, as it starts with a celebration of our nation’s independence from British tyranny, and many of our family vacations lasted the entire month when I was a child. Dad would plan it so he’d be unemployed most of the summer, and we’d take camping vacations that covered multiple states and Canadian provinces. We’d take our wheelers along to ride in National and State Forests, and our family would invariably meet like-minded folks from across the country. The love of our great nation and its natural resources would ultimately lead me to seek a college degree in forest management, and I’d look forward to getting out of the dorms and into the woods every July (and June, and August). Still do.
For the past few years, I’ve started July in Texas, since it hasn’t banned fireworks like California has. I fly to Dallas and light huge bottle rockets and artillery shells, and it’s also a celebration of my daughter’s birthday. Come to think of it, she was due to be born earlier, so we named her Summer, and she turned out to be really sunny! As the real sun bakes California and makes Texas muggy and steamy, I usually head to the mountains of Colorado, Utah or Idaho for some sideways action on ATVs and high-country forest roads and trails. Not only are the temperatures more tolerable, sometimes there’s even snow left, and afternoons usually bring summer showers, which my Colorado buddies call “traction storms.”
Shoot, I’ll even ride in the rain, although you have to be careful not to ride the tops of ridges and mountains if there’s a possibility of lighting strikes. Maybe someone should invent a combination safety whip and lightning rod that drags a cable behind the ATV or UTV as a ground. I was on a ride on Utah’s Paiute Trail System in a recent July when a summer storm blew through, and my fellow riders stopped to fish out their emergency rain ponchos at about 10,000 feet elevation. I simply grabbed another gear to outrun the fear and slid down the mountain in a series of drifts, brake slides and power slides. My pals followed the two chocolate stripes and had no trouble tracking me, and the ride was incredible. When I rode out of the storm, I had to fight the urge to turn around and race back up into the nectar dirt, as I didn’t want to chance colliding with the others in the group.
The Pikes Peak International Hillclimb (PPIHC) has also provided some great July memories, as a participant and photographer/spectator, but it was moved away from the July 4th weekend and is now held at the end of June. The USFS makes a ton of money from tourists paying to drive the Pikes Peak Highway (the course runs from 9,500 feet to the 14,111 foot summit) on Independence Day weekend, so practice, qualifying and the race day for the PPIHC were all moved up to late June. The last time I attended, we had to take refuge in the tack room of a horse trailer at Glen Cove, when a lightning and hail storm blew through. Then we slid down the mountain in marvelous mud!
The July 4th weekend tradition in Motocross means the Red Bud National, this year sponsored by KTM. Back in 2007 and 2008, KTM entered the quad-racing world with the XC450 and XC525, and they held the press event at Red Bud before the AMA/AATVA Quad Nationals. Of all of the national tracks I’ve gotten to ride over the years, Red Bud is one of three I’ve ridden on quads, the other two being Millville and Mt. Morris. Seeing the top Pros wheeling around Red Bud was awesome, and experiencing the track on KTM racing quads was epic.
Although I missed the 4th in Texas this year, I’ll be heading there Thursday for Summer’s birthday and the Texas Outlaw Youth 170/250 World Championships at Oak Hill in Decatur. (Maybe someone will have some mortar shells left.) Never been there before, so it’ll be fun to scope out the track for photo angles. It’ll surely bring back memories of walking a new moto track with my dad.
From there, I fly to Phoenix for a Yamaha XT-R press event at Gunsite Academy north of Prescott and Chino Valley, Arizona. Shooting guns is as much fun as fireworks, and mixing UTVs and maybe ATVs with Gunsite’s pistol class will also be a blast. It’ll be my first Yamaha press event since before the pandemic, so it’ll be great to see the Yamaha crew and my fellow moto-journalists. It’ll be my fourth time at the tactical training range and the first with Glock.
MidAmerica Outdoors will host Visions Off-road July 13th-17th with MAO short-course and endurance racing plus Utlra4 and National Rock Racing UTV and 4400 races. There will also be a UTV parade, Pro rodeo, monster trucks, MX freestyle, nightly music and lots more. July 22nd-24th, beat the Arizona heat at The (Grand) Canyon UTV Fest at Williams, depot for the narrow-gauge Grand Canyon sight-seeing train. Dunefest moved to August 2nd-7th on the northern end of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area at Winchester Bay. August 10th-14th, MidAmerica Outdoors is the place to be for the second 2022 UTV Takeover.
It seems like Independence Day is gonna last six weeks this year; you know what, we UTV enthusiasts deserve it.