Or should that be living for the past?
I am so very fortunate to have lived through some pretty good “hay days!” I was there in the 60s when motorcycling really took off. I was also around to see the first 3-wheeler, 4-wheeler, and UTV. I was around when Baja racing started, when there were things like the Riverside Grand Prix, and even the Palm Springs Grand Prix. I was there when go-carting took off, and when minibikes were all the rage. I was there for the first hang glider, the first ultralight, and the first hobie cat. I was there for the first skate board, the first 10-speed, and the first BMX bike, actually called a ‘sting ray’ if memory serves me correct. I saw the first American win a Formula One race, and for Danny Sullivan’s spin and win at Indy.
There’s more, amazingly more! But of all the things I’ve been a part of, the best was the birth of the dune buggy. Although it is always there as a part of my life, having more than just a couple buggies from my past staged in my garage, it hit me rather hard when I sat down at my desk and my wife had dropped the day’s mail in a pile that happened to land the latest UTV Off Road Magazine directly on top on a copy of the very first Dune Buggy and Off Road magazine. Just like that, 2010 met 1967.
I couldn’t help but compare the two. I have a couple of the older off road magazines laying around to look at as I contemplate restoring another buggy. I guess it shouldn’t have surprised me but, like so many things nowadays, my favorite activity is being overrun by the “in-your-face, hey-look-at-me” crowds. Clean and functional has been replaced with wild and extreme.
I’ve seen this pattern before and know how the story ends. First the crazies take over one area and then they keep moving like a swarm of locusts overrunning and overwhelming other areas in their path. I’ve seen it with the sand dunes! Growing up in Southern California I was a constant visitor to several local dunes, most notably Glamis from the mid 60s. The dunes survived the influx of the VW buggies, 3-wheelers and 4-wheelers. But once the wild and tattooed crowd hit the scene with their incredible $70,000 buggies, huge trailers that virtually are rolling parties the weight shifted. Law enforcement was needed to patrol the drunks in their 1000 horsepower compensators, and new fees were needed to pay for the law enforcement. What had been a wonderful place for families to enjoy the great outdoors became as dangerous as walking through England with a white, right-wing, heterosexual Christian t-shirt.
But there was still plenty of other places to explore. Rock crawling was one of them. It proved to be a great way to get the family out into the beautiful backcountry and get to places you never thought possible. But of course within a few years that sport transformed from Jeeps and Suzuki Samari’s with limited slip differentials into full roll-caged specialized rock crawlers that as you guessed cost lots of money and were driven by the same compensating city dwellers that had just taken the dunes away from the regulars.
Now it seems to be happening to what is probably the last outpost for simple off road recreation, our back country trails! Although most sport ATVs stayed away from the scenic mountain trails, preferring to stay on designated tracks or to race across the deserts and the sand dunes, the new wave of UTVs have set their sights on our scenic mountain trails. These super-scenic, quiet, and serene back country trails are best explored by an ATV or a stock 50” RZR. But now, the onslaught of the widened, loudened, and disfigured UTVs are attacking the once pristine trails making the trail’s footprint wider in order to accommodate them, as well as degrading the trail conditions due to their increased speed, and irritating the communities that once so-welcomed the quiet families that came to enjoy the mountains. The thumping of loud music, and inappropriate language now overruns even the campgrounds that once were populated by story-telling around the campfires.
In every case, the responsible users were driven out by the loud and obnoxious crowd, who bring with them the need for intervention to control the damage from their noise, speed, trash, and otherwise bad behaviors. And as they overwhelm an area they also manage to give power to the forces that choose to close the areas down rather than put up with it’s destruction.
Where do we go next? I’m afraid there is no ‘next’ and so we must make a stand here. The magic word for the future is ‘sustainability.’ Educate the new users quickly. And perhaps just as quickly enforce the standards that have kept the trails open for so many years before.