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Published September 27, 2009, 12:00 AM

ANN BAILEY: Riding ATV at Big Iron provided some thrills; thankfully no spills

When I approached an ATV sales representative, I warned him that I had absolutely no experience driving an ATV and that I didn’t want to go solo. He told me that there would be a lead driver and that I could follow him around the track.

By: Ann Bailey, Grand Forks Herald

I’m not much of a motor head. Given the choice between riding a horse or a machine, I’d pick a horse every time.

That’s nothing new. When I was younger, I wasn’t one of those kids who could hardly wait to get their driver’s license and tried think of every errand possible I could run for my parents when I did get it. Instead, I viewed cars, pick-ups, trucks and other modes of transportation as a way to get from Point A to Point B.

Given my perspective on driving, it’s not surprising that we don’t own any “toys.” All of the vehicles have a purpose; the two cars for transporting humans, the tractor for garden and farm work, the garden tractor for mowing lawns and pulling the garden cart and the 1953 farm truck for hauling stuff to the dump grounds. Other than the riding mower, which is a 2009 model, all of our vehicles are at least 5 years old.

Besides not being late-model equipment, our cars, truck and tractor are not something that would catch people’s eyes, either. They are all utilitarian-style models painted basic colors.

Another perspective

While my husband, Brian, and I are on the same page as far as our perspectives on vehicles, our sons Brendan and Thomas, ages 12 and 10, don’t see things quite the same way. Many of their friends and some of their relatives drive dirt bikes, all-terrain vehicles and personal watercraft and they’ve been able to catch rides with them. They know the thrill of speed and the potential for danger, and like many other red-blooded All-American boys, they want a piece of the action.

I have gotten good practice saying “No” to requests for us to buy a host of motorized vehicles, and most recently, a hang glider. My standard reply is that we have horses, which live much longer and don’t require the use of fossil fuel. Meanwhile, though horseback riding does present some risks, I believe the chance of rollovers or having a horse fall on top of them is less than it is with one of motorized vehicle.

Saying no to their requests in the past also has been an easy job for me because, having absolutely no interest in machines, I couldn’t see their attraction.

After a recent experience at Big Iron in West Fargo I understand their perspective a bit more. I attended the agricultural equipment show held in mid-September, hoping I might find some story ideas and visit with some people. I also thought it might be fun to drive something at one of the field demonstrations, which are designed to give people who attend Big Iron a chance to try out a piece of state-of-the-art farm equipment.

Test drive

This year, for the first time, the demonstrations included all-terrain vehicles. When I approached an ATV sales representative, I warned him that I had absolutely no experience driving an ATV and that I didn’t want to go solo. He told me that there would be a lead driver and that I could follow him around the track.

After I signed several legal forms, the salesman fitted me with a helmet and goggles, then lead me over to an ATV and explained to me the basics of operation; how to start it, accelerate, stop it and how to cut the power in case I needed to stop really quickly.

The first thing I learned was that the model ATV I was driving was very responsive to the thumb controls. Although I thought I was gently accelerating backward, it moved fast and not very smoothly as I maneuvered it out of its parking spot. I was better the next time and eased onto the track without too many fits and starts.

I was pretty tense for the first few minutes as I went up and down on what seemed to be huge moguls and made tight (from my perspective) turns. However, as time passed, I started to enjoy myself and even tried leaning into the turns and getting up enough speed to bounce a little when I went up and down the “hills.”

A smooth ride

I made it through the demonstration without injury to myself or damage to the ATV, which were my two main goals. I also have to admit it was a fun ride and I now can understand why my sons enjoy riding ATVs at their friends’ and cousin’s house.

Brendan and Thomas were amazed and envious when I told them I rode an 800-cc ATV. They also were astounded, but less impressed, when I told them my speed.

“Did you get up to 40?” Brendan asked.

“No, I said “Seven miles per hour.”

“Seven?” he repeated in disbelief.

“Hey,” I said, “I’ve never driven one before.”

Whether it will happen again remains to be seen. Whatever transpires, I can add it to the list of things I’ve done after I turned 50.