Island Bound Traveller Writer, Storyteller
Gary Grieco is a freelance writer, avid reader, sailor, and motorcycle enthusiast based on Texada Island, British Columbia, Canada.
BABY BOOMERS ON ALL FOURS
by Gary Grieco
Published March 2010 Vancouver Island Senior Living
Boomers who are just beginning to have trouble with hips, knees, and backs have embraced the concept of travelling the back country mounted on powerful iron steeds sporting four large knobbly tires. Boomers over 50 are now considered seniors, and in ever increasing numbers are riding four wheeled all-terrain-vehicles called quads. These rugged vehicles are the land-locked equivalent of personal watercraft, or snowmobiles that can tackle mountains. They all exhibit the same traits of raw power, speed, and a masculine image. How could I resist my first opportunity to try one out? Since I have always ridden large motorcycles, I felt somewhat superior to anyone who rode around on four large wheels. What a surprise! My introduction to quading was a lesson in 'how not to.' You might think a man in his 70th year would have more sense than to to get on one of these machines for the first time and ride straight up Texada Island's 1745 foot Mount Pocahontas. Mountain goats would tread carefully on the trails we travelled. My friend John, 26 years my junior, has convinced himself that I am about fifty-three, and treats me accordingly. When he casually suggested we take his quads and beat the 4x4's to the top, my ego kicked in, "Of course." Little did I know that with those two little words, plus my already damaged spine, that I had condemned myself to a world of pain long after the ride. The goal was honourable enough - along with other volunteers, to help erect a small building on the mountain's peak, in which to house our island's new internet wireless system equipment. The learning curve was as steep as a mountain. What I thought was going to be a leisurely ride up winding country roads to the peak, turned out to be the equivalent of 'riding the bull' in a Texas bar. John did not mention that the smooth roads I assumed we would travel were off-limits to ATV's. Driving a quad requires balance, a good degree of strength, and huge gobs of luck if you are a beginner like me. The reality of travelling cross-country and up mountain trails was a joy for John, but soon became a veritable nightmare for me as the steep trip unfolded, and my back did the same. Narrow, rocky outcrops, wet gullies, and upward slopes with rolling stones jarred my spine and rattled my brain. Crossing a swamp on a quad-wide bridge, I waited for a wheel to drop off into the murky water, and prepared for a swim. All the while, we climbed higher and higher with gear boxes howling.
I asked Zan Boyle, President of Vancouver Island's Duncan ATV BC Chapter why the sport was catching fire with baby boomers. "it appeals to adventurous spirits who want to get off the beaten track," he replied. "Seventy-five per cent of our 110 members are seniors. There are clubs in Ladysmith, Nanaimo, Port Alberni, Courtenay-Comox, and Campbell River." For more information: http://www.atvbc.ca Is quading safe ? In my opinion it is as safe as you make it. A safety training course before you attempt quading is a good start. An experienced quader like John had no problem on the same route that caused me stress and physical discomfort. Statistics show that the majority of serious accidents occur with children, who are fearless. They have great reflexes, but may be lacking in judgment, or the strength necessary to guide the larger machines. The second category, the one that I fall into, would be the inexperienced adults who try too much, too soon, without proper training.
At present, B.C is the only jurisdiction in North America that does not have legislation for the use of off-road vehicles on public land. "B.C. is known as the Wild West of off-road motorized recreation", wrote Larry Pynn in the Vancouver Sun. But that is about to change. The economies of Vancouver Island, the B.C. Provincial Government, and Canada are given a billion dollar combined boost annually from the ATV industry. B.C. is seeking to protect its investment by bringing in new safety regulations that will also cover quads, over the next two years. ATV BC was one of a group of All Terrain Vehicle organizations instrumental in helping develop the regulations for the off-road quading community, and will help to implement them.
"Safety and training are important issues for the organized clubs in B.C.," said Boyle, who is a Canadian Safety Council ATV Instructor. "All new club members are encouraged to take a safety course when joining a club. Safety training, and the type of quad you ride are of paramount importance. There are beater and Cadillac quads. Some of the older machines had low horsepower, and a solid rear axle with very limited wheel and suspension travel. You could bottom out easily, and its definitely a lot harder on the body. The newer machines have fully automatic transmissions and four wheel independent suspensions, with ride preferences that can be dialled in. They have become pretty plush. I ride my quad all day, and can still walk when I get off." Quading is not confined to just the recreational aspect. Senior R.C.M.P. Officer, Ted Boeriu, who heads up the Vancouver Island Integrated Road Safety Unit out of Courtenay, is also a qualified Canadian Safety Council ATV Instructor, and trains the Force's selected quad team members in a six to eight hour course. "Its a physically demanding day," said Boeriu. "The course includes hands-on training and consists of hard riding without speed in a confined area. The operators learn what it feels like having two wheels off the ground when going around a corner. By the end of the morning you're going to feel it in your shoulders, arms, and legs." The R.C.M.P.'s quads are used mainly for drug interdiction, EMO, and Search and Rescue in the backwoods. A good example is the search and rescue of two lost teenage Duncan hikers rescued in September 2009 from Heather Mountain. Qualified club members of the Cowichan Valley ATV Club found them after being called in by the R.C.M.P. For more information contact: http://www.bcatvtraining.ca with links to Work Safety BC, and the Canada Safety Council. Is riding a quad in the outback fun ? You betcha ! Will they take you places you would normally never get to see ? Another resounding yes ! Is it a form of exercise ? Yes ! Straddling a powerful, heavy machine with loads of power concentrates the mind, and uses muscles in your body you weren't aware of. But remember, some initial safety training is a good idea. I suggest you do as I say, not do as I did.