By: Jason Giacchino
Email: offthepegs @ atvsource.com
March 2008 - Off The Pegs
Riding Shotgun into the River
It was one of those rare 50-degree days in
late January that was being spent (like most
days) hunched over the computer keyboard at my
grandfather’s house with a stack of research
awaiting my attention. I don’t know about
you, but my train of thought has the annoying
habit of derailing at the slightest sign of
distraction. Examples include an interesting
report on the news playing in the background, my
grandfather’s cat (Sinbad) looking for a little
attention, the allure of grabbing some pretzels
from the kitchen, sipping coffee, or even, if
all else fails, studying the weather outside
through the picture window. So you could imagine
my surprise when my grandfather’s neighbor from
across the street (Andy) swung open the front
door with a whoosh when I was supposedly hard at
“Get your shoes on,” he said through a grin that
is usually reserved for individuals who
discovered that they had just won the lottery.
“What’s going on?” I asked pushing the cat
“Just get some shoes on and come out here.”
I obliged and followed him out into the driveway
where a clean olive green Arctic Cat 500 4x4
Auto purred quietly.
“Hop on,” Andy said mounting up. “I ordered the
two-seater so my wife and I can go exploring
The ground was an interesting mix of residual
slush, isolated plates of ice, and mud.
Gooey mud, black mud, mud mixed with snow, even
flowing mud surrounded the still sparkling
machine I was climbing onto.
“Are you sure you want to take it out in this?”
“Ever hear the expression ‘it ain’t purdy till
it’s dirty?’” Andy fired back over his shoulder.
His new 500 launched effortlessly across the
street and down the steep dip leading onto
Andy’s trail network. The smooth-sounding
exhaust note was nearly drowned out by the
thumping of fenders catching gobs of mud being
flung from the deep knobbies beneath us.
“So you picked up a quad,” I said as we turned
onto a stretch of trail running parallel with
the New York State Thruway. “I didn’t even know
you were in the market.”
“Yeah,” Andy responded, “I looked at my 2004
Yamaha Star sitting out in the garage collecting
dust and figured maybe the local dealer could
talk me into a trade. It didn’t take much
convincing once I found this on the floor.”
With that he got on the throttle pretty hard and
we paced the parallel-running traffic for a good
fifty yards. Now I don’t know about you,
but if there’s one thing I’m not a big fan of it
is riding shotgun on an ATV--even if it’s made
for such activity. Blame it on the lack of
control, the abnormally rearward body
positioning, or the simple lack of room to slide
around if you must. Whatever the reason, I
feel much better about test rides when seated
directly behind the bars.
Nerves aside, we seemed to be making light-work
of the less than favorable trail conditions
without so much as having to engage the
four-wheel drive (maybe having a person’s weight
directly above the rear wheels isn’t such a bad
idea after all). The stiff suspension
flexed and bounced us through the slop right up
until we came upon a water crossing that could
have been tiptoed across in the summer months.
But low and behold, all of the recently fallen
snow had melted (or was in the process of
melting) which had the normally tiny stream
overflowing along its banks.
“Think she’ll do it?” Andy asked.
I took the opportunity of surveying the water up
close as an excuse to hop off the idling quad.
I would estimate the width of the creek only to
be somewhere around seven or eight feet across,
but the water within was stained a
chocolate-milk brown (remember all that mud I
was telling you about) and swirled on the top
with small white eddies.
“Um, no,” I called back about twenty
microseconds too late.
With a tremendous splash, Andy piloted his new
machine nose-first into the rapidly moving
water. His front rack vanished instantly
while the rear wheels slowly left the ground.
Fortunately the water-level stopped just shy of
his handlebars, which were now doubling up as
floorboards for a clearly panicked Andy.
“Uh oh,” I said trying to be supportive.
Just then his 500 stalled.
“I’ll go run to get my tractor,” Andy said as he
jumped from the side of his new toy. “Stay here
and make sure the currents don’t drag it away.”
I’ll be honest here. If the currents did start
taking his quad with them, I don’t imagine there
would be much I could do in the way of stopping
it aside from perhaps yelling something to the
effect of, “Andy, hurry up with the tractor!”
Fortunately, after a gentle tug, his Cat fired
back to life with a mere tap of the e-start
button. There was an unspoken sigh of
relief between us, and I returned to my seat on
the rear of the quad.
“No, you take her back,” Andy said from the
tractor seat. “I’ll follow you.”
When I returned to my grandfather’s place, the
odometer displayed a meager 1.7 miles. I
concluded that this machine is going to have a
“I guess now it’s ‘purdy enough’ for you?”
“Nah,” Andy said, “You can still tell that it’s
I waved goodbye after complimenting him on his
new purchase; and as much as I would like to
tell you, I got quickly back to work, poured a
cup of coffee, and watched as my shoes turned to
stone thanks to the mud they had managed to
gather on our little excursion. I know
Sinbad wasn’t complaining.