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Off-Highway Vehicles Help International Relations


OHV riding creates memories and fun times with comrades, it brings adventure to the rider, and for some, it provides an escape from regular life. What you may not expect is that OHVs have patched up differences between two countries. 

When my boss called me up and asked me to put together a trail ride for some dignitaries, I assumed some local politicians were looking for a way to get a free day of fun. You know, their version of €œresearch€ into an important issue. I was a little surprised to find out that the special guests were provincial leaders from Pakistan.

Welcome to America and Hold on Tight

A ride like this takes a couple weeks to prepare for.  I had to hunt down a handful of working ATVs with good quality all terrain tires, get my hands on over a dozen ATV helmets, borrow a couple of trailers, and make arrangements for lunch.  After all, no politician from any country can take a research trip without including lunch.

When the day finally arrived, we met at my house.  The group included my family, my boss, one state legislator and his family, and four elected officials from Pakistan.  Until I did a bit of research, the only things I knew about Pakistan was that it is in the Middle East, they speak Urdu, and Osama Bin Laden lived in a cave there somewhere.  Yep, that€'s right, I just mentioned OBL in an ATV blog.  There€'s a first time for everything.

After introductions, we held a ten minute course on how to ride an ATV since none of our foreign visitors had ever been on one before.  I won€'t use their full names, mostly because I cannot pronounce them, but during a practice ride on flat ground, somehow, Mrs. Z managed to roll her machine.  I ran the entire ten feet from where she started to where she rolled to give her a hand.  She was unhurt but the headlight was shattered and the ATV wheels were facing skyward and still spinning.  Mrs. Z got to be a passenger in a Polaris Ranger Crew for the rest of the day after that.

The Most Beautiful Place I€'ve Ever Seen

Failing miserably to do significant bodily harm to a foreign official (sarcasm), we convoyed our way down the street and headed for the first treacherous mountain road we could find.  I have to admit, I was a little more than worried about starting some sort of international incident.

So, up the mountain we headed, each set of 4 wheeler tires kicking up a dirty cloud of dust.  We stopped about halfway up the mountain to take a head count.  Fortunately everyone survived the initial set of switchbacks and steep drop-offs.  Whew!  It was at this time that Mr. Z (no relation to Mrs. Z), looked out over the mountainous vista and proclaimed, €œThis is the most beautiful place I have ever seen.€

Well of course it is, buddy, this is America!  Actually, Mr. Z€'s reaction is fairly typical of most people who never get out of the city.  Even some four-wheeler riders who only use ATV hard surface tires and never leave the pavement find views from the mountain tops to be stunning.

Over-Confidence

After the head count and photo op, we pushed ahead another 15 miles to the top of the mountain.  When we finally passed all the switchbacks I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking to myself that nothing could go wrong now.  Boy was I wrong.

This time it was Mr. B. who decided that after one hour of creating dust clouds with a set of Maxxis Bighorns, he was ready to do some side hill riding.  When he saw a set of tracks, probably made by a racing machine outfitted with ATV sport tires, traversing a steep hill to the side of the trail, he veered off to do the same.

By the time I rounded the corner, Mr. B had lost his nerve and hit the brakes.  He was now at the apex of the side hill, completely stopped, and leaning to the up side with a look of stark fear in his eyes.  What he did next caused fear to appear in my eyes.  He put his foot down on the low side to try and keep from rolling over.  Keep in mind this was a steep hill, he was nearly perpendicular to the ground.  I thought for sure he was going to snap his ankle and the ATV would roll, crushing him to death.  I could barely look.

To everyone€'s relief and amazement, Mr. B defied gravity and turned the ATV tires downhill and safely returned to level ground.  Whew!

Bring €'Em Back Alive

We thankfully made the trip down the mountain without death or dismemberment, and that is always a good feeling.  Later, sitting around the dinner table, we had a friendly discussion and the Pakistanis educated us infidels about all of the positive qualities that a well-meaning jihad offers.

The entire experience was very eye-opening and culturally enriching.  My wife and kids got a chance to get out for an ATV ride, something they don€'t often do, and we all learned more about Pakistan and Islamic culture.

I am still Facebook buddies with Mr. B and Mr. Z, so if I ever need a place to stay in Islamabad, I€'m pretty sure they can hook me up.  So, you see, riding off-highway vehicles is a great way to bring nations and cultures together.

Ryan Richards

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