Life Lesson: The Mountain Will Win and Your Wife is Right
Years ago I took my four-wheeler for a Saturday spin near Mt. Charleston (Nevada). It’s not too far from my home in northwest Las Vegas and there was a spot on top of one of the peaks I’d been itching to try and reach. Of course, I took on this adventure by myself — genius that I am — with the idea my invincibility would keep me out of any real trouble.
I drove my quad up the short ramps into the back of my truck bed, strapped it down, hopped in the cab of the truck, and was off!
Stopping at a spot just off the main road, a couple turns off the pavement, I found an empty area in the brush and parked. Lifting myself on the tailgate, I started the engine to let it warm up. After unstrapping the quad, I pulled on my gloves and a full-face helmet. The ramps in place, I climbed back into the truck bed and swung my leg up and over the seat. Reaching back with my right hand, I released the bent-over pole harboring a small flag atop it. The flag sprung to life, it’s six-foot mast waving over my head.
Pressing down the footbrake, I flipped the gear lever into reverse and eased down the ramp. Clear of the truck, I flipped the gear lever into high and was off!
Riding through a number of different terrains (dirt, sand, rock), I zig-zagged in the general direction of the peak that was capped off with a worn-out looking, white transmitter station. The ride up was exhilarating, but not too challenging. Reaching the summit, I turned off my quad and removed my helmet.
Climbing off of the quad, I walked around the old transmitter site and took in the view; high-desert at its finest. The air was crisp. The sun was shining. Not another person in sight. Just me, my quad, and the top of the mountain.
After capturing a few pictures with my phone, I put my helmet and fired up the quad for my descent. Thinking the ride up was pretty tame, I decided to try and find a different way back down the side of the mountain. I followed a road part way down and then discovered a power line with a ‘sketchy trail’ next to it just off the main road. Perfect. Very doable. I thought, “May have to put the quad in four-wheel drive. That’s what it’s for.”
I started down the trail, no worries. After about 30 yards I tried to slow then stop my descent. Nope.
It turns out the trail was made up of shale that was covered in a dusting of forest debris from the trees. Every time I tried to apply the brakes, my quad would slide a short distance further. I considered trying to turn my quad around, but the shale was too loose and instead decided to make other plans on my behalf. With no recourse, I continued down the trail.
There were a couple of times I considered fastening the front bumper of my quad with a rope to a nearby tree and then trying to flip it around. I had the rope in a bag strapped to the back of the quad. But, in all my wisdom and invincibility, my genius decided, “Nah. I got this.”
At this point, I am about 75 yards from where I left the road above me. The point of no-return and sanity was behind me about 45 yards in the same direction.
I reached a point where there was a small gully in front of me. The trail cut across it at a little bit of an angle. Again, my mind in Einstein mode, “I can cut across it with a little speed.”
Leaning forward on the balls of my feet, barely off the seat, I took a run at the gully.
“Charge!” I announced, as my front tire front tire assaulted the gully.
The gully had other plans.
“Nope, not gonna happen,” the gully replied and swallowed my tire, hungrily pulling the rest of the quad into its grasp.
I can only give you my perception of what happened at this point. You see, I remember saying, “Oh crap!” Really, that’s what I said (sorry mom). The next thing I knew my quad was rolling length-wise down my body. With me face-down on the ground, the quad started at my head (whew, full-face helmet), pressing it into the shale and brush, continuing down my back and ending upright on my legs.
Pushing up onto all fours, I was able to pull one leg, then the other, from underneath the quad’s chassis.
I did a quick survey of myself, head to toe, making sure nothing was out of place, broken, or bleeding. I noticed my jeans were ripped at the knee. I pulled up my right pant leg and saw some pretty decent scrapes and a puncture wound on the side of my knee—about the size of a pencil eraser. The quad even looked to be in pretty good shape. I actually think it enjoyed the new experience.
Let’s summarize here. I’m in the woods. No cell phone service. Quad stuck. A hill above me. Knee banged up. Pride a little dented, limping, and bloody.
Well, time to climb. I started limping up the hill and got to the road. Along the way, I found two things: a piece of mirror and a golfball. I know, weird. I snatched them both and took them with me.
I was far enough in the woods that I wanted the mirror in case I had to try an get someones attention from afar off. The golfball? As I walked down the dirt road, the golfball kept me company—bouncing on the road—and keeping my mind off of my ankle and knee.
About halfway down the mountain, I ran into a juvenile boy’s camp. I had forgotten it was even there. I limped through the gate and onto the property. One of the guards gave me a concerning look, kind of like I was a bad-campfire-ghost-story come to life. Dirty. Bleeding. Carrying a piece of mirror and a golfball. Utterly, visually certifiable.
After sharing my experience and assuring him I hadn’t killed anyone in the woods, he offered to give me a ride back to my truck.
At my truck, I climbed in with a wince and started back to my house. My first thought was figuring out how to get my quad out of the gully and off the mountain. The second thought was how I was going to explain all this to my wife? Both issues felt equally daunting.
Getting home, I parked my truck in front of my house and limped up the short driveway. The garage was already open. A friend of ours was temporarily living with us and she was in the garage working on a project. Bonus for me: she had been employed as an EMT on an ambulance.
Seeing my pant-leg and gimp, her eyes widened and she asked me what had happened. Not wanting to retell the story over and over, I suggested she grab her medical kit and meet me upstairs. She scurried into her downstairs room, grabbed her bag, and followed me upstairs to the sofa.
My wife was already in the family room upstairs when I plopped down on the end of the sectional sofa. She gave me the same look I got in the garage a few seconds earlier. Our friend began attending to my knee and leg while I recounted mountain adventure—or mishap, I’ve heard it both ways.
Calling a quad-riding-buddy of mine and sharing my story, he offered to help get my quad down off the mountain. My buddy, along with several of my sons and a daughter-in-law, returned to where the excitement went down and retrieved my quad.
I say this as if it were a small feat. Nope. It took them about four hours. It’s good to have friends, oh, and to have five sons that can hold their own.
Why did I tell this story? There is a life-changing point. Keep reading…
At home, my wife questioned my decision to take the sketchy trail. She questioned my choice of doing this on my own. Lastly, she made a comment which has stayed with me to this day.
“The next time you’re riding alone, pretend I’m riding on the back.”
She knows I would never put her in danger. However, I hadn’t been so concerned about myself. Why would I do this? Simple. I’m a man and she is still raising me.
For the curious: the answer is “Yes.” I’ve changed the way I ride my quad alone.
With that behind us, let’s talk about my street bike (big, cheesy grin)…
Also published on Medium.