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Front Page » August 18, 2011 » Recreation and Health Focus » Using an ATV as a time machine
Published 1,471 days ago

Using an ATV as a time machine

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We almost all know something about ATV's, and what we know isn't always positive.

For some people all they can see about ATV's is that they are noisy, polluting and they rip up the countryside.

Some of that is true, especially for certain machines and for certain kinds of riders.

For others, they are a recreational tool that allows people to get into the back country, to hunt, to fish, to explore.

Still for others, they are a time machine. They are a way for some people to go places they couldn't go on foot or get to in a full size vehicle. For these people they are a blessing.

These machines, as controversial as they can be, allow people who are incapacitated by the passage of time or by the ravages of disease to see and recreate in back road areas they could not have, in their condition, gone to only three decades ago.

And while some may argue that age and incapacity are just one of lifes turns, that at some time we all can't do the things we once loved, who's to say that age has to come any earlier than it has to. Sure the out-of-shape 50-year-old basketball player with bad knees can no longer run up and down the court with 20-year-olds, but he can still play H-O-R-S-E. So it is with the fisherman who no longer can get to his favorite lake on his worn out knees and his flaked out back. With these machines he can.

For many physically challenged people, the drive for outdoor recreation is just as strong as it is anyone else who enjoys nature. In many cases strong willed hunters and fishermen don't allow their various disabilities (whether life long or newly acquired) to stand in the way of what they love to do in the outdoors.

In some parts of the country clubs and organizations for the physically challenged have organized activities spread across the calendar for people who love the outdoors.

For many that now ride ATVs, disability is a new thing. There are those that ride that have been physically challenged from birth and those that had accidents that caused them to not be able to access recreation in the way they were once used to. But the majority of new ATV enthusiasts with disabilities are those that have arrived at that spot in their lives where they no longer can do what they once did due to back problems, knee or hip replacements, ankle problems, age deterioration, etc.

So for them the ATV has become a time machine; one that lets them go back to an era where they could freely access areas by walking to them. Now they can ride instead of wish for the past.

ATV riding and the disabled is not new. Many disabled people have been riding ATVs for years And beyond the machine there are also alternatives once they arrive at their destination. There are lightweight "All Terrain Wheelchairs" that can be folded and loaded on an ATV along with other equipment.

In a sense, ATVs themsevles become all terrain wheelchairs, allowing people to go any place that is legal.

Of course there is a learning curve for those that may never have ridden one before. That, and sometimes the reputation that ATV riding brings with it, sometimes scares away potential handicapped riders who are told "You can't do that. It's too dangerous" or "What happens if you are out in the middle of nowhere and the thing stops on you? What are you going to do?"

Well first of all there are some rules for those who may be physically challenged.

*Never go into the back country or ride into a lonely deserted area alone. A breakdown for a non*handicapped person can be a trial but for someone physically challenged it could mean life or death.

*Ride at a speed with which you are comfortable; never just try to keep up with others just to keep up. It is better to ride a little slower and get there in one piece.

*Always wear safety equiopment that fits the circumstances. That means not only the normal equipment such as gloves and a helmet but may mean some other things for someone who has a disability.

*Be prepared in some way to move beyond the machine if needed. For some this is a simple cane. For others it may mean taking along a wheeled walker that has a seat on it in case some kind of foot travel is needed. And pack only a heavy duty walker, one built for various kinds of terrain.

*If there are special medical needs, be sure to pack what the person needs. Oxygen? Take along an extra cylinder. Medicines? Take along more than would be needed for just that day. Pack plenty of water too.

*Be prepared for weather, especially in the mountains. Have a tarp and a slicker to keep dry in a sudden rain shower. The tarp can also serve as shade if something happens.

*Make sure to have a cell phone. Tell someone where the group is going.

*Make sure the person is not riding into a landscape beyond their capabilities.

*Remember too that a machine that is built for a rider with all their physical capabilities may not exactly work for someone disabled. A UTV might be a better option for many because the driver does not have to swing their leg over and they can carry more gear. Also look for machines with power steering because this makes it much easier to ride and control the vehicle. This is good for people with joint problems or prosthetics. Also some machines can have hand controls installed don them if needed.

Physical challenged people do not have to be trapped into a world that others think they should stay in or where they have fear. Many who take up riding ATVs have been scared at first, but soon learned the freedom of taking on the challenge much out weighed any fear.

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