“You ever driven one of these things?” Derek asks, snapping on a helmet, swinging his leg over the seat of a muddy, red Honda Foreman.
“Dude I grew up in Canmore, I was driving one of these things before I could crawl.” Says Ed now, sitting on his quad, about to turn the key and start it up.
“I have driven 3 wheelers and minibikes, how hard can it be? Tell me how to start it up, explain to me if the clutch goes up or down and I will figure it out.” I say, helmet on, key turned, finger on the automatic start.
“Are you in neutral? Click the clutch all the way down."
"Good, now slip your foot under the clutch, don't click up, yet, first press the ignition.”
The quad sputters, then burst to life. Derek now yelling “You shift gears by clicking the clutch up or down. Up to shift up, down to shift down. Got it!”
“Yep!” I yell grinning like a child on Christmas morning.
It doesn't take long before I am lost in Ed and Derek's dust, shit, I can't let that happen, I won't let that happen. This is an initiation thing, a rite of passage, my manhood is being tested. I am still in second gear, they are already in fourth, I gotta make this thing go! Catch up! Zoom!
“Yeehaw, come on Joe!”
Whoosh! Curt zooms by me. Fuck! I gotta figure out this goddamned machine, right now! Fourth! Holy shit the dust! I can barely see a thing. I am going 60 kms an hour and I have no idea where I am going. I better slow it down a bit, follow the dust. Keep up, but, keep back. Ye gods, can Kurt ever ride a quad.
It wasn't long before Kurt was little more than a dot in the distance. I notice him slow down, then turn off the main road and onto a smaller woods road to the left. Huzzah, here was my chance to catch up.
Kurt now stopped, sits idling, waiting for me. I slow down and manipulate the quad onto the rougher, wetter road.
“You alright? Think you can keep up?” Kurt says, slipping his quad into gear, easing forward.
“Ya, I think so. Just keep me in mind when and if you turn off this road.” I say, rolling along beside him.
“It's a straight shot now. We will be there is a coupla minutes. Catch me if you can.” With that Kurt took off. The race, an unfair one, was on.
I tried my best to stay on Kurt's tail, but he was just too strong a rider. He attacked each big bump or wet patch, he had no trouble getting air. Me, well, I eased into the bumps and tried to avoid the wet patches. The race was over before it began. Think of it as a learning experience, I tell myself. You told a white lie to Derek, your experience with 3 wheelers and dirt bikes was an exaggeration at best. Hell, what does it matter? You are doing it, you have figured it out.
It wasn't long, maybe five minutes, before I noticed Derek, Ed and Kurt sitting helmet-less on their quads.
“This the spot?” I ask, now stopped, getting my first look around.
“Yep, welcome to paradise. Isn't she a beauty?” Kurt says, I can't tell if he is being serious or sarcastic.
We were surrounded in every direction by a treeless void. It was as if a bomb had been set off. Aside from the occasional flipped up stump, there was no sign of life for as far as the eye could see. This is the first time I had ever been in a clear cut and man oh man, what an ugly example of greedy human destruction.