I really used to love to ride my Harley Davidson motorcycle.
I bought my first Harley when I was 43 years old and rode it a ton. I still enjoy the ride immensely, but at the advanced age of 58 I now feel a little more comfortable with more than two wheels under my feet.
I have taken to enjoying the outdoors more and more with a Polaris Ranger. For those of you who are not familiar with that mode of travel, they are much like a 4-wheel drive golf cart. They have a steering wheel and pedals like a car does. They have seat belts, and many have roofs and windshields. The Ranger is called a side-by-side or utility terrain vehicle.
I am not new to off-road travel. I have booked a place called Mountain Meadow Campground and Resort for more than a decade. It is located 15 miles northwest of Hill City S.D., in the beautiful Black Hills. It is a half-mile mile away from the Deerfield Lake reservoir.
For about the past 15 years I make one trip per year to that location. I have been there in many different months.
Late September is the best for a fall color drive. July has been the time period for the past few years or so.
It is not an aggressive type of riding. We cover about 40 miles per day. We leave home base at about 9 a.m. and return for a great supper about 5:30 each day.
There are hundreds of miles of trails, and I have been on them all.
The unique thing about the spot is how few other folks we see in an entire day of riding. Some days none and on others maybe 5 to 10.
We have had a few interesting things happen over the years, which has helped me create a list of all the things you need to have with you when out riding. If you miss one of these, a small inconvenience can turn your day into a total loss.
The first of those is a tire repair kit. They are available at any parts store and consist of two hand tools, some rubber cement and a number of fibrous tire plugs. They kind of look like 3-inch strips of sticky small diameter rope. Add to this a tiny 12-volt air compressor and you can fix just about all of the tire issues you can experience on the trail.
If you have enough room, which I do, I actually carry a spare tire in case the rim gets bent and it will no longer hold air. We add a small floor jack and a 20-volt DeWalt impact gun and we are prepared for more serious stuff.
So the tires are taken care of. The next few items are more for convenience.
A bottle of Windex and a roll of paper towels is a must. One big splash in the mud makes visibility much harder.
The most common visibility issue is not mud, but dust. A day on the trail with four or five other machines in your group necessitates frequent windshield wipe-offs. I have a glass windshield but many others are made of plastic.
If you don’t add a measurable amount of liquid to these surfaces first, a few swipes across them will scratch them so badly you still can’t see. The paper towels need to be in a zip-lock bag so they don’t get soaked in a rain event.
I have never replaced a drive belt on a ride, but I always carry a spare belt and the necessary tools to replace one if I have trouble.
Removing the wheel makes the process much easier, so the jack and other tools will come in handy if needed for this potential day-killer.
It is hard to rationalize packing and carrying everything you might need, especially if you have not needed those items over the past few years. I wear sunglasses while riding, but I still carry a set of motocross goggles.
They are ones that a dirt biker or skier would wear. If the dust is really bad, they come in super handy, but again you probably only use them in one out of 10 trips.
If you are like me, a great lawn chair has to be in the back of the rig. We stop often to relax and take pictures.
Lunch on the trail requires a butt-sitting location. I can’t stand a collapsible chair, which is not comfortable to me, so a set of full-frame lawn chairs are a must.
This is a short but by no means a complete list of what will need.
If you have not taken a trip like this, please consider doing so. There is no drama, dangerous is not in the vocabulary, and trip options abound. My dad even went several times and he was in his 70s.
If you don’t own a side-by-side, all of the places in the hills will rent you one. Try something new and get outside where the wildlife lives. Send me an email at email@example.com if you would like more information on where we stay.