Every ATV & Side x Side rider has a little bit of explorer blood coursing through their veins. A century or two ago, the riders of today would have no doubt been the ones to turn their horse West and venture out into unknown territory as the fur trappers, mountain men, scouts, and pioneers of the time. It would have been the chance to live on one’s own terms, to explore mountains, prairie, rivers and plains, and with a little luck, to possibly even strike the mother lode. Although homesteading, hunting, and trading, like the original explorers, may have passed into history, there is still a way you can experience many of the same thrills, and you’ve already got the best tool for the job.
The Perfect Vehicle
There are plenty of vehicles that can carry you far from the beaten path, but most have significant limitations as well. A Jeep is great, but maneuverability can be a problem. A motorcycle definitely excels at maneuverability, but is almost useless for hauling much gear. That leaves an ATV or Side x Side which are by far the best exploring vehicles of all time. Only the horse rivals an ATV or Side x Side for back country exploration and while a horse will get you where you want to go, albeit at a slower pace, they’re impractical for all but a few. It takes a lot of time, energy, and money to just keep a horse upright, much less to load them up for a back country adventure. Your trusty ATV or UTV, though, is already supremely prepared for exploring just about any type of terrain and all they require is some easy mechanical care every now and then.
Arizona Outback - A Trip You Can Do
Kawasaki likes to plan ride adventures the average person and their friends and family can do, and when Kawasaki’s Jon Rall called about a possible ride through Arizona, it didn’t take us long to volunteer. We love checking out any new territory and the terrain in Arizona can change from desert floor to winding mountain trail quickly which makes it especially great for ATV and Side x Side riders. Like so many Spring Breakers, our adventure would start out in Lake Havasu!
Lake Havasu is home to seemingly half of all decadent “Spring Break” videos, but they’ve got something better going as well. With a state license, it’s legal to ride ATVs and UTVs on local roads and streets to gain trail access! Our journey started on the edge of town and it was typical desert riding with the sun rising over the distant mountains.
It didn’t take long to once again become comfortable in the Kawasaki Teryx4 750 4x4, and its sporty power and supple suspension was well suited to the rocky, winding trail. An evening rain insured a dust free ride and as we wound higher, we came to a crest overlooking the valley and city below. The now placid Lake Havasu shimmered in the morning light, not a boat, gyrating spring breaker, or ongoing party in sight. After a couple photos, I climbed back into the Teryx4 and turned it towards the mountains far in the distance. There would be endless rocks, desert trails, and mountain terrain to conquer before we would reach our destination that night, seemingly a world away from Havasu in every respect.
Open stretches of desert always present stark, natural beauty, and with the 750cc Teryx4 engine humming along smoothly, we were counting down the miles in a hurry. It was fun blasting across the desert, occasionally dodging rocks, a surprised cow or two, and endless sage brush. With every mile the mountains loomed larger, the trail became narrower, and our progress slowed as we crept between boulders and around corners.
Here the Teryx4 was perfectly at home. Its ground clearance was helping us clear obstacles that even surprised me at times, and its relatively short, four seat wheelbase made it amazingly maneuverable. Countless rocks presented a danger to our wheels and tires, but thanks to its quick handling, we managed to avoid clipping all but a few. From the driver’s seat (or any of the seats actually) the Kawasaki Teryx4 is supremely comfortable. The seats are firm and plush, the three point belts resist digging into your shoulders, and the steering wheel and controls are placed exactly where needed. We couldn’t help but think this must be what it had been like for earlier explorers, both thankful for the country they were now experiencing first hand, and for having a fine horse under them.
Adventures like these are always full of surprises. I was busy thinking about the early inhabitants and cowboys that once roamed the area when we wandered onto a lonely desert two-track with a new road sign; we were at the corner of John Wayne and Gabby Hayes roads somewhere in the outback of Arizona.
Shortly after we ambled down John Wayne Road, the trail turned into a canyon and between the peaks above we could see storm clouds dumping moisture at higher elevations. As we wound up the mountain, we managed to avoid most of the rain, but there was no way around the accumulating snow. Higher and higher we climbed as we worked our way through the mountains. To one side of the trail was a ledge that we hugged at every turn, and on the opposite side was a drop that ranged from bad news to never coming back vertical. It was a LONG way to the bottom and getting longer with every turn. Thankfully, the deepening snow was covering up most of the rocks, but it also had the unhappy side effect of making the climb extra slippery and downright difficult at times. More than once our lead vehicle had to back up and ram through drifts. The snow was also blocking a clear GPS signal and we found ourselves relying on trail markers and a good-old-fashioned map for directions. No matter: we were still enjoying the adventure and we even stopped at a high mountain forest clearing for lunch. With the snow coming down, we didn’t linger long, however. It was important we find our way across the top soon.
One thing we noticed despite the nearly 7000’ elevation is that the 750cc Teryx4 engine ran perfectly regardless of the weather, temperature, or elevation. Thanks to EFI, it purred along without so much as a hiccup, never running out of power. Finally we crossed over the ridge and began to descend towards the mountain village of Hualapai, (pronounced Wal-lah-pie) an Indian name meaning “People of the Tall Pines.” As with most Native American names, the description fits perfectly. Before long we had reached our snowy destination, the comfortable and inviting Hualapai Mountain Resort. Thankfully, they had a nice restaurant, an inviting bar to relax in, and clean, comfortable, and very cozy rooms. After a day out in the snow, it was like a little slice of heaven under the towering pines, and a world away from the rocky, desert world of Havasu City. It was the perfect place to grab some wings in the bar, a relaxing drink, and then settle into a big, soft bed for an awesome night’s sleep.
A Second Time Across the Divide
Morning arrived with the Teryx4 covered in a thick blanket of fresh snow. The trail would be even more challenging today, but I strapped my gear into the back seat and warmed up the engine. We began to make our way back through the mountains, this time by a slightly different route. With snow well up to the doors and deeper in many places, it was no easy task. Thankfully, the Kawasaki Teryx4 has an easy to engage front differential lock that gets both front wheels clawing at the ground equally, and we needed it. More than once we stared wide-eyed at the steep climb ahead and with a grip on our St. Christopher medal (The patron Saint of Travelers) and the throttle pinned, we clawed our way skyward. One by one our intrepid caravan snaked their way along the edges, around corners, and even crossed paths with Mule Deer a couple times. It was a thrill to peer over the edge on the trail that was in some places only a little wider than the Teryx4 itself. Finally, we again crested the top and were treated to an awesome view with only mountains, distant canyons, and vast, open terrain in the distance. It would be a long way back to Havasu, but even now the goal was within reach.
Our trek back took us on a slightly different desert route but along the way we stopped for more photos and generally had a great time. Eventually we crawled out of the canyons and could see Havasu far below but still many miles away. I was a little sad to see our journey end.
Adventure Made Easy
The great thing about almost every ride we do is you can do them too! Your ATV or Side x Side is a very capable vehicle and the best tool for the job. All you need is a little planning and sense of adventure. If you follow our path, we can make it easy for you since we’ve pre-run the route and even checked out the accommodations, and you’ll know exactly what to expect along the way and at the end of the day. You can even use a trusty guide like Wally at Side x Side Outfitterz who we’ve come to know. It also certainly doesn’t hurt if you’re driving a super tough Side x Side like the Kawasaki Teryx or Teryx4. Once again this trip through the desert reaffirmed our belief that they can take a beating like nothing else. As usual not a single rider in our group had a mechanical breakdown, and despite all the rocks, we only suffered one flat tire. At the end of our two day ride from sandy beach to mountain snow, the Kawasaki Teryx4 750 4x4 was still running perfectly and ready for more action on the next ride. So was I.
The Adventure Checklist
Whether you’re riding across open desert or heading to the North woods, for any riding adventure there are a few things you should bring along.
- PLENTY OF WATER and SNACKS
- BASIC MEDICAL KIT. Should also include snake bite and bee sting supplies. Without that, you’ll wish you had a pistol!
- LIGHTER or MATCHES. For small night fire, not for taking up old smoking habit again
- TIRE REPAIR KITS and WAY TO INFLATE THEM
- SPARE TIRES IF POSSIBLE. (For a UTV you will probably need a jack also) TIP: If you can only carry one tire, bring a front tire which can usually be used on the back in a pinch.
- BASIC TOOLS, DUCT TAPE, ZIP TIES, TOW STRAP. A Leatherman tool has a little of everything and is easy to stow.
- EXTRA GOGGLES
- WRAP EVERYTHING IN TRASH BAGS TO KEEP OUT DUST
- EXTRA FUEL – Depending on length of trip
- CELL PHONE. Usually drops call from across street despite what that “Can you hear me now?” Jack--s says, but sometimes will work at higher elevations.
- INFORM OTHERS WHERE YOU’RE HEADED. They might not be able to see the buzzards.
- MAP, GPS, and BE PREPARED. Make sure you AND your machines are prepared for the trip.
Looking for a Desert Adventure of your Own?
SIDE x SIDE OUTFITTERZ 760-949-1220 www.sidexsideoutfitterz.com
Our man Wally can get you there and back!