General Question

stevenb's avatar

When you hear the term "Four wheeler", what kind of person comes to mind?

Asked by stevenb (3816points) July 18th, 2008

I have an old Ford Bronco and Love to go out and drive to places you can’t get to in a normal vehicle. I have fuel injection and large tires, and all associated items. I know a lot of people think I and people like me just go into the woods and tear up the great outdoors, when the opposite is true. I clean up trash, drive carefully, and enjoy the beauty of the outdoors. I know a lot of people picture a guy tearing up a pristine field of private property drinking beer and destoying property and vehicles. There is nothing better than getting to places that only primitive people and early americans have been and enjoying the beauty of nature. My problem is that so much is now closed due to a small number of idiots who do tear up property and dump trash. What are your feelings on letting people explore the backcountry of America in four wheel drives with respect and care? I know a lot of people say hike in, ride a bike, or ride a horse, but a lot of places that is just not possible, let alone impossible for handicapped people or people with bad backs, etc. What good is a wilderness if we cant get to it and enjoy it? Roads are needed to fight fires and find lost or stranded people anyway, so why not make trails to have fun on and see the US that a lot of people dont know is even there?

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30 Answers

guesswho's avatar

I couldn’t have logged in fast enough to anwser this.
okay, first let me say: it sucks that there will always be the people who go out and mess things up for those of us who actually “give a damn”. Second: I think the reason trails aren’t made (for four-wheeling) is because a lot of the land to do that stuff is private property…? Third:these people who are saying “hike in, ride horses, etc.” is it possible that they don’t share the same passion for it you do? Its easy to say something… Have they hiked in- rode in? I understand both points- but there is a simple joy of 4-wheeling that cannot be enjoyed by hiking or horseback riding. Those things are categories within themseleves…
You 4-wheel to do just that! Go where horses and backpackers can’t!
fourth: the people who litter and drink- they will always be around, and its unfortunate.
my dad said something to me a long time ago that stuck with me: ” don’t worry if someone else isn’t telling the truth, and saying that you are lying… YOU are speaking the truth. That is all that matters.” Fifth: enjoy your passion. Hopefully others will catch on!
hope I helped!

ninjaxmarc's avatar

earth would like to say tread lightly please

bluemukaki's avatar

“What good is a wilderness if we cant get to it and enjoy it?”, the idea is that humans just go in and destroy the place. Even if you aren’t specifically damaging the environment, the infrastructure required to let you go in and then enjoy the wilderness is so catastrophic for ecosystems and environments that people are hesitant to do it. Most national parks and reserves build minimal impact ways for people to get in and out- the least of which would be walking, cycling or riding horseback (or even helicoptering or riding in blimps into some places). So that is how most people experience the wilderness. Not to mention that part of enjoying nature is to be in and amongst the natural environment, not driving around in something which epitomises industrialisation and has, as you mention, such negative connotations.

arnbev959's avatar

I was also going to say that the “What good is a wilderness if we cant get to it and enjoy it?” quote seemed a bit selfish.

The last thing I want to hear when I’m walking through the woods is a car engine.

Harp's avatar

Why do we need to get places we can’t get to on foot or on horseback?

A few years back I went hiking in a wilderness area in northern Utah. Most of my route was over established trails, but I did go off the trail at one point to connect to a separate trail. I became increasingly aware that with each step I was doing damage to amazingly beautiful, but incredibly fragile plants, damage that might take years to repair. I was heartsick, and resolved never to do that again. I’m sure that the traces of my passage are still there. The thought of running 4 all-terrain tires instead of my two feet over that tenuous ecosystem horrifies me. Sitting up there in the cab of your Bronco, you’d never even know the extent of the damage.

I have a friend who works for The Nature Conservancy as the custodian of a couple of their prairie properties here in the Midwest. Most of what he does all day is deal with the aftermath of 4-wheeling.

Wilderness isn’t a commodity to be consumed. Its value doesn’t depend on whether humans are there to appreciate it or not. I certainly understand that we humans have a need to connect with the natural landscape, but I’m not sympathetic to the argument that that can’t be done just as well on foot.

wildflower's avatar

It makes me think of someone who’s idea of getting back to nature isn’t very clear, thinking that driving a 4 wheeled polluting piece of manmade machinary counts. You may as well stay home and watch nature programs on telly.
If you really want to enjoy and take in the wilderness, you’ll have to leave technology behind! (well, with the exception of a camera and phone, but the bigger things at least)

marinelife's avatar

The width of the access roads required is much greater than for the other forms of transportation you mentioned and has a greater impact.

As a walker, I hate (and am terrified based on past encounters) whenever I hear the sounds of engines. All wildlife flees. I can’t hear the sound of a stream, the wind in the trees, insects buzzing, or the pristine, non-industrialized silence that were what attracted me in the first place.

Based, however, on the principle of accommodation, I think to make something positive happen, people who share your interest should form groups that advocate responsible usage, that go on clean-up efforts, that work with government agencies and other landowners to set aside some access for that purpose. (Note that hikers, bikers and horseback riders all do this.)

Adina1968's avatar

It makes me think of a beer swilling yes ha redneck.

btko's avatar

The only “4 wheelers” I know are the kind you describe as drunk-trash-throwers.

stevenb's avatar

@ marina, I am in the blue ribbon coalition, which does stewardship, maintenance, and a lot sof search and rescue, and works with Government agencies non stop to keep trails open. The thing is, most of the places we go, nobody has ever walked in since native americans. The roads were made as wagon train routes, mining routes, logging routes, etc. I dont ever go off of trails like Harp. Especially in Utah where you can kill the grass and it will likely never come back. I dont go into designated wilderness areas, and none of the people I know do either. We simply like to use the roads and trails that have been there for a hundred plus years and see the wonderful sights. We dont have hikers that hike where we go simply because of distance and difficulty, as well as the many many other places that hikers like to use in this area. The four wheel drive groups I know all drive slowly over obstacles to avoid damage to their vehicles as well as the environment. We also stop often to enjot the beauty, and get out and camp or hike around from there. Motorcycles do come by us, and as a group they are pretty good, but I have been fenced out of areas in my bronco because motorcycles have torn 4 foot deep ruts in the roads. Simply put, hikers cant get to where we go, or will not because of the extreme distances involved. I dont know many hiker who would hike 60 to 70 miles to see one lake, a ghost town or two, and turn around and hike back out. The areas we use are not hiking areas because we have so many other areas that are hiking areas, and are set aside for that. Several places have been closed to full size vehicles, and left open to quads and smaller vehicles, which are not mush easier on the terrain, and in some places are worse.
@ harp, you should know better than to walk off trails in Utah. There are signs everywhere telling you about the risks. I have been there and seen them myself. I do hike and mountain bike also, but some times you need a vehicle to carry supplies and family to your destination. I do not mean wilderness areas as to where I go. Forrests, yes, but they are usually owned by paper mills of logging companies. We are always frowned upon by people who just want to close everything down and make it all wilderness. If that is the case we had better all pack up and move back to our countries of origin.

stevenb's avatar

@ wildflower, just because I drive to a destination in a vehicle does not mean I dont shut it off and enjoy nature when I get there and stay for days. The northwest is a huge place, and the simple fact is that you cant carry what you need to live with you unless you drive a vehicle.

scamp's avatar

I think this is one of those “one bad apple spoils the whole barrel” type subjects. While you may be a very carefull and considerate person when visiting the backwoods by vehicle, you are sadly one of few.

stevenb's avatar

@ harp, so what about my parents who can’t walk? Do they not have access because they lived a hard life and are unable to now hike anywhere farther than the mailbox? Paraplegics? Disabled people? MS sufferers? Because they are not healthy they have to what? Rent a helicopter to take them to the places they loved as younger people and then not be able to afford food for the rest of the year?

stevenb's avatar

@ scamp, I think sadly that the bad apples are the few, and the good are the many, but people dont see it that way. The bad apple ruins it and doesnt follow the rules, so people think all four wheelers are like that because we are quiet and fade in with the scenery.

Thanks for the more understanding tone though.

Harp's avatar

Actually, the connection that I took between the two trails was a publicized route (in “Backpacker” magazine, no less) which started off as a visible trail, but then petered out. Going off-trail was not something that I had intended to do.

I do understand your argument about access for the disabled. I’m especially sensitive to disability rights issues because I work every day finding ways to help disabled people function better in their world. I would feel much more kindly disposed to ATV’s carrying someone who can’t walk; but honestly, how many of those do you think I’d find if I were to go do a backcountry census? Personally, when I’m unable to comfortably walk anymore, I’ll drive (what will hopefully be my electric car) out to pretty much any one of the national parks I love and toodle along its roads, soaking up their beauty as well as my limitations allow. The last thing I would ever want would be to scar it up just so I could have it all to myself.

It sounds like you’re pretty conscientious about how you use your vehicle, and I appreciate that, but since your question was about our overall perception of 4-wheeling, I think it’s fair to bring up that these vehicles are not marketed in a way that encourages responsible use. Ads go out of their way to sell the American male dream of ripping over the trackless wild. The line at the end of this Hummer commercial (which shows both on and off road driving) says it all: “If you can, maybe you will”

stevenb's avatar

I really hate hummers.

breedmitch's avatar

@stevenb: You asked for people’s opinions. Please stop haranguing them because they were kind enough to give you an answer. Perhaps your question should have been “Can I show you how responsibe I am at preserving nature while enjoying my off-roading?”
I am glad for your responsibility, but my personal belief is just because nature’s there, doesn’t mean you have to see it.

stevenb's avatar

That is your opinion. Mine is different. I also don’t see responding to someones opinion as haranguing. I ask for opinions, not for people to critisize me for asking them. I don’t want to go into pristine wilderness. If I do I hike in and out. I do like to go to old ghost towns, mines and the like. I am not extolling my virtues, but the virtues of hundreds of people I have had the honor of driving with. I don’t actually know one person who goes out and tears up the wilderness and dumps trash. If I did I would do everything I could to get them arrested. I see the way the others on here do, and understand your views. Sadly they are the views of too many people and are based on a skewed view that is portrayed by those people who want to close all roads into wooded areas. Responsible wheelers are a majority who are looked at as a minority. I am just responding to my own question and to those who responded to me, not just the question. I don’t want to or mean to harangue. I leave that for others to do.

breedmitch's avatar

I guess it’s your motives behind this thread that I’m questioning. I am pleased by your (and your “hundreds of people’s”) responsibility, as I said above.
I’ve seen those jeep competitions on TV where they try to maneuver over boulders or up steep embankments and it looks cool, but at what expense? The air in that forest is not better because of the gas exhaust. It’s my wish that everyone could enjoy themselves without having to burn extra gasoline. (I, for one, have not purchased gas for 15 years now.)
If a destination is too remote to get to in a day, then I hike, camp, hike again until I get there. Throwing my family and a bunch of gear in a vehicle is too easy. I didn’t earn it.

As to my questioning of your motives, you acknowledge in your opening statement that you “know a lot of people think I and people like me just go into the woods and tear up the great outdoors”. So you clearly knew what kind of answers you were going to get.
You ask, “What are your feelings on letting people explore the backcountry(sic) of America in four wheel drives with respect and care?” I’m all for it, but I don’t believe all the four wheeler drivers will behave with as much responsibility as you, so I’m sorry, but restrictions are necessary.

It just seemed to me that with this question you were trying to educate us that all four wheeler drivers are not bad, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I don’t feel this is the forum for that. You disguised your “soap box speech” as a question, which happens all too frequently around here.

As to quads and ATVs, except for law enforcement on the beach, I think they should be outlawed. Just my opinion…

scamp's avatar

@breedmitch , I’m curious. How have you avoided buying gas for so long? I also feel ATV’s should be outlawed except for law enforcement. They are far too dangerous to both riders and environment.

breedmitch's avatar

I live in New York and walk or take public transportation everywhere. I do take cabs (but those would be running whether I’m in one or not). When I vacation, I fly (which kills me) or take the train (which only stings, somewhat) to places that also have public transportation. I have never rented a car. I did own one in high school and college but found it to be nothing but trouble and so I decided to change my life. It sometimes means being very creative (me and a friend carrying an IKEA dresser on a bus) or having to walk longer or farther than most Americans are used to, but I choose to contribute less (certainly not none) to pollution.
How much have you spent on auto insurance, gas, loan payments and maintenance in the last 15 years? Sucker! :)
[climbs down off own soap box]

scamp's avatar

Ah, I see. In the last 15 years I lived mostly in the country, where there is no bus or taxi service, so I had to have a car. Now I am in a more urban environment, but even here I don’t have access to public transportation. I have a feeling that your taxi fares may be slightly higher than my gas cost tho. I only drive when I absolutely have to, and there is no loan payment. Insurance is only $40.00 a month,and oil changes were free except the price of oil because my SO is a pretty good mechanic.

I have to admit, I envy you for not having to fight traffic. You can sit back and let someone else do the fighting for you. that is a headache I could definitely do without!

stevenb's avatar

@breedmitch, I only wish I could not buy gas. If I changed my profession and started over I could do it. Everyday I haul a trailer full of tools and materials to work on trimwork in other peoples homes. It is not the kind of work I could do in a shop and ship there. You are lucky!

breedmitch's avatar

Living and working in the same neighborhood for many years has made it easy. I do wish more Americans could live this way, the way so many in our older cities always have.
I like you, stevenb. I’m gonna add you to my fluther! :)

arnbev959's avatar

is “my fluther” some kind of beta thing that i don’t know about?

marinelife's avatar

@ptp Soon I am sure it will be out to all. It is interesting, but not vital or a huge impact on Fluthering for me.

We live 17 blocks from my husband’s job, and I have been working at home for two years. It is so great! I have now decided I will never commute again. I have done it both ways, and this is so much better. Now, where we live will be dictated by the job.

stevenb's avatar

@breedmitch, thanks, I enjoyed this.

stevenb's avatar

@marina, I envy you. I drive all over working on peoples homes and can’t really move that often. LOL. I hope my wife will soon work from home though.

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