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Get Over Yourself

Cop me some attitude? I have some for you too...

by Martin Hackworth

Photo: Martin Hackworth


     I was out with my son, JR, in the mountains on a recent Sunday afternoon. We’d just paused to let a group of hikers traveling in the opposite direction on a narrow trail move by. After they passed, JR asked, “Dad, why where those people unfriendly? I waved and none of them waved back” “Well bud,” I responded, “It probably has to do with the fact that we are on dirt bikes, and that winds some people way up all by itself.” JR thought about that for a moment, and replied “But Dad, this trail is for dirt bikes and hikers, didn’t they see the sign?” “Son,” I responded, “the sign could have said you win the lottery today if you encounter a dirt bike on this trail and it wouldn’t have made any difference. Some people are a little holier-than-thou in their view of who belongs out here.” JR thought about that for a minute, and with all of the wisdom of an 11-year-old pondering the intricacies of the world, came up with a pretty good suggestion, “Dad,” he said, “I think that those people really need to get over themselves.”

     I have hiked, run, skied, mountain biked and dirt biked the trail that we were on that day. I never felt more self-righteous traversing it by any particular method over the others. Skiing was definitely the hardest, but I don’t know that skiing the trail made me more virtuous than anyone else. It did make me a lot more tired.

     I am currently working on a feature for MotorcycleJazz.com about entities who cater to outdoor athletes while, at the same time, donating money to groups who want to keep some of those same folks out of public lands. It turns out to be an impressive list, in some cases astounding. A few mountain bike organizations, in particular, need to figure out that “mechanized travel” means them too.

     I am all for some reasonable restrictions to travel in public lands because they are a resource worthy of responsible stewardship. I am not for turning Yosemite or Yellowstone into vast, outdoor-themed amusement parks. I don’t have a problem with some areas being set aside for preservation. But I’m also not for discriminating against various groups who want to enjoy public lands. As far as I’m concerned, hikers, climbers, equestrians, skiers, mountain bikers, dirt bikers and people in jeeps all pay taxes, so they all deserve access to the public lands they pay to maintain. There is enough room out there for everyone. It’s not up to me, you, or anyone else to decide which forms of recreation are implicitly worthy and which are not.

     I know the purist arguments against the unwashed. The outdoor aristocrats, eyes down and noses up, are enamored of the notion that their experiences are intrinsically more virtuous than everyone else’s. Well let’s ponder that. Having spent the better part of five decades in the outdoors in a wide variety of activities, some professional, I feel well-qualified to let my narrow-minded brothers and sisters in on a little wisdom. The rest of us would agree with you, if you were right.

     The hypocrisy in some of this is mind-boggling. I recently had someone tell me during a chance meeting along a trail that their objection to my dirt bike was resource-based. That was pretty funny considering that I rode a 50mpg motorcycle clear from my house to the same point in the wilds that this individual reached by driving, alone, some distance, in a SUV, followed by a very short hike. I was reminded by that incident that every time I attend a meeting where travel plans on public lands are being discussed, I can’t help but notice that all of the save-the-earth bumper stickers in the parking lot are attached to automobiles.

     It’s not the tool, Sparky, it’s the user. There are wonderful people all across the spectrum of outdoor recreation just as there are arrogant twits. So my dirt bike in the woods offends your innate sense of superiority? I’ll see your smugness and raise you. It turns out that the specter of cyclists riding six abreast across two lanes of traffic, right next to a bike path, offends my sense of not wanting to run anyone over. Snowmachines are the bane of your winter experience? Some of us feel the same way about ski areas. Along that line, the last time I checked, most people don’t human-power themselves to their favorite resort.

     The world is still a pretty big place, and I think that there is room in it for all of us so long as we are not too selfish. I agree with JR. Some of you really need to get over yourselves.

Associated Press and Idaho Press Club Award-winning columnist Martin Hackworth of Pocatello is a physicist and the editor of MotorcycleJazz.com.

Note: This article first appeared in the November 17 edition of the Idaho State Journal

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