By Ron Lawson
of myself until after I posted a few
pictures, then scrolled down to see
photos from New Jersey, where some
of my friends were using snow shovels to get to their snow plows. If it’s
any consolation, it was dusty here. It
only rained once or twice, and that
only served to make some ugly rain
ruts that turned into concrete a day
later. In the desert, we view rain as
this incredible blessing from above
that brings traction and wonderland
riding conditions. We don’t really
get mud. This winter was warm, but
that’s all it really offered.
I apologize for all 60-inch-wide
side-by-sides. Don’t get me wrong, I
love them because I am somewhat
skill deficient when it comes to operating anything without handlebars.
Ask my driver’s ed teacher from
high school. I need machines like the
RZR S because they mean I’ll spend
less upside-down time than I would
in something with a narrower track.
But once in a while I travel to a state
that has these bizarre, furry telephone poles randomly installed as
hard obstacles in their off-road riding
areas. I think they’re called trees.
Wide vehicles don’t make as much
sense there. I have another somewhat less heartfelt apology for wide
ATVs. The same thing should apply
to 50-inch quads, but I’m not sure this
is my fault. I like narrow quads on
the trail and wide ones on the track,
no matter what state I’m in.
I truly apologize for the widening
of trails. I understand that this is happening everywhere because of the
wide side-by-sides that we so enthusiastically endorse out here.
I apologize for the California politicians that we send to Washington.
More than anything else, I apologize for the California Air Resources
Board. The people who run that
organization must be part of some
exchange program with the state’s
mental hospitals. Don’t misunderstand; I like clean air. When I first
came out here, the smog was so bad
you could taste it. I made a trip to
China last year, and it reminded me
of 1970s smoke-choked California.
That really made me understand that
the pollution laws have done some
good. But, I think that early success
only empowered the regulators to
run amok, and now CARB is one of
the most powerful bureaucracies
in the nation. In 1997, CARB was
empowered to regulate off-road
vehicles in California, and now most
ATVs and UTVs sold in America
are subject to CARB laws, even if
you live far away from California.
The EPA regulates vehicles nationwide out of Washington D.C., but
as it turns out, CARB has more
funding and more resources. Thus,
Washington defers to California’s
opinion on most subjects surrounding
California’s own emission laws
are still tighter than those of the rest
of the country. Some manufacturers
make different models for California,
and some just sell the California version to everyone. But, the real difference is the enforcement power that
CARB has within its own state. It has
the authority to shut down any business it wants through massive fines.
If you’re in the business of making
any part that could affect emissions,
even for an ATV that is for racing,
you’ve probably heard from the
authorities. Many of the fines have
been absurdly high initially, then
negotiated down. FMF just settled for
a $79,500 fine. Last year Tucker Rocky
paid $500,000. And in 2007, Dynojet
was hit with a cool million in fines.
So let me apologize for the loss of
the Suzuki LTR450, which was taken
away by a similar action. To be fair,
Suzuki could have continued to sell
it in other parts of the country, but
with the economic downturn, it didn’t
make financial sense. And let me
apologize for the aftermarket products that will never be offered in this
state or any other because of companies that were driven out of business
or just ran scared. I apologize for
any future legislation that California
dreams up, and for the ATVs that
we’ll never see.
And I apologize to myself. I should
have stayed in Oklahoma. ❏
❏ This is an open letter of apology
to the rest of the country. I am a res-
ident of Southern California, which
has nutty politics, nutty weather,
nutty people and a nutty influence on
other places. I never really planned
on being a Californian, but I ended
up here when the music stopped and
it was time to make a life. People in
other parts of the country often hate
me for that. If they don’t, they should.
I apologize for last winter. We
rode through it in vented gear and
took pictures of ourselves doing it.
I’m especially sorry about all those
Instagram photos from February that
showed a lot of jacket-less riding
happening in rich, glowing sunshine. I didn’t even have awareness