BRINGING FUN AND EDUCATION FROM THE “ROCKS” — KSROCKS!
Special to ModernJeeper by David Killion
At Kansas Rocks Recreation Park, we have developed a beginner Off Road 101 course to help new people in the sport learn the right way to enjoy off roading and the beautiful outdoors. It has grown into a 3 time a year offering which started with a limit of 20 in the class and has grown to, the last fall class of almost 50. Our board of directors serve as both, class room, and on the trail instructors.
We open the class by telling a short story of how we became a park. Then we get into the meat of the class. Touching on topics such as what is off roading and explaining the different facets of the sport. We discuss the different types of vehicles and how they actually work.
Then we ask the all-important question, do you actually know how to operate your 4WD system. That gives us a good idea of where and how elemental we need to start.
We move on to how to prep for a trail ride. This covers what to bring on the trail such as food, water and first aid kits. It also covers a comprehensive check list of what to look at on your rig. No one wants to run out of gas or other fluids, especially when the spouse or kids are with you…that makes for a terrible trip.
After the basics, we get into equipment and tools that would make the trip better. Of course, safety is always a huge topic of discussion. Simple things like tying down your cargo, fastening your seat belt, always go with another vehicle, and the always important (no exceptions) NO ALCOHOL.
By this time, we have lulled them into a nap like trance. So, we get up and go over to the rigs and show them how to get aired down and ready. Then we settle back down to finish up the classroom agenda with a promise to hit the trails after lunch. We hit it hard going through what to do on the trails, how to pick a line, what a spotter’s responsibility is to the driver, as well as, the people watching. We dig deeper into how to negotiate obstacles and trail etiquette.
We spent a considerable amount of time discussing the proposition that we are all land stewards and need to take care of the environment so that future generations can enjoy the outdoors, as well. Then we wrap-up our classroom session with political discussions and the importance of such organizations as BlueRibbon Coalition, Tread Lightly and United Four-Wheel Drive Association. We also talk about how we can have a positive impact through local clubs.
Whew…it’s time for lunch then off to the trails. We break into smaller groups of 5-7 so we can have time with each person and their vehicle. We take off into some longer, easier trails to get their feet wet. Then as we come up onto obstacles, we all get out and gather around and discuss it. What it looks like, how it sits, how to pick your line and finally get each rig over it.
As their confidence builds, we get a little bolder and try harder trails and obstacles. With each one giving us the opportunity to teach different skills. We even find the opportunity to show some recovery skills with straps and winches.
By the late afternoon we ask the drivers what they want to do. They sometimes are ready to go back to the office, but most of the time, they want more. We are very careful to not get them into trouble and over their heads. We have spent the entire afternoon watching these drivers and see how they are reacting to our instruction and developing their skills. It’s not unusual for us to take a few of the better drivers on some black rated (much harder) trails.
The others in the group see how we spot them and how they can negotiate an obstacle and they go away with a totally new respect and confidence in themselves and their vehicles. We call that another successful 101 class.
We spend the fall and winter putting on several big events, such as our Creepy Crawl, Kansas Krawl, Wheelin’4 Toys and Frostbite. Then we start all over with the spring, summer and fall 101 classes. Never a dull minute.
For more information about Kansas Rocks Recreation Park go to www.ksrockspark.com