We got to the starting point where we found our ATVs all lined up and ready to go. We got a brief course in using them -- breaks on the handlebars like a bicycle; gas on a lever beneath the right thumb; gear shift under the left foot, push down to shift down and lift up with foot to shift up. Helmets and goggles on, and then we were off.
I had a rough start. I kept giving it too much gas or too little gas, or shifted too early or too late -- reminded me of my first tries driving a stick shift when I was 17! But then I started to get used to it, and was zipping along the flat sand trail, enjoying the ride. I even got used to rising up in the seat, the best way to balance on hills.
Then everything changed.
We got to the bottom of a steep, rutted and rock strewn hill. We all down shifted to second gear, and started up. I was okay until we got about half way up, when my wheels hit a rut and I couldn't get the ATV to turn away from the edge of the hill. One second I was fine, the next the ATV was heading over the hill, and there was nothing I could do -- by the time my brain realized what was happening, the front wheels were over the edge and going down, so braking was useless. So I jumped.
My jump certainly saved me from serious injury, and may have saved my life -- John was in the ATV behind me, and said it did a complete flip before coming to rest 50 feet down the cliff. I landed in a mesquite bush which is covered with sharp branches and little spiky points. My elbow was scraped badly, and blood was dripping down my legs from numerous scratches, but none of the wounds were serious. Had I stayed with the ATV, it could very well have landed on me as it flipped, or thrown me further down the hill.
I finished the trip riding with one of our guides in a two-person ATV, and left the retrieval of my ATV to them. We had some beautiful views of the sandy hills, white beaches, and blue water of the Pacific, and I actually enjoyed that part of the ride. Here's a photo of John and I on an ATV that our guide placed on the edge of a cliff for us all to have a "photo op."
Please don't ask me to get on another ATV -- my career as an Evil Knieval Daredevil ATVer is over. Maybe I should move on to paragliding or bungee jumping?