When most laymen think of four-wheeling, their thoughts unfortunately are rarely positive. You know the criticism: We tear up the landscape. Scare away the wildlife. Pollute the environment. And burn through gas like there’s no tomorrow.
How often have you heard those? How have you responded?
You know you’re a responsible driver and a good steward of the land. You’re also quite proud of your hobby and your fellow drivers. So any criticism tends to cut to the bone. You’re inclined to lash out. Don’t. The best way to respond to those claims is with the facts. A calm, thoughtful reply will quiet just about anybody. Keep in mind that many people you encounter are neutral on the subject. Use those opportunities to talk up the hobby, also.
Inform the person that four-wheeling is possible without harming the environment. Responsible drivers adhere to the Tread Lightly principles. You know what they are, so state them:
- T Travel responsibly on designated roads or trails
- R Respect the rights of others
- E Educate yourself: plan and prepare before you go
- A Avoid sensitive areas
- D Do your part
“You see,” you can tell the person, “we use our vehicles to help us explore places we could not otherwise. These can be exciting trails; exquisite views of nature, many in the mountains or other challenging places; ghost towns and abandoned mines; and wildlife like you’ve never seen.
“All the while we are respectful of nature. Many times we are camping, hiking, fishing or hunting. We are exploring and experiencing the outdoors, but we do so in a responsible manner. Plus, we often have to buy a pass or license to drive on those lands. Those funds help maintain the property and wildlife.”
Go on to explain how four-wheeling is a family affair. It’s a great time and healthy event that everyone can enjoy. These trips offer a chance to bond with spouse and kids, and teach them to appreciate and respect nature.
You can add that we use those trips to challenge ourselves and our vehicles. We are always careful and prepare properly before going off-road. By encountering and overcoming those challenges, we develop and hone our driving and survival skills, and build self-esteem in the process. These trips involve problem solving, team building, and other valuable skills. Camaraderie is strong during the excursions, and we develop friendships that last a lifetime.
Finally, we don’t burn as much gas as people think. Sure, our off-road mileage isn’t great, but we’re not driving every day. This is just a weekend hobby. And it’s usually only one weekend a month.
Occasionally during an expedition I will poll the group on what attracts them to this type of trip. Repeatedly I get responses like “spend time with friends and family,” “the solitude,” “beauty and nature,” and “exploring history.” There’s a lot more to going off road, but until you do, you really can’t appreciate it. Or understand why we do. That’s where you, my fellow enthusiasts, come in. Our hobby needs you to be spokesmen for the cause.
Introduce others to four-wheeling. Take them out for a leisurely drive one afternoon. Show them that an off road driving experience is like none other. Let them learn for themselves the value of our hobby.
Incidentally, you notice that I refer to four-wheeling as a hobby. I do that on purpose. If you call it a sport, people immediately figure there’s some competitive nature about it. That creates the image of cars recklessly tearing through the desert or some other sensitive area.
As you can see, there are a lot of positives to our hobby. Make a point to talk up four-wheeling whenever you can. You just may gain a new enthusiast.