Saturday, October 18, 2008

Whoops! What's a Whoops Trail?

“It’s a go!” Ed called to me through the RV’s bedroom pocket door. “We need to be there by 11 AM.”

I’d been waiting for this day, watching the weather, and managing my calendar so when all the conditions aligned, I’d be ready for this adventure. Today, we had a clear blue sky, no wind, no forecast for rain – perfect conditions for a scenic ride on the Oregon Dunes.

Avery Duman, President of Torex ATV Rentals, reserved a red Yamaha Rhino for Ed and me. We tucked extra jackets and a day pack full of water and snacks in the back of the 4-seater then gave Avery our full attention. He thoroughly explained the mechanics of the ATV - high gear, low gear, gas pedal and the ever-so-important brakes. Ed was eager to take the wheel; but first, there was a waiver to sign in event we got hurt. Yes, we will promise to wear seatbelts. At the time that I nodded my head to this safety instruction, I had no idea my promise was so important.

Next, Avery showed us a place mat sized laminated photo of the dunes. “I allow my ATV to run this area of the dunes.” He pointed to two separate clusters of green trees which looked out of place among the landscape of the dunes. He called them North and South Islands. “Back here is the Forest Service sound buffer and private land. Do not venture there. I will lead you to the dunes and we will review this again out there.” He traced a road on the map. “This is Chapman’s Sand Road. It goes to the ocean. It’s a whoops trail.”

“A whoops trail?” I puzzled trying to figure out what Avery meant.

“It’s kind of bumpy,” said Avery. “You’ll see.”

Later, I did but for now I just wanted to hit the dunes. Avery showed us how the little doors on the Rhino open and latch, then he added, “You can just hop over top of them. Most people do.” I hopped over top and buckled my seatbelt. We were off following Avery down the paved driveway to the access road to the dunes. He zipped and we jerked along as Ed tried to find the right gear. I am glad I had that seatbelt. Avery stopped and waited for us to catch up to him. Along our route, he pointed to the string of low hanging plastic red, white and blue flags. “Turn there to return the ATV when you finish riding,” he said above the sound of the engines. We nodded.

Then, he took off riding his quad standing up, tipping it on a few curves onto two wheels. “Did you see that?” I punched Ed’s arm. I could tell by the gleeful look on Ed’s face that he’d try two-wheeling given the opportunity. He made the manly response, “I could take him.”

Avery led us along a sandy road through a shaded forest up a hill. The trees gave way to an open sky full of sunshine and expansive view of the dunes. This was a landscape like no other. We stopped for a long while high on a dune to take it all in – the mounds of sand, the big sky, the islands of trees, the view of the ocean.

“Let’s head to the ocean,” Ed suggested. Avery was fine with this but first he wanted to give us some landmarks. He showed us the real stuff, things we had already seen on his map of the dunes. “Do you see that windsock high in the pine trees?” he asked. “If you get disoriented, just look for it. The windsock hangs over the road back to the rental site.”

Avery said lots of people with rentals do get lost but we weren’t to worry. Just keep his cell phone number handy. He knew the dunes and had been riding them since he was a little kid. All he needed was a description of what we could see and he’d know how to find us or direct us back to his place. “Sometimes people really get off track and I get a call from the police telling me they have one of my rentals at the South Jetty, come get them,” he added. Ed and I did not want to be one of those folks so I really paid attention to the scenery.

Avery took off again in the lead, this time with more caution. We were riding on narrow crests of the dunes. One miscalculation or a slip of the tires could send the ATV sliding down a steep drop. Ed followed Avery’s tracks without mishap. As we neared the ocean, the dunes flattened and opened to a level plain of damp hardened sand crisscrossed with hundreds of quad, dirt bike and ATV tracks.

“Here’s Chapman Road,” Avery called and signaled for us to follow. We took the road slow with Avery close beside our ATV. He talked about the wildlife – deer, bears, coyotes, cougars, skunks, and possums. After passing an intersection for another sandy road – Hunter Sand Road, we picked-up the speed.

The road ahead looked like a trail full of troughs. A better description might be speed bumps three times the size in a normal parking lot. Our ATV bounced as we went over the first few rollers. It bounced some more lifting me out of my seat again and again. My seat belt held me in the ATV but not in my seat. I was up high then down over and over. We rocked from side to side all the while bouncing some more. My head felt like an out of control bobble head wobbling. I wasn’t scared; this was fun! Laughing aloud fun! Ed just said one word, “Whoops!” Yep, we were on the Whoops Trail!

Roller coaster aficionados will understand when I say this Whoops Trail felt like a ride on the Jack Rabbit at Pittsburgh’s Kennywood Park. You just feel like you will fly out of your seat, but you don’t because you are strapped in tight. What makes this Whoops ATV ride better is that it lasts longer and you can do it over and over again without standing in a long park line.

Avery left us on our own when we reached the beach, checking again to be sure we had has phone number. We did. For hours, we cruised along the beach. When we had enough of the smooth, bump-free coast, we turned inland. We found some more Whoops Trails and rode them laughing aloud.

October 15, 2008

The ATV was provided by Avery Duman, President of Torex, Inc. at

Sand Dunes Frontier located at 83960 Highway 101 South, Florence, OR


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