Every year thousands of riders from across the United States and Canada come to the Desert 100 in Odessa, WA. The race and poker runs hosted by the Stumpjumpers Motorcycle Club are often the first rides of the year for many of us who live in colder areas. As a result, it’s no wonder that so many people get excited about coming to this event. This year the Stumpjumpers included a fantastic article about raising kids in a dirt bike family in the souvenir program. This great article by Allyson Tonsgard caused my wife Stephanie and me to reflect on our own experiences raising our children in the OHV world.
Allyson’s article described her life in the racing world with a newborn – which must be quite a challenge. Thankfully Allyson has friends and family that support her. While Stephanie and I ride more recreationally than competitively, we still treasure every minute we are on our bikes. Like Allyson, we had to determine if we could continue to camp and go on rides once we had children. Despite the challenges, we successfully took each of our two youngest children camping for big Memorial Day Campouts within months of their births (Faith was born in March and Hudson was born in April). Luckily, we had a nice warm RV and the weather proved to be nice for both occasions. Other than being in a little different environment it was pretty much routine life with a baby; feed, change, stay up all night, repeat. I can say that the group we camped with believed in the “it takes a village” mantra which helped, especially when we wanted to sneak away for a couple quick rides.
There are challenges but being raised in an OHV family also has its benefits. Riding requires commitment, responsibility, and leadership. If you can’t ride because you didn’t take care of your machine, you will have a pretty boring campout. We teach our kids the importance of volunteering and service through our trail work days, and collaboration by attending travel management and working group meetings. Of course, as the internet memes say – buying your kid an OHV ensures that they will never have any money for shenanigans.
A constant source of discussion at the NOHVCC Conference is how to get younger members involved in OHV clubs. I think one part of the solution is to make sure that we foster an environment where young families can stay involved. Many families take a break from the club and OHV life when they have young children, and this time off is often hard to come back from. If your club creates a family environment where people know that they can rely on you in times of need, they are more apt to stick around.
Additionally, you need to make sure that your club is engaging children. We have been on campouts with pinatas, arts and craft projects, special nature hikes, movie nights, and of course good old fashion smore cook-outs. Parents we camp with seek out inexpensive experiences to make time with the OHV club memorable. Just this weekend at the Desert 100 the Northwest Motorcycle Association set up the “Balance Bike 100,” because while parents and older kids got to ride the small children were left out. A quick creative course was marked off with ribbon and stakes, a few balance bikes were graciously donated by local OHV dealerships, helmets were purchased, and a new exciting event was created. I can tell you personally that there was some pretty fierce bar-banging competition going on between these 2-5 year-old racers.
A great weekend event, and a well written article got me thinking of how lucky Stephanie and I, as well as our children, have been to be involved with a group that helped us keep riding while raising our children. I hope all new OHV parents are able to find a similar environment and keep a healthy level of throttle therapy in their lives.