Story and Photos| Mark Hamerton
I love to ride new places, and riding in the southern US was certainly new to me. I am familiar with the area as my father has lived in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee for almost 20 years. Each visit as I gazed across the mountain ranges and the vast uninhabited forests my thoughts were of one thing, what an amazing experience it would be to explore them on an ATV or Side by Side.
Brimstone Recreation ATV Park, one of the more prominent riding areas in the state, was hosting their 5th annual SXS & ATV Roundup at the end of August and after reading the lineup of events I just had to check it out. The staff was very accommodating and made arrangements for me to attend the Saturday portion of the event.
The off road trail park, located in Huntsville TN about an hour north of Knoxville, pretty much dwarfs the tiny community situated deep in the rolling mountains. As I arrived the magnitude of the event was immediately clear as the centre of town had been converted in to ground zero for the event registration After checking in I bought a t-shirt and a map and was given directions to the event. All these huge tents in town and the actual event was yet another few miles down the road and further into the mountains.
The event area was immense, with a stadium sized stage at one end, and a competition area at the other. Along one side was a long roadway lined with vendors and, with Yamaha being a title sponsor of the event, the other side had the local dealer next to the big Yamaha test drive trailer and display housing several new models.
As I was quite early for the events I headed straight for the Yamaha tent, wondering what was new. To my delight Yamaha had their new power steering model of the recently released Viking side by side and I just had to try it. They had designed their own test track in the nearby mountains and after donning some riding gear I was off and running. I was immediately impressed with the unit, but what really blew me away was the test track. I love technical riding and a challenge, but I am used to Canadian demo rides where you take a nice leisurely ride and you sneak in a few throttle pulses when no one is looking. Not ten feet after we left the roadway we were clawing our way up a nasty hill that in my opinion most riders I know would have avoided. The machine itself was amazing as we spun our wheels in four wheel drive climbing one steep hill after another. Sharp corners and even steeper descents still awaited me as we flew through the course. Apparently the Americans like their trails a lot sketchier than we Canadians do on the whole, or is it just the difference in how our countries deal with liability issues? The Yamaha crew was so accommodating, taking the “Canadian Guy” under their wing to make sure I had refreshments, shade and a spot to hang out (Thanks by the way!).
Upon my return to the event area the drag races had begun, and the level of professionalism really shone. A covered stage housed the announcers while a team of volunteers and staff managed the starting line, flags, and most importantly, the race sensors giving split second accuracy. Racers were all clad in protective gear to the extent that one fellow was wearing a jacket in spite of the 35 degree heat to satisfy the long sleeve requirement. The 450 cc sport bikes’ times were considerably better than the rest of the classes, including the 700 Raptor, and 1000 cc Outlander (but it was close). Huge crowds lined the area, most sitting comfortably in their side by sides cheering their favorite rider on.
The day was packed with events from pole bending and obstacle courses to mud bogs and ladies dash for cash (in the mud). But while all this was going on several hundred other attendees were hitting the almost 500 kilometers of trails that span the 20,000 acre park. Most were in side by sides, but many were on ATVs of all types-sport and utility. We even ran into a few 4WD trucks out having a good time.
If anyone reading this was at the event they may have seen me; I was the one wearing the helmet. It’s a Canadian thing I guess. With the side by side’s transition from farm vehicle to recreational use and no laws requiring helmet use, there were very few riders that even owned a helmet, much less had one on. The day was finished off with some knee slapping southern country entertainment kicking off with Jay Faires and Chris Janson, and headlined by Gretchen Wilson who had the crowd just hopping and singing along to hits like “Redneck Woman” and “Here For The Day”.
Everything was well run and clean; even the food vendors offered a wide variety of eats at reasonable prices and you could wash it all down with real brewed southern sweet tea, one of my favorite drinks while in the south.
I missed the big event the following day as crowds lined the course for the off road endurance race known as “The King of the Hill” and the “Moonshine Run” (I will have to check that one out next time!). The folks at Brimstone really know how to put together a large scale event and the riding opportunities at in the Park make it an excellent destination for riding just about any time.
This article was originally published in the October 2013 issue of Go Riding Magazine. Be sure to get all the latest ATV & Off Road news in your hands by subscribing today. If you missed an issue on the stands, or would like a copy of the issue this article was featured in, back issues are also available. Go Riding Magazine gift subscriptions are also available.