by Michelle Griep
Eating grub worms or drinking pig’s blood paled in comparison to what my husband asked me to do. Like a couple of college kids (though well past the academia/partying years), we escaped a slushy Minnesota March in favor of California for a spring break. I’m thinking sandy white beaches, flaming sunsets, and mongo margaritas. He’s thinking dirt biking. Not just tooling around innocuous trails mind you – we’re talking dirt biking in the foothills of the LagunaMountains.
How tough could it be? I should not have consulted my wild imagination. Unfortunately, the day dawned bright and clear for our visit to the 300-acre ranch which is the headquarters of MotoVentures. Secretly, I hoped for a day filled with weather threatening enough to cancel the scheduled six-hours of fright. Gary LaPlante, owner and operator, greeted us with a firm handshake and an easy smile. With his years of experience as a former Arizona State Trials Champion and his involvement in the development of the Kawasaki KX and KDX models, you’d think I would relax and trust in his ability to teach dirt biking skills.
My apprehension eased somewhat when I met instructor Cheryl Westfall. Spunky and petite, she had me outfitted and on a KJLX 125 before I had time to freak out. Our group split in half. Beginners followed Cheryl, walking the bikes down the steep incline to a more level playing field. My husband went with the more experienced riders on rougher terrain under the tutelage of Walt Fulton Jr., a salty motorcycle-racing veteran.
Coming from a background of street riding, the bike itself had much of the same standard equipment I was accustomed to, but kick-starting a cold engine introduced me to a whole new level of aerobic activity. In fact, it surprised me to find dirt biking is not for the weak of heart – unless paramedics are standing nearby.
However, once we mastered the basics of tight turns and stopping, we ventured out on a trail. Ruts, rocks, and mud caused me to do a lot of praying – “Oh, my God!” After several times around the loop, I actually felt confident, cocky even. That is, until I lost sight of Cheryl. Rolling on the throttle, I soon found where she went – over a near vertical drop often feet. Too late to reconsider, I took the plunge just like a real dirt biker. For my effort, I received hearty praise and encouragement. I believe that is the hinge-pin of what makes Moto Ventures and their instructors such a success. As a student, you are pushed to your limits and beyond before you realize it, all with continual positive empowerment. Doubts and fears of my own abilities vanished under the qualified instruction I received.
MotoVentures has training options for every skill level, from beginner to expert. Classes include Basic Skill Development, Skill Builders, Control Builder (for street bikes). Trials program and I the Ultimate: two full days of riding. Prices range from $125-$500 depending on the class, gear, and bike you require. I recommend anyone heading out west, or those wanting to impress their spouse, take the time to spend a day with MotoVentures. Most classes are held about an hour northeast of San Diego, California on the ranch in Aguanga. There are also tour opportunities with MotoVentures in Arizona.
The best way to find out details is to visit www.motoventures.com or call Gary direct at 909-767-0991.
It’s a fact that dirt bike riding is the best and quickest way to improve riding skills even for the street rider. Don’t let fear of a foreign terrain prevent you from pursuing this valuable experience. As Mark Twain said, “Courage is not the lack of fear. It is acting in spite of it.”