Yet another awesome aspect of my job presented itself this past Friday. It had recently come to my attention that for some of our upcoming surveys we will have to be riding on ATV’s in order to make it to certain sites. This meant that in order to ride BLM four wheelers, we needed to complete an all day training course and pass a certification test. Now, that sounds fairly daunting for someone like me who has not spent a whole lot of time on ATV’s. I’ve driven them around a bit and am perfectly comfortable with riding around on one, but ask me how to start one, switch gears, put it in reverse, etc. and I’m a bit out of my element.
I was a little worried that I might be slightly under-qualified for this type of class. As it turned out, it ended up being more fun than I could have hoped for! The San Luis BLM Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) taught the class, and he was incredibly helpful and patient with anything and everything we could have had problems with or questions about. We each got assigned an ATV for the day, a motocross helmet, goggles, gloves, and an encouraging smile as we were asked to complete a short cone course to “qualify” on our given machines. I was one of the lesser experienced people on an ATV, so it was recommended that I drive the 4-wheeler that was lighter, easier to control, and unfortunately had a dead battery so had to be started with a rip-chord. I was a little less than thrilled when I discovered this, because my below average height, upper body strength, and overall coordination made starting this machine nearly impossible without reinforcements. Luckily, the other girls in the class happily came to my aid on those times when I could not manage to get the darn thing started.
Once that arduous task was out of the way I could move onto the more exciting parts of our training! We were encouraged to drive over things, swerve through gravel pits, make sharp turns, and come to screeching halts as if something had just crossed our path unexpectedly. By the end of the day we were completely full of dust and adrenaline. It was not only an extremely fun filled day, but incredibly informative! I could not be more appreciative that the the BLM took such care in ensuring that we were not only being safe in all aspects of our work, but the LEO was insanely helpful and open to addressing all of our questions no matter how ridiculous they might be. Now I can move onto amphibian surveys all alone on the wetlands with complete confidence that I could weave, swerve, or even drift my way to my next destination. And if I met any overwhelming obstacles, I could even complete a k-turn and make my way back the other direction – no harm, no foul.