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KID CHRONICLES

July 8, 2009
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      I was hoping that Suzuki forgot. But no, I just got the call that they want the return of the Quadsport Z50 loaner that I’ve had stashed in my garage for months. That means I have to deal with the wrath of a five-year-old ATV fanatic. I would rather take a T-bone steak away from a starved pit bull. In fact, I’d love to buy the 50 but I can’t. Suzuki still won’t sell them; not to me, not to anyone. The congressional act that banned the sale of “toys”  with any lead content is still in effect despite the fact that the Consumer Product Safety Commission has declared that it won’t enforce the act. Suzuki doesn’t want to risk the possibility that some other government agency will pick up the ball and assess crazy fines to any manufacturer that goes on with business as usual.
      Now what? I can go looking for one on the used market, but Suzuki won’t even sell parts. And      I’ve come to the conclusion that the Z50 is the absolute perfect machine for a little kid. What makes it so good is that you can limit the top speed to around seven mph. That’s the most important single feature. Most other minibikes and quads just rely on a throttle limiter to regulate speed, which doesn’t work. By limiting the carb to half throttle, you only inhibit acceleration, not speed. So the machine goes faster and faster until it hits something. Little kids aren’t so keen on throttle control, brakes or even going around things.
      I’m kind of amazed that any of us survived the learning process. My son Jesse is five year old and he seems absolutely determined not to make it to six. He doesn’t understand the whole stopping process. Brakes? Doesn’t need them. He’s just points the quad at something solid like a house, a tree or the door of my truck and hits it, full speed. Then he gets off the quad, announces that he’s done riding and starts doing a weird helmet dance. Since he can’t figure out how to unhook the D-rings on the helmet strap, he just tries pulling on the helmet while he jumps and spins. He’s blinded by the chin piece while this goes on, so he often he trips, falls over or smashes into things. ATV rides often end with blood, but it has nothing to the ATV. It’s a good thing he’s wearing a helmet.
      There have been ATV adventures that have gone horribly wrong. The worst was a day when Pete Murray and I took our kids riding with the idea that they would take turns on the little Suzuki 50. I have a remote kill switch (made by a company called 3Built) hooked up to the quad that allows me to kill the engine from 250 away. The problem is that 250 feet is a long way and the 50 can’t necessarily be seen at that distance. Pete’s kid Parker could disappear in an instant, and Jesse would drive me crazy with “Is it my turn yet?” I had the bright idea of following Parker in a Honda Big Red with Jesse in the passenger seat. The first problem is that Jesse is, without need of any DNA test, definitely my son. He thought it was a race. “Pass him Dad! Faster! Faster!” The second problem is that I’m an idiot. I couldn’t  go faster than Parker and still keep track of him, so I decided that I could put Big Red into a little seven-mph drift and give Jesse a little thrill. I cranked the wheel hard and then looked at Jesse to see his reaction. He wasn’t there. His seat belt was on but evidently not clicked properly, so when Big Red turned, he went flying. Luckily the speed was so slow that I could stop immediately. It seemed like an hour, but probably only one or two seconds passed before I saw one hand, then another appear on the top edge of the passenger door. Then Jesse dragged himself up. “Daddy, not that fast.”
      Luckily, no one from Child Protective Services was there, so I wasn’t thrown in jail. Jesse couldn’t wait to turn me in at home, though. “Mom, I only crashed once when Dad threw me out of the window!”
      So the learning process must go on, for Jesse and for me. Luckily, he’s making much faster progress than I am.–Ron

 

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