It was a sad sight. It was an olive-drab quad of unknown vintage. All identifying stickers were missing, the bodywork was scuffed and/or missing. The muffler was missing, the tires were flat, and the bars were bent.
“You should fix this,” I said to John. We were in the equipment yard at Glen Helen, which is sort of an elephant graveyard where tractors go to die. John was working on a Cat D6 laying in a puddle of hydraulic fluid. I was gathering up stakes to start marking the course for the 6 Hours of Glen Helen. “It would be good to have this thing running,” I said after a short silence. No response. “You know, it isn’t really that bad. Put a new battery in it and I think it would fire right up.”
I couldn’t see John’s face, but I knew it was frowning. It usually was. He has the almost impossible job of preparing all of Glen Helen’s various tracks for the incredible variety of races that the facility holds weekly. To do that, he has to keep a ragtag fleet of heavy equipment from decomposing into a few rusty spots on the ground. My volunteer job at Glen Helen is way easier. I dream up track layouts, then point at big piles of dirt I would like for John to move around. “Yup, an extra quad would sure be handy,” I continued.
He crawled out from under the Cat. “You have a really bad memory,” he said. “Why?” “We’ve already had this conversation,” he said. I was only a little surprised, but I didn’t let it break my stride. “Well, it could be a nice quad. I think this thing is a Yamaha Kodiak from the late ‘90s. They were great machines.” “You already said that.” “It could be restored really easily.” “You already said that.” “Well, if you don’t want to do it, maybe I will,” I threatened. “You already said that too. Don’t you remember? About a year ago you took it away for a few weeks.
Now here it is again.” I was stunned. “That was this same quad?” I asked, my memory coming into slow focus. “But I fixed it all up!” “You put a new pipe and new wheels on it, then took them back off,” he said. “And then you said you lost the original pipe.” It all came back. “I think I needed it for a photo or something.” “All I know is that it came back in worse shape than when it left,” he said. “That’s not true. I sanded scratches out of the plastic, painted parts and buffed it out.” As I was saying that, the reality of the quad in front of me called me out. It didn’t look like it had been buffed out since it left the factory. Sometimes, when I need to make an old quad look good in a hurry, I’ll take shortcuts. This process involves lots of Armor All, stolen parts that have to be returned to other quads and so forth.
“Okay, that does it. I’m taking this thing home and working on it. Next time you see it, you won’t believe your eyes. One year later: John looked at a rusty, olive-drab quad in the back of my truck. “Where did this thing come from?” “I’m not sure,” I said. “It’s been in my backyard for about a year. I figured I’d bring it here in case you needed a quad to get around the racetrack.” “It looks pretty bad,” he said, “but I bet I could fix it up.” There was a pause in the conversation. Clearly, we both were trying to access repressed memories. We gave up quickly. “Yeah, I’d love to have it around. Unload it, I’ll start working on it next week,” he said.
One year later: I was digging around for a chainsaw to work on the Glen Helen Six-Hour course. I pulled back a tarp in the back of Glen Helen’s tool shed. There it was, a rusty old Yamaha quad with four flat tires and a brand-new DG exhaust pipe. “Hey, where did this come from?” I shouted to John, who was working on a water truck. He glanced over. “Beats me, I never saw it before.” “You should fix it up,” I said. “It looks like someone started to restore it, then quit. It’s got a nice pipe.” “You know, once I restored an old Yamaha quad just like that one,” said John. “As I recall, it looked brand new when I was done. I wonder what happened to it?” “That’s funny,” I said. “I restored a quad like this once too.” There was a long silence. We both stared at the quad, then looked at each other. “Put the tarp back over it,” he said. “Good idea.”
By Ron Lawson