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I don’t get surprised very often, but a few weeks ago I was very surprised.

It started when I was with a friend of mine over at the Oregon Coast, and we went to the sand dunes to ride quads. Given that I haven’t been in plaster or any sort of crutches for almost 8 years, it seemed like a great idea. I should also mention that I haven’t been on a quad for about 10 years…and have never ridden in the dunes.

My friend has his own Banshee quad that is set up for the sand, with big paddle tires and a special front end. I needed to rent one, so we headed down to the rental area with his quad in the back of his pick up and my Visa card in hand.

When we got to the rental area on the edge of the sand dunes, I headed over the rental office. I use the term “office” very loosely, because it was more like a really big shed or a really small barn. When I got into the office, it was very crowded with a large family of Sikhs. There were three adult men wearing the traditional turbans and a younger boy of about 15 wearing the traditional head gear, which looked to me like something between a do-rag and a turban over a sumo top knot. The rest of the family was girls ranging from about 9 to maybe 14. They were all getting signed up for rentals.

The guys who worked at the counter looked like just about every guy I grew up with in my small southern Oregon town. The three of them all had dirty fingernails and the kind of embedded grime you can only get from working on quads, motorcycles and whatever 4×4 they happened to be driving that week. All three of them had their ball caps turned around backwards and a well-worn chewing tobacco ring on the back of their Levi 501s.

Once the crowd thinned out, I made my way to the front of the line and signed away whatever legal rights I had to sue this place in the likely event I crashed and ended up in the hospital/morgue. They also explained to me that there were strictly no refunds. If I went out for a 2-hour rental and only stayed 5 minutes, I paid for it all up front. Once I finished signing and turned over my credit card, I was directed to get a (sweaty, smelly) helmet and pair of goggles off the rack and join the others for the “safety training”.

This training consisted of a short audio tape explaining the boundaries of where I could take the rented quad and that I was responsible for any damage and the time I went over the rental period. Not much discussion about safety, now that I think about it. Once the tape was over, one of the workers came over and lead us to the off road vehicles.

My group consisted of 2 local guys, the young Sikh boy, and me. The other 8 people from the Sikh family were divided up into two four-person dune buggies. It appeared that the boy was the odd person out, so he got to ride his own quad.

The worker came over to demonstrate how to start and shut off the quads. I am only guessing that he had already given that speech about 24 times that day, and maybe 8000 times in his life. He moved it along pretty quick. He did note that the “foot brakes on most of the quads were broken,” but we shouldn’t worry about it. He then asked if anyone had any questions. The Sikh boy raised his hand and had several questions. It was obvious that he was considerably nervous. I was sitting directly behind him and could hear the discussion between him and the “safety instructor”. He wanted to know, how hard it was to roll the quad over? Is the tail pipe hot enough to burn him? Did he have a way to stop the bike if the brake failed? What was the chance he would fall off?

The safety instructor told him it was going to be fine, and that the hardest part was just getting up the hill to the dunes. Once we got to the top and into the dunes, he was going to be fine. If the gas wasn’t on, the bike would naturally stop (which I found to be true).

The instructor got on the lead quad and commanded everyone to follow him to the dunes. He told us to be sure when we went up the hill to keep moving because if we stopped, we would have a hard time getting started again on the soft sand.

As we motored out of the lot and up the hill, the bikes did feel a bit squirmy to me. You had to shift your weight to get the tires to grip and change direction. My young Sikh friend was really struggling to keep it on the trail. At one point he stopped and got a bit stuck.

Seeing what had happened, the instructor got off his bike and jogged down to where we were. Since I was the last one in line and the trail was narrow, I was also stuck waiting. When the instructor got to us, he asked the boy what was wrong. The boy told him he didn’t want to ride it, that he’d changed his mind and wanted to go back.

That’s when I was surprised. I fully expected the instructor to tell him to head back and be done with it. Instead, he told the boy he didn’t really want to quit. He would regret it when everyone else was having a good time. The boy was pretty serious about not wanting to do it, and he told him again that he changed his mind and that he couldn’t do it. The instructor, who could not have been more than about 19 himself, put his hand on the boy’s shoulder, looked him in the eye, and told him he could do it and promised him he was going to have a good time. He also told him that he had to try it for at least 5 minutes before he could quit. He said, “If you do that, I know you will have a good time.” The boy started to refuse, but the instructor told him he “knew he could do it”. The instructor then stood up kind of sideways on the boy’s quad running board and told him he was going to help him get to the top of the hill. In an impressive display of balance, they motored right up to the top of the hill and onto the sand dunes with the instructor standing on one foot all the way to the top.

Once we got up on the dunes, he told the boy that there was nothing to hit and he only had to ride for 5 minutes. He would wait for him in case he wanted to leave, but he couldn’t leave before that. We all went in different directions. I did see the boy spinning doughnuts down on the flats about 40 minutes later, so apparently the instructor was correct in his assessment of the situation.

I was so impressed by the instructor. He was earnestly trying to encourage this young guy into believing in himself. He took the time to help this kid out who was obviously a bit sheltered and never experienced that type of environment. It would not have affected this guy’s day one bit to tell the kid to go back, but he took the time to help him out.

I have had so many people tell me these same types of things along the way. It is a great thing to help someone out that you don’t even know, just because it’s the right thing to do.

I don’t know if that kid will remember the 90 seconds that guy took to help him out, but I know I will.

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