The conversation went something like this:

“We need a side-by-side.”


“For doing work. We will find uses for it.”

And we have, mostly for plowing our driveway, but on July 25 we took the Honda Pioneer 700 out for some fun on the ATV trails in the Nemadji State Forest in Pine County. My husband and I were joined by my dad and brother, who were in a bright yellow Can-Am Maverick, which is definitely made for sport and not so much for mowing trails at the deer camp.

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We started heading northeast, following the Matthew Lourey State Trail, winding and weaving through maples and poplars one minute and then tall pines the next. The red clay trail kept the dust at bay but kept us on our toes for muddy patches that could suck us in.

The 100-plus miles of trails were very popular on this hot and muggy day where the forecast called for isolated thunderstorms, of which we didn’t see a drop in the 4 hours we were there. There were friends jamming along with loud music in side-by-sides, speedsters on dirt bikes, men with silver hair and bandanas cruising around on four-wheelers, and families stopping for a lunch break of hotdogs on the grill at a picnic shelter.

As for my family, we were just out for one last great time together before my brother moves his life out West. We laughed, we shared memories, we explored a new place together, we ate gross pre-packaged sandwiches and we sweated our butts off. Did you know it’s like sitting in a sauna every time you go over a puddle in a side-by-side? The steam from the engine creates an inescapable blast of heat.

Another thing I found out is that we all have our different styles of driving. My dad thinks he is a drift car racer. My brother takes his time in the cool shade and blasts through the sunny spots. My husband is the easy rider looking for wildlife, of which we saw a grouse and woodcock cross in front of us. And I’m the hit every puddle, I came to get caked in mud type of driver. And I accomplished that.

Motorsports have never really interested me, but maybe that is because I crashed a snowmobile into a tree when I was younger. Who knows? But I caved on the side-by-side purchase because I saw the value in how it could help us with our yard work and with maintaining the land at the hunting shack. Turns out it also has a fun element to it. And since the trails are just a 40-ish minute drive from Cloquet, you can bet we will be back for more riding in the fall.