I come from a family of musicians; besides me my family doesn’t gravitate to cars. However even I can be surprised at times. Imagine the day that I received a call from my mom for example. She tells me that she would like to drive an excavator and she found a place in Steamboat, Colorado to do it. Do I want to come along?
Well of course!
This began my family’s quest to try out different experiences that they haven’t had. My parents trekked from Pennsylvania to Denver to meet me, then we headed to Steamboat to try our hand at driving heavy equipment. Dig This (digthisvegas.com) is the company that allowed for this experience and it was a great adventure with the family. My mom was able to say that she knows how to drive an excavator. My dad was able to plow down the dirt in a bulldozer and I also tried my hands at an excavator. Our oddball family vacation was complete and we’d be on to normal visits in the future… or so I thought.
I went back home for Christmas and opened a gift to find a driving experience enclosed. “Drive a Ferrari 430F1 at Exotics Racing.” (exoticsracing.com) Now, I have driven a good number of cars, but I haven’t really had any opportunity to take a true exotic out on a track. I mean, how many people really do actually get to have that experience right? We watch Jeremy Clarkson have all the fun in every car ever made, but can only dream of what it is actually like. I headed to Las Vegas and my parents decided to make the journey as well. My mom had actually signed up for the same experience. Aston Martin for her, Ferrari for me. We went out on a discovery lap with one of the instructional drivers and then we were off. My mom headed out for her laps and then me for mine. Mom was a bit rattled by the experience and was sure that she had disgraced the family crest for going too slow. I had a great time driving the Ferrari. With a lap under my belt I could feel how different this car was from anything else I had driven. It was particularly exciting considering the track experience. Driving on a track with people with various levels of experience all guided by an instructor, but who knows what they are actually going to do? Wow, very exciting!
Ok I thought, that was fun, but I mean, really? My family isn’t going to do this stuff again right? WRONG. When I received a link to drive a tank (driveatank.com) I realized that this experience stuff was getting serious. We are going to drive anything that moves. As I like to put it, we are building our 007 skills. I mean, yeah, you never know when you might need to drive a tank… right?
I flew in to Minnesota and hopped into the driver’s seat of our Ford Fusion rental car. I am going to drive a tank today?! Who says that!?
We arrived at the facility in the middle of nowhere. The staff was friendly and they had two parts planned for our day. The first was to drive a tank. The second was to shoot a machine gun. We headed out on a 6X to get to the tank driving range after a history lesson on tanks. (These guys know their stuff) When we headed out my dad’s name was called first. My mom and I loaded up into the tank and my dad drove us through a series of trails with a water crossing. We came back to the start and my mom hopped in. She tends to explain that she won’t be good at this, then drives this tank like she has been doing it for years.
Finally it was my turn. I sat in the driver’s seat of the FV433 Abbot S.P.G with a gas pedal under my right foot, an automatic shifter to my left and two handles in front of me. My first guess was that this would drive like the excavator with each stick representing power to that track. It was actually the opposite. The gas pedal provides power, the sticks were brakes. If you want to turn left you pull on the left brake and the tank pivots to the left. If you want to turn right you pull the right handle. If you want to stop, let off the gas and pull both handles. We cruised through the course with trees passing close to the sides of the tank. Down into sand washes and back up through rough terrain. It is strange how your eyes immediately see things as possible when you are in a tank. We came up to the water crossing and stopped, waiting for a Humvee to figure out where to watch from. I got a tap on my head from the instructor. “Give it hell!” he said and I mashed the throttle and dove into the water crossing. Before I knew it we were back at the start line and we were giving our toys over to another driver. It was too soon to be done, but unfortunately that is how it goes with these things.
When the group was finished we loaded back up in the 6X to head back to the facility. Off we went into a shooting range where we were provided instruction and 25 rounds to do what we wanted with. The gun was a STEN. This is a British machine gun known for its very inexpensive production cost of between $3 and $5 depending on who you ask. As you may guess, my family isn’t a gun family. My dad collects Civil war-era guns which means that we have shot black powder pistols but nothing more modern than that. The STEN, though an old gun was still much different than what I have shot. I prepared myself ready to shoot a few individual shots then moved on to full auto. I pulled up and shot high on the target for the majority of my grouping, but the experience was fun. My dad was a bit more successful and my mom did very well also.
When we exited the range I decided to buck up. You just don’t have the opportunity to shoot a Barrett 50cal every day, right? I bought 3 rounds and we headed back to shoot that. I went first. I braced for the impact as I squeezed the trigger. Slowly, Slowly, it’s getting close…I know it… BANG. HOLY SH*T. That is true power. 750 grains in a 50caliber bullet. I stood back and gestured for my mom to go. “I don’t need to shoot that” she says and I coaxed her some more, but ended up going in for a second shot. Finally my dad went. I stood nearby with ears and eyes on. When the blast came it was even more intense than shooting it. Wow, this is why my mom didn’t want to do it! It was so intense feeling the entire world move when that weapon was shot.
As we drove off through the single stop sign town in Minnesota my mom said “So? What’s next?” Wow, I don’t know! What IS next?