November 2017 – During our stay at Sand Hollow State Park in Utah, we woke up one morning to the sound of rolling thunder. We peeked out the windows just in time to see a super souped up truck go flying by. In a split second all we could see was the cloud of dust he left behind.
A few minutes later, the truck circled back, idled for a while behind some bushes and then roared to life once again and zoomed through the sand, leaving another wake of cloudy dust behind.
What the heck?
We grabbed our cameras and ran outside to see what was going on.
Suddenly a really exotic looking Baja style dune buggy appeared right in front of us, its engine idling loudly like a growling beast ready to pounce.
As we stood there taking pics of this crazy scene, another RVer showed up, and then a drone pulled into view just above us and settled in the air hovering and waiting. All eyes were on this wild dune buggy as the driver revved up the engine.
And then, with a huge spray of sand flying off the spinning tires, the dune buggy was off. Holy smokes! The noise was so intense I instinctively wanted to cover my ears, but I wanted to get pics too and didn’t have enough hands to do both!!
The truck and Baja buggy circled around again, rumbling loudly as they passed us, and they took their positions once again. What was going on?
As the dune buggy sat there growling and roaring, Mark walked over and leaned his head in towards the driver and asked him if this was a photo shoot. Yup!! Who for? Bilstein shocks!
How cool is that?
I have no idea where the video and still shots from this photo shoot might appear, but keep an eye out for a Bilstein Shocks ad with this truck and Baja buggy at Sand Hollow!!
We had come to Sand Hollow State Park to participate in a side-by-side Jamboree that was open to the public. Even though we’d never ridden in a side-by-side (or any kind of ATV) before, we’ve seen them all over the place in our travels and we were darn curious about them.
Soon, the rally participants began to show up at Sand Hollow, filling the campgrounds and zooming all over the sand trails surrounding the reservoir.
We had seen tons of side-by-sides in Buffalo, Wyoming, and Custer, South Dakota, over the summer, and we had been looking into renting a side-by-side somewhere to see what they’re like. In the course of looking for a place to rent one, Mark came across the Sand Hollow SxS Adventure Rally.
This is a marketing event for the industry and the local power sports dealerships, and several of the major vendors of side-by-sides would be showing off their products and leading rally participants on the trails surrounding and criss-crossing the park.
The previously quiet Sand Hollow State Park suddenly swelled with campers, and the whine of side-by-sides filled the air.
Buggies of every possible description were parked all over the place, and toy haulers, big utility trailers and flat bed trailers were strewn everywhere.
Local power sports dealer Moto Zoo from nearby St. George, Utah, joined the manufacturers in the rally and invited the public to do test rides.
We were the first ones at the Moto Zoo booth to sign up for morning test drives on their Polaris models. This was gonna be fun!
There were three Polaris models available for test drives: the RZR 570, the General, and the RZR 1000.
We hopped into the RZR 570 and were given a quick run-down from our guide on how the thing worked, which buttons did what, and how to drive it.
And then we were off!
We were suited up with helmets, so it was a little awkward to see each other or talk a whole lot, but I could tell Mark was grinning from ear to ear and having a ball behind the wheel.
As we climbed up into the sand dunes to a perch high on the top, all I could think was, “Wow, you sure get to see a lot of back country stuff when you ride in one of these things!”
There was no way our mountain bikes could have handled that deep sand, and the trails were off-limits to trucks.
And what a view we had on the way down!
Our next test drive was on the new Polaris General that debuted in 2016. This side-by-side is a cross between the racy joy riding RZR series and the more utilitarian ranch and farm oriented Ranger series of Polaris side-by-sides. It’s got great shocks like the RZR but also has a nice big storage area in the back for hauling stuff like the Ranger.
When we’d been camping near Kanab, Utah, a few days earlier, we’d seen lots of people using their side-by-sides to go hunting. One big group in particular had bought both a big four seater Polaris RZR 1000 and a four seater Polaris General.
We were intrigued that they chose to use the General every single day while the RZR stayed parked when they went out hunting. We asked them why, and they said, “Because it rides like a Cadillac!”
Sure enough, our first ride on the small Polaris RZR 570 was a jaw rattler compared to our second ride on the Polaris General. The stutter bumps in the washboard areas on the trail were much less noticeable in the General than they had been in the RZR 570.
And being a much fancier model, the dashboard on the General had all kinds of goodies too, including a complete navigation system. For folks who ride in groups, their cell phones can be tied into the navigation system so each side-by-side can keep track of where all the others are. Pretty slick!
We followed the same loop as before and climbed up the soft orange sand dunes to a beautiful grove of red rock formations at the top of the hill and then drove back down towards the lake.
I was completely hooked, and Mark’s grin was even bigger than before!
As expected, on our next test drive we found that the Polaris RZR 1000 was similar to the Polaris General, but was slightly more powerful (both are 1000 cc engines). But there was something about the practicality and smooth ride of the General that kept singing in the backs of our minds.
We were getting a huge kick out of doing these test rides, so when we were finished with Polaris we wandered over to the Yamaha booth to check out what they had on offer for test drives.
They had brought a fleet of Yamaha Wolverine X4 four seaters. These were more of a utility side-by-side than the Polaris RZR series, but didn’t have the sex appeal of the Polaris General.
After a very elaborate safety briefing, we climbed into a Wolverine X4 four seater and joined a line of other test drivers who were sandwiched between our leader in the front and a sweeper guy at the back.
Unfortunately for Yamaha — whose portable gas generator we absolutely love — the Wolverine X4 in front of us promptly got stuck in the sand. The two leaders got out a tow strap and hooked it to the lead side-by-side and pulled it out.
If there was one feature that really stood out about the Wolverine X4, it was that everything on it rattled so much we were waiting for the buggy to fall apart right there on the trail. This seems odd for a Yamaha product, but so it goes.
On our way down, we passed one of the many SxS Rally trail rides that was heading out for a day of fun on in the sand and red rocks. The rally was offering rides of various levels, from beginner to intermediate to advanced. So, if you wanted just to see the scenery or preferred to tackle some insanely challenging rock climbs, there were guided trails ride for you!
But the rally goers were all happy UTV owners, while we were total newbies, so we were busy doing test drives. And this test driving thing was proving to be a blast!
Once we’d finished our Yamaha ride and were back at the staging area with all the vendor booths, we walked over to Can-Am to check out the Can-Am Maverick X3.
By now the jamboree was in full swing and there were lots of people milling around signing up to test drive the side-by-sides.
A long line of Can-Am Maverick X3 buggies snaked past their booth, and we joined an excited crowd to get a quick safety briefing and overview of the various Maverick X3 models we would be testing before we each chose a model to begin our ride.
We started in a four seater. Oh my, what a smooth ride!! We blasted over some badly washboarded sections of trail and barely felt a thing. That long wheel base makes a massive difference going over rugged terrain!
Unlike the other manufacturers’ test drives, the Can-Am test drive was a totally testosterone filled speed fest.
We were at the back of the line, and within minutes after the start, we were left trailing far behind. The guys up front were going full bore, but we held back to stay out of their dust and to keep life and limb intact! Mark struggled to keep the next guy in line within sight!!
At a rest stop we swapped to a two seater Can-Am Maverick X3, and when the group got away from us once again, Mark floored it to catch back up. I hung on for dear life as we tore through the dunes at a breakneck speed.
Wow. Those things are rocket ships!!
They are powered by 3 inline cylinders, as compared to the Polaris RZR V-twin, and they are turbo charged too. So even though the Can-Am Mavericks are 900 cc engines as compared to the Polaris RZR 1000 cc engine, they have a faster top end.
However, at slow speeds the Polaris has more torque, so like everything, it all comes down to what you want to do with your side-by-side — climb rocks or fly on a rocket or just tool around and enjoy the views!
When I climbed out of the Can-Am Maverick X3 I shaking from that crazy wild ride. What a rush!
Eventually I calmed down and was ready for another test drive. By now our sweet ride in the Polaris General was a faint memory, but we were both pretty sure it was our favorite.
Luckily, the line for it wasn’t long at all, so we signed up to take it for another spin. How fun! This time we were given a private guided tour that showed how well it performed in rocky, challenging terrain.
Our guide was in a four seater Polaris RZR 1000, and he took us over all kinds of craggy stuff.
At one point the trail took a turn and we were suddenly staring up at a steep rock climb. I hung on tight as Mark followed the guide up the hill. Yikes!!
We were both amazed at how easy it was.
Then we drove over a few big rocks. No problem!!
All too soon the test drive was over, and we were heading back down the sandy hillside. What a total blast this had been.
There were other vendors at the rally selling all kinds of goodies for side-by-sides, from after market shocks to special lighting systems to unusual tow strap lines and even extra rugged mobile device charging systems.
The problem with going to any big marketing trade show type of event is that you can easily fall in love with whatever it is they’re hawking. We were ready to pick up a shiny new Polaris General right there on the spot! But we don’t exactly have an appropriate place to store it between awesome rides in the back country.
What a super fun eye opener this was into a hobby we know nothing about. Some of the vendors told us there are jamborees like this one all over the country. How cool — we’ll be there!
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More info about the Side-by-Side Adventure Rally and SxS brands :
- SxS Adventure Rally – Shows the schedule of events, but no info about upcoming events, sigh.
- Polaris RZR Side-by-Sides – Official website
- Polaris General Side-by-Sides – Official Website
- Powersports dealership representing Polaris at this Jamboree – Moto Zoo from St. George
- Yamaha Wolverine X4 Side-by-Sides – Official Website
- Can-Am Maverick X3 – Official Website
- Location of Sand Hollow State Park – Interactive Google Maps
Other blog posts where we took fun rides:
- Dolly Steamboat – Gliding Through the Arizona Desert on Canyon Lake 02/09/18
- Waterton Shoreline Cruise – A Classy Tour of Waterton-Glacier NP 08/05/16
- Mt. Washington Cog Railway – The Little Engine That Could! 08/21/15
- Taking the Mail Boat Ferry to Maine’s Cranberry Islands 07/15/15
- Joseph Branch Railriders – What a ride! 07/19/14
Other blog posts where we attended (or bumped into) cool rallies:
- Sturgis Motorcycle Rally – Wild and Free in South Dakota’s Black Hills! 08/10/17
- Colorado’s Stunning Scenic Drives…by Porsche! 07/23/17
- Acadia National Park – Alluring Beauty on the Maine Coast 07/01/15
- Sun Valley Road Rally – Go Granny Go! 08/16/14
- Nevada Open Road Challenge – A NEED for SPEED! 05/30/14
- San Diego’s Shelter Island – A Lively Waterfront! 12/05/13
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