By Linda Scherer
With a few accidents behind them to give them wisdom and lots of miles of experience, Dave and Betty Meyer of Winsted know what ATV trail riding is all about.
Their four wheeling activities have led to the formation of a group called the Wild Boars ATV Club where Dave is known as Elmer Boar, and Betty is known as Bunny Boar.
The other Boar members, which total 22, are family and friends who have been introduced to the recreational sport by the Meyers.
The group members are from Hutchinson, Arlington, Watertown, Brooklyn Park, and Winsted.
The club began a year ago, after a number of them had watched the movie “Wild Hogs” (about four guys in a motorcycle club), they decided as a group to name their organization the Wild Boars ATV Club.
“We are old four wheelers that have been doing this for 15 years, but with a club name now,” Dave said.
The youngest Boar member is 10 and the oldest is in his 50s.
Along with the new club name came new club member names as well.
“Each member’s Boar name, including the kids, has a history with it. Some we can’t really say, but some are pretty funny,” Betty said.
The Meyers were first introduced to the exhilarating experience of driving ATVs while they were on a camping trip with a bunch of friends in Henderson, Minn. at Rush River State Park.
“There was a lot of four wheeling there. We thought this is really fun. It is something maybe we could do for entertainment,” Betty said.
The couple had owned a camper and a boat at the time, but the family of five had been thinking about selling them because they were not using them any more.
Right after that trip they bought two ATVs, and went with some mutual friends from Glencoe up to Iron River, Wisc.
“We really liked it up there. Then we got three more ATVs for the three kids,” Betty said.
The Meyers’ three children are older now and have since moved away from home. They are Monica, 25, and Becky, 24, of Shakopee, and Michael 22, of Wabasso.
“The kids don’t go anymore, but we still do,” Betty said. “When we had the five machines, if the kids couldn’t go, we would take friends along. They would use our machines, and they loved it so much they would go out and buy their own.”
“They go once and they’re hooked,” Dave said. “The first time her brother and his wife went, we found a four wheeler chained to a sign in Hayward, Wisc. He stopped and bought it.”
The Meyers have learned some valuable lessons since purchasing their ATVs.
Their recommendation to anyone purchasing an ATV is take the safety classes offered to new owners and wear the proper gear.
Three years ago on Labor Day weekend, Betty’s brother, riding his ATV, was launched into the woods 30 feet and totaled the machine.
He was airlifted to a hospital and ended up with 12 broken ribs, both his lungs were punctured and he separated his shoulder. He was in the hospital for a month.
“He was wearing his helmet. If he hadn’t been wearing his helmet, he wouldn’t have survived,” Betty said.
No one was able to discover what happened to cause the accident even though the Meyers did return to investigate.
“We made a special trip two weeks later to go back to the scene, to try and figure out what happened,” Dave said. “We took a million pictures for him. He is Mike Schiller, the club president now.”
Betty, who was known for her speeding, said she has learned to take it slower.
“I was one of the fastest drivers. I used to have my throttle buried the whole time going like 50-mph to 55,” Betty said. “After my brother’s accident I have slowed down.”
“We all slowed down,” Dave said.
Dave learned his own lesson the hard way when they first bought their ATV.
“I was just climbing a hill and flipped over end for end. I thought I was going to die. The only thing that saved me was the machine got hung up on a tree,” Dave said. “You get a little smarter as you get into it.”
“We don’t climb hills anymore,” Betty said. “When the kids are with us we take it a lot slower. You are out there to enjoy the scenery and nature, too. I think the most miles we ever put on in one day was 130 miles and that was pushing it,” Betty said. “We have done as little as 40 miles.”
And even when four wheeling includes nothing but just driving along enjoying nature, interesting things can happen like the time a grouse got lodged in Betty’s helmet.
“We were four wheeling and it was getting towards dark,” Dave said.
“Pitch dark,” Betty added.
“And we were heading back to the hotel, and we kind of got lost,” Dave said.
“The grouse got stuck in my helmet in between my goggles and my visor,” Betty said.
“It was still alive,” Dave said.
Preparing for all kinds of weather conditions is another valuable lesson the Meyers have learned about.
Everyone carries rain gear on the ATV no matter what.
“It was back in the early years,” Betty said. “We left the hotel and it was like 80 degrees out and when we got 40 miles from the hotel, the temperature just dropped, and then it rained. I was crying by the time we got back to the hotel. It was horrible.”
“After that we bought rain suits and they stay on the four wheeler constantly,” Dave said.
As a recreational sport, four wheeling has really grown since the Meyers first went to Iron River. Now it is a huge ATV area.
On a Memorial Day weekend about three years ago, as the Meyers’ group pulled up to a bar and restaurant 45 miles from Iron River, they estimated 300 machines sitting there.
“When we first went to Wisconsin it was free, as long as you had a Minnesota plate on your ATV you could ride their trails,” Dave said. “Now it is $35 bucks per year and you have to buy a permit for each machine.”
One of the reasons for the ATV’s popularity, is the number of months the machine can be used. It is why the snowmobiling industry is probably hurting, according to the Meyers.
We get eight or nine months out of our machines,” Betty said. “With snowmobiles you are pretty much confined to three months.”
The Wild Boars make eight to 10 trips a year. They start at the end of May, do not go in July because it is too hot, they usually go a couple of times in September and for sure October.
“It all depends on the weather. We have gone as late as the middle of November because it was a 70 degree weekend,” Dave said.
Anyone interested in joining the Wild Boars ATV Club is welcome to call the Meyers at (320) 485-3851.
There is no age limit. The membership dues for this year were $1.75.
“We meet every time we go four wheeling and it involves a lot of food,” Dave said.
The Meyers say, “The more the merrier.”
“Our favorite place is 40 miles straight east of Duluth. It is absolutely gorgeous up there. That is God’s country,” Dave said.
In January, Dave will have worked for the city of Winsted for eight years. Betty works for American Time and Signal Company in Dassel where she is a senior buyer.
Dave is originally from Arlington, and Betty is from Brownton. They moved to Winsted three years ago.