Shallow Thoughts

Akkana's Musings on Open Source, Science, and Nature.

Sun, 12 Sep 2004

ATV thumb throttle design

We had the chance to spend a few hours riding 4-wheeled ATVs with Kerry and Pam. Great fun! And it's easy to see why anyone living in a rural area would want one, especially anyone who needs to carry supplies from one place to another (dirt bikes are great fun and can go anywhere, but it's a lot harder to carry a big spool of wire, a toolbox, and an Australian shepherd puppy on a dirt bike).

The only disappointment was that they sported the same thumb-push-button throttles as snowmobiles and jet-skis use, which makes my thumb ache after only a few minutes of riding. I knew Kerry & Pam had been motorcyclists, so I jumped at the chance to ask: why thumb throttles, rather than a twist throttle like a motorcycle?

Kerry's answer was prompt (it was obvious he had thought about this before): because they're awful, everybody hates them, and that way everyone will spend more money buying an upgrade kit (which costs another $100 or so) from the manufacturer since nobody makes aftermarket kits.

I'm not sure I believe that. If it's true that everybody hates thumb throttles, then wouldn't a company which bucked the trend and offered an ATV or snowmobile with a twist throttle have an instant market advantage? And why hasn't some enterprising aftermarket company come out with a kit if they're in such demand?

But I don't have an alternate explanation. It's some consolation, at least, to hear that I'm not the only one who hates thumb throttles, and that it is possible to buy a twist-throttle kit (perhaps it's even possible to fabricate one out of motorcycle parts).

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[ 20:58 Sep 12, 2004    More travel/southpark | permalink to this entry ]

The Altiplano!

After brunch in Golden, we headed up into the mountains to our destination (and the real purpose for this trip), the house of Dave's brother Kerry, and his wife, Pam. We didn't know much about the location, besides that it was just under 10,000 feet in elevation and very near the continental divide.

The terrain visible from the highway up to the pass was typical Colorado mountain scenery, in fine form: rocky cliffs, aspens just starting to turn, a river meandering beside the highway (which proved to be the North Fork of the South Platte -- I guess they were running out of names for rivers), pines. So when we crossed the pass, we weren't prepared for the sight on the other side: a huge flat grassy plain stretching for dozens of miles, pocked with ranches. A huge plain at 9500 feet. It was like Colorado's answer to the Altiplano of the Andes!

We later learned that this feature is known as a "park", and that this one is called "South Park". Yes, that South Park -- supposedly the animated TV show is named after this plain, or the ghost town on the western edge of it.

We found the dirt road leading to K&P's place, and we were there. They sit on the edge of the altiplano -- er, park -- at the foot of a couple of spectacular "fourteener" mountain peaks astride the continental divide, surrounded by aspens ablaze, with two creeks running through the property, horses and cows, ATVs, several parrots, and a cheerful red merle Australian shepherd puppy named Ben. Plus elk (invisible on this trip -- it's hunting season, so they're hiding), pronghorns, mountain bluebirds, coyotes, and a host of other wild animals.

In other words, paradise. At least if you don't mind fairly harsh winter weather, and can function at over 9000 feet of altitude, which not everyone can. The couple of days we spent there wasn't really long enough to adapt.

One of the two creeks is actually a culvert, and a constant source of problems. It seems that beavers have been damming up the culvert, creating lakes that overflow the driveway and make it impossible to leave the house. We went along on one walk of the culvert and see the latest beaver dams (and, of course, try to catch a glimpse of the beavers themselves, but we never got a definitive look).

We passed two idyllic days hiking the property, riding ATVs, playing with Ben, listening to the parrots practice whistles and phrases, looking for beavers, watching blue herons and bluebirds, and just gaping at the amazing views. On the way out, we saw a pronghorn wandering right next to the road.

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[ 20:30 Sep 12, 2004    More travel/southpark | permalink to this entry ]