Bidding farewell after 8 years of off-roading
Editor’s note: In June, Tom Kaiser bid farewell to his position as senior editor of Powersports Business in order to accept a position with an automotive B2B publication based in the Twin Cities. Kaiser spent eight years with EPG Media, including his recent stint with PSB. Along the way, he encountered some memorable ATV and UTV rides, so we asked him to reflect on them prior to his depature.
Many people can point to a point in their life that was the best, that perfect moment in time — be it a superb vacation, a summer between jobs, backpacking across Europe, falling in love or the birth of a kiddo. I’m lucky enough to measure my best-ever period in years, rather than months, weeks or days.
I was hired by EPG Media to write for ATV Magazine and ATV Sport back in 2006 — a time that sounds recent enough but feels like a whole different era sitting at my keyboard here in 2014. Along the way, I have been a regular contributor to Powersports Business and our sister snowmobile pub Snow Goer. My time also included writing for Boating Industry, and the now-defunct UTV Magazine, Snow Week and Camping Life. Can you think of a better, more fun way to earn a living for a gearhead once in his mid-20s? I truly cannot.
Dreams of being an automotive writer brought me to journalism school, but I had so many times in this job — be it on a mountain in Southern California, a mud bog in Texas, a quaking aspen forest in Utah, or beside the trail in Maine — where I was certain I was having a better time than those car scribes.
There were countless times when my lifestyle was overwhelming, almost too good to be true. I’ve snowmobiled atop the U.S.-Canadian border seeing nothing but pine trees in every direction. My eyes have met those of a tired moose trudging through the late-winter snowpack in the Idaho Panhandle. Campfire horseshoes in the Imperial Sand Dunes. Turkey hunting in Oklahoma. Ted Nugent poking me in the chest while ranting about the culture wars. Climbing unthinkable rock faces in Moab. Snow-covered ATV trails near Crater Lake. Weathering a horrific windstorm in the woods of Wisconsin. Fly fishing the Blackfoot River in Montana.
Presentation is everything when this is one’s lifestyle. Sometimes I felt guilty for having such great times, like it wasn’t fair that everyone else wasn’t getting paid to live like this. I told friends and family what I did on my last journey, but often tried to tame how much fun it really was. I think they knew anyway…
Of course, it was still reality, and every day wasn’t peaches and cream. I will never eat “Navajo tacos” or sleep in a covered wagon again. Don’t ask. Profanity-laced struggles in our shop during build projects challenged my stick-to-itiveness and mechanical abilities to the bone. Getting lost in the Mojave Desert as the sun set and the gas lights came on, well, actually that was a ton of fun, too.
Recent generations of ATVs, sport quads, side-by-sides, snowmobiles and boats are technically amazing. How can they all be so good? With advancements in propulsion, electronics and design, there’s no doubt the future is bright for an industry so proficient at building fun.
As much as I love the machines and exploring nature, it pales in comparison to relationships forged with coworkers, OEM staffers, press agents, resort owners, racers and strangers I’ve chatted up beside the trail. By hobby or trade, off-road riders are almost exclusively fun loving, unpretentious, helpful, kind people that will teach you how to get over that ridge, through that mud hole or across that side hill — and high five you when you get there.
Looking back, after eight great years, I made it. It was memorable beyond belief and now I would like to return the high five to everybody that helped me get here. Thanks for everything, ride on, and wear a helmet!