“One down. Four up. This is the clutch. This is the brake. Slowly release the clutch and off you go. You’ll know when to shift gears.”
That was my 30-second instruction on how to drive an ATV from Tammy, my best friend’s mom who kindly hosted us for a night. This morning was the perfect capper to our pit stop in Wasco/Bakersfield.

After cooking waffles and scrambled eggs–eating them outside, naturally–Tammy asked if we should take the ATVs out and Michelle responded in a baritone growl: YEEEEAAAAHH. We gassed up the four wheelers and hauled ass through rows of almond trees and on deserted roads.

This trip has been a series of firsts for me. This was my first time with a manual transmission, first ATV, first time in NorCal and first time renting a car. What more new adventures await?
WAAAAAAHHHHGGGH! The buggy’s exhaust roared as I stepped on the gas, and the wind whipped through the open-air cart as I was rapidly going 50mph. Our destination was a grapefruit tree that belonged to one of Tammy’s friends. Michelle scurried up a grapefruit tree like a, well, like a Michelle who spotted fresh fruit. After loading up a bucket with yellow grapefruits, I switched to the manual ATV, which was way more exhilarating.
After repairing a loose tube, Tammy gave me the quick how-to speech again and off we sped. It took a few stops-and-starts before I got a better hang of it, and I by no means drove it efficiently, but I managed to get up to fourth gear. I gripped onto the handles with all the might my “freakishly soft” hands could muster, realizing that if my grip slipped I’d fly for the first (and last) time. I’m not sure if the tears running down my face were from the wind or the pure, unadulterated testosterone.

Bachelor tip: Learn to drive manual. And you have to clutch every time you shift. Up and down.


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