CLEAR FORK VALLEY — A young man who has done his duty for this country is a fan, and champion, of performing with ATVs (all terrain vehicles).
Wesley Smith, a 1999 graduate of Clear Fork High School, has transformed his life after returning from two tours in Afghanistan. In that conflict, he was on a counter IED team. This translates to having been in harm’s way, on a serious level.
IEDs are improvised explosive devices. This means someone could have put together a lethal weapon with cans, nails, almost anything that could do harm.
Smith, back here, does a day job delivering methadone and narcon for the Ohio Department of Mental Health to people who need those drugs.
In his spare time, he and buddies go out into local mud, to ride their bikes.
Because of the way ATV riding and competition is set up, Smith accumulated enough points in 2017 to get a national championship in GNCC and AMA. GNCC stands for Grand National Cross Country. AMA is American Motorcycle Association.
Smith does what other riders do. He travels across the country to get to the site of the next event. They have been held in Florida, Georgia, New York, Indiana and Ohio.
It’s misleading to think ATV riders are wondering aimlessly around a race track. The 13 races Smith competed in go from five to 14 miles. The courses are set by the GNCC.
To set up a race like this, it requires a lot of space and a bit of money.
Smith said a sponsor needs at least 500 acres to set up a course.
He cited a race held in Pennsylvania, put on by a new ATV race acolyte.
When riders drove in, it was raining on the horse farm property.
“We absolutely destroyed the facility,” said Smith.
Spectators travel to such races, so an event can draw up to 1,500 riders, plus fans.
Smith said there are “mud fleas,” who love to watch a race and help if some rider has trouble.
“They love to watch the carnage,” said Smith.
Smith, who is about to turn 38, said a race day has a certain form. Courses are “always rough,” but “as the day goes on, the course gets more beat up.”
Riders have to go over streams, over logs.
To fit into this racing genre, a rider must be equipped with a kill switch, wear a helmet, have on a shirt that goes past the elbows, and wear pants.
Riders use transponders, and if a rider buys one, it can be over $10,000. These transmit radio signals for the rider and the sponsors.
It takes money to buy an ATV ($6,000 to $7,000), plus funds for replacement parts. Then there are entry fees to get into the race.
Smith does work with some veterans’ groups. He said there have been studies that show certain activities help veterans having difficulties. The first activity on the list is woodworking and the third is ATV racing.
In ATV racing, Smith said he has seen “a lot more vets,” many with disabilities.
This type of racing requires a person to not be “distracted.” A person can be seriously hurt, otherwise.
The competition format allows a competitor to eliminate the results on the two worst races. For instance, if a person does 13 race he will keep the numbers for the best nine.
Smith began racing “full time” in 2014.
He is already preparing for the 2018 season. The events start next week in Union, S. C.