Before retiring and moving to Maine, I never gave much thought to four-wheelers and side-by-sides.
My first introduction was when my son Michael purchased land in New York for deer hunting purposes 25 years ago.
At this point, his log cabin was only in the “dream stage,” but he had built a shed with bunks and swinging doors with just enough room to fit the new Kawasaki Bayou 300 in the middle with inches to spare.
My wife Anita and I, along with granddaughter Juliane and Mike, drove out to Rathbone, N.Y. to check out the lay of the land.
It was chilly but we had sleeping bags and extra blankets. The shed was equipped with a small woodstove but fortunately the daytimes were fairly warm.
Anita was a real “trooper” as this was her first introduction to a real live outhouse.
Soon after our arrival, Mike backed the new four-wheeler out of the shed, as he and Juliane would be riding same.
Mike’s two friends, brothers from back home, who owned the 200 acres across the street, also had a couple of four-wheelers and had given me permission to use one after Mike had given me a thorough riding lesson.
After roaming around the field for a while, I was feeling quite comfortable; so with Mike and Julie on his machine and Anita and I on the borrowed vehicle, the excursion was on.
Both Mike’s and the brothers’ property have numerous four-wheeler paths running through them and though we traveled slow and easy, we covered just about all of them.
After our reconnoiter was over, we drove into a slow moving and shallow creek and washed all the mud and debris off the vehicles.
It was a fun event and my first experience with an off-road machine.
As time went on and Mike constructed the log cabin, he had ended up with four all-terrain vehicles. He kept one at his home in Massachusetts and two in New York, garaged in the shed that had the bunks removed. All had been outfitted with snow plows.
He gave me the original Kawasaki which also came with a plow. My son-in-law and grandson, both plumbers, who are very adept with the mechanics of four-wheelers, tuned it up and had it running in great shape.
Besides plowing my driveway and parking area for 12 years, I used it to access the waterfront and drive down the dirt road beside my house to work on traps and do repairs on the dock and floats.
It seemed like I had a use for it almost every day. It was the best present I ever received.
Two years ago I began thinking that with old age creeping up, I should start looking for a utility vehicle with a windshield, roof, and doors — and of course a plow to go with it.
I made contact with all the big name dealers: Honda, Polaris, Kawasaki, Yamaha, and others and priced out the various models of side-by-sides with what I considered the necessary accessories.
It soon became apparent that outfitting my future utility vehicle with the accessories I wanted meant that I was going to pay the piper.
From my original present costing me nothing, to a potential outlay of close to $20,000, I began leaning toward something used. I perused Uncle Henry’s ads and scanned the internet but I couldn’t come up with just what I wanted.
One day I drove up Route 17 to the town of Union. There are two companies within “spitting” distance of one another that sell different brands but similar types of tractors and commercial equipment.
They also both have lines of utility vehicles and side-by-sides.
I discounted one dealer right off, as I didn’t like the looks or the colors of their units.
I found pretty much what I was looking for at the other dealer, and the price was more to my liking.
The vehicle was dull black with camouflage trim, had automatic transmission and electric four-wheel drive with a differential switch on both axles. All appropriate lighting, a manual dumping cargo bed, and an electric winch.
I ordered the snow plow package — the winch provides for the “up and down mode” for the six-foot blade. I have to get out of the unit, push down on a lever, to move the blade left or right—it’s not much effort to perform.
The plow package came with slide-in side windows and a ventilated windshield.
Although it still fogs up somewhat, removing one of the side windows solves the problem while plowing.
The Cub Cadet 550 has less power than the higher price models I had looked at and I assume that is the main reason for the lower price; it also had been on the lot for some time.
We have survived two winters and all has gone well with it.
I passed along the original Kawasaki to my dear friend Roger on Cape Cod and it’s still running well at 22 years old.
(Robert H. Oberlander lives at Hunter’s Landing in Walpole.)