Some girls prefer mud massages or facials, I prefer playing in the mud.
“You’ll get muddy,” I was told by the woman at the Florida Tracks & Trails Pro Shop.
“Seriously, how muddy would I get?” I thought.
Less than 10 feet into the 7-mile trail, I drove the ATV through a puddle and splashed mud on my entire left arm.
“Oh, boy,” I thought, “This is going to be fun!”
Florida Tracks & Trails is a new, 1,000-acre outdoor adventure park in Punta Gorda, Fla., offering trails for ATVs, tracks for ATVs, tracks for motocross, paintball fields, beach area with a tiki bar to chill, and more. There’s definitely nothing else like it in Southwest Florida, or Florida for that matter, and I’m told it’s pretty much unique for the United States.
Today, my day job had me out touring the facilities and afterward, decided I needed to get out on a trail and test it out myself. Yes, I was a bit scared because I’ve never driven an ATV (I’ve driven snowmobiles) and was concerned I’d crash it, like I’ve done with Segways. But hey, these are meant for beginners so I sucked up my fear and anxiety, got a crash course in how to operate the KYMCO Maxxer 450i (in other words, all-terrain vehicle to you and me) then went on my way.
Before heading out on the trail, I was advised to snap a photo of a phone number and call it if I got stuck in the mud. I was also advised that if I got stuck and other riders offered to help, to let them help me. “Is it okay if I bring it back muddy?” was my final question. “If it’s not returned muddy, you didn’t have fun,” the woman told me.
After figuring out the way out of the parking lot and onto the trail, a man called out telling me it was really wet and muddy. “Awesome!” I thought.
Despite getting stuck about four times, and having my knight in a John Deere camo-quad save me every time, I had a most excellent day. Okay, it was a FREAKIN’ AWESOME DAY of racing through muddy puddles and feeling the splash and grit of warm mud against my skin and in my mouth. At most, the fastest I clocked was 15mph (at times I could have been going faster but I couldn’t always see the speedometer because it was covered with mud) that was enough of a thrill for this ATV-virgin.
It probably took me 90 minutes to complete the 7-mile trail, because I did get stuck a few times and waited for assistance. I think it was during the final time when I was pulled out of the mud when I told my knight that I was having a blast.
And here’s a note about the staff at Florida Tracks & Trails, I know the founder and he has a big heart. The team he’s assembled are incredibly friendly, courteous and made me feel as though I’m part of the family and this is with them not knowing who I am. Customer service is a lost art but Florida Tracks & Trails has brought it back.
When I returned to the Pro Shop, mud was caked on me from my rental helmet to the tips of my shoes. I don’t own mudding equipment and wore a tank top, Columbia shirt, jeans, socks and tennis shoes. Eyewear is required and rather than using the rental goggles I wore my Onos sunglasses (love my ONOS Sierras!) A hose is available to rinse off and thankfully, I brought a change of clothing with me.
Mud was splattered onto my face and caked to pieces of hair that stuck out from the rental helmet. Mud had seeped through my clothing and the grit from the muddy sand settled between my teeth. My cheeks hurt from smiling during the whole journey and adrenaline pumped through my body and soul.
The question I’m asking myself as I write this is, “When am I going to do this again?”
After a ride on the trail, head over to the Florida Tracks & Trails Tiki bar for nourishment. An assortment of food and beverages (including adult beverages) are available but I recommend the shrimp basket. Delish! Sit in the shade, dip your toes in the sand and admire the blue lake.
Florida Tracks & Trails
39450 Bermont Rd.
Punta Gorda, FL 33982
Tip: waivers are required for everyone visiting the property whether riding or not. Save time and fill one out online.