GirlDriver, USA

GirlDriver, USA
Look! It's GirlDriver, USA.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


It was a day like this.  Rainy, overcast, depressing.  Or it would have been depressing but I got invited by good-looking biker and director of communications for the Motorcycle Industry Association, Ty VanHooydonk to join him along with The Recreational Off-highway Vehicle Association to ride ROVs on Randall’s Island under the Robert F. Kennedy (aka Triborough) bridge. David Alan Grier, who was nominated for a Tony this year for his role as Sportin’ Life in Porgy and Bess, was also along for the ride. Who could resist?
Randall’s Island is located on the East River between East Harlem, the South Bronx and Astoria, Queens.  The island has great views of the East River. Aside: Randall’s Island is where Robert Moses operated his fiefdom.    
The first thing we learn in our ROV session is that ROV’s aren’t ATVs.  ROVs have a steering wheel, acceleration foot pedal and a brake foot pedal and they are “driven.”  ATVs have a handlebar for steering, a throttle controlled by pushing a thumb lever next to the handgrip and a hand lever(s) for front and/or rear brake(s) and a foot pedal for the rear brake.  ATVs are “ridden” , not driven.  Unlike ATVs, which can be ridden by small children, ROVs are designed to be driven by those who are 16 or over.  ROVs have rollover protection, side panel doors or netting for protection, grab handles and can accommodate passengers and cargo.
Under a bridge in the middle of rain day in New York on an island other than Manhattan one could not help feeling very Schwarzeneggerish.  We are a small band of rov-ers practicing maneuvers—backing up, going over obstacles, cornering, turning.  It was very post-apocalyptic.  But fun, don’t get me wrong.  I loved every minute of it. 
We learned some rules of the road.  Safety is emphasized.  Wear the right gear including helmet, gloves, long pants, sturdy jacket.  Familiarize yourself with your vehicle.  Learn the capabilities of the different vehicles.  We did not have a steep incline to try, but the instructors assured us that they climb with ease.  Then we hit the trail and rode around Randall's Island. 
Several different manufacturers make these ROVs including Arctic Cat, BRP, Kawasaki,  Polaris and Yamaha.  There’s even an all electric, which allows you to enjoy the outdoors without the accompanying sound of a motor.  I love that!
The ROVHA offers a basic training course online (  Take the course if you are considering getting involved in this sport.  One can improve skills beyond basic but it takes some seat time.  No one should feel they know it all—ever.  When VanHooydonk and I chatted about motorcycle riding a few years ago he mentioned he’d be riding for over 20 years and was still learning.  That impressed on me the need to know your level and your limitations. 

The ROHVA is also a member of TreadLightly (, encouraging participants to take care of the environment they enjoy. 
Was it fun?  You bet.  Can you role play as you learn?  I did.  I’d love to know what role David Alan Grier was playing in his head, but I didn’t get a chance to ask him.  He had to get back to NYC for his evening performance in Porgy and Bess.  Talk about fun.

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