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Jeff Whitten: A ride down Highway 204
editor's notes

I’m starting to think crazy people have all the fun.

The most recent example of that came last week on my way to work, when I got distracted from counting the endless barrage of dump trucks by yet another shirtless maniac on a four-wheeler. He was going at a pretty good clip in and out of a ditch alongside Highway 204. Questions were raised.

Was this latest lunatic on a 4-wheeler going to swerve into traffic, causing all sorts of mayhem? Was he going to hit something in the ditch and get thrown into the road, causing another sort of mayhem? Was he being chased?

And if not, why are so many presumably grown people without shirts driving 4-wheelers alongside state highways in the middle of weekday mornings? Is it some sort of class?

Editor’s note: This is not just a one-time thing. I’ve seen these folks out there on a number of occasions now, zipping half naked to and fro. Some even manage to smoke cigarettes while doing it.

It make one wonder what’s on their agenda for the day. Are they organized like my wife, who spend about a half hour every evening making a list of the things she wants to do the next day ( she also keeps a running list of my assignments, but that’s another story).

Do these fellows sit up the night before they crank up the ATV, making to-do lists?

1. Wake up, shower, dress. Say the Pledge of Allegiance. Maybe watch cartoons.

2. Take shirt off, ride 4-wheeler real fast down side of Highway 204 (watch out for bugs in teeth and smelly dead things in ditch, you never know).

3. Get to county line or Ogeechee River, whichever comes first. Turn around, head back. Try to beat time, but first stop in Ellabell for gas and big gulp of leaded Mountain Dew.

4. Remember to run out store when clerk’s not looking.

Is there somewhere in the proximity of Bryan County a small village of shirtless 30-something-year-old adult males in their mom’s backyard, swapping stories around burn barrels until it’s time for them to saddle up the 4 wheelers, get back in the ditches and weird out the rest of us?

There has to be a reason for it. Perhaps it’s a subtle form of protest against decades of invasion by northern transplants trying to convert the coastal South into a Sun City that reminds them of what Florida or Hilton Head might be like if they lived there instead of here.

“You may develop our wild places into gardens that grow people from up north,” these particular riders could be saying, “but beware because the real South is full of shirtless wild men on four-wheeled minibikes, and we’re not going quietly.

“Instead we’ll be in your rear view mirrors, closer than we may appear.”

Or perhaps the 4-wheeler riders are taking the ditches because there’s no room left on the roads, what with all the suburbanites out shopping for things they’ll need in case of a tropical storm or even worse, a hurricane. You know, essentials like 47 cases of water and enough toilet paper, ramen noodles, AAA batteries and wet wipes per person to last until 2489 AD.

Just in case the power’s out. I digress. The mind boggles at the possibilities of all this. Maybe it’s a race we haven’t been told about. The J.O. Bacon Highway Off-Road Redneck Regatta.

Or, just maybe, a high-speed trip down a state highway like 204 on a 4-wheeler in the middle of a steamy summer morning is freedom undiluted, the very first thing our forefathers had in mind when they chucked out the British.

Perhaps that’s the secret to lots of things and answers to lots of questions, this living on the edge, rolling those four knobby rubber tires on that fine line between a swampy ditch and some freshly laid hot mix asphalt while cars and pickups and SUVs and semis roll past, busy heading somewhere they ain’t.

Maybe these dudes – and I always think of them as dudes, for some reason – are the ones getting this life thing right.

Who needs a button downed job or a vehicle with doors and windows or anything else when you’ve got a 4-wheeler and some pants?

I know, sounds crazy. But given a choice between 4-wheelers or what passes for civilization these days, I’m increasingly leaning toward crazy.

Whitten is the longtime editor of the Bryan County News. He’s every bit as dumb as you think he is.

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