Colorado ATV Rental: The Bogart Incident
Warning: This blog contains adult language.
In the second year of my ATV rental business in Estes Park Colorado, there was an ATV ride the likes of which I’ll never forget. Allow me to set the stage:
I did both unguided ATV rides and guided ATV tours at the time. I had one employee. His name was Brian. We operated on my property in the high country on Storm Mountain next to a vast ATV trail system. Storm MTN is 45 minutes North/East of Estes Park Colorado.
We only had one ATV quad rental group scheduled for that late August day. It was a group of 3 adults and 2 kids. They rented two ATV’s and one 4 seat UTV side x side.
Brian and I watched as the group rolled up in their rental BMW. I should have known right then and there we had a situation on our hands. I mean, who the hell rents a BMW while on vacation?
As the five walked up the hill toward us, I finally realized we were going to be dealing with something we’d never seen before. The three adults all had bright color sweaters draped over their nice white polo shirts. Yep, just like some shit you’d see in an 80’s movie involving rich people at a country club.
Brian and I looked at each other and chuckled a little. However, we quickly blew it off. We see all sorts of people from around the world in the ATV rental business in a tourist town like Estes Park.
We all introduced ourselves. Mary and Bill were a married couple in their late 40’s. Kevin was Mary’s brother and the father of the two boys age 11 and 12.
After the brief introduction, Kevin introduced his kids,
“And this is Harverman and Bogart.” He said as he affectionately patted Haverman's head.
Immediately I chuckled out loud. You had to be there. Just the way he introduced them and the look in his eyes was funny. So, I laughed. Stupid look and stupid names. I thought it was just a funny joke.
The dude got serious real quick. He didn’t chuckle, he didn’t blink. He just looked at me like I was an idiot. He was totally serious.
So, I replied like an idiot, while still chuckling, “Yeah, right. Haverman and “Bogart” you say? That’s funny man.”
He didn’t flinch. He just stood there staring at me dead serious. The stare and silence lasted long enough to be very uncomfortable. But I still couldn’t wrap my mind around the names. I mean, the kids were really nerdy looking, and the adults were wearing those stupid clothes. They did pull up in a BMW. However, I still couldn’t buy it.
“Come on man, why are you messing with me?” I asked in a joking way.
“I’m NOT. Those are the names of my children. What’s wrong with you?” he snapped at me.
My smile and half chuckling at this point turned into a confused look and stare. I STILL couldn’t wrap my head around it. Seriously, who names their kids Haverman and Bogart? It’s not possible. Nobody is that out of touch, mean, and stupid. It just can’t be!
Eventually he said, “Can we just drop it. We came here to ride. Let’s get on with it.”
That’s the moment I actually realized he wasn’t joking.
As Brian gathered them in a circle so we could go over rules, safety, and the ATV trail map, I lagged behind thinking to myself how ridiculous those names were and how badly those kids get picked on, even if they’re in a private school. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, the family was from the Hamptons. You know, that rich person vacation island off the coast of New York City. Yep, this was shaping up to be a classically new type of disaster.
As I got my head on straight and joined the group, I realized a serious rain storm was looking very possible. You see, they don’t call it “Storm Mountain” for nothing. Most of the time you can’t see storms coming until the last minute. We were located on the front side face of Storm. So, if a storm started forming, we only had about 30 minutes at best before it hit us. This one was looking particularly dark and literally every 30 seconds that went by, it was looking worse.
Within a few minutes, I told them I didn’t want them to go and that I’d refund their money in full. Immediately they jumped on me about it. They were upset and begging to go. I continued to argue my case though. I told them they have no idea how cold it can get at 10,000 feet in hard mountain rain and hail. I told them the temperature can drop from 70 to 40 in a matter of minutes and the lightning can be very dangerous as well. They didn’t care. They argued their case and DEMANDED to go. They were all attorneys, so they argued their case very effectively over my country ass.
So, as we were going over rules and machine operation, the two boys were a few feet away playing with something in the dirt. Just doing what boys do. A few seconds later, and out of nowhere, Bogart belts out a scream like a 12-year old little girl. I mean, it was ear piercing! The boy jumped like 2 feet in the air, flopped over on his back, and started flailing and kicking violently in order to get back on his feet. Then, that little bastard shot off like a god damn rocket into the forest doing like mach 10, screaming absolute bloody murder.
While I’m looking at Kevin (his father) as if to say, “is this normal for him?” Brian (my employee) was running for his truck to grab his gun, thinking there was a bear or something.
Mary and Bill were running after Bogart. That boy didn’t make it 50 feet in the woods before he tripped over a small stick. The boy went flying. Keep in mind, the little sucker was MOVING. He tripped over that tiny stick and face planted his ass so hard. Twigs and dirt exploded off the ground on impact. It had to hurt. It was hard not to laugh. I’d never seen someone eat shit like that before. But, I couldn’t laugh. Like Brian, I was a little scared. I figured it for a bear or an actual monster myself based on the screams.
After bringing Bogart back to the circle, during the huffing and puffing between the whimpering and tears, Bogart continued to point at the spot in the dirt were the incident happened. It took a bit, he couldn’t speak. He pointed and cried. He pointed and screamed again. He pointed and dropped to his knees a couple times. Eventually, he was able to utter the word “spi” and “der”.
Mary, Bill, and Kevin, jumped back a little, like his fear was understandable. I was like, “What the fuck! Really?” Brian was pissed. He just stomped off bitching and moaning while he put his gun away, “That god damn kid! I was bout ready shoot something. Fuckin city people!”.
You have to understand. That kid kept us on pins and needles while we waiting through his ball baby shit to find out what happened. The whole time Brian is standing there pointing his gun in every direction in the forest, freaking out like the god damn Viet Cong were hiding behind every tree and bush. It was serious at the time, but thinking back, it was pretty funny.
Anyway, getting back on track. No, you are far from done with this story. It only gets more screwed up from here.
Before they rode out, I tried one last time to persuade them because of the rain and impending hail storm. I knew they were going to head straight for the 10k summit, which takes about 40 minutes. I knew for a fact they were going to run smack dab into the middle of that storm. However, they insisted and somewhat threatened my company’s reputation if I didn’t let them go. Being new in business and struggling during the great recession 2011, I decided to let them go.
Mary and Bill took off on the ATV’s followed by Kevin and the boys in the 4 seat UTV. I joined Brian at the small campfire we had going. We knew cold rain was coming, so we were trying to be ready.
Brian and I stood there gathered around the fire just starring at each other like, “Did we really just let those NYC fools drive ATV’s to the top of Storm Mountain in what was increasingly looking like an epic storm?”
We didn’t have to say anything to each other. I stomped away and said, “Nope, not doing it. I gotta get em back here.” Brian immediately replied, “Yep”.
The realization came a bit to late though. They had 15 minutes on me. you can only drive an ATV so fast in extreme terrain like Storm Mountain. I tried though. I rode faster and harder than I ever had, and it was raining at this point. On the way, the temperature dropped from 75 to 50 in minutes.
In 15 minutes, I reached the Storm summit, which is normally one of the most breathtaking views you can witness anywhere in the world. Today though, it was like hell on earth. At least it was to me because I knew what was coming. Reaching the top, I could see the darkness only a few miles out to the west. Shit was about to get REAL, real quick!
Mary, Bill, Kevin and the boys were all near the edge taking pictures and loving life. Even though it was raining and cold, the view was worth it. I admit, it is worth it. I just knew it wasn’t going to be worth it here in a matter of minutes.
I pleaded with them to get their things together and get off the mountain. They looked at me like I was stupid. I pleaded some more as nicely as I could. Still, they hardly even recognized me. Mary did ask if she could take a few more pictures. She even asked if I would take one with her. At this point, I realized they had no intention of leaving any time soon. So, now I’m starting to get angry. Keep in mind, these clouds coming are black as night, and they’re coming fast!
“Look, I need you guys to get on your machines NOW! You have no idea what’s about to happen.” I said in a very commanding and loud voice.
“What’s wrong with you? Can’t you just let us enjoy this experience? It’s just a little rain. It’s cold, but we’re fine.” Bill replied as he walked away to get another picture of the view back toward Estes Park.
“No, you need to get out of here NOW!” I yelled. Now I was pissed.
I swear,I believe Thor, the God of thunder was listening to me at that very moment, he sent his signal.
BAM!!!! Right on my last word, a lightning bolt slammed into the trees just a couple hundred feet a way and deposited everyone on their asses immediately. Shit got serious right then and there. Before we even got up off the ground, the hail started and the temperature dropped another 10 degrees.
While I’m looking at Mary, looking at me with the stunned look on her face and fear mounting like gang busters, Bill, Kevin, and the kids were already in their machines and racing away down the mountain.
Mary at this point is scared stiff. I’m yelling at her over the thunder and lightning crashes to get on her ATV.
“It’s gonna get worse. You gotta go, you gotta go NOW!” I’m screaming at her.
I didn’t even have time to think about the fact that her husband up and left her ass there. He was in full survival mode. I’ve noticed in this business, in extreme situations, fight or flight is a real thing. Are you the type of “man” who steps in front of the gun held to your loved one’s head, or do you cower like a little bitch? Bill was a little bitch. No doubt about it.
Eventually I got Mary on her ATV. At this point, screaming was the only means of communication. The rain and hail were coming down in buckets, the lighting was crashing all around us in extremely close proximity, the temperature was under 40, and we hadn’t seen the worst of it yet.
“Get on, go as fast as you can safely, and keep moving. Don’t stop. I’ll be right behind you!” I yelled as I got the ATV started for her.
I was scared out of my mind. Yes, the weather was scaring me. I’ve been caught in that shit before. I was mainly scared for her though. I knew this was her first time on an ATV. Now here she is being asked to descend one of the most difficult mountain trials Colorado has to offer, at a very rapid pace, and in one of the worst storms I’d ever seen. There was no doubt in my mind. She wasn’t going to make it.
200 feet down the 5-mile decent she lost her grip on the ATV and fell off because of the cold rain and frozen hands. I got off my machine and helped her back on to hers. I didn’t take my time. I literally forced her up and threw her on the ATV, screaming, “Go, you gotta go!”
She was strong. She was a tough New York City broad. She was a fighter. She hung tough for the next ½ mile before falling off again. She was frozen and scared, but she was frozen and scared in the beginning. This time it was shear exhaustion. She had nothing left.
As she lay on the ground curled up in a ball shivering and crying, I picked her up and threw her on the back of my ATV.
“We gotta get the FUCK out of here!” I yelled as I throttled and controlled the ATV with my right hand while locking on to her wrists I had around my waste with the other.
As soon as I started driving, I knew there was no way this was going to be sustainable. My hands were frozen and the trail was going to get too difficult to operate an ATV with one frozen hand.
I made it about a mile when the storm peaked. I couldn’t do it anymore. She was slipping and I couldn’t control the ATV anymore.
Off to my left I saw a large flat face bolder that stood about 9 feet high. The rain and hail was sideways. I figured we could hunker down on one side of the bolder away from the rain. My only fear was the lighting. Riding the ATV, at least we were safe from lightning. It was worth the risk though. If I kept going there is no doubt, I’d wreck that ATV and injure the both of us.
Standing next to that bolder, I could see Mary was literally turning blue and the welts on her hands and arms were starting to shine through due to the pelting hail. I had a water proof jacket on, so I offered it to her. She ended up stripping all of her close off down to her bra and panties right there in front of me. AT the time, I didn’t even think about it and I know she didn’t either. It was just about finding a way to get warm. She she stripped, I took my soaking shirt off. She wrapped herself in that jacket and tried to include me in it as well. At least it saved my front half. As well, the large spruce tree next to us shielded some of the hail.
We waited in out for the next 30 minutes. And, in classic Colorado fashion, the rain and hail stopped and 15 seconds later the sun popped out. We then hopped on the ATV and road back. Still freezing our asses off though I might add.
As we pulled up the trail on my property, we could see Bill standing at the campfire wrapped in a warm blanket next to Brian (my employee). As Mary and I rolled up, half naked and with her arms wrapped tightly around me like two young lovers, Bill threw his blanket off with his arms in the air yelling, “Fuck yeah, let’s do it again!”
1. I couldn’t believe this IDIOT didn’t notice the way in which Mary was latched on to me.
2. We were both half dressed. She was in her friggin underwear for Christ sake!.
3. He fucking LEFT HER!
I know it may be hard for you to imagine a rain storm that can kill you, but that is exactly what that storm would have done to Mary had I not gone up that mountain. That god damn piece of SHIT, left her there and never looked back!
Mary got off the ATV and went straight for their car to warm up while Bill, obviously sensing there is a problem, followed her.
I went straight for the campfire and Bill’s blanket.
Standing there for a few minutes telling Brian all that happened, I realized I hadn’t seen Kevin and the boys.
“Where’s Kevin?” I asked Brian.
“I don’t know, I thought he was with you.”
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. He didn’t make it back here?” I asked.
Within seconds I was back on the ATV to continue the 15-mile descent to the very bottom of Storm Mountain while Brian got on another ATV and headed up to the summit in order to find Kevin.
Keep in mind, there is only one road that veers off the trail from the very top to the very bottom, and it’s the road to my place. It is very clear and easy to see, and we are clear in stating it is the only road off the trail.
At the very end of a DAMN cold ride, ALLLLL the way at the bottom of the mountain, I found Kevin and the boys. Let me tell you, Kevin was PISSED!
“What are you doing all the way down here?” I asked.
“I don’t fucking know, I took off. That lighting scared the shit out of me. What did you expect? You put us on this mountain. You put us in this situation!” He screamed at me.
So many thoughts were rushing through my head at that point. I wanted to punch him. I wanted to call him every name in the book. I wanted to argue and reason with him. I wanted to remind him he left his sister up on that mountain. More than anything though, I just wanted to punch him. Instead, I just said, “Fuck you!”
I didn’t listen to his bullshit anymore. I told him to get in his machine and follow me back up.
Once we arrived back to the property where Mary and Bill were standing next to the fire, Kevin lit into me again.
“You piece of shit! I can’t believe you put us through that! I could have died! Look, just look at Bogart!” he pointed as he stomped over to Bogart, who was still sitting in the UTV with a blank stare as if he just saw a ghost. There were literally no more tears and screaming for this kid. He was like Goldie Hahn from the movie Overboard in that scene where she is spent, having a nervous breakdown, and mumbling, “ba, ba, ba, ba”. He literally had the same lifeless look on his face as he did 15 miles back. It’s funny as hell now that I look back on it.
“You bastard! Look at him! You’ve traumatized Bogart for life!” Kevin screamed at me.
Just the way he said it sounds funny. “You’ve traumatized Bogart.” Like Bogart is mine or everyone’s. A normal person would say, “you traumatized my child, or him, or something other what he did.
Anyway, Kevin stomped up on me, got in my face, pointing his finger right in my eyes.
“I’m gonna sue your ass for everything you got! You almost got us killed! I’m a rich man! I’m a VERY powerful attorney! By the time I’m through with you, you’ll be working at McDonalds flipping burgers for the rest of your life!”
As I’m processing that statement, and Kevin still has his hateful gaze going right through my eyes and to the back of my skull, Mary calmly steps in.
“Kevin, you and that pathetic man over there left me up there to die. It’s not Andy’s fault you’re a pussy. Let me also remind you, you work for MY law firm. Now shut up and GET IN THE CAR!”
Kevin quickly put his tail between his legs and did exactly as his master ordered.
As they all piled in the BMW to call it a day, Bill got out and walked up to me. He couldn’t look me in the eye, but stuck out his hand with two 100-dollar bills stretched out.
I said, “No, don’t worry about it.”
“No, you have to take it. She insists. I’m in some serious trouble here. Please take it.” Bill replied.
With that, he got in the car and I never heard from them again.
I often think about what became of Bill and Mary’s marriage. More than anything though, I think about Bogart. For the rest of my life on this earth, I'll never forget the image of him face planting over that little twig. Likewise, I'll never forget the traumatized look on his face like he'd seen to much. I mean, he wouldn't even get out of the UTV. Kevin had to pull his lifeless body out of the machine. Between that spider and the rain, (in a covered UTV by the way) poor Bogart was scarred for life.
By Andy Hitch
P.S. Yes, this is a true story. To read more of my stories of the trail, click on any blog with “Incident” in the title.