When I first heard that I would be going to Oklahoma for Honda’s Media Drive for the new Talon 1000R-4 Live Valve, I had a lot of misconceptions about what I would find there. To my previously ignorant mind, Oklahoma meant wide open plains, farm fields, and an unending sea of dusty crops.
I also foolishly hoped that my trip would entail an escape from the record-setting heat I had been enduring in Phoenix, but moments after landing at the Fayetteville airport, I was proven wrong in all my preconceptions. Looking out the windows of the plane while landing, everything was greener than I had expected, and finally getting out of the small regional jet, I subjected myself to the overwhelming 90-degree wet heat.
With our final destination being MidAmerica Outdoors in the small town of Jay, Oklahoma, we set off for the roughly hour’s drive from the airport. The landscape was even more shockingly different than what I had expected from the region, with hilly fields punctuated by small towns with a variety of rest stops and other stores. It was certainly miles apart from the arid scrubland my mind had unfairly associated Oklahoma with any time someone mentioned the place.
Arriving at MidAmerica Outdoors, there’s an enormous scale to the facility that is hard to comprehend on foot. Even excluding the miles of trails, the main area itself is a massive assortment of tracks, a pool and lazy river, two separate bar areas, and more cabins than I cared to count, making for a gigantic offroad playground. After checking everything out, the next task was settling into my cabin and setting the A/C to a fantastic 63 degrees for a refreshing reprieve from conditions outside.
After a few hours of taking a break from the humidity and having some time to unpack and drink some water, it was time for dinner and an introduction to the Talon 1000 R-4 Live Valve from Honda. Learning about some of the new features on the model coupled with my already high anticipation for what was in store on the trails was the perfect storm to inspire me to set off on a night ride.
As the sun began to set, we made our way over to the Talon and got acquainted with it before the start of the ride. As we were heading to the start of the trails for the night portion, we knew there would be a fair amount of time spent in a creek, so we were psyched at the prospect of the relief that cold water would provide from an otherwise oppressively hot and muggy climate.
With sweat practically pouring out of my shirt sleeves and helmet, the drop-down to the creek couldn’t have come soon enough, and while the experience of driving down the creek was less of a “splash zone” from inside the cabin, the temperature did feel a bit cooler and provided a much needed break, nonetheless.
While riding on the trail, the scorching heat was relentless, so I had bit of disappointment from a distinct lack of moisture in my boots. It was probably the first time in my life I had hoped for wet boots! I was offered up a surprisingly technical experience driving narrow trails that weave in and out of the creek bed, so the night ride was a fun first experience for what MidAmerica Outdoors had to offer.
Watching the light whips from vehicles in front disappear over hill crests or around corners allowed me to feel a bit more isolated than I had expected, and the terrain looked more like a set from Jurassic Park rather than the prairie scenery I had expected. With far more rocky and technical areas of terrain than what someone more acclimated to the southwest would expect, the change of pace provided for a solid night ride.
As we wrapped up the ride and returned to the main facility, I took some time to go back to my cabin and try to dry out and cool down before a trip to the pool at MAO. While the water was a bit warm, and I felt the humidity was enough to warrant a few jokes about the necessity of it, the water made for a nice way to cool off a bit at the end of the day. Swimming in the pool more than made up for any lack of water anyone may have felt from driving through creeks earlier that night.
Waking up the following day, there were some large storms in the area, and it was clear that it had rained a good deal the night before. After eating breakfast, our departure for our daytime trail ride was pushed back a few hours. Taking time to make sure the storm passed, built anticipation for what was sure to be a fun day of trails.
With the light of day giving us a better look at the surroundings, it was easy to be once again stunned at just how beautiful the Oklahoma woods were. The trails for the first half of the day were more varied in terrain than those we took the previous night, with more sections at speed and a few steeper hill climb to tackle, all of which were done in the vicinity of a creek that we crossed and drove down multiple times throughout the ride.
Enjoying the scenic surroundings during the day, with the added benefit of the speaker system in a Talon made for an enjoyable journey. Getting the chance to run through the paces of what this SXS had to offer all in one day made MAO feel like a great proving ground for both my abilities behind the wheel and the vehicle itself. Taking on an astonishing number of trails, all with a central hub in the middle, provides endless possibilities for a day’s activities.
After eating lunch, it was time to hop in a few of the more specialized vehicles Honda brought along for the event, namely the Baja winning Talon, for some experience rides. Having never been in anything built for racing off-road, the experience was eye-opening.
Witnessing the precision of how the car sets up from corner to corner, not to mention the raw speed difference between the race car and the factory model we had driven on the same trail earlier was incredible. I was grateful the “oh shit handle” was nearby, and despite my intention to record some video of the ride on my phone, I had to stow it quickly out of fear of creating an expensive projectile in the Oklahoma wilderness.
Finishing up my experience being driven by our pro guide in a factory Talon on MAO’s short course provided for an even more stark comparison of my driving abilities. Sure, watching a flashy vehicle which I could have been driving that morning going over massive jumps and climbing steep grade turns is captivating enough to draw anyone’s attention, but what stunned me the most was noticing between my first and second lap, the racing line had shifted by less than 6 inches, nicely denoted by tire tracks in the dirt under one of the turns.
As much as I would recommend an experience like the ones in the race vehicles, I can sing just as many praises about my brief time at MidAmerica Outdoors. With my limited experience in that part of the country, it both defied and exceeded my expectations, in sheer beauty and what was on offer. Finishing up a long day of offroad fun with a cold beer beside a pool, that’s only a mile or two from where we had been driving all day, was a wonderful way to end the trip, even if it was marred with some thunderstorms that night.