Quad riding in Tonto Village used to be a one-man sport -- now, everybody's doing it.
Clint Daniels started the trend almost 10 years ago after he bought a new four-wheeler. The first fellow Tonto Village resident to follow him and buy a quad of his own was friend Danny Cain, co-owner of the Double D Bar, Store and Cafe.
The two started romping around local regions together and now, Daniels said, nearly everybody in the area has at least one quad.
"Everybody started buying them because they saw how much fun we were having on them," he said.
The popularity prompted Daniels and Cain to begin a four-wheeling club called Danny's Quad Riders, which has met nearly every Saturday morning for the past six years.
The number of quad riders in the club varies each week. Sometimes, only Cain and a couple of his buddies take to the trails, but other times as many as 41 riders have joined the adventure. Usually there are about 10 to 15 regulars, Cain said.
On Aug. 9, the group met as usual and allowed this Review reporter to tag along on a quad loaned by Cain. Altogether, 13 riders hauled their gear and quads on a trip up to Forest Lakes and for about 10 hours, wound their way through some of the Rim's most beautiful country.
Most of the time, the quads never broke 30 mph. But it often felt like 60 mph on several twisting, dusty trails. Cain led the pack of riders on his $7,100 Bombardier and kept the pace manageable.
Daniels, 73, said he enjoys being outdoors without exerting himself physically.
"You get to see things you normally wouldn't in a car or a truck," he said. "The only other way you could see these things is hiking, and most of us are past that point ... Hiking is for the birds."
Daniels said bicyclers often think their sport is better, but added with a smile, "Mine pedals a lot easier than theirs."
This lighthearted ribbing is always a big part of Cain's quad-riding trips. The group takes 15-minute breaks about every 45 minutes, giving them enough time to sneak in playful insults.
"Hey, if it starts thundering and lightning, get your golf club and wave it in the air," one rider yelled to fellow quad-lover Wade Reed.
Reed's response was only a sheepish smile.
"It's camaraderie," Reed later said. "We just get along."
He added with a smirk, "I'd say we tease each other a whole bunch and I get the brunt of it."
While the jokes within the group are plentiful, everything isn't always a laughing matter.
Daniels said "do-gooders" in the Tonto Village area have caused trouble for the riders by complaining about the noise and forest destruction quads cause. He added Danny's Quad Riders can't help the noise, but that they never veer from designated paths or leave behind garbage.
"Everybody here is environmentally minded," he said. "We take out what we bring in."
He said he would never consider giving up quad riding.
"It gives me the freedom to get deep in the woods," he said. "You can go anywhere you've got enough guts to ride them."
Daniels and Cain have never had a problem finding the "guts" to travel treacherous trails. Cain paid for it once when he ran into a fellow rider's quad after drinking a little too much schnapps. He spent a few hours in the hospital afterward.
"It takes one time to make a believer out of you," he said.
Cain added when he is with a big group like Saturday's, he tends to stay on the easier trails and lead the group at a reasonable pace. After one rider expressed excitement over one particularly steep trail, Cain said he was more worried than elated.
"I don't like to go on steep ones with a group," he said. "I know I can handle the slippery rocks, but I worry about the others."
The youngest rider on the trip was 13-year-old Oliver Lewinson, who for the most part ran circles around the his companions.
"I love the fact that I can do whatever I want with my quad," he said. "I jump them, do doughnuts and kick dust into other people's faces. I love tearing things up."
The other riders don't let him get away with it. On Saturday's trip, several of them splashed muddy water all over Lewinson, who looked like he took a bath in it. It didn't phase him in the least.
"Is there more mud coming up?" he excitedly asked Cain during a rest stop.
Cain said anyone can go on one of his trips, whether from Tonto Village or other Rim country towns like Payson.
Besides buying an actual quad, the club is free to join.
To find out more about Danny's Quad Riders, call Cain at 478-4477. For more information on quads and their purchase, call Four-Seasons Motorsports in Rye at (928) 474-3411.