Journalism, even in Tooele, can be an exhilarating job.
However, compared to what you may have seen on television or read on social media, the Tooele County beat is pretty tame.
I have never been asked to stand on an ocean beach while a hurricane touches down on the shore so the videographer can record dramatic footage to help ratings, nor have I been arrested for asking a county commissioner a question.
The chance that I will meet a “deep throat” source in a dark parking garage to get information that will blow a national case wide open and land me an offer for movie rights is slim.
I may never receive a Pulitzer.
But I try.
I try to bring our readers the news, seeking the truth and reporting it while being honest, accurate, fair and courageous.
When possible, I try to have as much first-hand experience with the subject of the stories I write, as long as that experience will not prejudice my reporting.
A face-to-face interview is preferable to a phone call, especially if it’s with a source I have never met.
Visiting a program or facility, attending a meeting, driving by the location of a new development, or touring a new business, are always the first choice.
During my 10 years at the Tooele Transcript Bulletin, my job has taken me to places I have never gone before.
I went in the bars on Broadway Street that I drove past for years to gather information for a story about how our local clubs were affected by new legislation.
I drove an ATV for the first time to the top of Jacob City for a story about the history of the ghost town’s past.
I have searched Middle Canyon more than once looking for homeless people to interview.
I sat as an unidentified embedded reporter in the middle of a hostile audience during a heated congressional town hall meeting in downtown Salt Lake City.
And a couple weeks ago I experienced a George Plimpton-like participatory journalism experience when I visited Utah Motorsports Campus.
No, I didn’t get behind the wheel of a sports car on UMC’s world-class track, but I got the next best thing.
It started with a chance to drive in one of UMC’s new state-of-the-art, full-motion racing simulators.
A real race track from somewhere popped up on three 50-inch screens in front of me. I felt dizzy as I rounded corners and put the pedal to the floor on straightaways.
According to the folks at UMC, these simulators, now open to the public, are used to train professional racecar drivers.
And take it from me, the experience feels and sounds very real.
I didn’t crash and burn, but I did round a few corners too fast and slid off the track a few times.
The UMC staff apparently wasn’t watching too closely. After a turn at the wheel of the simulator, they trusted me alone in one of their new Polaris Ace 570 UTVs.
Too chicken to say no, I agreed to be strapped into the seat of one of those things wearing a neck brace and helmet.
This was only my second time behind the wheel of a UTV.
The roll bar, combined with the seatbelts and helmet, made me feel a little claustrophobic.
But after following an instructor around the Off Road Short Course, the confinement made me feel safe, less I roll over while driven perpendicular to the ground on one of the heavily banked corners.
After a first time around the course, the instructor stopped and asked if I wanted to go faster.
That reminded me of the time I was on the treadmill at a gym many years ago.
I was all the way up to the speed of four on my treadmill. Huffing and puffing and sweating hard, I thought maybe five was the maximum speed. Then I looked at the guy next to me. His machine was at seven, and he was hardly breaking a sweat.
So I went not once, but twice around the track by myself. Each time I got a little braver. I went faster and higher up on the banked corners.
Strapped in the machine, I knew I would be safe, but with our photographer on hand, I also knew any embarrassing moments would be recorded for all to see — and they would be as permanent as a college student’s party picture on Facebook.
After running around the Off Road course, we drove the UTVs back to the Kart Center where UMC’s media relations manager, John Gardner, helped me crawl into one of UMC’s new Righetti karts.
This was a new experience for me; I have never been in a kart before.
When I think of a kart, my mind draws a mental picture of an old wooden soapbox fitted with tricycle wheels running down a neighborhood hill.
These karts are motorized and can reach a speed near 50 mph.
With a wide base and low center of gravity, the karts allow drivers to go fast without the need to worry about flipping over.
I found the ride to be exhilarating, although I got lost on the track and had to go around two more times to find the way out.
This would be a good group activity. It would be fun to come out and race around the kart track with our newsroom staff. Heck, we could even challenge the advertising staff to race.
It would be a great team building experience, definitely more fun than bowling.
When I was done experiencing UMC’s latest participatory fun, I jumped into my 2002 Saturn L200 and cruised down Sheep Lane on my way back to the office.
Staying under the speed limit was hard.
After running around the off road and kart courses in vehicles with real power, the speed limit felt slow.
My radio was off, but in my mind I heard my college roommate’s stereo blaring a Crosby, Stills and Nash song that I haven’t heard, or thought about, in almost 40 years.
“Just a song before I go, a lesson to be learned, traveling twice the speed of sound, it’s easy to get burned.”
I eased off the gas pedal and coasted down to a safe and legal speed.
Well, it may not have been as death defying as facing the winds of a hurricane, but for this reporter who lives a tame life, it was out of the ordinary.