Let me take you on a little journey with me. Imagine you’re at your favorite ride park. You’ve just unloaded your side-by-side at the trailhead. You’ve packed plenty of food and drinks to keep you comfortable for the day and you and your passenger are buckled in and ready to go. Now put a blindfold on and floor it.
Not brave enough to give that a try in real life?
Chris Fischer is. On his very first time driving a side-by-side, he hopped into the driver’s seat of his brother’s 2015 RZR XP 1000 and gunned it. He managed to bury the needle before slowing down.
Chris was giddy. His brother was terrified.
Why? That’s because Chris has been blind from the age of 14. He doesn’t drive and doesn’t hold a driver’s license. But that hasn’t stopped him from doing what he loves.
Chris grew up in Weatherford, Oklahoma, with his mother, brother, and sister. He lost his vision at the age of 14. He is completely blind in his right eye and has limited vision in his left eye. To get a sense of what his vision loss is like, close your right eye and look through a toilet paper tube with your left eye. Then imagine you have to put your face an inch away from the screen to read these words and even then they’re blurry. Everything beyond 10 feet away from you might as well be invisible.
Chris always loved off-roading. In his childhood, he spent a lot of time on his adoptive dad’s Polaris Trailblazer 250. In those days, his dad would tell him to “have goals in mind, because with goals, you can accomplish anything” and Chris never forgot those words.
When he woke up on his 14th birthday without his vision, he told himself that he wouldn’t let a visual impairment stop him from doing whatever he wanted. He knew there would be people around him that would try to dictate what he could and couldn’t do, but he vowed to resist those people and make his own choices. He wouldn’t be complacent.
And he proved just how non-complacent he was that day when he took the wheel of his brother’s RZR 1000 and fell in love with UTVs. When he rides, he feels completely free—completely in control. There’s nobody telling him he can’t do this or that. He’s just ripping through dunes and making rooster tails.
Today his ride of choice is his Yamaha YXZ, chosen for it’s combination of power and drivability. He lives close to Little Sahara State Park and he takes his YXZ out there as often as he can. He loves trail riding but his heart is in the sand. Little Sahara is a landlocked, dune-lover’s paradise—he calls it his big sandbox—and his wife helps him get there every time.
Chris says that his wife, Jaime, is his biggest supporter. “Half of this stuff I couldn’t do without her support. She is my rock. She is the type of person that will 110% back me on anything I do related to UTVs and will never tell me ‘no.’”
She’s the one that drives their trailer to the park and the one who sits shotgun with him. She spots for him while they ride and makes sure he doesn’t get too close to hitting anything.
She’s also the one that makes his dream of one day racing short track possible. You might think it sounds far fetched, but when you watch him ride you’ll see that there’s no reason he couldn’t. There’s no hesitation or nervousness about him when he’s laying on the gas, and he’s just as aware of his surroundings as you are when his limited vision is combined with his wife’s direction. He’s still working on making his YXZ race worthy but it’s easy to imagine him fighting up the pack through the tight turns of a short-track race course.
He’s not the only rider out there facing challenges, but he might be the only blind one. He says he’s never met another blind UTV rider or off-road enthusiast in general. He wants people everywhere, whether they have some physical challenge to overcome or not, to remember to “live for something or die for nothing.” That’s how he lives his life.
Chris’ story is inspiring. He’s doing what he loves despite all the challenges that he and others like him face. Are you?
“I know when I wake up I’m living for goals I have for my life. I’m living for something. If you don’t live for anything or you let society dictate who you are, then you’re not living. I don’t let society tell me I can or can’t do anything. A lot of people ask how my day is going or what I am doing and I tell them ‘I’m just living the dream.’”
Chris Fischer, 2017