I’d always envisioned being able to drive, fly, sail, or control any type of equipment that moves. It led me to getting my pilot’s license, my captain’s license, and my motorcycle license. I also learned to drive a manual an automatic car, a stock car, a dune buggy, a snowmobile, a formula one car, an Indy car, and a number of super cars. I even learned to drive an army tank at Drive Tanks a few months ago.
So what’s left on my list?
I wanted to learn to drive heavy equipment and there is a place in Texas that lets you do it! At Extreme Sandbox, they let clients play on construction equipment. Yes, you read that right. People can drive an excavator, wheel loader, or bulldozer for fun. It’s a truly unique bucket list experience that I had to cross off my list. So, I signed up with my friend Sharon for the Dueling Adventure at Extreme Sandbox and we learned to drive excavators. You won’t believe the cool things we were able to experience.
Extreme Sandbox has a fun, interesting history. It’s a small family business with locations in both Texas and Minnesota. They’ve grown largely thanks to their appearance on Shark Tank.
Their Dueling Adventure is their most popular package. You can choose to drive either excavators, wheel loaders, or bulldozers to compete head to head.
The two person Dueling adventure at Extreme Sandbox includes:
Approximately 1 ½ hours total time
20-30 minutes instruction
60 minutes equipment use
Includes obstacle course
ANY ONE PAIR – Excavators OR Bulldozers OR Wheel Loaders
We chose excavators!
Follow along as we learn to drive excavators at Extreme Sandbox.
Dueling Adventure at Extreme Sandbox
When we arrived on site, we were greeted by our instructor.
He welcomed us and asked us to sign a waiver. It was all on our phones so we didn’t need to touch anything or hand in any paperwork.
Then, we watched a 20 minute video that explained the basics of operating heavy equipment. It seemed a little overwhelming at first but I never let videos or instructions get to me. Extreme Sandbox offers this experience so often that I was confident that we would be given excellent instructions.
The video ended and we were given construction vests to wear before heading outside to the site.
Each type of equipment has its own area. I could see the excavators from the window. I’d never really noticed how big they are until I was faced with the thought of driving one.
Learning the Basics
We were shown to our excavators where we were given a headset so we could talk to each other during the whole experience.
Our instructor coached us step-by-step from the moment we approached the heavy equipment.
We had a training session that covered the basic movements like maneuvering the base of the excavator, controlling the arm and the bucket, and driving.
Learning to control the left and right joystick wasn’t too complicated, but it did take a few tries to figure out the minor adjustments. Sometimes I left my bucket too open and I lost a lot of dirt or sometimes I moved the teeth of the bucket too far into the ground and I couldn’t lift the dirt.
Our instructor was very calming and never made us feel silly or stupid if we did something wrong. He just explained the adjustments to make and made us feel great when we did it right. He was an excellent teacher.
After we learned the basics of the joysticks and driving, we were given a challenge to build the largest pile of dirt. As I learned to adjust control the arm and the bucket, I felt more and more confident and I could build my pile more quickly. Even this felt like an awesome accomplishment and I was already pleased with the experience.
Up next was the obstacle course and it far exceeded my expectations. I thought we might maneuver around a few piles of dirt and drive over a small hill, but I never imagined we would do so much more!
The Obstacle Course
When our instructor first told us about the obstacle course, it sounded impossible. He said that we would knock tennis balls off of pilons, maneuver around buckets, drive over a hill, shoot basketballs into a tire, and lift a car. I thought he was insane. I assumed there was no way I would have that much control that I could complete all the obstacles.
Step-by-step, I did it! It gave me such a feeling of accomplishment.
Lifting and moving the car took the most precision. I needed to line the teeth of the bucket up just right to make them fit and then remember which maneuver lifted the arm and the bucket so I didn’t drop the car.
We both felt so good about ourselves afterwards. Sharon said it was a big accomplishment for her – she was intimidated by driving an excavator and the height of the vehicle, but she did it! I’m still a little in shock that I lifted a car and moved it to another location or that I knocked tennis balls off of pilons without knocking the pilons down. We were giddy with excitement on the drive home while we talked about our experience.
Sometimes I like to think about my life like the tv show The Amazing Race. If I was put in a situation where I needed to get around a city, drive a bizarre vehicle, or participate in an extreme adventure, I not only want to say, “I’ll try.” I want to say, “Heck yes! I can do that with style.” Now I can add driving heavy equipment to that list.