Brett and Kristie Fleming’s Kawasaki Teryx LE 750 is the ultimate off-road crossover – a blend of the speed and sport you find in All Terrain Vehicles (ATV) and the function, power and design in the more work-oriented Universal Terrain Vehicles (UTV).
T-Rex, as the Flemings and their 13-year-old daughter, Amber, call their off-road vehicle, has side-by-side seating but is narrow enough to permit access down tight trails. Its large-diameter tubular steel cage defines a roofed cabin space while also providing rollover protection. It drives like a car with a steering wheel and floor pedals, but also has the tight turning radius, sport suspension and optional 4-wheel-drive (4WD) required for navigating off-road trails. It has a lift cargo bed for hauling materials along with a mid-chassis, 90-degree, four-stroke v-twin engine which, coupled with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), permits the vehicle to get up to 60 mph. “We love taking it out on trails,” says Kristie. “It’s a lot of fun.”
The Flemings bought T-Rex used in 2018 and the past two summers have taken it regularly to West Virginia to the Hatfield-McCoy Trails, a network of off-road trails linked to local communities. The trails require a permit – a sticker affixed to your helmet – which allows riders to take an off-road vehicle off the trails and into local places.
“We head out,” Kristie explains, “get breakfast in Pearisburg, have lunch in West Virginia, and come back home in the evening. It’s a long, physical day.”
Last year, the Flemings got Amber her own off-road vehicle, a 10 horsepower Polaris Ranger 150. Their idea is for Amber to get practice on it as a way to make her more comfortable when it comes time to learn how to drive on-road.
“It has adult override controls,” states Brett. From his phone, he can set its speed limit as well as establish limits on where it can and cannot go – a geofence.
Kristie, who is a licensed but mostly not practicing veterinarian, is the director of development for a local non-profit. She homeschooled Amber though 6th grade. Brett is the founder and owner of Fleming Technologies, a computer software engineering company in Blacksburg’s Corporate Research Center.
The Flemings both have had a long love affair with off-roading. For Brett, it started when he moved to Blacksburg from Florida in his last year of high school. “I went 4-wheeling on Brush Mountain, in areas now off-limits to off-roading,” he recalls. “It’s addicting once you get started.”
Kristie got into off-roading with her wedding present from Brett, a 1997 gunmetal blue, two-door, four-cylinder Jeep Wrangler TJ. “We called it the Mountain Goat,” she smiles. “Then she wanted more power,” Brett adds. So she moved on to a 1998 6-cylinder standard-transmission Jeep Wrangler TJ, which also went by Mountain Goat. That name is now found on the hood of Kristie’s third and current Jeep and her regular ride, a 2015 4-door Jeep Wrangler Sport, modified post-factory with bigger tires and wheels. Brett’s regular ride is a Dodge 1500 5.71 with the name Natasha.
Amber’s Polaris 150, purchased from the Polaris dealer in Fairlawn, is named Lexis. It has an adjustable steering wheel and adjustable driver’s seat. On the passenger side, extending from the dash area, is a T-shaped handle for passengers to hold when things get exciting. Designed to teach younger drivers to learn the fundamentals of driving mechanics while having fun out on the trails, this one is two-wheel drive.
Last year, Amber had the kind of driving learning experience which she and her parents will long remember. Going up a bank around a curve, she flipped over, utilizing the roll bars to end up wheels-up. Amber was unfazed but Kristie, coming up behind her, felt her heart stop. The Ranger wasn’t damaged and neither was Amber. The Flemings always wear helmets when riding. Before they could put Lexis upright, six men on dirt bikes showed up and got the vehicle righted. “They were the first and only people we saw all day,” Kristie remembers. “The people we’ve met out on the trails, they’re good people. We have had opportunities to help others in their own predicaments.”
T-Rex has a camouflage pattern on its scratch-resistant body, as well as on its wheels and across the dash. The battery is located under the driver’s seat, the fuel tank under the passenger’s seat. The front brakes are disc brakes, the back brakes a sealed brake system designed to work in wet and muddy conditions. It has 26-inch tires, and the design is simple enough to permit Brett, who likes working on vehicles, to perform most maintenance and repairs.
It’s been a great ride for the Flemings, but Brett has got it in his mind to upgrade to something with a little more performance and zip. Like Kristie when she switched from her first to her second Jeep, Brett wants a little more power. And that’s one way you know they’re a perfect match for each other.
Text by Karl H. Kazaks
Photos by Tom Wallace