Anyone who has ever been stuck in traffic has dreamed of owning their own tank. Unfortunately they’re fairly impractical machines, difficult both to afford and insure, and their enormous treads would ruin your driveway. That’s why we’re blessed to live near Drive a Tank in Kasota, MN, the only place in the country where you can go to live out your rush hour fantasy.
When I arrived at Drive a Tank I was cordially greeted at the door by a good old black Lab named Sherman. So far the experience was perfect. I was then ushered into a little theater where the owner of the place Tony Borglum gave me and my group a short presentation on tanks in general: their history, their practical applications in warfare, just how dearly you’d not like to be in one should it get hit by a HESH plastic explosive round, and more that gave us a better appreciation for the mechanical hulks. Tony spoke like a man who genuinely, passionately loves tanks, and it’s reasonable to suspect that he does given his line of work. When he passed on a particularly juicy tank fact he had the same glimmer in his eyes that Groucho Marx did whenever he told a joke.
As an aperitif to the tank driving we first went to the shooting range, where we were allowed to fire historic automatic weapons. I wielded a STEN, a real bare bones piece of WWII hardware which spat out a whole magazine worth of lead in a matter of nearly two seconds. Other people fired mounted and belt fed things, and one of my cohorts shot a Barrett which takes a cartridge the size of a gas station hotdog. I can still feel the supersonic “WOOM” it made in my chest.
With plenty of brass on the floor and the smell of copper and saltpeter in the air, it was time to leave the range for the tank portion of Drive a Tank. We all excitedly boarded the trailer of a military truck for a short drive into the woods where the giants awaited us.
Waiting for my turn to drive a tank was a great exercise in patience. Watching everyone who went before me return from their romps through the forest with enormous grins plastered across their faces as their metal behemoth’s mud caked treads squeaked like frightened rhesus monkeys was almost too much. Finally I was allowed to climb up onto the thing, hunker down in the driver’s seat, wrap my mitts around its controls, and tear off.
I’ve never controlled something so big before, and likely never will again. Do you want to know what I realized as I crunched away down Drive a Tank’s sinuous track, intuitively manipulating levers as I scaled steep hills and forded frozen brown puddles, feeling like some indomitable force of nature, indestructible, massive, and happy? I realized that driving a tank is the most fun that it’s possible to have. (It’s probably less fun to do when you’re surrounded by enemies who want to stop you with a HESH, but fortunately Kasota is full of nothing but friendly people.)
It’s a longish ride, but it feels like it’s over in seconds. Lucky for us one of the group had paid a little extra to drive an even beefier tank, named “Larry,” over a Mercedes Benz when we all returned. We held our breath in anticipation as Larry crept up to the car and cheered as it trundled over the thing, noisily squashing it into a misshapen lump. It was the crescendo to a perfect day.
Driving a tank is a singular experience and worth every penny. People fly in from around the world to do it, so you’re lucky to already be so close by. Visit driveatank.com to learn more about this very, very special thing that you can do, and give Sherman a pat for me if you go.
By David Scheller