The desert has intrigued me since my first trip through Death Valley in 2013. The landscape is lunar, the colors otherworldly, the entire experience foreign to me. And that is really the crux of it right there: Completely Foreign to Me. That is what I seek out and love to find more than anything else – places I have never been, experiences I have never had.
Enter Ty. Ty is a dear friend who works in the powersports industry. I say powersports because this was most certainly NOT a motorcycle trip. Ty called and asked if I had a few free days to help him pre-ride some trails in Valley of Fire State Park, which is about an hour outside of Las Vegas. Ty knows I’m a die-hard adventurer and photographer. He needed some video and stills to show the incoming group, and he knew all he had to say was he had a side-by-side for me.
A side-by-side, or ROHV (Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle) for those who don’t know … is AWESOME. It was my first time in one, but it was quickly obvious that this thing was one capable off-road beast.
We were up early and on the road to VoF by 7:30 a.m. We had Tim, another ROHV driver/coach, with us, and two machines on the trailer. This was a very different experience for me, as I am used to being on my motorcycle, whether on-road or off, carrying everything I own with me. I have to say I was a bit apprehensive, climbing into a pickup and rolling down the highway, as I was not feeling the adventure spirit.
This quickly subsided as we left the hotels of Vegas behind and traveled ever-closer to the snow-capped mountains that were painted out in front of us. Once the side-by-sides were off the trailer and I got some instruction from Ty, it was all adrenaline and smiles.
We headed into the park without a clue as to what to expect or what might lie ahead. We hit the sand dunes and Ty was on the gas and pulling away. I followed suit and the only way to describe the emotion was pure joy, the smile of a 5-year-old under my helmet and a foot of lead on the gas.
Being a nuts-and-bolts kinda guy (my way of saying, “I like to understand how things work, and figure them out”), it was incredible to pay attention to how this machine handled. The ROHV had awesome power and an incredible long-travel suspension for soaking up whoops, rocks, bumps and one rock quarry (get to that later). Forget about how hard this would have been for me on two wheels, the ROHV just powered through.
The trail system was like nothing I had ever seen. Miles and miles of sand, rock, mountains, hill climbs. The terrain diversity was impressive, and equally so, the beauty. Red rocks jutting out of the sand like knives pointing to the sky, desert vegetation in that sage-green you have to see to understand, white quarry rock, and the cool tones of those snow-capped mountains in the distance. It all combined for one of the most interesting palettes in my recent memory.
It was an old quarry. At its mouth we noticed some semblance of a trail, and that was all it took. The three of us exchanged a look. We knew we were going in. Shifting into four-wheel drive, we slowed way down and went into “rock crawling” mode, powering up and over anything in front of us. It was incredible, driving down into the earth and watching the layers and colors change in the sheer rock wall on my immediate left, some 30 miles from where we started our day. It’s an experience I never would’ve had without this vehicle.
After we climbed back out of the hole, we parked to chat and reflect and to peer over the edge. We sat with our legs hanging over and had lunch – granola bars, water and coffee from my thermos. It doesn’t get any better than that. As much as I love restaurants and going out for crazy meals, this exact moment is my favorite counterbalance.
For the rest of the day and all of the next, we explored the vast majority of the area’s trails. Ty and Tim were stoked about the route we mapped out for their upcoming group trip. For me it was, as it always is, an epic reset button. An opportunity to leave all that is normal and all that is pulling on you behind in the name of a visceral experience, in the name of adventure. Sharing it with friends and helping them accomplish their goal made it all the more special.
I encourage you all to #GetOutside in whatever capacity that might be.
Until the next adventure,