Hanksville, Utah, Small Town, Big Desert 9

This trip and article came together in February 2005 and I can't imagine many people saw it back then. Six years later, I think it's time for a look back. Thanks to Go-Ride, P-Tucky and CVD for a great barrel of memories! -gordo
Have you ever let your fingernails go a little too long and when you finally get to cut them, you miss one? That happened to me before a trip to Hanksville, Utah back in February. Everything I had read and seen about Hanksville implied that I had to be a rock star with an RV and gourmet chef riding along if I wanted to survive out there, and here I was starting the trip off with nine trimmed fingernails and one middle finger with a claw-like growth on the end. Hardly something a rock star would do. A rock star would at least have an extra set of nail clippers with them to remedy the situation. Actually, a rock star would probably just eat his nails off in a drunken, coke-induced rage…but that’s another story.
On the road...
I didn’t tell Chris Van Dine and Eric Porter about my fingernail because I was embarrassed. I hoped they wouldn’t notice. Porter arranged this whole desert ordeal because he needed some additional footage for his section in the new Counterparts video. He suggested we go to Southern Utah to get it done because the terrain was unique and since it was winter, we could probably get the riding done. Chris Van Dine, Go-Ride owner, Scott Crabill and moto enthusiast, Faith Bradley were the ringers on the trip. They had the transportation, motorcycles and the pseudo-local knowledge to make sure we had a trip that was free from disorder.
     February in Utah can be a crapshoot. Sure, we were going to the desert, but even the desert gets precipitation, and the weather forecast was sketching all of us out. Regardless of weather, we had to make due. Plane tickets had been purchased (rock stars have their own jets), time was taken off from “real” jobs (something rock star’s don’t have), so on a chilly night in Salt Lake City, this group of bicyclers came together to venture out into the land of the abandonment and goofy rock formations.

Venture into the void
My fingernail was bugging me to death on the drive down. Luckily, Van Dine’s van was pretty cush. It was an old, haggard conversion van that had a bed and kitchen inside. Age aside, the thing was comfortable, so things were looking good - until we stopped for gas. We filled up, got snacks (nothing gourmet like rock stars would eat) and Chris went to start the van…nothing. The battery was dead. Crabill’s big truck to the rescue.  Luckily we were still in the populous of Salt Lake City, so we jump started the van and rolled to an auto parts shop to assess the situation. Here we are, day one, three hours away from our remote destination with car troubles and I had one fingernail longer than the rest.
     The dead battery was a mystery, but the alternator seemed to be working and the battery appeared to keep a charge. Rather than spend money on an alternator (which we thought was the problem) Van Dine just bought a spare battery, and we trucked into Nowheresville on a limp and a prayer.
     I hate crap like this. I freak out with cars and problems, so I was getting ulcers the whole way. Van Dine and Porter, however, didn’t seem to care, and I didn’t let them know I cared. We made conversation about the upcoming race season and the state of the mountain bike scene. We were like road tripping friends, not rock stars.
     Some pit stops and gnarly hotdog eating challenges that went uncontested aside, we rolled into Hanksville. Was this it? Where’s the town? Where’s the gas station? Where’s…anything? Cripes, Hanksville is small. Like one motel, one restaurant and one gas station-small. It had a post office and some ramshackle houses, but not much else. The surrounding desert, however looked like it was full of mountain biking gems. The only problem was that it was kind of snowy and rainy. Rock stars never get crappy weather. If they do, they just fly to some place nicer. We didn’t have that luxury, so in spite of the weather, we checked into a motel room and decided to go scout.
     Chris unpacked the van and realized something. The refrigerator switch had been turned on accidentally when bikes and bags were being crammed in the back. The onboard fridge was sucking the life out battery, that’s why it had died. Our car problems were solved and we all we had to do was flip a switch. Now, that’s something that would happen to a rock star.

Let’s get to work
How do you scout hundreds of thousands of square miles of desert for the perfect obstacles? If you only have 3 days, you get lucky, that’s how. We decided to drive until we saw some dirt that looked like it was in some videos and magazines…rock star dirt. After an hour or so, we found some spots worth investigating more closley. Even though it had been rainy and snowy most of the day, the moisture had subsided and the dirt was actually dry enough to get a couple shots. Nothing fancy went down, just some stylish drops and jumps that nature provided. The dirt was deep and tracks were laid down ski tracks. It was what we were all hoping for.
Van Dine...colder than it looks.
Our introduction to southern Utah was now complete. Some riding took place, the sun was going down, it was cold and dreary, and though we didn’t know it yet, we all had a date with a local lady…Blondie.

Blondes don’t always have the most fun
Blondie is the glue that holds Hanksville together throughout the dreary winter months. Her food, her gifts and her good times are all the only thing this little horse town has to depend on throughout the off season, and we got to know her well. Every meal, but one was purchased and consumed at Blondie’s on this trip and our first dinner there was nothing short of, uhh, how do I put this politely? Greasy. Rock stars would not have put up with the dining options at Blondie’s.
     The atmosphere reminded me of the Kmart café. Fried this, deep-fried that. Hot dogs, french fries, fish sticks, novelty t-shirts and toys; Blondies had it all, a regular one-stop shop. Porter and Van Dine found a secret stash Airsoft guns amongst Blondie’s sundries, so of course, they bought them. Van Dine’s broke right away (which I found quite funny) and Porter played like a true gangsta by lighting us all up with those stupid little plastic bb’s. I stepped on those crappy little yellow balls when getting out of the shower and even found them in my bag when I got home…thanks a ton, P-tucky.
Eric Porter, hands-free operation way before Bluetooth. Who said a Canon 10D can't take nice pics?
Mudbogs and phallus
Ok, back to the story. My fingernail was still bothering me and I never remembered to look for a new set of clippers while we were at Blondies, but our first day of riding was about to begin. The rain had stopped, but it was still gloomy. Since the terrain was rideable the night before, we figured it could only get better, so we headed back to the area we were the evening prior.
     I was loathing my claw on the way out of town. As we neared the pullout, Porter and I saw it coming, but didn’t say anything because we figured Van Dine knew better. We slowly pulled off the road to the spot. We were nicely on the shoulder, but the van kept going, off the shoulder into normally firm dirt. This day, however, the dirt was like playdough and down we went. It was over and we knew it. “It’s cool, I’ll back it out,” says Van Dine. A tiny little creep, then the dreaded sound of the one spinning wheel beneath the weathered 1980’s conversion van. We’re stuck in the mud, and we didn’t have anything strong enough for a tow out.
Chris Van Dine, aggro face on a wall in the middle of freaking nowhere.
Thankfully we’re all pretty smart. A lot of rock stars aren’t, so not being rock stars was to our advantage here. It didn’t take long to dig out the axles with the shovels meant for digging jumps and we figured out we could use one of the aluminum trailer ramps that Crabill had in his truck to direct the beast out of the mire. We collected some decomposing sagebrush and stuffed it under the wheel for added traction. Some light throttle action by Van Dine, some pushing by the rest of us, and the van was free…time to shred.
     Crabill and Faith got the motorcycles ready and eventually they tore off with Van Dine to scout the deeper reaches of the country. Eric and I had seen potential in a little river gully right by the road and checked it out. We were looking for a place to build a dirt quarterpipe. We lucked out and found a perfect spot; a little rock outcropping that was halfway shaped into a Utah-esque quarterpipe and spine.
     Eric and I dug for about 4 hours to get the quarter and spine ready. Our blessing in disguise was the moisture in the dirt. The sun had come out, but the sandy soil was still dense enough to pack and shape. We were at the right place at the right time…just like a rock star would be. I even forgot about my fingernail for a while.
EPMD. Eric Porter Making Drops.
Just as we finished, the moto crew returned and told us about the spot they’d been digging. A 100 foot tall spire that they could wallride. The quarterpipe was settling and they were ready, so we decided to go to the spire. The soil was miraculously drying out and we ended up taking Scott’s truck about a mile off the road to the location. It was incredible…like a giant phallic symbol straight out of Spinal Tap 2! The wallride worked thanks to their hard work and digging skills. With Scott’s truck blasting Gwen Stefani tunes from below, we had our own private session without anyone around for miles. The weather wasn’t epic, but we didn’t care. We were keeping it real, like mountain bikers do and it felt like a private rock’n’roll show.

The session closed and the moto crew shredded the moon-like landscape back to the road. I made Porter drive the truck, so I wouldn’t be responsible if it got stuck and I figured my fingernail might hamper my driving. As we neared the road, we noticed the truck had a flat tire; probably stabbed by some of the scrubby brush that dotted the landscape. We got to the road, parked it and told Scott. So much for the rocker life. Another day, another problem with a vehicle. Scott had a spare, fixed it and everything was grand. We headed into the wash for the quarter pipe.
     She was a delicate feature. The transitions were still soft, but Porter wanted his flair, which was half the reason we came to Utah in the first place. P-tuck took a few runs into our version of Nature’s skatepark and decided it was time to go upside down. The scary thing about performing mad mountain bike mayhem in the Hanksville area is the lack of medical support. There isn’t a hospital for 100 miles and cell phones don’t work. Hell, I couldn’t find nail clippers, so going upside down on the old two-wheeler is a little intimidating. The one rock star benefit I can see is that EMTs would probably accompany any concert or stunt performance. We didn’t have the fortune of EMTs, but Porter flaired anyways. He tried a handful of times and the soft dirt just wouldn’t let him roll out. We packed up as the sun went down and decided to come back tomorrow.
Beavis and Butthead have a teacher named Mr. Van Driesen. Everytime I see Chris Van Dine, I call him Van Driesen. Canon 10D quarterpipe blaster far from home.
Big City Life
Ahh, our one meal away from Blondies. We drove an hour to Green River, Utah. I hate Green River because I had to spend 3 days there while being bilked out of thousands of dollars in car repair. This visit was intentional because we were meeting up Aaron Chase, Darren Berrecloth, Jordie Lunn and Axl Fostvedt at a cozy little bar. They were up that way filming for some other movie it turned out. We had fantastic red meat, beer (even though it was Utah beer) and played some pool. Chase and Jordie took Van Dine and myself for $10. My fingernail threw off my game, so I talked some trash to cover up for it, and we headed back to the slightly populated dregs of Hanksville for some sleep.

Let’s get to work part two
Flair is the mission for the day, but the dirt was still a little soft, so we found another area to explore. The moto crew rips around looking for goods, while P-tuck and I dig again. This time it’s a fufanu and natural step-up-down obstacle. If you go to the desert to get freeridey, you have to find a natural fuf. Just look at old Decline covers, it’s true. We found one, dug it and Porter did his work on it. He then manualed the step-up-off part of it too. The moto crew didn’t find anything, but had fun railing in the loamy goodness. We packed up and went back to the quarterpipe. The sun had been baking, so we figured the tranny had been too.
P-tucky fashionably flip flopping for film. March 2005, children.
A little patch work, a bitch run or two and then Porter stomped a few flairs to our delight. Van Dine shreds the delicate obstacle, blasting out the top. The fragile piece of earth can’t take the abuse and one side starts getting rickety. VD makes note of this and closes her down, Utah style. He pushed through the vert extra hard and sent the left half of the wall crumbling to earth. We’d helped mother nature out with a little rapid erosion test…sweet. Porter decides to make use of my 2 hours of digging on the spine by handplanting it. I think it was the first real handplant he’d done and it was an added bonus to the session at Nature’s skatepark. Our rock star luck was blooming and my fingernail still sucked.
Van Dine landed his first "diner roll" on this trip. Corked flips were not the norm in early 2005.One last session and our trip would be done. There wasn’t a lot of potential riding real estate that we could see as we drove, but the rock star luck shined on us one last time. We found a great place to build a jump that would be safe for Van Dine to pull out his newly discover barrel roll. Again, the moisture worked in our favor. The dirt on the north facing slopes was still damp and dense, so we constructed a nice booter on the top of a long backside in about an hour.
     I snagged my fingernail on my backpack because it was 3 feet long now and that made me think about the danger and remote location we were in again. Van Dine was now going to go upside down and we were in the middle of the desert…don’t get hurt VD. A few straight airs to warm up and it was time to rollover. Everyone in attendance asked him what he did to do the trick and he could never answer, so the first time was a bit rough. He over jumped and over rotated and landed in a backsmacker with a slap. Thankfully the landing was steep, the dirt was soft and he was fine. A couple tries later he stomped a handful of them, corked out and clean. Porter did some no-foot cans and tuck no-handers. The sun went down and we all went back to the hotel feeling like rock stars who just finished a world tour.

That’s a wrap
Blondie’s was closed (it was Sunday), so we went to the gas station to get some Hot Pockets and beer. The world tour, rock star feeling ended pretty quickly, but we were all stoked. Just because we didn’t have a gourmet chef and an RV to tour around in didn’t mean we couldn’t get things done. It was hard work and there were some minor setbacks, but isn’t that mountain biking is about – suffering a bit to have incredible adventures? Mountain biking isn’t about extravagance and contrived experiences. it’s about the journey and the excitement of going into the unknown and seeing what happens.
This pretty much sums it up!
With an outcast fingernail for myself and great memories for all of us, we headed back to Salt Lake through the emptiness of wild Utah. Flairs and flips and vans breaking down and greasy food make dreams come true. We left, thanking Hanksville for a glimpse of reality and a glimpse of the unreal. If only Hank had given me a glimpse of some nail clippers.

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