In this post, I’m going to map out the ride I chose for this episode shot in 2004, between Matt Hotch, whose shop at the time was down in Fullerton, CA, and The Martin Brothers, Jason & Joe. Their shop was just outside Houston.
To this day, Matt is still one the best guys I met during the year of working on the show; and we had a blast out in Texas with the Martins as well. In addition to coordinating & ap on this ep, I also took all the show stills.
This is one of my favorite shots from our trip that started in a dump of a motel in Gallup, New Mexico, then went West into Arizona, where we went up into the Navajo Nation, through Window Rock, and past Canyon de Chelly (where we didn’t get to stop, unfortunately).
We went up the 191 and into Utah for a minute, before heading back SouthWest on Highway 163. The rock formations and stark beauty of this area is something that should not be missed if you ever get the chance. When I got near Mexican Hat, I remember thinking about how much the strip mining had really screwed up the hills – until I found out that was how they were, no mining had been done there.
This was also a scout I encountered an honest-to-goodness sandstorm I had to wait out in a service station somewhere North of Monument Valley for a while; and it was also a drive where at one point, I drove 70 miles an hour for nearly 2 hours without ever seeing another car or person. It was amazing.
Scouting this ride was a special treat for me, for a couple of reasons, one of which that I had grown up in the Phoenix area and had never returned after leaving for good in 1992. It was weird to go back there, but growing up we’d had a lot of opportunities to go up on the Rim and to Payson, Flagstaff, Sedona and a few other places up above the Valley floor and I’d always found it beautiful.
This ride was nothing if not that (though apologies that my Google maps path drawing isn’t precisely on the roads…).
Before we got to the Grand Canyon, the best place we could find to stop was a little joint called the San Juan Inn, in Mexican Hat, Utah. Right on the edge (and I do mean the edge) of the river along Highway 163.
Another one of my favorite parts was arranging our helicopter shots in Monument Valley. It was nearly impossible to get a permit from the Navajo Nation folks, and literally, the only way I got one was during my scout, to track down the guy responsible and pay a fee in person. After weeks of trying via phone and fax, it all came down to getting on the ground and making it work.
Funny enough, when we came to shoot, and had permit in hand, the Rangers in Monument Valley had their own set of problems with us, and didn’t care about our permit. The good news is, they showed up after we were in the air, and we got the hell out of there before we got in more trouble.
The other good news was, we were at the very edge of the flight range for this helicopter, which was a rescue helicopter from the Grand Canyon. The closest we could get to Monument Valley area at that time, without bringing in a fuel tanker. If I remember right, our budgets for the helicopter portions were literally around $2500. So we had an hour. That’s it.
This guy was an amazing pilot – at one point he was flying sideways down the highway so low that Joe or Matt (I don’t remember which) reached up from his speeding motorcycle to tap the skid of the helicopter with his hand… right before the dust up went crazy. The shots we got on this stretch were so worth it.
From this point, the journey went South a bit further, then West again to drop into the east end of the Grand Canyon and wind our way along the rim before dropping down to stay the second night at the glorious Holiday Inn Express near the Grand Canyon park entrance.
Next up came the second reason I loved this route. I grew up loving trains. I kind of outgrew them I guess (or just don’t have time anymore?), but the Williams Grand Canyon train folks had been kind enough to work with me to arrange timing a shoot with our riders with the Southbound morning train for some cool shots you see in the finished episode. Though it was raining, and cold, it was still awesome. And the folks at the Grand Canyon Railway were really a pleasure to work with. It made the fact that liked the train part just that much better. If you take this ride, I’d say skip staying by the Grand Canyon, get down into Williams and take some time off your bike to ride the railway.
From Williams, head over towards Flagstaff then South towards Phoenix, but don’t miss the turnoff to drop down into Sedona (also, do NOT take a large trailer this way, the hairpins will do you no favors), before coming back to join the main highway leading into Phoenix. We wrapped this ride up at the world famous Rawhide where we had out vote-out (I won’t spoil the outcome if you haven’t watched the episode).
Last thing to note about this ride – there are some very, very long stretches with no gas or services. Luckily, we had Matt’s Hummer with a full set of tools, some parts, and our lead and chase vehicles with extra gas. If your bikes have smallish gas tanks (Joe Martin’s bike had a tiny tank! We had to fill it by the roadside at least 3 times if I recall correctly and Matt’s at least twice), make sure someone along with you has some extra cans of gas their keeping handy.
Of the three rides I got to put together, this one ranked second only the last ride, which I’m not quite done mapping out, and never actually happened, but is worth sharing all the same. I’ll try to finish and post that in the next few weeks.