Fair warning, this is going to be a LONG, detailed blog entry. This is as much for my future memory as it is for sharing all of this with you. With that said, at some point this weekend, my bike ended up like this, so it’s worth the read…
Thursday morning I was up bright and early at 4:30am to get ready to head to the airport. I had everything packed and ready to go the night before, and my flight was at 7am. Dwayne drove me to Louisville to the airport, and I had him stop at Starbucks on the way so I could grab a breakfast wrap and an extra strong latte to wake me up.
I had an hour layover in Chicago before heading on to Park City, but luckily that all went smoothly other than us not taking off until about 30 minutes after we were supposed to. I was supposed to be the first of us girls to arrive in Salt Lake City, followed by Erika 15 minutes later, and Amelia 15 minutes after that. As it turned out, Erika arrived a few minutes before me, and Amelia ended up being delayed by 2.5 hours due to mechanical issues with her plane.
Erika and I took an Uber to a hotel nearby where one of our REV’IT! contacts, Joonil, had stayed the night before. He invited us to come there and leave our bags while we went out for lunch. Once Amelia arrived, she took an UberXL to us, where we loaded up our things and on to Park City the three of us went. There were a few times I thought we might not make it due to our Uber driver being a bit of a madman, but he just managed to get us there in record time!
Once we got to Park City we went to the condo that REV’IT! had booked us for our stay at The Lodges of Deer Valley Resort. It was an absolutely gorgeous condo with a huge open concept kitchen, dining, and living area, complete with a beautiful fireplace and a door out onto a private patio. It also had two good sized bedrooms and three full bathrooms, as well as a jacuzzi tub. We definitely felt spoiled getting to stay in such beautiful accommodations for the weekend.
Once we got checked in, we headed down to the Rally area to meet up with Joonil and Josh from REV’IT! When we arrived, Joonil had bad news for us. The bikes that he had rented for us 2 months prior, and had been assured on a weekly basis would be ready for us to ride both on street and dirt at the rally, had not been properly insured by the rental company for street use, and they were not going to allow us to ride the bikes on the street.
Amelia and I were immediately upset. We hadn’t flown across the country to go on a guided tour of a state park, which is what the rental company suggested they would allow us to do. Luckily, Amelia knows a lot of awesome people, including Mike Lafferty of KTM. She introduced me to Mike, and we explained our situation to him. He was just as upset by our situation as we were, knowing that wasn’t what we had flown out there to do, and he set to work trying to figure out an alternate plan for us.
A short while later he was introducing us to Russell Bobbitt and Cole Kirkpatrick who are two KTM pro riders who run a tour company named Gnarly Routes. They had their KTM rental fleet with them at the rally, but were not intending to rent their bikes out because they were already prepped for a tour they were hosting the following week. Luckily, they were happy to help us out, so they allowed REV’IT! to rent two of their 250 XC-W TPI rental bikes, a 350 EXC-F, and Cole’s personal 250 XC-W TPI for the weekend.
Once we had the bike situation handled, we went back to the room to get cleaned up so we could go out to dinner with Joonil and Josh. The 5 of us piled into Josh’s company truck, which is a super badass Toyota Tundra all decked out with a REV’IT! wrap, which I really wanted to steal.
We ended up at a delicious sushi restaurant named Yuki Yama. Joon and Josh kept the sushi and sake flowing for us, and we all had a really great dinner with good conversation.
Once we were back to the room Amelia and Erika turned in for the night, and I stayed up to wait on our other teammate, Louise, to arrive. She had to work that day and wasn’t able to fly in until late.
The next morning we all got geared up and ready to ride before heading down to the huge event tent KTM had set up for breakfast. We helped ourselves to some scrambled eggs, bacon, and fruit, and decided what route we were going to ride for the day. By the end of breakfast our photographer for the weekend, Julia LaPalme had joined us, and we all got acquainted with her. I instantly knew I liked her, and she fit right in with our group.
Also during breakfast, Amelia ran into Dakar rally racer Bill Conger, who she is also friends with (Amelia knows EVERYONE!!!), and she introduced us all to him. As it turned out, he didn’t have a plan for the day, and he decided to wait around for us and ride with us on his BMW 1200GSA. How cool to be able to say that I spent the day riding with a Dakar finisher!
After breakfast we gave our GPS to Joon so he could take it to the Rever tent and have our route for the day loaded, which was a route that was recommended to us by Mike Lafferty. Meanwhile, we went over to the Gnarly Routes truck to check out our bikes for the day. Russell had set up the two rental 250’s to sit as low as possible for Erika and Louise, as they are both a bit shorter than Amelia and I. He softened the suspension a bit on the 350 for me as well as he said it had previously been set up for a heavier rider, and Amelia had him adjust the levers down on Cole’s 250 for her.
Cole snapped a picture of us for their Instagram before we headed out for the day. That is Julia on the left, then me, Amelia, Louise, and Erika.
We tried for nearly an hour to get all of our Sena headsets to connect to one another. The best we could do was to have two groups of 2 and 3, we never could get all 5 of us connected at once. It was extremely frustrating, and a bummer that we couldn’t all be connected at once. Sena really needs to make that process easier.
Once we finally decided to just roll with it, we hit the road with Bill and Julia bringing up the back of the pack. We hadn’t made it very far out of town when Erika pulled over onto the side of the highway. Her rear wheel had a nasty wobble to it. Bill checked it out for her and found that the bib mousse they had installed inside the tire (rather than a tube) had not seated properly. According to Bill, the fix for this was to loosen the beadlock a little, rip the bike hard on some dirt, and then tighten the beadlock back up. So we were all treated to a show of Bill ripping around on the dirt hills alongside the highway to get it to seat properly, which was very fun to see. As it turned out, he was right, it fixed the issue right up and we were back on the road quickly.
The scenery on the way to the trails was increasingly beautiful the closer we got. We stopped for a quick bathroom break once we got to the trailhead, and I took the time to snap some pictures.
We started off down the trails, occasionally letting Julia go ahead to take some pictures as we passed. Bill kept his distance so he wouldn’t end up in the shots, and he couldn’t have been more patient with us. I can’t imagine that it was terribly fun for him, but he insisted that evening when I mentioned it to him that he had very much enjoyed riding with us.
At one point we found a cool little spot where the leaves on the trees had turned bright yellow, and there were some fun little short trails for us to play around on and take pictures. We took turns riding the REV’IT! Husky 501 that they had brought for Julia to ride, and Amelia and I played around on the trails while the other girls were taking their turns.
Once Julia had all the shots she wanted from that spot, we all saddled back up and headed back out on the trail. We encountered a few slightly technical sections, one of which was a rocky uphill in which we met a side-by-side head on and had to stop. Julia got stuck on the 501 in some rocks, so Amelia had to help her get it dislodged and on up the hill.
After we got through that section, we found a shady spot to stop for a break so Julia could cool off. She was wearing the REV’IT! Horizon 2 suit, which is a waterproof suit that does not breathe very well in warm conditions. I also have that suit, so I knew that she was most likely getting overheated and easily fatigued between that suit and the huge, heavy backpack full of camera equipment she had on her back. Bill insisted that she strap the backpack to the back of his GS to get the extra weight off of her, which I think made a big difference.
Once everyone was ready to hit the trail again, we went on to where there was an optional addition to our route. which, Mike lafferty had suggested we take if we had time. It started off with a pretty decent, rocky hill climb. Amelia led the pack up the hill, with me and Erika behind her. Louise was behind Erika, and we heard her in our headsets as she bobbled on some rocks and down she went. Luckily she was unharmed and joined us at the top a few minutes later. The view was spectacular, so we stopped to snap a few pictures.
A short distance on up the trail, we were treated to a cliff overlooking a gorgeous vista. We stopped here to allow Julia to get some more photos of us, and Bill found a nice rock to take a break on.
When we were finally done with pictures, we continued on the loop until we made it back to the main trail. Somewhere along the line we picked up a lost puppy named Matt. Matt wasn’t really a lost puppy, but Bill and Julia neither one realized that he was actually a friend of mine from Instagram and I had told him what route we had intended to ride that day. They both thought that he was just some random guy who saw a group of girls and decided to follow, haha!
Once we made it back to a paved road, we stopped to regroup and figure out our plan from there. Stopping so often to take pictures had taken up more time than we had anticipated, and we knew we were not going to be having lunch at this point. We wondered if we should continue on the dirt route as planned, or if we should hop on the pavement and head back for Park City. Bill was our voice of reason and suggested we had time to do at least the next leg of dirt, and we could slab it back from Strawberry, which was our intended fuel and lunch stop, if need be. Matt claimed that the dirt road ahead of us was fun, as that’s the way he had come from, so we took his word for it and decided to continue on.
As it turned out, the road ahead was not as fun as Matt had led us to believe. It may have been fine for him, a solo traveler with no one ahead of him whose dust to consume, but for a group of 7, it was increasingly less enjoyable the further back in the pack you were. Dusty doesn’t even begin to describe the conditions, and on top of that, the road texture was extremely silty, which felt very unstable pretty much the entire time. Amelia was cussing Matt over our Sena’s, not that he could hear her, and we were all hoping we didn’t have far to go before we would find pavement again. Not something our group usually wishes for, but none of us were enjoying that road at that point.
At some point Erika had enough of eating my and Amelia’s dust, so she went around us to lead the pack. I don’t remember how, but I also ended up in front of Amelia, behind Erika, who was now hauling ass, hell bent on getting off of that road as quick as possible. My rear tire got a little loose in one of the righthand curves, but I managed to stay upright and ride it out.
Not long after, Amelia realized she no longer saw Louise behind her. Our Sena’s had screwed up again and Amelia was the only person I could talk to, and Erika was no longer connected to anyone. Amelia told me to keep up with Erika, and she fell back a bit to see if Louise would catch up. She never did, so Amelia caught up to me and said we really needed to get Erika to stop because something must be wrong. About that time, Erika must have noticed she only had two of us behind her, because she pulled over. We let her know that we hadn’t seen the rest of the group in quite a while, and we thought something might be wrong. We decided to wait a few minutes to see if maybe they had just slowed way down due to the dust and unstable road surface.
Along the way, the air had grown thick with wildfire smoke, and once we were stopped, we took in the scenery around us. The sky was tinted red, and everything looked eerie, almost apocalyptic. We were also all three completely covered in thick dust.
We waited for about 20 minutes, becoming increasingly worried, but also not wanting to backtrack down that road knowing that there were already 4 people there, and it was highly unlikely that they were all injured. We saw a vehicle coming down the road and decided to flag them down and ask if they had seen the rest of our group. When the vehicle stopped, Erika went to talk with them and found that there was what appeared to be a 12 year old kid driving! As she was talking to them, we saw the rest of our group coming slowly over the hill. As it turned out, right after my rear wheel kick-out incident, Julia had lowsided on the 501 on one of the next lefthand curves. She was mostly okay, but had scraped her arm up, and they had stopped for Bill to bandage her up, and for her to regroup.
We decided to hit Hwy 40 back up to Park City at that point, but to stop at the first gas station to fill up the bikes and take a break. We went past a resort that looked like it might have a gas station, but we didn’t see any, so we kept going. Bill came flying around us shortly after to signal for us to turn around, he had seen a couple of gas pumps on the far left side of the property that we hadn’t. He said that the 501’s fuel light had come on, so he didn’t think it would make it to the next town if we didn’t turn back.
As we pulled back out onto the highway to head back to the gas station, I heard Amelia yelling in my headset, freaking out. I had no idea what was happening, but she explained that a wheel had fallen off of the boat trailer that had just passed us and went whizzing past her right towards Louise and Matt behind us, narrowly missing them. We pulled into the gas station and stopped, and Louise immediately fell to the ground, crying. We thought she was just in shock, but then we saw the long black mark going up her right leg. The wheel had missed her, but some other debris had definitely hit her. She was in pain, and freaked out, but it could have been a whole lot worse!
We filled the bikes all up and had some jerky and granola bars for lunch, and allowed Louise and Julia time to regroup from their accidents before hitting the road back to Park City. The issue with taking the highway back is that Cole’s bike that Amelia was riding is geared so low that it would only do 52mph max, and the speed limit was 65.
When we got back to the rally grounds, we pulled up in front of the REV’IT! booth so they could get pictures with all of us. There was a small crowd gathered around and some other people were taking pictures of us too, which felt both odd and awesome at the same time.
When pictures were over, we wheeled our bikes back over to the Gnarly Routes truck for the night, and we headed back to the room to get showered up. We invited Bill to come shower in our room as a thank you for supporting us all day, since he was camping. We were all pretty worn out, so we decided to just invite our whole REV’IT! group, including Julia and Bill to hang out in our room and have dinner ordered in. Josh went and got us beer and wine, and he and Joon picked up and delivered the food. We enjoyed a family style dinner at our huge dining table, with great conversation, and it was such a nice way to spend the evening.
Saturday morning was much the same as Friday morning, we all had breakfast together in the dining tent, and took some pictures of us planning our route for the day. Mike had told us of an OHV area where the Ultimate Race Qualifier Top 10 would be for the day and suggested we might like riding there as well, so we decided to head over there so there would be more options for some more difficult trails for us if we wanted to hit them.
This time I swapped bikes with Amelia and she rode the 350 and I rode Cole’s 2-stroke. I never dreamed I would get an opportunity to ride a professional riders personal motorcycle, so that was really cool for me. I was less than comfortable as it was my first time on a 2-stroke and I tend to be a bit handsy with the throttle at times. I quickly got a feel for it, but wished that I hadn’t forgotten my earplugs in the room that day, because 2-strokes are obnoxiously loud, lol!
We stopped at the welcome center to get some paper maps and use the restrooms, which is when I realized I had forgotten my water pack back at the Gnarly Routes truck, which also had my wallet with all of my ID’s and insurance cards in it. I called Joon and had him go get it for safe keeping, but I felt naked without my water pack on my back. I never ride without it, so I can’t believe I forgot it. Amelia bought me a bottle of water and Erika let me put it in her tank bag so I wouldn’t be thirsty all day.
The ride into the OHV park was beautiful and a lot of fun with plenty of curves. Once we finally hit dirt, we only made it a couple of miles in when we stopped to regroup and Julia let us know that she was uncomfortable and in a bit of pain riding on the bumpy road surfaces. We knew this was a possibility, and Louise’s leg was bothering her quite a bit as well, so we decided to find a trail to ride back and forth on to get some more of Julia’s shot list knocked out before heading back.
Once Julia was content with the photos she’d gotten, we started back out the way we had come in. We figured we would just head back and get cleaned up and go back out to do some mingling before the awards dinner that night.
On the way back out, Amelia wanted to stop at this gnarly uphill trail with huge embedded rocks to make a run at it. Of course, what I lack in skill I make up for with confidence, so I was more than happy to follow her right up the trail. Right before we went to takeoff I was second guessing my choice to do so on Cole’s bike though, being that I was more comfortable on the 350, so Amelia agreed that she should switch with me.
The two of us went up the hill fairly easily. I did have one “Oh shit” moment, but I rode it out and we continued on to where the trail split. We decided we should turn around and go back so the others wouldn’t be worried that we had been gone so long, so back down the hill we went. Amelia stopped me once to give me some pointers, and then again to video me as I passed her.
Once we got back down, she asked if I wanted to go again, and I said, “Of course!!” This time didn’t go quite as smooth. Julia was a short distance up the trail waiting to take our pictures as we passed, and I was following Amelia’s line. There was a large embedded rock that Amelia hit to get a little bit of air, and I naively decided to follow her over it. When I did, I took a bad wheel bounce, and it directed me up the hillside to my right, and rather than react appropriately and steer myself back onto the trail, I whiskey throttled a bit and ended up in a small tree on the side of the trail, upside down and vertical, as pictured at the top of this post. It didn’t hurt at all, and the bike was fine, except for a bent front fender and some oil in the airbox from being upside down. We snapped a few quick pictures while I waited for the other girls to get there to help me get it unstuck. A family in a side by side pulled up to us from up the trail and the guy helped me lift the front of the bike over the tree and back it down onto the trail. I turned it around, and rode it back down the hill.
Amelia was worried about the oil that had leaked out of the airbox, so we flagged down a couple of passing KTM riders to take a look for us. As it turned out, it was the group that my friend Matt was riding with, and he pulled up a few moments later on his Tiger.
Once the bike was deemed to be rideable, we saddled back up and headed back to the welcome center for ice cream. We had planned to find an actual ice cream shop, but we settled for the drumsticks and ice cream sandwiches they had there.
When we got back to the rally site, we left the bikes at the Gnarly Routes truck. Russ and Cole were still out on rides, so I couldn’t tell them about my bike-in-a-tree incident yet, so Amelia and I went back to the room to get cleaned up.
We went back down to the vendor area later to wait for Russ and Cole to come back. In the meantime we went over to the REV’IT! booth to show Joon the pictures of my incident, and he introduced us to Jesse Ziegler from Cycle News. He was super cool, and we both liked him a lot. After chatting with him for a while, she and I went over and introduced ourselves to Brandon from Upshift Online. He gave us free beers, water, and stickers, so he immediately became our favorite person.
Eventually Russ and Cole rode up and we went to tell them about the bike. They were very understanding and cool about it, and when I showed them the picture Cole demanded that I text it to him so he could print it and hang it in their trailer.
Eventually it was time to head into the tent for the awards dinner, which was great because Amelia and I were both absolutely starving after missing lunch for a second day in a row. We piled our plates full of salmon and steak and delicious bread. Then we saw the cake. Chocolate and Carrot. The lady serving it said we could take one of each if we wanted, which turned into our table being covered in cake because everyone decided to take two. It was good cake, and we deserved it!
During dinner they told some stories from the weekend on the stage, one of which was the story of my bike ending up in a tree. I waved to everyone and proudly claimed my failure, as I was amongst friends, and everyone loved it. They also told the story of the boat trailer wheel and told Louise, “At least it didn’t hit her in the face!” to which she enthusiastically agreed.
The biggest announcement during the dinner was which two riders had won the Ultimate Race Qualifier to go to the Merzuga Rally with full KTM support and ride their new 790 Adventure. I had some friends who had entered, including a couple who made it to the top 10. As it turned out, the guy who got 1st place lives 30 minutes from me in Indiana. He was one of the two KTM riders in the video of the water crossing I posted earlier this year at the Riders for Striders event.
After dinner there was an after party at a bar that we were invited to. We all went back and forth on rather or not to go, and in the end everyone went but me because I still needed to pack and I had an early flight out the next morning. I was still packing when Amelia and Louise came back to the room. I stayed up until after 1am talking to them, knowing full well I had to be up at 6am to get ready to head to the airport. I ended up getting 4.5 hours of sleep, and was in major need of coffee, but didn’t end up getting any until 2 hours later at the airport after I made it through security.
My flight to Chicago was uneventful, but my flight from Chicago to Louisville was delayed by 30 minutes due to communications issues. My parents were nearly to the airport to pick me up before my plane ever even left the ground.
All-in-all it was an absolutely incredible trip. Sure, we had some mishaps, and not everything went as planned, but that is to be expected, and is part of what makes it an adventure. I absolutely adore all 3 of my teammates, as well as Julia, and I had so much fun riding with them and hanging out. I can’t wait to see them all again, hopefully sooner rather than later.
I feel incredibly lucky to be given the opportunities that REV’IT! has given me this year. I loved this company when I was just a customer, and I love them even more now that I am a part of their team. The support that they give to us, as well as other riders around the world, is just incredible, and should not go unnoticed.
Next up for me will be a two day dirtbike class on the WR250R on Monday and Tuesday, followed by the Barber Vintage Festival in Alabama in a couple of weeks. I am hoping to ride to/from that as long as there aren’t any active hurricanes going on in the area, and I get my flat rear tire situation taken care of on the Tiger before then. I’m waiting to hear back from Michelin about a set of tires they’d promised me, so hopefully they come through in time. If not, I’ll just order a new rear tire and slap it on there, because I don’t feel comfortable going on a long trip on a patched tire.