4,500 MILES. 11 DAYS. 4 DIRT BIKES. 4 DUDES. 1 SPRINTER.
These were the numbers for our trip across the US for the 2018 Motocross of Nations. The trip started in San Diego CA, where Max Mandell and little big brother West loaded up Max’s modified sprinter van for us to live in for a week and a half. They made it to Illinois in 36 hours at 2:00am on Wednesday. Ryan (Reno) Carreno and I spent a few extra days in California tying up loose ends at work. We’d go on to fly into O’Hare International and meet up with our brothers in their hometown Highwood, Illinois.
We spent the first two days in Highwood. The Mandell’s showed us the ropes of the small town located off the west coast of Lake Michigan. Their hometown family and friends seemed to be at every corner of the town and all of them showed us a great time while we were there. The three days we spent there prior to the Motocross of Nations were kind of a blur; a lot of late nights and slow mornings. Before we knew it, Sunday morning rolled around and it was time for us to head to the other side of Lake Michigan for the Motocross of Nations at Red Bud.
Motocross of Nations
Unlike Max and West, Reno and I have never been to Red Bud before. I can speak for us both when I say it’s a track that we’ve always wanted to see in person. While Mother Nature made the track a total mud fest, it didn’t seem to slow down our excitement to see it. The track only had our attention for several moments however, as the energy from all of the American fans attending the event quickly took over. The national anthem was chilling and even more powerful than the anthem at a standard AMA national.
The American boys rode their hearts out and we lost our voices supporting them. I will admit that for me personally the highlight of the day was seeing TP199 line up a mini flip on the parade lap right in front of us. I’ve always admired Travis for his willingness to put on a show for the crowd; so much so that something came over me as soon as he sent the mini flip on the parade lap. The next thing I knew I was climbing over the fence and was track side just a few feet away from TP, cheering on the legend. I didn’t get laid out by security which was cool. I was back over the fence with the boys in no time, hyped as we could ever be! It’s a moment that I’ll look back and laugh at when I’m old.
Monday MorningMonday morning rang and we were ready to ride. Mother Nature had different plans though and kept all of the local tracks in Illinois flooded. We took a loss on the day of riding and we began preparations for getting on the road. Our biggest competitor for our trip was a storm that was rolling through the Midwest. We originally wanted to take the northern route across the US on highway 80; stopping in Iowa, Colorado and Utah to ride. The storm showed no signs of letting up, and we were forced to come up with another game plan. We decided our best luck was to head south before crossing over to the west coast, to stop and ride in Oklahoma where the storm had already passed through.
Sloppy Tracks and Bad Fishin'On Tuesday we gassed up the van and headed to Joliet Motocross Park in Illinois hoping it would be dry enough to ride. The track opened at 4pm and we showed up at 1. We killed the time with a fishing pole and some tunes on the side of the river not too far from the track. After a few hours of not catching shit, we cruised back over to the track and finally got to gear up for the first time on the trip. The track was still sloppy from the rain and us California boys had our hands full navigating the deep long ruts; something not found at the tracks of SoCal. Reno was absolutely killing it on a step up out of a right-hand corner, nearly clipping the trees with his rear wheel on a sit-down whip. We got our motos in before the sun set and got back on the road.
We woke up in a motel 6 parking lot in Shawnee, Oklahoma on Wednesday morning. We had talked to Double D about places to ride in Oklahoma, and he let us know about Canard’s old track that Greg Albertson had access to and even got us in touch with Greg. “Well, we’re actually sitting in the driveway to the track,” were Max’s words on the phone with Greg. He rolled up on us shortly after that phone call and informed us that the track was still too wet to ride, but that we could come ride at a local sand track with him and some kids he was training for the day. We followed him around the block to his brother Jimmy’s house and started gearing up. This was short lived as we found the sand track to also be completely flooded from the storm. We were forced to take another loss on riding for the day but Greg assured us that the Moto track would be ready tomorrow if we decided to stay. He invited us to crash at his place and even let us use his equipment to wash our bikes. We were amazed and grateful for his generosity towards 4 dudes he had never met before.
At 8:20 am I woke up on Greg’s couch to Brock Lassiter, a 14-year old ripper from Missouri who Greg trains, standing over me saying “Excuse me sir, its 8:20.” I laughed as I remembered I had told him I’d be up at 8 the night before. He reminded me of how hot the fire burns to ride when you’re a kid. We loaded up after a quick breakfast and headed to the track.
Oklahoma ClayAs we entered the property you could feel the history at the place and the countless laps and hours Trey and many other legends of the sport had spent there. The red Oklahoma clay forces your eyes on it as it winds in and out of the trees and grass on the property. We were on the track spinning laps with Greg, Brock and Keaton McCalip within minutes of parking. The track was still pretty muddy but only got better as the day wore on. I damn near killed myself on the biggest jump of the track as I made a 105ft double 135ft to flat. I could almost feel Greg searching for the waiver I signed as he watched me fall from the sky. I rode the rest of the day with a Renthal logo stamped into my forehead and a back that was anything but fine. We rode till we were out of gas and then got our bikes cleaned up again. Greg offered us to stay another night and ride the following day, and as enticing as it sounded we were running out of time for our next stop in Utah. We set him up with some 805 and whiskey, and left him with our taillights fading away.
Dirty Devil River, Utah
A 16-hour drive stared us in the face with our sights set on Utah. Rotating shifts between pilot, copilot, sleeper and party-er, we made it to the Dirty Devil River in Utah at 11:30 on Friday. We jumped out of the van to stretch our legs and take in the humbling scenery around us. As killer as the sight was, Caineville was calling our names.
Just a few miles out we stopped for firewood and some grilling essentials. While making small talk with the cashier we were informed that it had been raining in Caineville the days prior to our arrival. We all looked at each other with a shit eating grin knowing what rain in the desert brings.
DIRT BIKE HEAVEN, CAINEVILLE, UTAH
I couldn’t help but laugh as we drove in. Mother Nature, who seemed to be ruining our trip every step of the way, blessed us with unreal riding conditions in Caineville. There were still puddles in between the rollers. The dirt sank with each step taken, and there was not one speck of dust seen anywhere in the OHV area. We were 4 kids in a candy store to say the least.
We rushed to set up camp and geared up as quickly as we could. Before West and I even had our boots buckled up we could hear that Reno and Max had found a jump to session on. The rest of the day was truly epic and we spent every minute on our bikes until the sun went down. The night was spent by the fire with some grilled food and cold drinks, all of us still hyped from an all-time day of riding.
A sleepless night from a combination of chilling temperatures in the van and excitement to ride in epic conditions again had us up earlier than usual Saturday morning. We went back into town for more gas and firewood knowing today was our last day and night of the trip. We spent the first half of the day on a trail ride, exploring any area we missed the day prior. West is an animal in the desert. He took us up some gnarly hill climbs and I think we subconsciously demoted him from trail boss because the stuff he was taking us through had us sweating. After lunch we started shooting some photos on some jumps we had found throughout the day. Everything was going smooth, and then it wasn’t.
Dazed and Confused
I decided to end the trip with a bang on a 2nd gear hit when my leg slipped off the bike on a turndown and I ultimately landed side saddle. I’m told I would have ridden it out if it wasn’t for my front wheel wandering into a rain rut. I smacked my head into the ground hard enough to enter repeater mode. Dazed and confused, the boys helped me ride back to camp. Looking out for my best interest they loaded up the van on our last night in Caineville and took me to the hospital. My memory is still foggy naturally but from what I’ve seen in videos and photos I had a pretty fun time in the hospital despite the circumstances. After several tests we were informed that I had suffered a concussion. We crashed at a local hotel for the night and got on the road to California in the morning. After fighting Vegas traffic all day on Sunday, we made it back home all in one piece, sort of anyway.
I finish writing this deprived of sleep, with a foggy memory, and a fracture on my L1 vertebrae. My mind wanders into a life where I’ve never found dirt bikes and my body feels like a healthy 28-year-old body should.
Man, that would suck.
I’d like to thank my dudes...
Ryan Carreno, Max Mandell, and West Mandell for looking out for me after my get off and for the memories we made that I’ll look back on for a lifetime. It was a surreal trip.
Thank you to Kenny Alexander and Fasthouse, Bell, 805, AHM factory services, Split designs, Thrashed kids, No Toil, Mission Motorsports, Moto stuff, The Viewing, and Thrill Seekers Collection for helping me do what I love most.
Also thank you to the following:
Greg and Shellee Fountain for allowing Reno and I to take time off of work, Airtrix, Nico and Alex Ugolini for a place to crash in Illinois, Joey Magnani for allowing us to use his shop, Toads pub of Highwood, Red Bud fans, Greg Albertson (GAME Moto) for his hospitality, the woman that flashed us and has my Thrashed Kids hat, Carl Jeppson Malort, Kawasaki, Andrew Taylor, Becks heating and air, and Nurse Trinity of Seveir Hospital.
Until next time, RD
Story: Ricky Diaz