Driving off the Road

I’ve always lived in the UK, so I have a certain perception of distances. For me the four and a half hour train ride from Edinburgh to London is a long way. Traveling in America opened my eyes. I had no idea just how big the distances in America are and how small the UK really is.

I wanted to get from San Francisco California to Phoenix Arizona. On the map it looked kinda close so I checked out how long a train would take to get there, 15 hours! Sadly it turned out cheaper and waaaaaay faster to Fly.

The plane landed in Phoenix late evening, we had been delayed 4 hours… (google doesn’t calculate that in travel time!) I was picked up from the airport by my friend Scott, we were going to spend the weekend near Flagstaff a town in the middle of Arizona’s many national parks.

It was a two hour drive from Phoenix and I was treated to a spectacular lightning storm. Jagged forks of pure brilliant white light struck down again and again creating an ere atmosphere as we drove into the night. We punctated the journey with a stop at Sonic, a fast food chain that pre-dates McDonalds. I was amazed that the waiter was wearing roller skates and he glided out to the car bringing us some epic cheese burgers.

It had stopped raining by the time arrived at the cabin in the woods. When I got out of the car I was struck by something beautiful. The wet pine trees smelled incredible. It was one of the most incredible natural fragrances that I have ever experienced and left a strong memory with me. I’d been recovering from London’s smog and I had almost forgotten how great natural fresh air can smell!

The next morning we took out the ATV (All Terrain Vehicle) this wasn’t any old machine, it was an American made Polaris RZR, the creme de la creme of off roaders. I put on some retro goggles and we flew down the road easily reaching 70mph. It wasn’t long until the tarmac ran out and we were heading straight into the wilderness. Scott pointed out an idyllic flowery pasture and told me how last summer he had seen two bears tear apart a dear there! This really was the heart of the forest.

Things got fun when we hit upon a huge dirt bank, it was the perfect place to test out the Polaris’s abilities, a natural wilderness of jumps and obstacles. After playing around for a while we decided to set up some GoPro’s and see about getting some air on one of the jumps. When my turn behind the wheel came I got a bit crazy. I rounded the corner heading to the jump and something inside me clicked. It was some long repressed daredevil, spirited mischievousness. I floored it. The Polaris really shifted spitting up plumes of loose dirt and gravel. I shot towards the jump with terrifying speed. The ATV flew over, graceful in the air for a few seconds before it crashed back to earth. While the jump had gone perfectly, taking the corner after the jump didn’t. The Polaris lurched over an earth bank, flipped and landed on a tree. I sat merrily dangling in my seatbelt looking at a tree branch that was mere inches from my face.

Slightly bemused by the near death experience I clambered out and with Scott’s help we managed to heave the ATV back onto all four wheels. The damage wasn’t so bad. The little tree was flattened and one tire had popped off the rear wheel. Herein lay a problem: we were miles from civilisation, phone signal was non existent and as if to echo our mood the weather was turning for the worst with big black storm clouds to the East.

Luck was on our side after a little while, two fellow adventurers on quad bikes turned up. They were also out exploring the forest. Lady fortune smiled on us again, one of them had an electric pump and with much jiggling, wiggling and bashing we got the tyre back on and pumped back up. As we retreated back to civilisation the rain hit. Soaking the ATV and helping to get some of the mud off. It wasn’t until the evening that Scott told me just how much a Polaris costs, I was shocked to find that I had flipped a ATV that costs more than most cars…