Sunday 19th March – Sedona ATV Dirtbags

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We woke to a hot van at around 8:30am and got up straightaway. It took a few goes to be ready to go into the bar for breakfast, me having to wet my hair to make it look respectable and Kevin having to change his shirt for one that didn’t have BBQ sauce stain on it. Sunglasses on, looking as sober as possible, we wandered into the place we’d had such a fun time in last night.

The bar was operated by a different crew in the mornings, head of which was a gorgeous 12 year old girl who asked us where we’d like to sit. She led us up to our usual spot on the balcony for a sport in the sun. She was professional for her age and undeniably cute. Coffee for Kev, orange juice for me, we spent our waiting time researching ATV rentals, something that Kev was more interested in doing than me, but I was happy to go along. We shared a plate of pancakes, eggs and bacon and after a few coffee refills, we were ready to start our day.

We brushed our teeth by the van, then drove off to Sedona ATV & Buggy Rentals just down the road. It wasn’t a problem that we didn’t have a reservation and the program they offered sounded like a pretty sweet deal. After enquiring about the different types of ATVs available, Kevin made an executive decision to go for the top of the range model, a 900cc beast with bucket seats, three point harnesses and all the bells and whistles. It would cost us $400 to hire it for four hours, but in that time, we’d be able to explore the whole west side of Sedona. We signed our names against all the insurance policies, got the rundown from a man about the trails and what to do if we got in trouble, then after a quick introduction of the vehicle, we were let loose. We drove our bright red breast around to the van where we packed some lunch (wraps with rib meat) and stowed them in the provided esky with the provided chilled water.

We lathered up with sunscreen, put on some second hand clothes, expecting to get dirty, then Kevin got behind the wheel and we adjusted to the outrageous noise of our machine as we drove down the highway en route to some dirt. I successfully directed my driver to our first bit of dirt and four-wheel-drive was engaged, but the fun still hadn’t started. We were amongst a few other tour operators with jeeps and other ATVs, all looking for the same trails, but we mostly had the road to ourselves. A few miles in, we were on our first real 4WD track and Kevin went nuts.

Kev had been concerned that we’d be driving something with a limited throttle or power, but this beast was nothing of the sort. As fast as its colour, the throttle response was insane with fishtailing galore and exhaust noise to match, much to our delight. Kevin could barely contain his excitement being behind the wheel of such a machine. I could hardly wait to switch sides, but instead I held on to the side door as Kevin pushed the beast over rocky terrain, sliding the tail out every opportunity he had.

Words really struggle to capture the insanity of this experience and the capability of this machine. After completing the first track, Kev did it in reverse, then we drove on a bit more forest road to get to the next trail. A small navigational error lead us back out onto the tarmac, which we quickly corrected and found the head of the trail we’d been looking for. Up until this point, we’d been barely strapped into our seats, the seatbelts adjusted for fat people with no further adjustment that we could see. Before carrying on, we had a closer look and we figured out a way we could tighten the straps. It was fiddly and took us a good ten minutes, but it was totally worth it. Now snugly attached to our seats, Kev could really let it rip, which he did. We went over all sorts of crazy roads, including what they call a staircase and rightly so. It was bumpy beyond this world.

Our lunch turned huge mess

At the end of that track, we stopped for lunch, or at least we intended to. The wraps we’d made and put with the water in the back cooler had been demolished. There is no other word for it. It looked like someone had vomited into the cooler. They were barely salvageable, but we managed to pick a few bits of meat out, it really was disgusting. And so, we had beers for lunch (we’d brought a half dozen cold ones along and they had survived just fine). After a bit of inspection to the underbody which showed no significant damage, but a few grazes that were probably caused by us, it was finally time for me to take the wheel. I took the technical track that Kevin had just done back out, instead of taking the forest road that was suggested by the tour company. Straight into it, I lost control once when it fishtailed away from me and a few hundred meters further on, I drove our beast straight into a tree (or large bush). Amazingly, Kevin caught that bit on video. Thankfully no damage to the ATV but the tree will never be the same again. Since I’d learnt the limits of the vehicle, I had no further mishaps, taking the trails as Kev had, doing my best not to drive like a girl. I think I did myself proud. There were sections where I forgot where to breathe it was so fast-paced. The most serious 4WD’ing I’ve ever done.

Back onto forest road for a bit, then I repeated the first track that Kevin had done, at speed. Because of the possibility of traffic, it was hard to drive at the limit, instead being cautious around blind corners. We toned it down a lot when we came across other Jeeps and ATVs, starting to fear that maybe we’d be dobbed in for reckless driving. At the end of my turn, we still had a bit of time up our sleeve so I went back onto the technical trail for one more go, making it about five minutes down the way until I had to stop and go to the bathroom, the violent shaking and pressure from the seatbelt was threatening to bust my bladder. We had one more beer at the turnaround, then Kevin took charge again and drove us back into town according to my exceptional navigation instructions. We rolled back into the shop right on 3pm, four hours after we’d driven away. The rental place had advised that the two tracks we did would take the full four hours, but we’d managed to do more than double that in the time allowed. ATV dirtbags we are!

We were still on a high when we drove north of town to Grasshopper Creek, a recommendation from Zachary that we’d met last night. We were in desperate need of a shower or some sort of soak in water to get the thick layer of dust off our bodies. It wasn’t far out of town and we didn’t mind about the $8 entry fee, that’s how desperate we were. We parked, got into our swimmers and scrambled down the rocks to the creek below. There were a few others there, jumping in and out of the water and they advised us the deepest place to jump in, though it wasn’t cliff diving, it was only shoulder height at most. The initial dive in felt great, even with the freezing water. We gave ourselves a scrub, then soaped up on the banks, trying to be thorough to get the dirt off. I needed a couple of attempts, with Kevin’s guidance to get all the dirt off the side of my face and from in my ears. After a couple of dunks in and out, we considered ourselves clean and fresh (and bloody cold).

We dried off and got into some clean clothes back at the car while Kev called Claire and I sussed out a camp for the night. We contemplated exploring Grasshopper a bit to get our money’s worth, but decided against it since there wasn’t much on offer. On the way back through town, we stopped at Over The Edge Cycles to enquire about renting a mountain bike the next day. Happily, the only bike they had available was a fully capable Trek in an XL, the perfect frame size for Kev. We put in our reservation with a plan to come back in the morning to pick it up.

On Derek’s advice, thanks to his trip to Sedona over Christmas, we drown south of town to find our camp on Angel Valley Road. It was only twenty minutes away. There were a few camp spots right by the highway and a few as we went down the gravel road and they were all quite popular. We held out until the very end when we got down to the creek and found ourselves a spot by the road.

When we went down to suss out the creek, we found a dreadlocked man with a semi-permanent camp in a beautiful nook by the creek. We chatted for a bit, but soon went off to collect firewood for our fire ring, thinking we wouldn’t hang out at his fire. When Kevin went back down to the creek to wash the bin, he got talking to our neoghbour again and found out that he was carrying a saber sword, one with a light and everything. Ha ha, he was henceforth known as Darth Vader.

I discovered that Kev is a very neat fire maker, stacking all the wood in piles according to size and making a very beautiful tee pee to get it going. After preparing it, we didn’t light it, wanting to wait for the temperature to cool a bit, but about twenty minutes later, it started smouldering and to our amazement, started itself, thanks to the remnant heat in the ashes left by the people before us. Easiest fire ever.

I sat by the fire and blogged while Kev reheated some leftovers which was a great feed second time round. I did a bit more blogging after dinner while Kevin made a video of the day’s insanity. We spent the rest of the night staring up at the stars. Kevin had the talent for spotting shooting stars while I had the talent for missing them, so I relied on his descriptions. Even though we’d intended to have an early night, we didn’t get to bed until after 10pm, losing track of time as we watched the sky.

Because the words don’t cut it….

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