Trips & Tales

American Flyers Run Utah Baja

by Rich Marin • June 1, 2001

At speeds often exceeding 30 mph, seven American Flyers, with more guts than brains, threw gravel to the wind early Saturday morning May 19th riding the Baja stage of AFMC’s Canyon Run 01.

A first-time AFMC event, The Utah Baja was run this year over more than 20 miles of gravel road in the southwestern corner of the Beehive State.  The road is estimated to be located 30 miles north of St George UT, somewhere between Nowhere Utah and Nada Nevada. The main track is believed to run East/West along the south rim of the Cowflop Plateau and can be located on some roadmaps with the aid of a 10-power microscope.

Flyers searching for hints about where the hell they were found the road innocent of route number or directional markers. No signs of vehicular traffic were evident except for ruts, which appear to be relics of some long forgotten endurance run, and were probably carved in the gravel surface by a 1908 Pierce Arrow.  Flyers encountered no shepherds, goatherds, or other travelers, except for one pioneer in a Ford pickup who stopped out of curiosity.  “The hell you guys doing way out here?” he asked Road Captain Rich Marin.  Upon learning that the group was headed for Nevada Rte. 319, he smiled sadly and climbed back behind the wheel, muttering “tsk tsk tsk” under his breath.

As Flyers moved deeper into the Baja’s wilderness no signs of civilization, nor any clue that the route is subject to periodic maintenance, were evident.  When contacted, local tourism authorities refused to confirm or deny a rumor that this was in fact the lost route of Donner party who are known to have turned back at one point in their journey west searching for a route which promised closer contact with the outside world.

A spokesman for the Nevada department of highways refused to acknowledge that the road existed at all, and claimed that if it did exist the state of Utah was responsible for maintenance.  An official at Utah Department of Roads who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity demurred.  “I can’t confirm the road’s existence”, he said, “but if it’s there, its theirs”.  When told that a group called American Flyers claimed the road actually exists he became confused. “American Flyers? Is that one of them Olympic teams? They do the luge or something?”

The Baja route is reached by taking a wrong turn in the village of Enterprise.

Once headed in the wrong direction, a rider has only to ignore the fact that the pavement has turned to gravel under his Metzlers.  Surviving the Baja experience depends on the rider’s ability to fantasize that pavement is ahead just over the next rise.  Pavement never materializes, of course, but true Flyers press on regardless.

Regaining civilization, Road Captain Marin received a call from President Bush on his cell phone.  The President commended The Baja 7 for their heroism, riding skills, and support of his current tax cut proposal.  A ceremony in the Rose Garden is planned for early summer, where participating Flyers will be awarded an oak leaf cluster for their American Flyer wings.  Honorees include Marin (who got Flyers into this mess in the first place) Steve Larsen, Andy Forrester, Jean Kirby, Bob Kirby, Arthur Einstein, and Deb and Mardi who provided encouragement and Snickers bars from the comfort of the Ford Expedition (aptly named), AFMC’s official southwest chase vehicle.

The Baja 7 all profess to have been exhilarated by this gnarly experience.  Plans for a repeat of the ride in 02, however, are incomplete at this time.

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