I’ve had the privilege of attending the Oregon Dunefest four of the last five years. For me it’s kind of a milestone event as some of my greatest opportunities in the ATV industry have in some way or another, been affiliated with Dunefest.
This year I was excited to bring my girlfriend Kelsey along and show her what west coast dune riding is all about. We’ve been incredibly blessed with opportunities to travel in our first year together. We attended AMA motocross races last year in Michigan and Tennesee, she came out to visit me in California twice and this trip to Dunefest would be our third trip to Oregon since December.
I was especially excited to bring her to Dunefest not only to share the event with her but for her to meet several people who have become great friends and have been huge supporters of my pursuit of this dream.
We landed in Portland on August 1st where my dad greeted us at the airport with a warm smile and a box of Krispy Kreme Donuts. Thanks Dad. He chauffeured us to a friend’s house where I had left an ATV and my pickup truck which we had driven up from southern California just two weeks prior. We hopped in the truck and made our way down to Corvallis to spend the evening with my brother and his wife. I haven’t visited Corvallis in a couple of years so it was great to see their new house and experience a little of what they have going on there as full time college students.
The next afternoon we rolled out and headed for Winchester Bay. As I mentioned, Dunefest is a special event because I get to see people that I typically don’t see any other time of year. Jay and Judy VanValkenburg have graciously shared their campfire (and their parking space) with me year after year and this was no exception. As we visited with Jay and Judy I got to work on the ATV I had brought with us. My trusty LT250R got a major overhaul courtesy of Duncan Racing and Dirwheels Magazine but it hadn’t been started in over a year. Too my surprise it roared to life after just a few kicks.
Kelsey hopped on and we cruised out to the event area and went for a quick ride in the dunes. The old LT is a classic bike but it doesn’t have much on today’s four strokes. For that reason we had to take the long way around Banshee hill but we finally made it and the view was as spectacular as ever. We ran into a couple more friends that evening that I hadn’t seen since early February at the 1st annual Industry Ride at Glammis California. We concluded the evening around the campfire with some delicious burgers compliments of Jay and Judy.
Friday morning was to be a work day…or at least that’s what I intended it to be. Since I hadn’t actually ridden my LT250R since getting it back from Duncan Racing for the build, I was really anxious to take it for a spin without a passenger and see what she could do.
Kelsey was dying to go for a ride in a side by side and Jaybo was happy to oblige so I followed them out in the dunes on my LT. Unfortunately, my assumptions about jetting and elevation (gear head jargon) were incorrect and after about 15 minutes the bike puttered to a stop. I suspected immediately what had happened and after trying to kick it over a few times, my suspicion was confirmed; no compression which meant I had burnt up the motor. This was, and still is, incredibly frustrating. A stupid mistake that I should have paid more attention to and now my brand new engine was cooked. Fortunately a friend was arriving that morning with another ATV of mine that I had left in Southern California.
After picking up that quad I decided it was time to finally get some work done. Over the last several months I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to write and shoot for ATV.com. I’ve attended two press intros for them and would be contributing three stories relating to Dunefest in the coming weeks. This worked out great and significantly helped offset the cost of flying Kelsey and I to Oregon.
For those that are unfamiliar, Dunefest is a week long ATV and Side by Side event held at the Oregon Dunes. There are sanctioned events all week long, some of the most popular being drag racing, motocross and a freestyle show. This year organizers were bringing Caleb and Colten Moore back to Dunefest which was a huge deal. I looked up to these brothers long before I ever started getting into freestyle and over the last few years I’ve had the incredible opportunity to get to know them well. In fact, they were kind enough to take me to the hospital two years ago after my accident.
Most of Friday was spent cruising around taking pictures and watching the festivities. Kelsey and I managed to sneak off for a little dune riding which was an eye opening experience for her. Although she grew up around the sport and has even raced motocross herself, South Carolina is quite lacking in rideable sand dunes. When I finally got to take her out in a side by side it was awesome to hear her hollering and see her beaming from ear to ear as we carved around the dunes.
One of the stories I was to do revolved around freestyle so I needed to make sure and be present for the show that would take place Friday evening. It pays to know people and after helping move the ramp around for the show, I found myself on the main stage in front of a huge crowd with a microphone in my hand. BC Vaught is one of the people I am indebted to for helping me on my journey of riding freestyle motocross. Without his help I never would have been able to make that jump to California. Serving as the Moore’s manager, he also MC’s most of their shows. While they were finishing getting things set up he handed me the microphone and said something along the lines of “here talk.” I did this once before in Las Vegas and the opportunity to hype up a crowd of people watching two of the best riders in the world was pretty awesome.
That evening concluded with our annual trip to the local Mexican restaurant with Jay, Judy and their son Ryan. I’ve had many supporters over the last few years as I’ve pursued this dream of working in the offroad industry and Jay has been one of the biggest. Every year, Dunefest gives us the chance to catch up on all things industry related and he affords me the opportunity to tell tales from the road and all the crazy adventures I’ve been on. I’m blessed to have the support that I have because it gives me an opportunity to share something I’m so passionate about with others. And we always laugh about the first year I showed up there, very much the rookie and slept under a tarp in the back of my truck.
Saturday morning was suppose to be my day to get all the work done that I’d neglected the two days prior. I had to get pictures of the drag races for a couple articles as well as some of the motocross events, vendor row, and again, the freestyle show. We ran into a couple of friends and I thought it would be a good opportunity to get some “scenic” shots with ATV’s in the background so we headed out to a lake that’s a very popular spot to take photos at the Oregon Dunes. Along the way we happened upon a jump and me being the retired FMXer that I am, couldn’t pass it up. We ran into a couple more friends, Jon Crowely of UTVguide.net and Dave Kuskie of Fullerton Sand Sports along with the Moore brothers out launching a Polaris RZR.
Jon quickly hopped out and snapped some awesome photos of me and the Moore’s launching a dune. Since I wasn’t expecting to get any photos of me this trip, I was super pumped that Jon stopped by to take a few pics.
woman who happened to be the host of one of the area campgrounds and her husband just happened to be Sheriff responsible for keeping order on the dunes. Over the last few years they have graciously provided me with camping spots, hotel rooms, meals and even my own personal RV. They’ve been amazingly supportive of my journey and their three young boys are always excited when the "freestyle guy" is around however this year I think they were more excited to meet Kelsey 🙂
After an amazing steak dinner, we made our way down to the VIP section to hang out with the Moore’s and BC. Sitting there that night I had to just shake my head in amazement at all that has gone on in the last three years. It was at Dunefest three years prior that someone gave me BC’s number and that phone call is what started my entire adventure to California.
Of course the evening couldn’t go off without some sort of mishap and as we got back in the truck I realized my headlights wouldn’t come on. I had mentioned this intermittent problem to Jay earlier that day so when his phone rang and he saw it was me he appropriately answered, “Jaybo’s recovery service.”
We rolled out of Winchester Bay Sunday morning and pinned it to Dufur. On our last visit to Oregon Kelsey had discovered my dads motorcycle and was dying to go for a ride. (Again I shake my head and wonder, how did I get so blessed)
We left Dufur about 9 am on Monday morning and took a windy road to Hood River for coffee at my favorite local coffee spot. From there we cruised up highway 35 towards Mt Hood and Timberline lodge. On the way up to Timberline we were stopped in traffic as they were shooting a Kawasaki street bike commercial on the scenic road leading up to the lodge. Ironically, one of the photographers was a guy I had met at a Kawasaki event in Knoxville Tennessee last year. Small world.
After lunch at Government Camp we made our way back to Dufur and on to Portland to visit a buddy from college and his girlfriend. In the years since graduating Randy has been one of my closest friends and really the only college friend I’m able to see regularly since we’re from the same area. We had another amazing steak dinner with him and his girlfriend Megan before crashing out to get some much needed rest before the flight home.
Someday, Lord willing I’ll have the resources and the opportunities to give back to all of these incredible people that have been a part of my story. The last few years have been quite literally a dream come true and while I don’t know where it’s all going to lead, I consider myself blessed to have had these experiences and made the friends that I have. No matter where I end up or what I end up doing, the stories, pictures memories and friendships are a perfect reminder that God really does delight in giving us the desire’s of our hearts.