For most of us East Coaster’s, the Imperial Sand Dunes, or “Glamis” as most of us know it by from reading in magazines, websites, and peoples ride reports over the years is the epitome of sand dune and off-roading. Albeit, for many, an imaginary far far far off type place, not that much unlike the Star Wars scenes that were actually filmed at Buttercup Dunes, the South end of the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreational Area (ISDRA). Who the hell travels across the country to ride some stupid old 3wheelers in a lifeless desert? A lot of us, as it turns out.
My first opportunity and outing to the ISDRA was in 2010, when Corey Sprock offered some very sweet deals to about a half dozen people to make their way out as a way to experience the dunes. Corey Sprock, for what differences and disagreements you may have heard of (or had) over the years, he gave many East Coasters (Myself included) a taste of the West Coast sand slicing at a price so cheap…I’m sure he lost money. There is no way I would have ever been able to experience Gordon’s Well and the ISDRA without his planning and amenities he provided to us Sand Fleas (A term coined by Mike Dunn/Mymint87 from my recollection) back then. Mad props to Corey Sprock for putting that together the first year and infecting many of us with that sand duning disease…
Jason Hall gave me a bike to ride, and I tore the hell out of it for nearly a week. It was a life changing experience, my first time flying commercially, my first time being on the West Coast of the US, and the first time shredding the top edge of a sand dune bowl at 5th gear pinned…everyone remembers their first time riding those lines and making those transitions. If you haven’t been there, you’ll know what I mean one day.
I was lucky enough in 2011 to attend again, thanks again in part to the help and planning of Corey Sprock, Jason Hall, and this time also Richard Maestas, known as Kasey on the 3WW forums. You might know Richard for his off the chain ATC70 and mini trike builds, the Caterpillar themed trike, and the beautiful Yamaha 450 conversions you see floating around on Facebook lately.
In 2011, Louis Mielke, Bryan Raffa and I flew into Phoenix Sky Harbor airport and loaded up with Richard for a week of sand shredding…it was an awesome time. The first year was great, but I knew a bit more about reading the dunes and how to ride the conditions this second time. It made everything even better. Jason Hall loaned me a bike again, and Corey Sprock kept us fed. Louis and Bryan had made arrangements for their bikes to be trucked out.
Then, unfortunately, several years passed until I was able to attend again. Until March of 2015, I was not able to get back to the dunes to ride…
March 2nd 2015 I’m on a Southwest Airlines flight on my way to Phoenix for the first time in almost 5 years. I bought my ticket in the beginning of December, 3 months ago, and I’ve been pining for this experience and itching to hit the sand again for months. This time was a little different. Since my last trip to the dunes I had studied the art of Photography considerably and acquired some pretty good equipment. Photography had become a hobby and past time of mine I really enjoyed. I had shot and taken pictures at Trikefest before and enjoyed it – but this was my first outing with some new camera gear. For as much as excitement I had to put some wheels in the sand and hang out with some of my best friends and the greatest people on the planet (us three-wheeler people all know we’re the coolest mofos out there), I was REALLY excited to have my camera stuff with me to capture the action and memories of what I knew would be a trip that would have memories lasting a life time.
The drive from Phoenix isn’t bad, and again, being from the East Coast, the scenery to me was mesmerizing during the ride out. Once you actually crossed through Yuma and got into California though, you started to really see the Dunes, and you knew what you were in for then!
The best part of going to these gatherings is meeting other enthusiasts, checking out their rides, learning about them and how they got into trikes as well.
HairyJR on the 3WW Forums, on Left, with Louis Mielke, on Right. Harry had an assortment of every tool, part, necessity you can imagine the entire week and was so kind and humble in his experience and willingness to help out. Absolutely a class act dude, if you ever get the chance to run into and meet him, you’ll never forget him! Louis, like all of us, was pretty enthralled by Harry’s custom builds.
Pictured is an XR500 based machine with a custom manual milled out rear shock linkage, among many many other very trick parts.
When it comes to Die Hard riders and enthusiasts that’ll go the distance, literally, there are two guys that come to mind.
Josh Boyd from Alberta Canada doing the Yamaha thing on his Tri-Z, his girlfriend Kelsea, and Sandy Hall sitting pictured. Josh and Kelsea drove all the way down from Alberta for the Invasion. A phenomenal amount of distance to again, just to ride some rotten assed old three-wheelers in the sand dunes…
And then there is Tim, Tim Blask. We affectionately gave him the nick name of “Sanchez” many moon shining shoe tree nights ago at Trikefest, and somehow the nick name has just stuck. Tim man, for as much as we all give you, you are a cool dude, and definitely one of the most dedicated people to show up at races, gatherings and events. See, if you guys don’t know Tim, he just sort of magically appears at nearly every gathering of more than about 10 trike riders. I swear the guy is like a Time Lord out of the Doctor Who series, or something.
So before the night got late on the first night, Richard hooked us up at Camp site #7 for the duration of the week, and set out the venerable Answer Roost Boost trip mine, just in case.
As Evening commenced, a fire was built, and everyone begun to gather around for an evening of bench racing and yammering on until the wee hours of the morning. Hanging out with these guys truly is ¾ of the experience. We’re all brought together by our love of trikes and riding, but the people, the people is what truly make or break a gathering. The beautiful riding conditions just makes the situation that much better.
Next morning, it was DUNE TIME! We double checked the machines, geared up, and went for our first good hard ride of the week. After shreading for a while we stopped at a large bowl, and I pulled my camera gear off of my back, opened the back pack up and starting trying to capture some action shots. I got a few good ones atleast.
The vastness of the sand dunes cannot be adequately captured or described till you’ve been there in person. The numerous different valleys, bowls, transitions, you see for miles, and dune points that look like they are “right over there” often wind up being 5 miles away, it’s such an awesome experience. Dune veterans known that during the middle of the day, at noon , the sun is straight up and down and it makes riding much more difficult because you no longer had the shadows to see where the edges, ledges, and drops are at. Everything sort of “washes out” to the same contrast and during this time of day you have to maintain the most heightened level of awareness and caution, lest you ride square off of a 100ft drop off and not realize it! Talk about a departure from East Coat and other types of riding…
Tom Descrescente (PocoLoco on 3WW Forum) happened to ride “right by us” one morning, and we couldn’t even catch him in time.
Later on in the week, I woke up early one morning, and there was a wicked sand storm blowing outside the trailer. Several pop up canopies and a few tables had already been claimed by the 30mph winds. To me, this appeared a great opportunity to ride out of the flats and travel into the edge of the dunes for a morning photography session. What I wasn’t real enthusiastic was taking my camera gear out into those conditions, but thankfully it panned out and I got some of the best photos I’ve ever taken before.
Later on that morning we went for an “easy” ride and spent about 4 hours out just cruising in second or 3rd gear, it was quite a spectacle watching the dunes changing while we were riding from the wind, and watching all the nuts, bolts, lost parts (and clothing…) that had been buried under the sands and then uncovered by the drastic winds. So, as the wind whipped the loose sand off the top, it revealed a moister harder packed sand underneath of it. In some of these areas were “old” tire tracks, and really curious patterns in the underlying sands. From what I understand, those were very rare conditions to have been out in as it had actually rained only a few days earlier from us arriving.
When you aren’t riding, a cool place to stop in at least one time during your trip is the Duner’s Diner. You can ride right up, grab lunch, have a few refreshments if you so desire. Always an interesting assortment of Sand Rails and other dune machines in the parking lot when you ride up. The food is fricken amazing as well. I recommend everyone swing into the Duners Diner at least once during their time at the ISDRA.
It’d be impossible to capture the entire weeks worth of riding, gaffes, quality time spent together, and accurately portray all of that, but here are a few of my favorite pictures I took during my time out there I’d like to share with you.
If you’d like to read and learn more about the Imperial Invasion, make sure to check out the following resources;
Thanks for reading;