Throughout the years in which we’ve been filming the Boondockers series of backcountry snowmobile videos I’ve come to witness many spectacular events, stunts and activities. We were there to experience the original Boondocker, Brian Seaward’s riding clinic when he side-hilled his way up the pole line above Grand Lake back in 1996. We sat jaw locked when Joey Smallwood raced a Grand Touring SE 700 triple across the quarter mile stretch of open water that straddles the foot of Deer Lake in 1997. We organized Newfoundland’s first freestyle snowmobile exhibition in which Jimmy Bleze Fejes performed one of the first back flips ever performed on a sled. We’ve rubbed elbows with the world’s top athletes and spent an inordinate amount of time with Blair Morgan, Jay Quinlan, Chris Burandt, BJ Murray and Rob Alford. But as they say – just when you think you’ve seen it all….
Last spring I booked a last minute trip to Salt Lake City, Utah so that I might spend at least one weekend riding with the Boondockers crew. It had been a hectic winter at home and as my lack of fortune appeared to dictate, I couldn’t have picked a worse time to arrive since my partner and host, young Dan Gardiner planned to run in the Salt Lake City Marathon that same weekend. Under any other circumstance I would have postponed or even cancelled the trip but I hadn’t seen Daniel in more than a year and so I decided that his company alone was well worth the voyage. In fairness, Dan did insist that I lug my riding gear; providing every assurance that we would make it out for at least one ride – but who could have guessed that we’d end up filming some of the best footage of the entire winter?
I arrived on a Thursday afternoon and despite the constraints of work and family, Dan was there to meet me at the airport. He was in great form and was thankful to have cleared his schedule for the weekend since we were doubly blessed by the fact that our executive producer, Dave Napier, was also in town to join us. We enjoyed a great dinner that evening and as is always the case when we ride in Utah – the rest of the crew were waiting on our doorstep at 6 the next morning just dying to get going. Today we were meeting the pro skiers from Teton Gravity Research with whom we were sharing a video op to shoot a relatively small but especially tangly gap over a barb wire fence that was designed to keep people away from a large drop created by a hydro / water supply dam located just north of the city. We spent several hours shoveling the hit before the group took turns dropping off a steep hillside and launching the divide. Thankfully, our investment of time and sweat provided amazing dividends when we reviewed the footage that evening at dinner.
Despite my exhaustion I arose quite early the next morning only to find Daniel up and dressed in his running garb, ready to take part in the Salt Lake City Marathon. I offered to drive him to the start line but he figured the 15 minute walk would be a good warm up. Weary as I was I figured the least I could do was accompany him and so we made our way towards the University of Utah campus. En route we discussed his strategy and it was only at this time that I actually came to fully appreciate the venture he was about to engage. I knew a marathon was 26 miles long but for some reason I simply hadn’t made an actual conversion to the metric version which we Canadians are accustomed – “My God that’s nearly 50kms! How much training have you done for this?” I asked. “None”, he stated, “other than my riding this winter and my regular running and lifting routine.” And if this wasn’t enough of a shock – when we arrived on campus I came to realize that this wasn’t exactly a local event as there were over 5,000 competitors who hailed from all over the US, along with quite a number of professional runners from nearly every other country on the planet. Not to mention the number of fans and who had come to witness this world class event.
On the walk back I found myself marveling at Daniel, his determination, the discipline he exhibits and his ever growing list of skills and talents. At breakfast Napier and I discussed each of these attributes though I don’t think either of us was fully aware of his true determination. While we lounged about, thinking we had plenty of time before Dan called for a pick up – he had stayed with the lead pack through the entire race, finishing in the top 100 with plenty of time for us to head back into the mountains for an afternoon ride.
Amazing? You don’t know the half of it. Dan was so confident in his finishing time that he had already arranged to meet a group of fellow riders with the plan to shovel yet another monster hit which launched the boys across a large road gap and provided some of the most memorable Boondockers footage we’ve ever captured.
That night we enjoyed a celebratory dinner that left all hands reeling come Sunday morning. Well, all but Dan and myself, for as certain as the sunrise on a Salt Lake morning – we were out for yet another full day of riding. With no set plan for the day we simply let our skis guide us through the many bowls, mountains and river valleys for which this area is so famous. Something that might seem foolish in retrospect cause when you run with Dan you never really know where you might end up.
Weekend warrior takes on a whole new meaning when you run with Boondockers!