Visions of Rocks in Our Heads

I’m really not sure I’ve seen Glen that happy anywhere else on this trip. We were drifting through sand, banging over rocks and dodging pucker bushes in the nastiest, most capable off-road vehicles this side of an Israeli Tomcar.

“All this thing needs is a crew-served and a big-ass turbo!”


Whoopin’ and hollerin’, we clawed our way up the first slickrock spine in our borrowed RZR 1000 like a cat fleeing the veterinarian.

“Git it, bro!”

“On it!”

“Hey, I put the water bottles in the… oh, that didn’t work.”

“Dude, it’s under the brake pedal!”

“Yeah, that can’t be good.”

“At least we’re going downhill.”

“Rocks at the bottom.”

“Probably doomed.”

“Gas it!”

The water bottle rolled out from under the pedal, covered with desert crud. I cracked my head on the dash in the process of grabbing it, then handed it over.


“Yeah, dehydration would be bad.”

“What if we had to leg it out of here?”

“Don’t worry about it. I’ve got enough sweat in this prosthesis right now to keep us alive for a week.”

We’d already decided that Navy & Air Force, who were sharing another RZR, were following too close. I promptly dubbed them the One Grenade team, and we hung back, waiting to see what would happen. Every once in a while, we’d push a wheel in and pass ‘em, just to keep things interesting. Then we’d cut a cadido away from the trail, and surge back in on them.

© Georgey Doober Hernandez

© Georgey Doober Hernandez

Impatient with our kid tricks, they archly informed us that their GT scores had been “the highest possible.”

“Well, that explains a few things!,” bellowed Glen, the old infantry gunnery sergeant. He looked at me, shaking his head and stage whispered “They think the scale runs zero to 100.”

“Well, for them it does.”

“Bro, that’s cold.”

We were just funnin’ ‘em, anyway. Everything about that day was fun, actually.

You know those military recruitment commercials, the ones that always have a thumping bass line and show fit young Americans doing unbelievably cool stuff with amazing equipment in a rapid-fire, rockin’ montage? Ripping around in Polaris RZRs is a great deal more like those commercials than it is like actual military service. Imagine a day in the army with no equipment layouts, inspections, PT, formations, or physical labor — but you still get to blaze around in high-speed tactical vehicles. It was like that, except we didn’t even have to pull maintenance.

On one rocky hill climb between scrubby trees, Glen grabbed my phone and tried to take a series of pictures. “I’m good at holding these steady,” he assured me. By the time we got to the top, we were laughing so hard I had to pull off the trail to catch my breath. Between the ride, the guys we were making fun of (including ourselves), and the trail dust, I had tears running down my face. We reviewed our pictures at the next stop. The sequence went like this: sky-rock-sky-rock-sky-rock-TREE.

© Glen Silva

On a long climb up stepped rocks shortly thereafter, Glen reminded me to hang back. “No way she makes it. I’ve been in these things a bunch of times.”


“You fuckers got all the good toys.”

“Damn straight. Now watch… whoa! She’s gonna hit it!”

BAM! The vehicle ahead slammed nose-on into the bottom step, hard enough to raise the rear wheels. Always the gentlemen, we laughed like hyenas.

Halfway up, their vehicle high-centered. As they seesawed up and down, the smell of burning rubber filled the air. Could have been tires; could have been the torque converter belt; could have been egos. Hard to tell from where we sat, giggling like kids.

“HEY!,” Gunny Glen yelled. “Try four-wheel drive!”

There was a pause in the furious hillside scramble. “How do you turn it on?”

“There’s a switch on the dash!,” Glen said. “It’s right in front of you!”

Being a not particularly good person, I helpfully contributed. “It’s lit up orange, and says FOUR WHEEL DRIVE!”

Glenn looked over and arched an eyebrow “Highest possible GT score.”

“Shoulda been an admiral.”

“Combat veteran.”

“Keep calm, and combat on!”

“Yeah, I saw that shirt she had on. Told her she didn’t want to see me combat on, because I kill people when I do that.”

“Hey, keep calm over there. No throat punching the driver.”

Our momentary rock track rivals had shed a little trail blood, with a weeping CV joint on their left rear axle that would come apart with a quiet rattle before we made the parking lot. Everybody weeps sometimes.

The last little stunt of the day was a short climb, followed by a sharp descent along a narrow spine, then a drop to the parking lot. Placing a GoPro carefully in the middle of the path, our camera crew asked us each to drive over it, straddling the shot. We watched, snickering quietly, as three or four vehicles carefully climbed the rise, dropped over the other side and made for the parking area.

Then we gunned it hard, stooping down onto the trail like a famished desert hawk on an unattended infant, and hit that son of a gun at about 40 mph.

If you only go around once in this life, you may as well make decent speed.

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  1. Haha! “No throat punching the driver.”

    I really enjoyed reading this. I’m glad you guys had a great time.

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