The day I woke up and rode a motorcycle out of a plane....

The day I woke up and rode a motorcycle out of a plane....

Riding a motorcycle out of plane - A clutch opener for Crusty Demons motocross movie series.

TL'DR - I lived and the video is at the bottom of the post.

Before social media, people used to use the phone to make connections.
I got a call from a friend who mentioned that Fleshwound Films (Jon Freeman & Dana Nicholson) needed a clutch opener for their next installment of Crusty Demons motocross movie series.  At the time, Jon & Dana were at the forefront of Freestyle Motocross - Pre X-Games - Pre Streaming - Pre Social. Action Sports Films were the vehicle to display the amazing talents of those involved.  You were literally frothing at the release of the next installment of "insert action sports movie here" from skateboarding to snowboarding to surfing and they OWNED the FMF audience. This was the only way to you could hit legendary status outside of AMA Motocross. Check out Seth Enslow's interview about being immortalized forever in Crustys 1 here.

Here’s the hitch: the premiere was 3 weeks away.

My Inspiration came from the early days watching the TV Show 'That’s Incredible'. There was a segment with legendary stuntman Dar Robinson where he went FULL SEND by driving a sports car off of a cliff. Check it out, pardon the pixels and the french.

Pretty nuts for the time, especially when you consider the technology of parachutes and containers - specifically ones designed for low altitude openings - were literally non-existent. Rewind Dar's stunt 75 years to 1926 where Fred Osborne, an iconic stuntman of the time, attempted to what is quite possibly the first TRUE FULL SEND of any vehicle intentionally off a cliff just outside of LA on the coast:  

BTW - he lived. Those telephone wires 10 feet off the ground helped to break his fall. Fortune favors the Bold.

Let's get back to it - We needed a location, a bike, and a small team.

We would need to shoot in either Utah or Arizona. The reason being the OG BLM (Bureau of Land Management) - the this land is your land, and you can do whatever the F*ck you want on that land - would be a great choice for Sendy McSending a dirt bike off a cliff to its doom. After making a few calls to other jumpers who had filmed jumps with a crew (permits, no trouble, easy access), the recommendations were the Native American lands in Arizona and finding the right tribe who would grant a permit in relatively short order.

We scored some intel on a Navajo Tribal Council meeting happening in Cameron the next day. Time to rally. quite literally. At the time, I was piloting a 1986 911 Carrera. The car was a bit of a "beater" with 200k miles but mechanically perfect.  This was the car which taught me how to drive well and fast. Rear engine rear wheel drive with tons of torque? Oh baby. please. Side note:  Do you want to learn how to drive from one of the best? check out "Porsche High-Performance Driving Handbook by Vic Elford" Yea - it's a book. not a video, however it's packed with tons of knowledge about driving and handling characteristics when racing fast cars (and not just limited to 911s).

After ripping through the must drive Westgard pass and the long straights through the desert, we arrived in Arizona to pitch the council. We negotiated a "no fee" permit in a few hours with a small "donation" of tendies.

The Fleshwound Films crew procured a bike from ex-supercross racer Brian Manley who appeared in the orginal Crusty Demons of Dirt. The single bike cemented the fact that whis would be a one-shot take and on 16mm film. Jon & Dana put a team solid team together (all legends in their own right): Matt Goodman, Tim 'Frezno' Boyer, Sam Boyer, and Pineman.

"That was easier than expected" we muttered.... but never, ever, ever, ever say that.

The Wrench

The summer of 1997 was one of the most active hurricane seasons on record in the Eastern Pacific yielding epic surf for Southern California.  A very strong El Nino had formed. and was fueling several monsters including the largest on record for the Pacific (Cateogry 5 Linda with a low pressure recorded of 902 mbar) until Cat 5 Patricia broke it in 2015 recording 872 mbar.  This type of weather scenario sends loads of sub-tropical moisture into the Southwest of the USA. The moisture meets the intense heat of the deserts and quickly creates crazy big thunderstorms capable of torrential downpours with little to no warning.

A week prior to our shoot date tragedy struck in a nearby canyon. A guided group of international tourists were exploring a slot canyon of sandstone and had no idea a large thunderstorm had just dropped inches of rain 15 miles away.  A flash flood was created and a 10 foot wall of water rushed through the canyon on a very sunny day.   The group had no idea what hit them.  All 11 tourists died, and the Indian guide was left naked clinging to a ledge in the canyon. F*cking nuts.

A Heartbreaking Tragedy Struck Arizona In 1997...And It Will Never Be Forgotten
The sudden arrival of a flash flood in Arizona can be deadly, just as it was for these tourists in 1997.

How did that affect us considering it was 100 miles away? well, that was the 4th distastrous flood in a month in AZ. While we were inbound from LA and Tahoe, another round of moisture hit the state and again caused crazy flooding. We figured it would postpone us a few days. no big deal.

The next day we drove out to the location to scout and do some pre-shoot plannig and review. When you peer over the edge of the 1400 foot cliff into the Little Colorado River Canyon from the exit point, all you could see in both directions was an out of control raging river. Just wall to wall whitewater with huge standing waves. The forecast mentioned water levels subsiding over the next 48 hrs. If that was the case, the project was still doable, tight, but doable. At the moment, a patrol car sped up to our position, and we were approach by an Navajo Nation Officer.

"I need your permit" said the officer and he spoke in a tone that was more a demand than request.  So I reached into my backpack and handed him a photocopy of the permit, and he become irritated and bellowed:

"I need the real permit, not a copy"

"But why? all the information is on there"

"Because we're revoking your permit" as he put his hand on his service revolver, no joke. "and if you don't give it to me, I'm going to throw you all in jail. and this is our Jail, it's special, it's not the same as yours, you don't have the same rights, and you can sit in there and rot until we say so"

Oh Boy. OK. What do you do now? well, you give the nice man the permit. After a bit of a less tense exchange about the risks and the fact the Nation was fearful of being sued for the deaths of the tourists, we were told to go take it up with Window Rock (where the head of the nation resides / governs ) where we could negotiate another date. The officer thought we were still planning on jumping the next day, even though there is no way any of us were getting near that river due to safety concerns.

Do you know what time it is?

To Window Rock we go - 200 miles to the east with the clock ticking to complete the shoot for the premiere. We hopped in the car at sunrise and sped across the open desert. We arrived around 10am and checked in with the secretary, "Sit here, and we will be with you shortly"..... tick tock.... tick tock... yea, there was one of those clocks, the kind you had in a school classroom that seemingly were able to make time stand still. The irony and foreshadowing of this moment was soon to be revealed. After spending 4 hours in total silence in a tiny mobile office with another random human being (excellent power move btw), we were finally granted an audience with the powers that be.

The Navajo Leader welcomed us, and we quickly explained the situation which happened the day before and our need to quickly get a new permit so we can hit the deadline for the movie. He asked to see the permit and stared intently at the permit then back at me. There was a long silence which seemed to go on for an eternity, then he spoke:

See that clock on the wall? Before you people, we didn’t have clocks, so your urgency is of no importance to us. We can not issue a new permit.

Ouch. There was my answer. Initially, I laughed which wasnt necessarily seen as respectful, but I couldn't resist the META level irony of everything intersecting at the exact moment. Honestly, if the roles were flipped, I could not have said it better myself. I politely apologized with a quick explanation about my laughter reflecting my bumpy journey and not his comment on clocks and time being funny, yet it was funny when taken into context. He smirked and said it's time for you to leave..... lol. the META.

Plan B

With less than a week to go until the premiere and our primary location gone, we needed to find a solution fast. I reached out to Brian at Skydive Arizona and let him know our situation. They have been doing all sorts of cool hucking things out of airplanes for the past few years from cars, to refridgerators, to complete living rooms sets (no joke). It's not quite the epic vision getting some hang time off a cliff, but being the first to ride a motorcycle out of plane would work! ha.

In terms of a stunt, our prep work was lightning fast. Quick briefing - especially for Tim Boyer who would be in the landing zone getting the shot of the bike hitting the deck. Funny thing about things falling from the sky, when you're on the ground, you have no perspective on where it's going to land until the object gets close. Odds are it's not going to hit you at that exact spot, but it's still nerve wracking being down there, especially when you are trying to track the action through a camera lens, and GETTING THE SHOT.

We did some brief narrative setup shots. then loaded the bike in the Skyvan. I started running a few scenarios in my mind -  would the 2 Stroke bike even start at 9000 AGL? Could I even hang on to it once I left the aircraft?  Remember the aircraft is travelling at 100 knots, and as I leave the rear of the plane, I have a 100 kt tailwind. Would that cause the front wheel to catch wind and throw the bike off balance? etc etc etc... A non-start issue is easily resolved by the pilot tilting the aircraft up, and I would then coast it out the door. Ok, shut up already, it's go time.
As we took off in formation with the chase camera plane, I tried to calm my mind as best I could and run through the sequence of events that would play out in 10 minutes. One of the biggest concerns is getting hit by the bike in freefall - right at the moment of letting go - the relative wind could force the bike to move lightning fast in any direction. Getting tagged by a 250 lb metal object in freefall wouldnt be fun and most likely result in a you're f*cked scenario.

The pilot signaled we were getting close to the final approach and it was time to go. I took a deep breath, and started the bike. First kick, it fired right up. Phew. Don't have to fight with that. It was at that moment when I felt like I was both a spectator to my own actions AND being at the center of the universe in an elevated state - the surrealness of the situation was finally hitting me. Time dilation was kicking in while staring at the exit door lights and waiting for the green to drop. the seconds felt like minutes and then BAM. Green Light always means go.

A quick rev of the throttle, engage the clutch, drop it into first gear, and grab a handful of throttle - BRAAAAAAAP. Out the door we go. I keep the gas on as the bike travelled down the "hill" - the point where you transition from moving 100 kts forward to 110 kts straight down to the ground. I was suprised by how stable the bike was in freefall. (Rotational mass physics in action - spin a bike wheel in your hands, and it resists your movements). HOWEVER - the moment I let up on the throttle - the bike started getting wrenched from my hands, at that moment i gave a mighty push to clear the bike from me. Phew! got clear of it - a wave of relief overcame me - the most dangerous parts are done, just one last thing to do - pull my parachute and save my own life. hahaha. I landed safely next to the bike out in the wide open desert. CHECK IT, it's the opening scene for the movie:

Of note - Crustys III was Travis Pastrana’s first segment in a moto movie.
Fucking Epic trip and tons of memories - one of the most fun things I’ve ever done in my life. Since then, there have been several successful attempts at the Cameron location - from skateboarding to cars to motos - Congrats to those with better timing. Big thanks to everyone who took part of my mission. Somedays you never know what's going to happen when you answer the call.....