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Glamis Gone Wrong - Off Road Notes

Posted in Features on April 1, 2006 Comment (0)
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Glamis Gone Wrong - Off Road Notes

An open letter from a father whose daughter was killed at Glamis, October 29, 2005.

My name is Patrick Gorrell and together with my wife Samantha we have managed to raise five wonderful children. From the time when our kids were toddlers, our family began taking trips to a place in the desert called Glamis. For those of you who may not be familiar with Glamis, it is essentially a stretch of mountainous sand dunes that runs from the middle of the Salton Sea and extends southward to the Mexican border. The dunes there are truly beautiful. They are made up of a seemingly endless stream of sandy valleys, ridges and deep bowls.

In our early trips to Glamis we found it to be the perfect venue for family adventures. In our many trips there we were joined by a large number of families from our local community of Canyon Lake, California. Together, there in Glamis, we taught our kids to ride and helped each other in the task of raising them into adults. We camped wagon-wheel style in our motorhomes, and at night we ate our meals around a roaring campfire while we shared the day's adventures and an endless stream of stories late into those chilly desert nights. We found it so ideal that we became hard-core regulars. For more than two decades during the cooler winter months we would go to Glamis just about every other weekend. We became accustomed to eating a little sand in our turkeys and relentlessly cleaned it out of every nook and cranny of our motorhomes and trailers. We washed sand out of our hair for days after we got back home. But despite these problems, there was one overwhelming factor that kept us going back again and again -- it was fun! About as much fun as anyone could possibly have.

It is hard to put into words the feeling of exhilaration and the absolute joy that comes from riding in the dunes at Glamis. It is a very three-dimensional experience. You can ride up hills, you can ride down hills, you can ride around and around in bowls and valleys of unimaginable proportions. You can feel the exhilaration of achieving weightlessness during a jump. You can carve turns in the sand that feel like they will rip you right off of your bike. And you can ride for hours at a stretch until your arms are so tired that you just can't use them anymore. From my experience, there is simply no feeling on earth that can match Glamis for its ability to deliver a sense of freedom and power.

Growing up and learning to ride there, my daughter Holly became addicted to these simple yet very powerful pleasures. She was a great rider, and her experiences at Glamis left her with sand in her blood and in the deepest parts of her soul.

Because of its irresistible attraction, over time this one-time haven for family adventures became increasingly crowded; in fact, it is dangerously overcrowded these days. Because of this, and because of our old age I guess, we stopped going there as regulars, but my daughter Holly made sure that we went back every now and then. Her love for the place kept drawing her back for her necessary Glamis fix.

I loved riding with Holly, she was just great. But on October 28, 2005, we went back to Glamis for a very special purpose. Holly and her sister Heather had started a line of women's riding apparel called DAMZL. Together, Holly and Heather identified a need in the in the off-road motorcycle industry that was very personal to them. Despite the fact that they are tough enough to ride with the best of us, they are also beautiful women and have a strong sense of fashion and taste. They resented the fact that for more than 30 years, they had to dress in riding clothing designed by men for men. And from their experience they knew that they could design clothing specifically designed for the woman rider -- clothing with more color and far more practical for women. Their slogan, which I dearly love, is "Feminize the Machine." This founding concept became their mantra, and it symbolized what was to become a real quest for both of them. If Holly had a goal with DAMZL it would be to put a woman dressed in pink at the head of a pack of aggressive riders.

They went to Glamis that weekend primarily as vendors. They were embarking on the necessary marketing task of gaining exposure and acceptance and creating an identity within the riding community, and Glamis is certainly one of the best places to do this.

On that Friday, Holly and her fianc Eric spent the best part of the morning taking pictures of Holly riding and jumping some dunes. The few brief minutes she spent doing this did little to satisfy her need to spend some time seriously shredding up some sand. The rest of that Friday Holly spent working the DAMZL sales booth with Heather, and she begrudgingly resisted her temptations to go back out in the dunes and get some sand in her hair.

On Saturday, Holly was back in the booth again. She was dying for a ride but kept putting it off until late in the day. And then finally, before it got too late, her moment came. Holly fulfilled her dream. She mounted her bike dressed in pink and led a pack of five riders out into the sand. As she had dreamed, she led the way and challenged everyone following to keep up with her. I can sense what was in her heart as she threw caution to the wind just long enough to miss sight of an approaching dune buggy. In the blink of an eye she was irreparably crushed. And as she laid there in the sand dressed in her pink DAMZL shirt, Eric, the love of her life, held her hand, cradled her head, and told her just how much he loved her while she passed away from him. This happened only a week ago as I write this today.

Now many of us here would describe this whole episode as tragic, but if you really knew Holly the way I did then it would be much more appropriate to describe it as poetic. Holly died very quickly. She died doing the thing she liked to do most and in the place that she liked the most. She died in the arms of the man she loved most dearly -- the man she called the love of her life. I am very proud of the fact that her life and her end have become the inspiration for her sister to continue with the goals they set together for DAMZL. I think this reflects positively on their personal strength and character. I feel blessed to be the father of such a great family.

It is with mixed emotions that I reflect on how I feel about Glamis and other popular off-road riding areas. On the one hand, our family enjoyed countless adventures and very positive experiences there. On the other hand, it's the place where I lost my daughter. Upon reflection, I have come to several conclusions. First, I believe strongly that it is up to each parent or individual rider to determine if it is appropriate or safe enough to ride in these places. Clearly, I do not believe that this decision should be made by the BLM or any other government agency. In my mind, their job is to protect our ability to make these choices, not to make them for us.

My strongest feeling is that riders and buggy drivers must learn to temper their enthusiasm in favor of more caution, especially in these very crowded areas. Perhaps the easiest way to do this is simply not to ride or drive beyond what your field of vision can let you be in control of. If you can see what lies ahead and you are confident that there are no surprises, let that be the opportunity to go for it and get your thrills. If you can't, or are not sure, resist the temptation until a safer opportunity presents itself. It will eventually come. You owe it to yourself, your coriders, and others that might be tragically affected by your impatience. As individuals we owe it to the other people around us not to jeopardize their safety because of our lack of self control. We simply don't have the right to take other people's safety for granted. None of us own Glamis or any other similar place; we share it. And if we don't share it responsibly, Big Brother will certainly take it from all of us.

May God bless and keep you and your loved ones safe.

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