Dirt Bike Heaven

On Set With Stone Spray Sandwich

Some invitations are too good to pass up. In this case, the phone call I received from our video producer Taylor Congdon came as I boarded my return flight from the Indianapolis Supercross. Tired, burnt out and ready for some serious couch time back home in Corona, I shook my head as he filled me in on the details of the shoot he had lined up the very next day: Castillo Ranch, seven riders and most importantly-considering the storms that had recently hammered Southern California-clear skies! The possibilities of a day at the mythical riding spot in Central California raced through my head during the entire flight home, and by the time I landed in California I had already decided to call Taylor back, accept the invitation and hit the road for the four hour drive…that night.

After picking up some clean clothes, riding gear and a bike at home, I hit the road in the trusty TransWorld Motocross Ford F-150, and spent the next several hours scaring the crap out of myself as I fought to stay awake at the wheel. Red Bulls, Starbucks Double Shots and some extended open-window sessions on the 101 north helped me arrive safely, and the three hours of sleep I got before meeting the crew at Castillo’s felt more like a few minutes.

NIRVANA

Chances are good that through the years you’ve either heard or read about the Castillo Ranch. Personally, the first time I laid eyes on the beautiful private property was in the 1992 Fox Racing Dream On…calendar. Stretching out over 500 hilly acres in Los Alamos-a small town about an hour or so above Santa Barbara-Castillo Ranch is dirt bike heaven. “When I first looked at the property,” said Jim Castillo, “The realtor couldn’t believe it was the dirt quality that sold me most on it. I knew that we were going to be riding on it, so the dirt was key!”

Two national-caliber tracks are cut onto the property: a regulation Supercross course, and a challenging outdoor track that has a sprinkler watering system that runs on timers. More importantly, though-at least on this particular trip-is the fact that the hills host several natural terrain lips and hips to catch incredible air off of.

STONE SPRAY SANDWICH

Back in 2003, TransWorld Motocross produced Crush, our first motocross video/DVD, and everyone involved had a blast in the process. In 2004, we followed Crush up with Skills, a how-to video/DVD featuring Ryan Hughes. Both films have been very well received, even though they have appeal on opposite sides of the spectrum. This year we’ve decided to take the entertainment route again, and Stone Spray Sandwich will hit the stands just in time for Christmas. Patterned after the content of our magazine, SSS will feature an eclectic mix of racing, freestyle, rider spotlights and in this instance; play riding!

Groggy and only half awake, I was greeted by Andrew Short, Jiri Dostal, Ryan Morias, Logan Darien, Andy Bakken, Mike Sleeter and Branden Jeffries as I pulled into the ranch at 9:00 AM. Practice on the Supercross track was first on the day’s agenda, and I got to enjoy a special treat: Shorty’s first ride on his factory Honda CR250R two-stroke. Normally a CRF250R four-stroke pilot, Short decided to contest the East Coast 250cc rounds that didn’t conflict with the Western Region 125cc events, and he brought the unfamiliar bike to Castillo Ranch for a get-acquainted session. After spinning several motos on his small-bore thumper, Short fired up his vicious two-stroke and took to the track. Shorty’s eyes practically bulged into the lenses of his Spy goggles as he ring-a-dinged around the track. “Man, this thing is waaay too fast!” he exclaimed repeatedly, before getting back on his 250F.

After watching Short and the rest pound lap after lap on the Supercross track, Taylor and I were stoked when the crew decided to head to the hills to blow off some steam. Though TWMX is probably the magazine that gives the most attention to freestyle motocross, and I havee mad appreciation for the skills required to be a freestyle rider in this day and age, there is something about watching professional racers at play that gets me even more excited. Sure, a whip by freestyle standards is on the boring side (no offense, Renner!), but in the hills it is still a sight to see.

The cool thing about racers at play is that a factory ride doesn’t matter. Sure, Shorty went off on his works CR250R, but his bike enjoyed no real technical advantage over Jiri Dostal’s big 450 Honda or Mike Sleeter’s clapped-out CRF250R. Through the next two or three hours, all of the riders took turns finding new jumps, with the most notable air being caught by WBR’s Ryan Morais, who went insane off a beat-up cliff jump that only he and Sleeter would attempt.

AFTERMATH

As the afternoon wound down, the group headed up a canyon on the southeast corner of the property to play on a metal freestyle ramp that the Castillos wedged into the valley. Buried into the dirt at an incline, the super kicker ramp threw the riders even higher than normal, over a deep gap and a treacherous-looking cliff. In order to safely land the jump, the riders had to whip their bikes to the left to avoid crashing head-on into another cliff, and getting on the brakes immediately to avoid yet another dug-out hillside was required upon touchdown. Shorty and Sleeter were the kings of the ramp jump, until Factory Connection Honda’s Billy Laninovich joined the group just before sunset. Fresh off his win at the San Francisco SX, Lano rolled in late because he had spent the early part of the day trying to ride on one of the flooded SoCal Supercross tracks. On his first attempt at the ramp jump, Billy went completely upside down and drew cheers from his peers. I have no problem admitting that I actually missed the shot, because the extremity of his whip caught me completely off guard and I was sure he was falling off his bike. To the delight of us all, Laninovich repeatedly defied gravity aboard his CRF250R before pulling off what was perhaps the sickest whip of them all. After pulling his bike back into an acceptable landing angle at the very last second, Billy declared that he had finally “scared himself,” and was done. Take a second look at the cover of this issue for a peek at that very whip…

As the sun set on Los Alamos, I loaded my bike into the F-150 and headed south for that quality time with my couch that I had delayed by a day, while Taylor and the riders stayed behind for a second day of riding, playing and filming for Stone Spray Sandwich. Taylor called the next night to tell me I blew it by leaving early and had missed some of the best action yet, but after looking at the photos that you’ll find in these pages, I wasn’t too worried…

Stone Spray Sandwich drops in November 2005, and trust me, it’s one you won’t want to miss!