Video: A Journey Through the American West with Mike Hopkins

by Absolute Zero 
 
Views: 59,974    Faves: 1,103    Comments: 46


Near the end of September, North Face athlete Mike Hopkins spent three weeks with filmmakers Andre Nutini and Liam Mullany of Absolute Zero on a road trip exploring America's West.

There’s a certain eeriness as you walk up to the newly-deserted Rampage venue. The day before, the surrounding ridges and hills had been occupied with screaming fans and the relentless media frenzy, which exists only to feed off the adrenaline and carnage that is surely the backbone of such an event. As the three of us then stood, just over 24 hours since the madness had been in full swing, we were met with a strange combination of stillness and silence that fittingly resembled the ringing hangover of a rock concert.

Virgin Mesas Copyright 2012 Liam Mullany

For Hopkins, the hangover probably resounded much louder throughout his body than ours, as he had just walked away from most likely the hardest crash in his riding career. After miscalculating the speed over a last-minute pump in his run-in, Mike found himself soaring a conservative 20 feet beyond the already massive 70 foot step-down gap which he had been mentally wrestling with for the week leading up to the main event. The result was a high-impact combination of dust, man and machine, which sent paramedics scrambling in from all sides. After some tense moments of compulsory scans, Hopkins simply stood up and walked away.

As we stood a day later in the hot sun, there were no crowds, no television cameras and no helicopters pounding overhead. A wind was slowly picking up over the ridges, and thickening clouds on the horizon over the adjacent mesa indicated the first sign of rain in the two weeks we had been in the desert. Mike hiked his Norco Aurum past the now smoldering remains of what was, a day ago, the Oakley Icon Sender drop and up the spine of his contest run. After a few laps on the fast-paced and poppy ridgeline, it was clear Hopkins hadn’t left the previous day’s wreck completely unscathed. Straddling metal tubing between his legs upon impact had evidently left a mark on certain masculine regions, and after an hour or so of sessioning a hip near the top of the Rampage course, the wincing and keeling over after each landing indicated that it was time to pack up and begin the two-week journey through America’s West and up the Oregon Coast back home to British Columbia.

Mike battling through his post-crash pain and doing a few laps on the upper part of the Rampage course. Copyright 2012 Liam Mullany

One of the only buildings in the small town of Virgin is a store called the Trading Post. Although the old Wild West themed shop clearly attracts the tourists, it’s unclear whether this is merely by accident and we were just stumbling into an establishment frozen in the early 1900s. One of the more interesting people we met on the entire trip was a self proclaimed “Alabama Redneck” who worked at the Trading Post and went by the name of “TL.” A big fan of motorcycles, guns and rock n’ roll, TL had toured in a rock band in the 1980s. As we spent some time talking with him, TL told us the story of how he, when touring up in Seattle, had made the impulse decision to drive up to Vancouver because he “heard y’all got orca whales up there.” Apparently, when the border guards saw the longhaired and bearded drummer, they immediately pulled him into the inspection line on suspicion of drugs. Of course, TL had no drugs on him or in the truck, but being a born and raised Alabama man, he travelled everywhere with a loaded shotgun behind his seat, a few boxes of ammunition underneath and a casual 20-30 ninja throwing stars he had cut himself out of sheet metal. Now, as cowardly pacifist gun-fearing Canadians, we could only feign sympathy as he frustratingly recalled how the border guards had stripped his truck down and confiscated all his weapons and turned him back into the States. Transporting illegal weapons across international borders was apparently low on the radar for TL, and he unfortunately has never since returned to see the orca whales.

The spectacular landscape of Southern Utah

Utah s red landscape is visually stunning

Liam Mullany Andre Nutini Mike Hopkins

After sharing a few more stories and spending some time with the llamas that hang around outside the store, we pointed the RV through Zion National Park and began to play tourist. The slick red rock looked like a mountain climbers dream and somehow, herds of goats sprinted up and down what seemed to be shear cliffs around us. By the time we had navigated out of the Utah mountains, through Bryce Canyon and back into Salt Lake City a few days later to return our RV, it became evident that we had drained the budget for our trip. We made the executive decision to abandon motels, showers and legitimate restaurants to try and get back to Canada while opening the wallet as few times as possible.

The one navigational item we had with us was a GPS phone app, which, besides trying to take us on an unnecessary safari through eastern Oregon, was proving to be more or less reliable. For three days since Salt Lake, our GPS had been directing us straight to the California coast- a resilient beacon of light through the desolation and nothingness of Utah and Nevada’s empty deserts. As trees began to appear and hills began to take shape, the three of us began to prepare for the next few days of surfing on the warm Pacific, relaxing in the sun and mingling in the coastal surf bars. We had blindly plugged in Eureka, California into the navigator back in Utah, as it was directly west, coastal and seemed to be the access point to the famous redwood forests. As we excitedly descended out of the coastal mountain forests and into the fresh sea air, our expectations slowly began to change.

None

Contrary to what Google would later tell us, the city of Eureka seemed to be some form of giant, experimental correctional facility. As we pushed through the thick evening fog into what we initially perceived as a quaint fishing village, the first sign of life was the unmistakable face and figure of a lady of the night, apparently sent as an ambassador to welcome us into the city. After we had instinctively unloaded every bike, bag and piece of equipment from our truck into our motel room, we took a walk through the hazy downtown streets. As the three of us navigated block after block of abandoned streets, I began to wonder if some unseen guards had rounded up the inmates for the night and we were now completely alone in the vacated prison yard. After eventually finding a place to eat, Mike decided he wanted to immediately return to the hotel, but Andre and myself figured that it was Saturday night and we should at least try and see if there was something to do. We eventually walked around enough to find what looked like a bar, but after surveying the characters loitering outside the entrance, we decided this might be a good place to get stabbed, so we called it a night as well.

The next day we were pleased to discover that Sunday mornings at Denny's restaurant were not a place to be in this town either. As the three of us were sitting in our booth waiting for our "Moon's Over My Hammy's" to arrive, a man with tattoos covering his face and skull walked through the front door, saw somebody he apparently knew and immediately proceeded to walk over and begin a brawl in front of the restaurant. It's not often you get a meal and show for 10 bucks, let alone an opportunity to be involved, but sadly we had to leave Eureka, California, behind and make our way north to the giant redwoods.

Redwood National Park

It had been two days since we left the hot dry air of Utah and Nevada, and the climate had changed immediately and drastically after we crossed the California mountains and entered coastal territory. There was no more sun, only countless shades of grey regulated by the sporadic pummeling of rainfall which always seemed to be following us. The reality which we had been avoiding in the desert now came back to us and we were on winter's doorstep. The redwood forest, however, would completely make up for this sudden change of season.

All three of us, being born and raised in British Columbia, have seen our fair share of trees- and fairly sizeable ones at that- but nothing like this. The giant sequoia trees are the largest organisms on the planet, and it's really difficult to convey a sense of just how large they truly are. We only arrived in the forest park just after the sun had set, so we didn't have much time to explore, but just sitting in silence amongst the trees that may have begun growing over 2,000 years ago was awe-inspiring. I don't think myself or Andre had ever seen Hopkins giddier than he was that evening. At one point as we were packing up our gear, Mike just took off running down the road, ecstatic to just be encompassed by the titanic pillars which stretched up and blocked out the remaining twilight. If the hourglass wasn't running low, I think we would have all gladly spent another full day exploring the super-sized Californian forest, but the North was calling, and our next destination was the legendary Black Rock trail system just outside of Oregon's Falls City.

Mike finds some greenery in Northern California while the camera rolls on

For some reason, the pouring rain that had been following us from California and up the Oregon Coast backed off when it learned we wanted to do some actual riding. Sun is usually a bad thing when filming in the trees, but at the same time it was refreshing to hike up the access road without being thoroughly soaked. When we actually started doing some riding and shooting, it was clear that Black Rock has become famous for a reason. Every trail is meticulously groomed and features progressive levels of difficulty for any visitor. The entire first day while filming, both Andre and I were both visibly itching to put down the camera gear and start pushing laps on the magnificently bermed and sculpted dirt.

After almost being run over by a parade of logging trucks at 3am that night, we were able to do one more day of riding at Black Rock before it was finally time to put the crosshairs on British Columbia and make it back just in time for the first snowfall of the year.

That s alot of sing-alongs

In total, we had traveled more than 7,000 kilometers (4,400 miles), processed inconceivable quantities of roadside cheeseburgers, slept under the Nevada stars on the roof of the truck, poached multiple campsite showers, accidentally drove the wrong way on a 6-lane highway in a full-sized RV, slept in the crater of a volcano, lost a camera to the torrential rains and gone from summer to winter all in the span of just over three weeks.

Sunset over the haze

Video: Absolute Zero - Liam Mullany/Andre Nutini
Words: Liam Mullany
Photos: Liam Mullany and Mike Hopkins

See more at absolutecine.com
See updates on projects we're involved with on our Facebook Page
Special thanks to Haley at The North Face for all the help
Must Read This Week

77 Comments

  • + 30
 My claim to fame, I shaped that lip at 4:42. Stoked to see Hopkins hit Black Rock, any more footage from when you guys were up there? VOD.
  • + 7
 For a six minute video there was not a lot of riding but still a great video looks fun.
  • + 5
 The production quality on this is unreal. Nice work AZ!
  • + 9
 i still cant believe we get this stuff for free.
  • + 5
 i wouldn't mind seeing hours of uncut footage...this was superb. Good pick with Moby too.
  • + 1
 Dakillerpeyton said it.
  • + 1
 Why cant this be a full length film? I would pre-order it without any questions.
[Reply]
  • + 5
 With Black Rock being my local trail, I sometimes forget that it's a place that pro's hit because of how sick it is. Makes me realize how lucky I am to have trails like Black Rock around. Amazing video by the way, Mike is probably my favorite rider right now.
  • + 1
 Definitely one of the most amazing places i have ridden.
  • + 1
 hoping to go there in the spring can't wait!
[Reply]
  • + 7
 music starts at 3:23.....starts looking for jason bourne
  • + 15
 The Hopkins Identity.
[Reply]
  • + 5
 This video got me stocked on life. One of the best edits on PB ever, thank you for making it.
[Reply]
  • + 2
 WOW... Out of all the video's I've seen including all the ones from all the other action sports this by far is the best. Great Job! and that shot @ 4:42 - 4:46 is amazing, I've replayed that part about 20X now. What lens is that on the close up shot of the RED Epic??? I'm Looking to get a good wide angle lense for my Canon 5D Mark III.
  • + 1
 Tokina 16-28mm is pretty dope on a full frame
  • + 1
 Thanks for replying man. Thats funny because i was just looking at the Tokina 11-16mm but it doesn't look like they make it for a full frame camera. but to me it looks like the Canon 16-35mm
  • + 2
 It's a Canon 24-105mm in that one
  • + 2
 Oh alrighty thank you. I'm just getting into the whole filming deal so I've been trying to get some input from people that have been in the game for a while. I mainly do Snowmobile stuff but I did a quick little edit with my buddy here in Bend, OR at the slalom course check it out if you wan't to. www.pinkbike.com/video/288849
[Reply]
  • + 6
 Truely amazing video, well done guys.
[Reply]
  • + 5
 This is the best road trip video I've ever seen and America seems like such diverse and interesting place
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Truly Inspiring trip! Filmed with passion for the detail. I'm so jealous for those who live on that coast. I have been to Oregon last year for an Internship and I must say the bike community there is amazing. Super friendly people, that don't hesitate taking you for a ride. Had some unforgetable experience on that trails!
[Reply]
  • + 3
 how come they pretty much skipped right over idaho? so many amazing places to ride there, but i guess nobody ever realizes that
  • + 1
 I totally agree
  • + 3
 they were afraid of the militias
  • + 1
 Unfortunately it's tough to get in everything on a trip covering so much distance. Even with everything we wanted to see, the majority of the trip is spent moving. We didn't actually end up shooting until the way back home, which was up the coast rather than back through Idaho. When we did drive through on the way down, the landscape was definitely cool and unique. The wind turbine fields in Oregon and Idaho were something you don't get to see up in British Columbia, and seeing some of the other videos and photos of riding in Idaho, it definitely looks like a cool place to explore in the future.
  • + 1
 me and some buddies are looking to do a similar trip/route later this year, will have to check out idaho, but will probably only have lame go-pro footage lol!
[Reply]
  • + 3
 Hopkins is my favorite rider to watch. The guy just kills it. You know his style is top notch when his sponsors pay him to just make videos and look good riding.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 I saw some new vantage points of Black Rock, and it tickled me to see the "Cleaver" on GK1 ridden with composure and style. Somebody did some bushwhacking to get the shot from the far side of the mossy cauldron after ET, hopefully the poison oak didn't get you.
  • + 2
 If the "Cleaver" refers to the roller coaster, I can definitely say it took at least one of us filmers a second try to figure it out. I went for a blind top-to-bottom run and took that stunt with speed. Ended up slamming my front end into one of the dips and bending my bars. Other than that, fun trail!
  • + 1
 That first dip is like a 1 rep max on the bench press, brutal.
[Reply]
  • + 2
 At first I thought, oh here we go, another Utah video with still shots of the barren town.. But man that entire video was just sick. Sick song sick riding, and so many sick non-riding shots as well
[Reply]
  • + 3
 He has such a unique style like 4:42.
I love this guy cause he got soo much talent but far to little media.
[Reply]
  • + 3
 My favorite rider. Glad to hear he was ok after attempting orbit at rampage.
  • + 1
 Ya such a huge inspiration to see him back on the bike in a couple days. For people like me sittin on the couch broken this is definitely hope i will be back on the bike soon!
[Reply]
  • + 3
 Am I the only one who skipped back to watch that chewing gum scene at 05:41 again?
  • + 1
 That's in Seattle, surprised that was the highlight of the city, lol.
  • + 1
 Haha, I thought it was funy too, post alley bubblegum wall, yup that's all we have interesting around here. No riding here, don't move here
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Absolutely killer vid. I'd gladly pay for a full length version in DVD format. Taking an epic road trip like this and doing nothing but biking spot after epic spot is a dream of mine.
[Reply]
  • + 3
 I wad there for that crash and it was bigger than any crash Ive seen! Glad to see him back so soon!
[Reply]
  • + 2
 Best video i've seen in a while, was my #1 choice to win the rampage, next year for sure!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 next time head down to santa cruz...lots of great riding with beautiful scenery
[Reply]
  • + 2
 Very cool video and epic journey.
[Reply]
  • + 2
 Haha great description of Eureka! If you're from Eureka, you're a tweaka!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 its videos like this that make me glad that I am apart of a sport that is so epic. This is why I ride!
[Reply]
  • + 3
 ridiculous quality
[Reply]
  • + 1
 your going to need to call gavin from autoglass about that crack in your windscreen
[Reply]
  • + 2
 Umm...... Fuck VOD. VIDEO OF THE YEAR! BOOM!!!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 by the way, mike no longer rides for monster energy, but yet he has to announce who his replacement sponsor will be ...
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Ohh the tire tap on the landing at 6:13 was amazing. He is such a smooth rider. VOD
[Reply]
  • + 2
 THIS is the vidéo !!!!!!! Yhea Wink
[Reply]
  • + 1
 VOD easily. From the video editing, to the music selection, this makes me want to get out and ride.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 I wish I live in America and ride there! It have such a amazing landscape! :/
  • + 1
 My cousin from Germany and her friend came to visit me this summer. They were both surprised with the landscape. They thought America was mostly big cities or a desert.
[Reply]
  • + 2
 Really great but sooooo short !
[Reply]
  • + 2
 Catches the the true essence of a road trip. Well done.
[Reply]
  • + 3
 Absolutely epic journey!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Wonder if he was actually gettin down to Moby? @3:31 haha
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Great, epic, amazing. I' watching again and again and again...
[Reply]
  • + 1
 One of the best videos I've ever seen ! Excellent work !
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Amazing edit but damn that crash was pretty big O.O glad he was alright.
[Reply]
  • + 0
 whos the moron on the camera that missed the big ass crash in the beginning of the video.... otherwise great little video...
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Beautiful forests, wonderful landscapes! Smile
[Reply]
  • + 1
 that was pretty much amazing
[Reply]
  • + 1
 I predict VOD in the near future.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 woooow absolutely outstanding work, amazing
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Oh - baby! A special mood transported so well in this video and text.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 next banger video from hopkins. potential VOY
[Reply]
  • + 1
 I like his Style
[Reply]
  • + 1
 That was excellent.
[Reply]
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