March 22, 2019

When I tell people I left a successful career of 26 years in the corporate world to start an outdoor adventure company offering camper, ATV, and dirt bike rentals as well as guided dirt bike tours, most often I get asked, “What made you do that”?

I would struggle to give a clear or convincing answer; mostly because there was no single event or moment of clarity that caused me to change the trajectory of my career path – not to mention a huge part of my life! Instead it was more of a slow burn, growing over several years, gradually taking shape.

There were several moments along the way when little seeds of change began to take root and point me in the general direction. One such moment occurred as I was reading a variety of magazines on outdoor adventure, i.e. overland travel, camping, mountain biking, adventure biking, etc. Each of these magazines had inspiring articles and photographs from exotic locations such as Africa, Europe, and Asia. To my surprise, in every one of these magazines, were equally stunning and intriguing articles on exotic locations right in my own backyard – Western Colorado and Eastern Utah. Pictured, were outdoor scenes, praised by adventure travelers from around the world, and I had been dirt biking or mountain biking in some of those locations just a few weeks prior! I was living in a world-class destination for outdoor adventure.

Another “aha” moment occurred as I was driving to work early one morning. My daily commute from Glade Park to the much larger town of Grand Junction took me through the Colorado National Monument – a beautiful place of red rock canyons, sand stone cliffs, and big horn sheep. As I rounded the bend I came upon a tourist who had parked his car in the middle of the road and was standing next to it taking pictures of a huge red rock bluff. My first thought was “dumb tourist!” Then I felt God gently remind me, “Andy you live  in a place that is so spectacular that someone seeing it for the first time literally cannot take in all the scenery without stopping to stare in awe.” Another seed was planted.

Another moment in time that definitely stands out was in June of 2017. I and two buddies were Moto camping on our dual sport bikes through the mountains of Western Colorado. We had ridden over the Uncompahgre Plateau and dropped down into the scenic ranching community of Ridgway, CO for a quick bite and then headed up into the Cimarron mountain range to find a place to camp for the night. We found a quite spot next to a creek and a grove of towering spruce trees. I had unpacked my bike and was sitting in a small camp chair, enjoying the beer we just bought while in Ridgway, and one of my buddies pulled out his phone and blue tooth speaker. At first I just wanted to listen to the creek and contemplate life and this ever growing sense that something needed to change. It wasn’t that I hated my job; I had a good job and worked with good people. It was rewarding. But I’d been there for 26 years, and for the last few years I’d felt like some part of my soul was starving for something else. My wife and I had prayed about it and discussed it many times, but no clear path seemed yet present. So I just kept pushing forward, waiting for a clear picture of what changes needed to happen. Anyway, he fired up the music and it was some old school country, Waylon and Willie old school country. Songs I grew up on. Then it happened, the Waylon Jennings song “Luckenbach, Texas” started washing over me. If you know the song, you already know where I’m going. If you don’t know the song, it’s a slightly mournful ballad about a successful country singer and his wife caught up in the crazy, up tight life of fame, and the never ending pressure to keep succeeding. Finally they decide to go back to their roots and the simple life in Luckenbach, Texas. A place where life moved slower, was simple, and people where happy.

I’m not sure exactly what happened, but I was moved to tears. And in that moment, listening to that song, I knew in my heart and soul, it was time. I didn’t have a plan or a clear picture, but I knew I wanted to be doing what I was doing right then and there. Somehow, someway, this was going to be a significant part of my life. Two months later, I handed in my resignation and left the safety of the shore to wade into something that terrified my conservative nature but exhilarated my adventuresome soul!

Today I completed my U.S. Forest Service Operating Plan for my 2019 guiding and outfitting season. I expanded the plan to include several routes for guided dual sport (dirt bike) tours. Some of the routes are the very same I took the day “Luckenbach, Texas” caused a slow burn to ignite into a passionate fire. Maybe this story has a defining moment after all?

Andy Hanks