Like most people my age, I went through that phase in my youth where I had a shiny six-shooter cap gun riding on my hip, and a cowboy hat pulled down tight across my brow. My school showed us How the West Was Won on a giant screen at an assembly in the gym. I wanted to be a cowboy. I wanted to be the good guy too.

As I got older, I lost interest in being a cowboy. We never had horses, although we did have a farm. Around my eleventh birthday we did get something close, however. We got our first ATV. For a while, ATVs consumed my passions. Of course, when girls came into the picture, all of that was out the window. It happens to all of us, I guess.

Now I’m older and with kids of my own. I remember what it’s like to day dream and live in that world of imagination. When Kawasaki called me to ask if I’d be interested in going with them to Santa Fe, New Mexico for something to do with a “big-time Hollywood movie,” I was game. I immediately thought of those days of my youth and that chrome cap gun.

I’m a cowboy, on a steel horse I ride…

The movie was the new Disney blockbuster The Lone Ranger, starring Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer. Kawasaki was having a promotion and to celebrate, they were inviting several members of the media to come out for a ride in the New Mexico desert, followed by a special screening of the film. I fake-paused for a moment to make it look like I had to think about it before I accepted the offer to attend. Hey, It’s Not Easy, but someone has to do it, right?

The tie in, which took a little explaining, was that Kawasaki products are designed for the enthusiast; the modern rebel outlaw spirit that is looking to blaze his/her own path. It is part of the direction Kawasaki marketing is going these days, trying to appeal not to the masses, but to that percentage of people looking to capture that thrill. Sounds good to me, let’s ride!

There were lots of challenging sections to the trail. Amazingly, we never had a flat tire. Image by Alfonse Palaima.
There were lots of challenging sections to the trail. Amazingly, we never had a flat tire.

The plan called for us to pair up, like Tonto and the Lone Ranger, and ride not into the sunset, but across the wild terrain of New Mexico. We headed out to Caja Del Rio Canyon, part of the U.S. National Forest Preserve near Santa Fe. Kawasaki had been issued a special use permit for this area, meaning that we would be some of the very few that have ever ridden here on anything other than a horse. The land was broken up with open cattle range and wildfires had been a huge concern for us, so much so that alternative ride locations were planned out in case of a blaze. There was also the real threat of serious rain and the flash floods you often hear about in desert terrain. It all added a good deal of mystery to the adventure. Kawasaki’s theme for the movie tie-in is “Live the Legend,” and the ride was certainly looking to do just that!

The ride was epic, to say the least. Having spent most of my riding life in more northern terrains, the chance to experience the Southwest and true desert was really fun. We didn’t have to divert for wildfires, although we did dodge a few cows on the trail. There weren’t any outlaws to rob our “train,” but there was a serious amount of dust that stole my ability to breathe freely at times. I was paired with Mike Ausec, from Dealer News magazine. Mike is an experienced desert racer from southern California and I appreciated his skill behind the wheel of our “deputized” Teryx 4 UTV. None of us were so cheesy as to name our machines Silver, but a stab on the accelerator certainly had us going “Hi Ho” and “Away,” pretty darn quick. Our Teryx 4 was yellow anyway.

Much to the chagrin of the ladies in my life, neither Johnny Depp nor Armie Hammer were on hand to sign autographs or go for a ride with us. It’s just as well, I think. I already had enough people hating on me for getting to go in the first place. The last thing I would need is a bunch of women in a jealous fit because I got to meet Depp. The Kawasaki guys did say he owns a Ninja street bike, however.

It was epic to get to ride through the land, near where they shot much of the movie. It does my heart good to see that the Wild West still exists to some extent. If you get the chance to go to Santa Fe, I highly recommend it.

Hard Core Red Carpets

After the ride and a serious shower, it was off to dinner and then to a theater for a special screening of the film. There were members of the Hollywood Foreign Press in town on an official press junket and we would be screening the movie along with them. The film’s producer, Jerry Bruckheimer, was present to introduce the movie to us. Of course, they had me at free popcorn and Diet Coke. What’s a movie without popcorn?

It wasn't easy to walk away from the ATVs and the trails at the end of the excursion, but the screening proved to be an excellent conclusion to the trip.
It wasn’t easy to walk away from the ATVs and the trails at the end of the excursion, but the screening proved to be an excellent conclusion to the trip.

The movie was as epic as the ride. Loaded with action and humor, it is bound to be a summer blockbuster and I highly recommend going to see it. And as I told all the women hounding me for info on Johnny Depp, he makes a great Tonto. This is definitely a modern twist to the old classic TV show and radio show that originated in Michigan back in 1933. If you’re looking for a plot spoiler, I’m sorry to disappoint you. You’ll just have to see the movie for yourself. Better yet, see the movie and go get a Kawasaki so you can Live the Legend for yourself. They are running several promotions where you can win your own Teryx 4. I wouldn’t mind having one in my stable, I have to say.

The best thing about summer movies and events like this is that it helps pass the time until the fall hunting season gets here. I can see it now, me and my faithful companion heading out into the wild. I too wear a mask, although mine is made of camo and it hides my identity from ducks and geese. I won’t have a chrome six-shooter on my hip, but I’ll have a Beretta shotgun with a three-shell plug in it. I won’t be fighting bad guys either, just winged bandits flying down from the North. Like my Santa Fe adventure, I expect the season to be epic.

I’ll be living my own legend, or perhaps being a legend in my own mind. I wonder who they’ll get to play me when they make that movie? I’ve been told I bear a striking resemblance to Johnny Depp, although that was my wife who said it and she may have been being sarcastic. Yeah, I’m pretty sure she was.

Images by Alfonse Palaima

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