Life is filled with opportunities to embrace the open road and as humans, we are conditioned to move forward and never look back. Recently at WLF, we had the opportunity to look in the rearview mirror at the experiences and people who shaped us and take stock in the past 365.
Last year changed everything and maybe nothing at all. At the bare minimum, 2020 taught us lessons about how to slow down, take a deeper look at why we do what you do, take stock of our life inventories and look at our past to gauge the direction we’d like to head in the future. Last year provided all of us with a rearview moment. Mission 4 was that moment for WLF, and one we will never forget. As the world stood still, W.E. were faced with the tough decision to change the trajectory of one of our nearest and dearest projects: THE MISSION. For the past four years, WLF and our community have come together to celebrate and say thank you to our military men and women for their dedication and service to this nation. It’s a special project and W.E. believe in supporting this riding community made up of amazing people and telling their stories. Missing it wasn’t an option.
AS THEY SAY IN MILITARY RADIO TERMS, CHARLIE MIKE (CONTINUE MISSION. KEEP MOVING FORWARD.)
INSERT STRIKE MISSION MENTALITY HERE.
We looked at each other and realized this event means just as much to us as it does to the veterans and industry members who support it. So, we asked ... can we STRIKE MISSION this thing? The answer was yes. It was settled. W.E. proceeded to seek out a secluded spot, limit the number of vet riders, take all the necessary safety precautions to make the MISSION that we know and love a reality for the fourth year in a row.
Our home for this year’s event was the quiet town of Fawnskin, CA, which is nestled on the North Shore of Big Bear Lake. The town has an astonishing population of 300. The biggest attraction besides the art shacks and Post Office is a glass firehouse that sits on the corner of the main highway. To most non-motorbike loving humans, the best action happens on the south side of the lake, at two world-class mountains for winter and summer fun. For the fuel guzzling, dust eating, throttle twisting portion of society, though, this tiny map dot is the perfect inlet for some of the best trails any dirthead could ask for. So, while all the clean fun is happening on the south side of Big Bear, W.E. and the select few veterans and participants showed up to swell the population of Fawnskin to 320 for the weekend.
WLF NEEDED AN OASIS AND FOUND THE OUTPOST.
There is a particular location that was to be our jumping-off point for this strike mission: an old-fashioned joint that nestles up to the lake and was just revitalized by some of the best humans roaming this earth. The spot is called The Outpost, thus named because any good adventure includes a moment where you need to take a rest to get rejuvenated.
Billy Van Vugt is a former motocross racer and freestyle motocross athlete from Canada who now works as a stuntman, mechanic and ramp builder for Nitro Circus Live. His younger sister, Jolene, is a Canadian motocross champion, the first woman to backflip a full-size dirt bike and for years was the only woman performer in the Nitro Circus. Today, she’s a successful Hollywood stuntwoman, Polaris RZR ambassador and one of the five owners of The Outpost. Alyssa Roenigk is Billy’s wife, thanks to a timely intro from Jolene at the X Games in Foz do Iguacu, Brazil. When she’s not scrubbing toilets at The Outpost, Alyssa is a senior writer, broadcast journalist and podcast host at ESPN. Becky and Tim Clark make up their east coast contingent. They own four restaurants in Rhode Island and Vermont and if you’re lucky, will cook you a meal one day.
When we asked if WLF could host a veteran-friendly event before the paint had dried on renovations (Did we mention they bought the place in March?), they answered without hesitation. “Yes!” They offered up their lodge, pitched in to provide food, went above and beyond with accommodations and even hit the trails with us to help guide and encourage the vets thru some of Big Bear’s heavy sections. If you are in the Fawnskin zone and don’t stop by The Outpost, you will miss out. Just sayin’.
BACK TO MISSION: THE WELCOMING.
Nothing is better than a Friday feeling. The week is over, all your hard work is behind you and the thought of getting some R&R motivates everyone to push the pedal down a little harder. The Friday of M4 was something a little extra special for us and the vets. W.E. created so much buildup prior to the event and the vets had no idea where or what they were getting themselves into. Vibes were high, to say the least, and it wasn’t due to the elevation.
Each vet drove in to The Outpost and was greeted by what someone coined, “a warm moto hug.” They were each escorted to their private cabin that was exclusively set up with products hand-selected for them from the industry’s finest brands. We laid out the Fox gear and boots, FMF Vision goggles, Shoei helmets, rugged radios for comms, ONX subscriptions for navigation, trail maps and a bag filled with tons of SWAG from supporting brands. After everyone settled into their cabins, we met around a meal to carb-load and swap stories. When the crew was stuffed and ready to chill, we lit a fire in the fire pit and passed around the 805s. Soon, everyone was ready to turn in and rest up before an early morning roll call. There was shredding to be had.
COMMENCE VET SHRED TIME.
The morning of ride day, the participants woke bright and early, frothing to shred. Something about MISSION ride mornings just feel different. Excitement provides a jolt, so each person needs a little less coffee to get suited and booted up. Breakfast is served and the anticipation thickens about what the trails and the day has in store. The HUSQVARNA bikes seemed to glisten in the morning sun, calling to the veterans to ride them and lessen their shine. The crew gathered to feast their eyes on their ONX Off-Road app’s and find out what the routes looked like from a map POV.
The first leg of the ride pre-lunch would have the group traveling 20 miles to warm up in the terrain. With the guidance of ONX and the preparedness of the group, W.E. were rolling. Kickstands up at 9 a.m. Paved roads opened up to fire roads that led to two-track and eventually some of the best single-track this side of the lake has to offer. There is something about a pack of 20 motorcycles blasting through the woods that provides an opus of sound. A couple hours in, the group was ready for some much-needed food and rest.
A waypoint in a shaded nook in the national forest was just the location we needed to bask in the moment, eat, drink and take in the views. Folks’ smiles couldn’t get any bigger, and that was just the morning loop. The pack took a roll-call of those who wanted to continue the challenging way, and those who wanted to part-off and get back to The Outpost for a much-deserved decompression session. Those who decided to trudge on were met by more obstacles: rocks, climbs and descents that pushed everyone to the limit.
This provided another rearview moment. Looking back at how far WE had come as a crew in the short period of time during M4, one could say “FURTHER TOGETHER” was now written on their soul. Every time you thought it couldn’t get better, it did. The ride finished back at The Outpost with the group cheering and beer-ing (Thanks, 805). Hugs, high fives, smiles over all the miles, THE MISSION 4 vet shred was officially in the books.
That night lit up by Baja Designs, the group watched motocross on a tiny screen, huddled like a large family in the 60s watching the lunar landing. The Outpost family introduced a game to us called “bite the box,” which was simple and got everyone laughing. The tallest human we know crouched inches from the ground and grabbed a cardboard box with his teeth. As if the ride wasn't enough to stretch out our crew, this game literally pushed them to the brink. There were a few heavy crashes on the bikes that day, as well in the game, but the heaviest of crashes likely happened when the crew hit the hay. Not a creature was left without pure exhaustion and stoke in their brains. MISSION accomplished.
NEVER GOOD-BYE, SAY SEE YA SOON.
When the dust settled and the riding was done, we all looked at each other over the fire with huge smiles. It's always a good reminder if you ever forget about the simple pleasures in life to kick a dirt bike over and get lost to get WLFound. There is something to be said about celebrating these men and women who served our great nation and being able to host and serve them with a gas-filled weekend and a THANK YOU. So, W.E. never like to say good-bye... more like see ya soon. Next time, let's involve a bigger family and even more dirt bikes!
Looking in our rearview mirror of life, W.E. always want to keep it THE MISSION, no matter what. It's gone from the high deserts to the mountains, but ultimately it still is and always will be a good ol’ fashion rip with good folks. This is a time to enjoy a day on the bikes, food, photos and make incredible memories celebrating our nation’s finest. W.E. want all who participated to look in their rearview mirror and remember that moment in time they came and rode rad trails on rad bikes with new and old WLFriends – nothing more, nothing less. WLF started the MISSION to simply say THANK YOU to our men and women who served by showing them an epic time on two wheels. Bikes can be fixed, parts can be replaced, bumps and bruises heal up. But at the end of the day, hearts were full and gas tanks were empty.
NEVER FORGET THAT W.E. GO FURTHER TOGETHER.
STRIKE MISSION: BROADCAST COMPLETE.
WITHOUT THESE HUMANS & BRANDS NONE OF THIS WOULD BE POSSIBLE
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
Ryan Albert - Navy Veteran / Kindest Human Award
Casey - Navy Veteran / Pure Stoke all the Time
Nick Dellar - Coast Guard Veteran / Utah Transplant Dirt Hero
Giovanni Perez - Army Veteran / Smiles with Miles
Jennifer - / Positive Vibe Advocate
Mike Smith - Co-WLFounder / Unicycle Multitasker
Jake Smith - Co-WLFounder / Father of the Century
Luke Takahashi - Co-WLFounder / Enduro Media Wizard
Greg Schlentz - Co-WLFounder / Man with the Plan
Chaz Reta - Co-WLFounder / Dirt Surfer
Jolene Van Vught - The Outpost / Extreme Friend
Billy Van Vught - The Outpost / Mechanic and Big Brother to ALL
Alyssa Roenigk - The Outpost / Writer Extraordinaire - Rattle Can Queen & Box Bite Champ
Becky Clark - The OutPost / Foodie Maximus
Tim - The Outpost / No Shirt No Worries
Blake Scott - Skypixel Media / The Eye and the legs
Rachel Scott - Skypixel Media / The REAL Eye
Evan Scott - Iron Cobra Fabrications / Trail Dad