Jim, what’s an E-Ticket?
I’m having dinner with Jim Hyde, the man who started RawHyde Adventures, and even though I’ve just spent the last two days learning what a new BMW R1200GS can do off-road, my mind is focused on something completely different: Disneyland.
Jim starts with a knowing laugh – he has clearly answered this question several times before. Apparently he’s not sick of it, because over a couple of glasses of RawHyde’s Dirty Cab (yes, they have their own wine), Jim regales me with a tale of what the happiest place on Earth used to be like.
Back in the day, Disneyland rides used to require individual admission, and E-tickets granted access to the biggest and best rides available. So if you had one of these top-of-the-line tickets, you were going to have the best day possible. And in a nutshell, that’s what Jim and his staff try to provide – an “E-ticket experience.” As I looked out across a room full of old riders who were smiling like little kids, it was quite evident that RawHyde was succeeding.
RawHyde Adventures is the biggest name in adventure bike training, thanks in no small part to a partnership with BMW as an official off-road training facility. Could RawHyde work just as well with a fleet of Africa Twins or Super Teneres? Sure. But BMW fans (and anyone who watched Long Way Round) are excited to learn how to conquer the world on RawHyde’s lineup of GSes. I first discovered RawHyde four years ago through Bui, Vy’s uncle. He was prepping for our trip to Alaska and after a couple of decades away from motorcycles, he wanted to get some introduction on how to handle his new GS. He took a couple of classes at RawHyde in advance and when we met up for the trip he couldn’t stop gushing about his experience. I made a mental note and saved it for a future version of myself that had more money because the classes weren’t cheap. Having gone through it now, I can attest that it’s a case of “you get what you pay for.”
This whole thing came about at the last minute – a friend of mine was looking to do a story on RawHyde and she asked if I wanted to tag along and take photos. I suggested that Nathan go in my stead as he’s a much better photographer. I was jealous of Nathan and figured that would be the end of it. But a day before the class was supposed to start, my friend fell ill. So with barely any advance notice, Nathan and I rustled up our gear and headed over to the RawHyde ranch in Castaic, California. The program officially starts on Friday afternoon with some introductory classes and a meet and greet, but because of the late notice we weren’t able to join until Saturday morning. RawHyde offers 3 levels of courses throughout the year:
After Level 1 or 2, they also offer a guided trip called Base Camp Alpha (BCA) so you can take the skills you learned over the weekend and apply them in a real-world adventure in the desert.
The weekend we were there, RawHyde was offering both Level 1 and Level 2 classes, so Nathan and I decided to do a day of each before tackling BCA. In the next segments of this story, I’ll go into more details about each class and share with you what my experience was like. Disneyland might claim it’s “the happiest place on Earth,” but Walt never got a chance to slide a new wasserboxer in the dirt.
The short version of what I’ll be conveying to you in the rest of this series is that Jim’s E-ticket explanation isn’t just marketing nonsense. Every part of your experience – the bikes, the training, the food, and the service – is top notch and you won’t forget it any time soon. We had only been at RawHyde’s facility for an hour when Nathan mentioned it felt like a cult. He was joking, but over the next four days it became evident that there was a lot of truth in jest. We heard about instructors that started as students but fell in love with the program so much that had to come back and get involved. We encountered loyal staff that don’t just help you learn how to ride bikes – they do the dirty stuff of maintaining the courses and serving you food at dinner. And we enjoyed delicious food prepared by a dedicated team of chefs. By the end of our four days there Nathan and I were looking for excuses to come back and hang out with our new best friends. If this is what cults are like, I now understand why people join them.
So with that, I’ll soon share more details about each course and what you can expect at RawHyde. If you have any questions about the process, let me know and I’ll answer them as I go!
Photos by Nathan May.
Ready for more? Here’s Day 1!