Phoenix mountain bike tours on a roll

by Laurel Darren, Wild Bunch Desert Guides • November 22, 2023
JJ Briles (left), owner of Stellar Adventures, pauses to pose for a picture with Wild Bunch Desert Guides owner Laurel Darren (right) during Game 3 of the 2023 World Series at Chase Field in Phoenix.
(TOP) JJ Briles (left), owner of Stellar Adventures, pauses to pose for a picture with Wild Bunch Desert Guides owner Laurel
Darren (right) during Game 3 of the 2023 World Series at Chase Field in Phoenix. (COVER) Jaime Cerreta (left), host of "Jaime's
Local Love," and Laurel are all smiles posing in front of the Arizona Family of stations after taping a recent Podcast. 



So there I was, whizzing through World Series traffic in downtown Phoenix, seated alongside my business mentor in a Pedicab piloted by a cross between a Ninja Assassin and Taranis, the Greek god of cycling.

The hometown Arizona Diamondbacks had just dropped an epic Game 3, 3-1, to fall behind the Texas Rangers, 2 games to 1 in the Fall Classic.

But what did we care?

We both had just crossed off a bucket list item by attending a World Series game – and I’m a Cubs fan, anyway.

I also was finally successful in treating my personal hero to a thank you for all of his support over the years.

And besides -- we had somehow stumbled on to the greatest thrill ride since Disney World debuted Space Mountain in the 1970s.

Not only am I the owner of a Phoenix hiking tours & Phoenix mountain bike tours guiding company, but I am a competitive cyclist myself, having raced in hundreds of events over the years including the Leadville 100 endurance challenge.

And frankly, I was impressed – our Pedicab driver had some serious bike-handling skills as well as an impressive amount of strength to be hauling 300-plys pounds of human freight in and around all sorts of obstacles.

Maybe we’d have been a little more concerned for our safety if not for downing copious amounts of liquid courage at the game – or finding the Pedicab in a desperate attempt to beat the crowd and get to the next watering hole to keep the good times going that late October night.

But the view from the cart behind our daredevil driver was like watching a video gamer using cheat codes to master “Grand Theft Auto.”

The lady in the Rangers jersey? We lose 500 points if we mow her down.

And definitely avoid the family of five in Diamondbacks gear blindly stepping off the sidewalk and directly in our path – or it’s “Game Over.”

Take a hard right in front of this van stuck in traffic, whiz past a Tesla waiting at the stoplight, and definitely avoid the traffic cop working the intersection.

It truly was amazing to witness the bike wizardry.

But that was merely the most hair-raising part of a memorable 24 hours recently.

The logo for Jaime's "Local Love."

The logo for Jaime's "Local Love."

 
Phoenix mountain bike tours: Start from the beginning
Forgive the Tarantino treatment to this tale, but we have to flashback to a spring day in 2021 to properly setup the rest of the story.

I was watching a segment on the local news. The TV reporter was incredibly engaging -- and she was interviewing the second-generation woman business owner of Scottsdale Southwest, a tourist-centric nick-nack specialty shop in Old Town Scottsdale.

As a business-owning woman myself I was hooked – I am all about girl power – plus I have a journalism degree and media background, so I appreciated the good work and could tell the TV reporter was a big-time talent.

“That’s sweet,” I thought, making note of the segment’s name and host. “A local TV station in a big market like this? Taking their valuable time to show support for small local businesses by showcasing them for their audience? That’s super cool.”

Soon after that, I was talking to my friends Monica and Captain Kirk at JoyRidesAZ – which offers all sorts of electric golf-cart tours of Old Town Scottsdale – and they mentioned they were going to be featured on an upcoming episode of “Jaime’s Local Love.”

I was most certainly excited for my friends – but the TV segment’s name also stopped me in my tracks.

I’d just seen Jaime Cerreta in action on that other story – and I am a big believer in signs – so I knew this was fate speaking to me.

I had to reach out and contact her.

“How do I get my Wild Bunch Desert Guides on the list of businesses that you might want to do stories on?” I asked Jaime in an email.

She responded almost instantly.

“I would LOVE to do a Local Love segment on your business,” she fired back. “It's interesting and interactive. It's outside in the Sonoran Desert and it’s an adventure. It's great timing for a seasonal business.”

Next thing I knew, I was filling out a questionnaire to help her prepare for the experience, and we quickly picked out a date and location for our guided Phoenix mountain bike tour.

This is a huge metropolitan area – the fifth largest city in the country and still growing. But it’s not Hollywood, so anybody on TV is a huge celebrity here in Arizona.

So, it made me a little nervous in a good way. I even put a note out to my staff – “Hey this a big deal. I need everybody. All hands-on-deck.”

In this screen capture from KTVK-3TV, reporter Jaime Cerreta meets Wild Bunch owner Laurel Darren at the trail for their April 2021 mountain bike ride for a live "Jaime's Local Loves" segment on a newscast. (Courtesy WTVK-3TV)

In this screen capture from KTVK-3TV, reporter Jaime Cerreta meets Wild Bunch owner Laurel Darren at the trail for their April 2021 mountain bike ride for a live "Jaime's
Local Love" segment on a newscast. (Courtesy WTVK-3TV)


 
A memorable Phoenix mountain bike tour
When I finally met Jaime face-to-face on the trail, I was no less starstruck.

All of these TV personalities are so beautiful and dressed so immaculately. They never have a hair out of place. Their makeup is always perfect. They look amazing all of the time.

So, when Jaime shook my hand with a big smile, I was afraid to give this perfect angel a bike helmet because I didn’t want to mess up her hair or makeup. She still had to go live with our segment on the news that night on Arizona’s Family KTVK 3-TV.

But she dove right in and threw the helmet on with that little head shake that flips the hair back – and she was ready to roll.

I was super impressed because she never acted all high and mighty. She had a very humble, head down and hard-working vibe. She earnestly asked a lot of questions – showing a willingness to learn and roll with the punches.
I shouldn’t have been surprised.

Jamie showed up in a shirt for Pat’s Run, the memorial fundraiser honoring Pat Tillman, the NFL star killed in action while serving in the military in Afghanistan in 2004. And she listened to exactly what I suggested to wear – close-toed shoes; don’t do this in a blouse; leggings are a good idea.

As we do with every Wild Bunch Desert Guides guest on our Phoenix mountain bike tours, we got Jaime comfortable on the bike first, and then showed her how to brake and shift properly (which is always the hardest thing to do).

Jaime had ridden on flat pavement on a road bike before, but even though this was her maiden voyage on a mountain bike, she showed no hesitation at all when the trail got rocky and bumpy.

She certainly wasn’t there just for show, either. I figured she would grab a few action shots to cut into an interview and be done as quickly as possible in an effort to not get her hands dirty.

Instead, Jaime was genuinely interested – and she wanted to ride – and keep riding – for more than 30 minutes.

Her insanely talented cameraman Victor was even more daring – shooting video while riding another mountain bike. I was afraid he might hit a rough spot and take a spill with all of that pricey equipment live on TV. But, like Jaime, Victor was down with the nitty gritty dirty details.

The finished product says it all – WATCH BY CLICKING HERE.

From spending time with Jaime, I discovered she’s even more beautiful inside than that perfect TV angel.

She is a native of the Valley of the Sun – and she is super sincere and passionate about what she is doing. Jaime is genuinely interested in her audience and the people she’s covering. She’s also super intelligent and incredibly kind – simply the perfect representation of Arizona.

I was truly grateful she enjoyed the experience as much as she did.

And I was also incredibly honored to make a great friend that day.

We follow each other on Instagram and Jamie has been in touch – DM’ing me with questions whenever she’s had a story that a Phoenix adventures guiding company could shed some light on.
 
In a screen capture courtesy of WTVK-3TV, Wild Bunch owner Laurel Darren (left) talks with host Jaime Cerreta on the "Jaime's Local Loves" Podcast.
In a screen capture courtesy of WTVK-3TV, Wild Bunch owner Laurel Darren (left) talks with host Jaime Cerreta on the "Jaime's Local Love" Podcast.


Up next for mountain bike tours Phoenix
Fast forward to this summer when I was on vacation in Colorado.

I was checking social media one night and stopped to listen to a Podcast with a familiar voice.

“Just Roughin’ It” is a local hiking shop that formerly offered Phoenix hiking tours like my Wild Bunch Desert Guides. But the small business decided to change direction recently and they are now in the hiking apparel business in two locations.

“Oh cool,” I thought listening to the host. “Jaime now has a Podcast!”

So, I reached out to congratulate her for getting another platform to do her good works.

She responded almost immediately.

“Hey, how are you? I see you're in Colorado. When are you coming back?” And so, we hatched a plan to hook up after I got back to town.

But in starting up this season, I failed to reach out right away – and she was plenty busy, too, with a full plate at the station.

Finally, I messaged her and was driving one day thinking, “Hey, I haven’t heard from Jaime yet.”

But when I stopped at my destination, I looked at my Instagram and boom -- she had messaged me and said, “Are you available to come on the Podcast next week?”

And so, we set a time.

But then the Diamondbacks reached the World Series -- and we had to adjust because Jaime had to do some live stand-up stuff for the local news leading into the national telecast.

So, we ended up delaying the Podcast to Halloween – after that epic Game 3.

TAKE A LOOK & LISTEN TO THE PODCAST HERE.

You will notice a certain Phoenix mountain bike tours owner wearing a World Series baseball cap to help shield my blood shot eyes from the glare of both the sun outside and the TV lights indoors.

Chalk that up to a little too much fun the night before – not that there is anything to regret about that.
 
Wild Bunch owner Laurel Darren (left) shares a laugh with her business mentor, Stellar Adventures owner JJ Briles, during Game 3 of the 2023 World Series at Chase Park in Phoenix.

Wild Bunch owner Laurel Darren (left) shares a laugh with her business mentor, Stellar Adventures owner JJ Briles, during
Game 3 of the 2023 World Series at Chase Park in Phoenix.



Mountain bike tours Phoenix: Finish where we started
So, I attended my very first World Series game the night before appearing on Jaime’s Podcast.

And even though the Diamondbacks lost, the occasion was a total win because I was able to finally get my business mentor JJ Briles of Stellar Adventures to go do something with me as a thank you for all of his support over the years.

JJ is never one who wants credit for anything. He will accept a simple verbal “thank you,” and he will genuinely answer by saying, “you are quite welcome.”

But gestures of gratitude? No way despite my every attempt over the years.

I have tried to get JJ to go to a Major League Baseball spring training game or a Phoenix Suns NBA game – and I have even tried to have his assistant to set him up for a surprise -- and that wasn't successful.

JJ also is an old school gentleman who rarely lets a woman pay for anything, either. 

But then one day, I was sitting on my computer and said to myself, “I've never been to a World Series game – and this might be my only chance. I have to go -- it's right in my backyard.”

I was shellshocked looking at the ticket prices.

But I kept looking at the game dates and I texted JJ, “Hey, do you want to go to the World Series?”

When he sent back the word, “Sure,” I sat for 10 seconds in silent shock. I couldn’t believe I FINALLY had him. So, I had to make it GOOD!

So, after checking where he wanted to sit – and then swallowing hard after seeing the price – I bought the tickets.

But that was well worth it for all of the times he took my calls and gave me a pep talk or allowed me to cry on his shoulder when life got tough owning a guided Phoenix hiking tours & Phoenix mountain bike tours outfit.

We decided to take an Uber to the game and avoid the craziness of parking. We also wanted to grab a couple of adult beverages and not worry about driving home.

We ended up arriving in one of those driverless cabs – one of those self-driving ghost cars.

I had looked into that and wanted to try it – and I have to admit, it was a little bit freaky and unsettling to be a backseat driver for an empty seat.

With all that traffic, my nerves are still raw.

Once safely at the game, I got to experience JJ buying a Coke can-sized Moscow Mule for $25.

The World Series game was so intense. The energy was amazing.

But it didn't matter that the Diamondbacks could not score runs -- just being in that atmosphere was so cool.

And it reminded me why I live by the theory that you should do everything you want to do.

You should never miss an opportunity to do something you always wanted to do -- and I was definitely grateful that JJ finally said yes to allowing me to do something nice for him.

I also got to reunite with Jaime – which was a huge thrill.

She reminded me how special she is to use her platform to promote local businesses.

And it is so impactful and powerful for any small mom and pop shop like my Wild Bunch Desert Guides when she speaks from the heart.

There is a huge difference when it comes from an authentic voice like hers.

Jaime truly embraces life like I hope I do. I pray she sees in me the same sort of benevolent spirit.

And I also hope someday I can be as good of a friend and business mentor as JJ has been to me.
 
Wild Bunch owner Laurel Darren enjoys a hot dog during Game 3 of the 2023 World Series.

About the Author

Laurel Darren is the founding owner of the Wild Bunch Desert Guides, a 5-star rated adventure tour company that offers guided hiking tours and guided mountain biking tours in Arizona’s picturesque Sonoran Desert in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area. Arriving in the legendary “Valley of the Sun” in 2012 -- from the home of John Deere in the Quad Cities of Eastern Iowa/Western Illinois -- this corn-fed Midwest girl brought 30 years of athletic chops under her chaps. A 3-sport high school standout and former college softball player – who won her conference’s Athlete of the Year award as a prep senior – Darren has graduated to competing in many races as an adult, from road running and cycling, to cyclo-cross and Mountain Bikes, and even Duathlon and Triathlon “Ironman” competitions. Darren was a popular, top-rated senior mountain bike guide at Arizona’s Outback Adventures before branching out to start her own small adventure business in 2016. To book a guided mountain bike tour or guided hiking trip – or a combination of the two adventures – please visit the home page www.wildbunchdesertguides.com or call 602-663-0842.



 

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