ALAMOSA CITIZEN correspondents Owen Woods and Maddy Ahlborn set out to see what Gutted was all about on its opening and final days. With the clandestine school buses, decked-out vans, and gnarly overland vehicles it looked like something straight out of Mad Max, or day three of Burning Man.
But Gutted, really, is a television production that opens its arms to the public. With food, beer, live music, sunrise yoga, and an entire zone of the production dedicated to public van, RV, and tent camping, it became a wholly unique event. More people and more vans showed up, making themselves comfortable, all while a professional production crew ran the logistics of a soon-to-be-televised competition show.
On opening day, everyone was in their places. The logistics of shooting in the Valley’s high desert, after a last-minute change of location, seemed dire. However, even though the sun bore down, the film crew gathered all the necessary shots on the ground and in the air, producers and production assistants ensured the production wheels stayed well-oiled, while event goers enjoyed the fruits of the desert. Vendors and artists, spectators, and day trippers took it all in just as we did. The vendors had begun to set up and find their shadowed nooks in the ash-like sand. Everyone seemed to find a prominent easterly view of the Blanca Massif, whose presence could not be ignored.
WE arrived at around 11 a.m. and made our way to the turf bottomed oasis – the tent for Hart Tools, the tool sponsor for Gutted. There was a full-time staff of representatives, who when they weren’t talking about tools, were taking photos with dogs and being a welcoming beacon of cool water, camp chairs and fans.
The Hart Tools tent also served as an oasis.
Witney, a Hart Tools guru, gave us the general lay of the land and pointed us to the important faces. The Gutted production staff all seemed keenly aware of what needed to be done, and eager to make it happen. The overall feeling from everyone working behind the scenes was that of treading in unknown, but tropical water.
Our first encounter with the Gutted production crew was with Peter McClung, CEO of The Jump. He was driving a truck, moving materials around the event space, and sweating.
Alamosa Citizen: How long have you been here and getting everything set up?
Peter McClung: We got here a little over a week ago, about nine days just getting stuff set up. We got a lot done fast.
AC: It’s a lot more elaborate than we had pictured.
McClung: We have a great crew and great staff, we are really excited about it, you know the building teams, and some of the sponsors like Hart Tools, who are providing all of the equipment and tools. It is a great line. What’s awesome about it is the batteries we can just pop them in and out of each tool to keep everyone going. It’s fun, and we are just really getting started.
AC: Who is the other sponsor?
McClung: So, we have Arrowhead, water in the desert is awesome. They shipped some in yesterday and we are going through a lot of it. It’s great to have.
AC: Oh yeah, you’re in the middle of the desert for sure.
McClung: We love Alamosa and the Valley, everyone is just so great. I was just talking to someone earlier about why we picked this location and it’s just everyone that we spoke with in town, from Visit Alamosa to the guys working at the steel company bringing us out supplies and all the stores in town, are just wonderful. We are super thankful to be out here and have it all come together.
AC: Where are you traveling from?
McClung: So, most of the crew is from Kansas City. That’s where our main company is located, but we have people on the team coming from all over. From Louisiana, Florida, and California, we all converged here. And from the teams out here building, they are from all over the country, too, all living the nomadic lifestyle.
AC: You’ve turned out quite the van life crowd, which was as expected. There are a lot of cool rigs.
McClung: Yeah, a lot are here and a lot more are coming; this is day one. We expect even more throughout the week and over the weekend.
AC: We’ve been watching as they come in. That’s how we got in contact with you, when the permit went through.
McClung: Oh yeah, well the permit was awesome because the land use folks, and now it’s Richard, has only been here a month or so now, but they have been super helpful guiding us through the process of getting the permits, event insurance … security, and all the details that go in behind the scenes. All the people in town have just been so helpful.
AC: It’s unique to have something like this that just kind of came out of nowhere. It’s nice to have the ‘norm’ be broken, you know, we have our car show, our summer festival, but something that just pops up in September is super-rare. A lot of people are eager to help this kind of stuff and it brings a lot more attention to the Valley.
McClung: Yeah, people are coming from all over the country and our online ticket sales we actually had to sell out, we had to limit it to be sure that everyone had an enjoyable experience and that it’s safe for everyone. To go back to the area a little bit, it is just amazing. We are trying to work with everyone in the city but out in the county, too, to be really thoughtful of the land and the guys moving cattle around and all the county roads, because we kind of just landed in on them.
AC: What time did the teams start today?
Peter McClung: They started at dawn. The schoolie team is rocking it, so they have this five-window bus that they’ve already cut out all the windows and raised it a couple of feet and they’ve done that in just a few hours, it’s amazing.
I think the RV team is working on the deck on the roof and working on the hatch, just so much progress in a short amount of time.
photos by Maddy Ahlborn
WE continue our tour of the area and talk with other companies that have booths set up; Explor by Sunflare, Darche Outdoor Gear, and GTFOverland.
Many rigs also had their own personal booths set up outside their parking spot
Merchandise for sale
with tables of merchandise; stickers, t-shirts, artwork and prints.
Everyone we spoke with was more than willing to share their experience at the event, but also their life on the road. Parking in a public land area with no hook-ups, unlike traditional RV parks, is called “Boondocking.” Everyone there seemed to relish in it.
By midday everyone broke for lunch. The competitors, production assistants, and film crew gathered under the Arrowhead tent where tables, couches, and cool shade was plentiful.
Maddy was able to chat with van team member and YouTuber Linnea to ask her about her experience.
Alamosa Citizen: How did you first hear about Gutted and this event?
Linnea: I got an email that had a PDF basically saying ‘there is this event happening, do you want to be involved?’ They were focusing on different influencers and creators in the community of the nomads. So, that initial email came through, then I had a call with Adam [Hairfield] and Wes [Elderly] and I was onboard right away. They are just amazing, their energy, and this just seemed really unique.
AC: How did the teams come together – is this your van?
Linnea: No, so this is a random van that they got just for the event and they built each team with some help from people who
“We are having so much fun. … Having seven people working on one van is such a cool experience.”
were on board already. Once the teams were set up we started having meetings, so maybe the last two months we’ve been meeting every Monday for a few hours to start planning. None of us have this van, we all live in a van but don’t have this type, so there was a lot of planning needed and figuring out measurements.
AC: Are you having fun so far?
Linnea: We are having so much fun, I think especially our team, we just get along really well and the whole event is so unique. Having seven people working on one van is such a cool experience.
AC: Is the overall design and aesthetic a big collaboration?
Linnea: It is very much a collaboration. We’ve had meetings specifically to design an aesthetic. We wanted something that was different from every other van-lifer out there, something that would appeal to the judges, just adventure in general because we are near the mountains, and incorporating everything we love about the lifestyle.
Some scenes from the production site
WES Elder and Adam Hairfield, our main points of contact, showed us around and gave us the behind-the-scenes look we were after. Wes told us that filming during this week was being considered as the pilot and season 2 is already in the early stages of development. He likened the show to The Great British Bake Off. When asked about potential locations for future seasons, he made it a point that the San Luis Valley would be the backdrop indefinitely. Something as large-scale as this, in a production sense, coming to the San Luis Valley brings with it a lot of pressure on the land, but the entire Gutted presence and message was to leave as little trace as possible, while making a large impact.
Rather than food being pulled from walk-in refrigerators and ovens, and elegant dishes being prepared for a table of judges, it is lumber and steel from storage containers, table saws and angle grinders, and gutted vans and school buses evolving into a home on wheels.
Visitors and van life vloggers from all over found this event seeking a community who enjoy life on the road just as much as they do. Putting YouTube aside, this is very much a community based event, a traveling community defining the term “nomad” in a whole new way.
SEPTEMBER 9, 2021
‘Van Life’ rolls into San Luis Valley
By Owen Woods | email@example.com
IF you see colorful vans crossing the San Luis Valley in the coming days or notice popular “van life” YouTubers hanging around your favorite coffee shop, there’s a good chance they’re headed onto Highway 150, at mile marker 8, for a week of “Gutted.”
A new social media company called The Jump is setting up shop on private property near the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve to create a reality competition show called “Gutted.” The show pits YouTube and Instagram van life influencers against each other with three gutted vehicles – an RV, a school bus, and a van. The contestants then have five days to renovate the vehicles, with different brand sponsors adding building materials and tools to help out. The contest will begin on Sept. 8 and continue through Sept. 12.
“One of our producers had camped near the Sand Dunes before and loved the area,” said The Jump’s community outreach lead Sue Procko. “He sold us on it and then it was a matter of finding property that was willing to do something fun.”
That property belongs to Monte White, who owns and operates Ski Trucks, a company out of Salt Lake City, Utah. The Citizen reached out to White to ask how it is he got involved, but didn’t hear back.
The Gutted crew and contestants are setting up operations on White’s property and turning it into a mini-high desert festival complete with food trucks, music, and dispersed camping for event-goers. Tickets to attend are $50 for a day pass or $150 for a five-day pass.
Included in the 5-day pass are group trips to the Sand Dunes, Zapata Falls, and Blanca Peak. (There is no mention of a detailed plan or guide to aid in the summit of Blanca Peak.)
To help promote the Valley as a whole, Gutted promoters have recruited the local food truck flavors of Colorado Grille, Gosar Sausage, Taqueria Taco Truck, Orlie’s Tex Mex, and Mateo’s. SLVGO will help to put on live music and beer.
Overall, event organizers are catering a very earth-friendly event with adherence to COVID-19 guidelines. They emphasize a leave-no-trace policy, as well, which is an important aspect of life in the San Luis Valley. Having an SLVGO presence at this event, too, will ensure that the event organizers live up to these promises.