The Day I Met Ryan Dunn

(Writer’s Note:  Yes, I’m aware of all the facts; I’ve scoured the internet to find all the devastating (and rather morbid) details of this awful accident.  What I say in this post is 100% my opinion of some things relating to awesome people who seem to leave us too soon.  It may get touchy-feely, and I don’t do this often.  However, this topic has struck a strange nerve that hasn’t been addressed in a while, or maybe ever in proper fashion.  Just saying.  It could get sad in here.)

In the Summer of 2005, I was working at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  One fine day, I was answering the switchboard of the Lodge and began receiving several odd calls all requesting directions to the North Rim Lodge.  Each caller was as confused as the next, because apparently GPS in 2005 was not of the caliber it is today.  I finally asked one guy what the deal was and why all these people were calling me.  He told me that a road rally (or Bull Run as they called it) being filmed for a UK television show and that one of their checkpoints was the North Rim Lodge.  He was calling because, low and behold, they were all RACING to get there first and no one’s GPS was showing the route.  It’s all making sense now.

So I start sensing that this is sort of a big deal and a few dozen rally car drivers were headed our way.  So of course, I tell everyone I can.  And then they started arriving.  Lambourgini’s, Ferarri’s, souped-up Mustangs…you name it.  And then Dennis Rodman gets out of one.  Yeah…Dennis Rodman.  And he was the freakiest looking dude I’ve ever seen.  Needless to say, he creeped me out so badly that I didn’t even WANT to ask for a photo with him.  And then we see Hayden Christenson.  So naturally we ask for a photo with Luke Skywalker.  He sort of begrudgingly obliges.  And he had this odd clinger-on-type assistant that wanted our email addresses.  I’ll never forget thinking they were both totally full of shit.  And then Hayden was all, “I’m too famous, I’ve got to be going”.  So he went.

And then we see Ryan Dunn.  (“We” being my friend Elizabeth and I).  And I immediately recognized him because I really did think Jackass was hilarious and he was one of my favorites – I think I may have had a thing for grungy, long-haired guys at the time (no offense to anyone.  I apparently still do – see Dave Grohl).  So we said hello and asked for a photo.  He started chatting with us as if we were actual humans.  He, of course, took a photo with us and asked us about living at the Grand Canyon.  I remember he himself had a camera  and took several photos of the striking view on the porch of the Lodge.  He said to us, “I can’t believe you guys get to live here and see this every day!“, as he motioned to the Canyon in front of him.

It’s funny how people who visit the Grand Canyon often forget the wonder that it is, and would rather complain about their check-in time or that there wasn’t air conditioning in the rooms.  For Ryan Dunn, it was clear that the Canyon was something to behold after only being there for 10 minutes.  Something that people who come to stay there forget to really see.  It was something that struck me then as his death has struck me in the past few days.  For the celebrity he was, he treated us starstruck girls (one with the thickest Georgian accent you’ve ever heard, Elizabeth) like friends chatting over a beer.  I wanted to latch on to that guy and make him my friend.  But not in a creepy way.

My guess is that this was his nature with everyone he met.  Needless to say, it was a significant moment of the Summer, and one that I cherish more this week than I have since that day.  I realize that the details surrounding his death are grim; but I also realize that the media today is absolutely brutal and will crucify someone given an ounce of fodder.  You may recall that I said those people visited the Canyon during a Bull Run, a car race across the country at high speeds in fast cars.  One much like the several rally car races he partipated in during his life which few news outlets report when referring to his “132-140 MPH high speed crash”.  I’m guessing that driving fast is something that Ryan Dunn did often.  When one does something often, they usually get pretty good at it and it becomes habit.  Just a thought as you think about the things you do, like driving fast on roads you have known since you first started driving.  I know I’m guilty.

Yes, he had been drinking, celebrating with his friends, for approximately 4 hours.  I know that if I was a 34-year old guy, weighing approximately 185 pounds, I wouldn’t be terribly drunk after four hours of drinking even though his BAC was .19.  When I was younger and more stupid (and paid a costly and embarassing price), I myself got a DUI and my BAC was .17.  For a 20-year-old, 140 pound girl, this was not that much after an evening out with friends and I only blew so much because they waited to give me a breathalyzer so my content would be hightened even after I had stopped drinking at least one hour prior to the test.  Mizzou campus cops were apparently low on numbers that month.  Regardless, I think TMZ needs to cool it with the all caps TWICE THE LEGAL LIMIT junk.  I’m not condoning drinking and driving whatsoever because frankly, I’m ashamed that I was irresponsible and I’ve grown up to realize it’s just not worth it, but several of us would say that we’ve done the very same thing and made it home just fine.  And I’ll leave it at that.

My point in all of this is nearly threefold:

1.  When I met Ryan Dunn six Summers ago, he was super nice, cordial, and I wanted to immediately become his friend.  From the sounds of it, he was that way to everyone and to lose a person of remarkable kindness makes me sad in a way that I haven’t felt in a while.

2.  He died a horrific, accidental death where I can only pray he and his passenger (also a stunt driver) didn’t suffer through.  My heart truly hurts for his longtime girlfriend/fiancé (I don’t know her official title), his family and trusted friends.  The gruesome details are almost too much to bear for someone even as far removed as I am. I can’t imagine the pain those close to him are trying to process and my thoughts are with them.  Those who are trying to profit from this (like those selling car remnants on eBay) are soulless.

3.  I’m reminded big-time of another guy who I thought was super cool and amazing to be around as the five-year anniversary of his death slaps me in the face (June 23).  I think about my friend Troy and how it hurt to lose him to such a bizarre accident, and how several people jumped to irrational conclusions in his death as well.  For Troy, I think we were all comforted in the details, and ultimately knowing that he was in a good place in his life and was prepared to go if needed (as documented by several notes to his family at a young age, which is quite telling of his faith and trust in God).

I’m processing this untimely death of a cool person I had the priveledge of meeting once while at the same time I’m forced to remember how much I miss a dear friend.  I can’t help but relate the two and feel so frustrated that amazing people are taken from us while so many terrible people with terrible hearts remain amongst us.   I’m not thinking of anyone in particular, but let’s call a spade a spade….there are some bad people out there.

I don’t speak about God very often on this blog; I’ve said before that it’s very personal to me and I don’t think I need to parade my beliefs in something that can be so misconstrued by many people.  That said, I’ve been trusting that for some reason, I will learn a lesson from this as I did with Troy.  From him I learned not to be so afraid of what may happen next, and also to tell your friends that you really do love them (which I do and I’m sure it freaks some people out – get over it because dammit, I love you punks).

I’m unsure why the untimely death of this celebrity has struck me in such a way that I can’t help but feel very sad with every detail I read, but perhaps this will teach me something good as well.  In the meantime, here’s one of the coolest photos I have in my possession.

 And also, Troy, please “keep it real, while keepin’ it safe” up there.  It’s hard to believe it’s been five years since we said, “I’ll see you in two months”.  You are so missed.

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