JeepThing2As cliché as it might sound, the oftentimes overused phrase, “It’s a Jeep thing, you wouldn’t understand!” is so true, you either get it, or you don’t. Trying to explain the “Jeep thing” to someone who doesn’t get it can be as painful as banging a nail into the wall with your head. Admittedly, there are varying degrees of having the “Jeep thing”, some people just want to own a Jeep either for the freedom, or adventure, or whatever they envision changing in their life by their Jeep ownership. Others begin to modify their vehicles, so they can go and explore farther, longer, and more extreme. Then there’s a whole class of people, myself included, who have gone beyond just the simple “Jeep thing”, to more of a “Jeep lifestyle”. If we’re not in our Jeep, we are thinking about our Jeep; if we’re not on the trail, we’re thinking about the last trail we went on, or making plans for our next outing; if we’re not working on our Jeep, we are looking up parts online which can help make our Jeep more capable. We also know, that no matter how much we do to our Jeep, it will never be “finished”, there will always be something else we want or need to do to it to make it “just right”.

Mike's very capable JK going through the Silver Crack on 7 Mile Rim.

Mike’s very capable JK going through the Silver Crack on 7 Mile Rim.

Building up a Jeep from a stock configuration takes a lot of time, and a LOT of money. Don’t get me wrong, it definitely can be done, and I’ve done it on several vehicles. But in a lot of ways, it’s much easier, both for your peace of mind, and oftentimes for your checkbook, to just buy someone else’s finished product. You can oftentimes get a vehicle which will do exactly what you want to do for a fraction of the cost of building one yourself. This is the situation where my good friend Mike recently found himself in. He has a VERY capable four-door JK, with a 4” lift, 37” tires, chrome-moly axle shafts with superstrong RCV front axle shafts, winch, aftermarket bumpers, body armor, etc. It really is a great Jeep, and it can go just about anywhere that Mike wanted to go. But after I took him on Pritchett Canyon a few weeks ago (here’s the blog about it: http://moabdave.com/2014/03/17/a-beautiful-spring-day-on-pritchett-canyon/ ) he decided that he needed a more capable rig, something that if he were to roll it over on its side, it would not destroy it.

Picking up Mike's new buggy Salt Lake.

Picking up Mike’s new buggy in Salt Lake.

After hours of Internet searching, he finally found a rig which he thought would work for him, and next thing I know, he and I were on our way to Salt Lake to pick it up. This new vehicle is a completely custom creation, it has a CJ front clip, YJ tub, Vortex 4.3 V6, Turbo 350 transmission, Atlas 4.3 transfer case, Dana 60s front and rear with Detroit lockers and 4.88 gears, all attached to a completely custom built frame. For suspension, the rear is set up with a triangulated 4 link with solid aluminum control arms, and 16″ Fox coil overs; the front is sprung under with double military wrap leaf springs and 16″ Fox remote reservoir shocks. The wheelbase has been stretched to 104” and is set up with 39” BFGoodrich competition compound (a.k.a. stickies) Krawler tires on 17″ beadlocks. The Jeep is set up with all kinds of little extra add-ons which make it such a wonderful vehicle. Understandably so, Mike was quite giddy when we picked it up, and couldn’t wait to get back to Moab and out on the rocks.

Barlow AdventuresHis first opportunity to take it out came just a few days after purchasing it. Nena Barlow, owner/operator of both Barlow Jeep Rental in Sedona, Arizona and Barlow Jeep School (http://www.barlows.us), which does trainings throughout Arizona, as well as in Moab, and on the Rubicon. Nena is also the only female certified by the International 4WD Trainers Association. On top of all that, she is one heck of a great lady, and a lot of fun to hang out with. Anyway, back to my story, Nena invited me to go along on one of her pre-Jeep Safari scouting trips of one of the lesser popular trails in Moab, Flat Iron Mesa. Even living in Moab, this is not a trail I have done very often, and the last time I was on it was several years ago. So I looked forward to this opportunity to go re-familiarize myself with the trail. This also would be a great trail for Mike to take out his new Jeep buggy.

Nena, Mike, and I the beginning of Flat Iron Mesa.

Nena, Mike, and I at the beginning of Flat Iron Mesa.

After meeting in town, we headed about 20 miles South of town to where the trail ended, Nena and 2 of her friends in a second Jeep, and Mike trailering his buggy. I chose not to drive my Jeep, so I could ride with Mike, and help him familiarize himself with his new rig. After unloading the buggy off the trailer, we then had to drive about 2 miles down the highway to the trailhead. This was quite a cold 2 miles as Mike buggy didn’t have a windshield, and the ambient temperature was only about 45 degrees, add to that the 40+ mile an hour wind chill created by us driving, and it was downright freezing! The cold air blowing on our exposed for heads gave us a major case of brain freeze which lasted about 10 minutes, it was not much fun.

Mike climbing an optional waterfall at the top of The Chute.

Mike climbing an optional waterfall at the top of The Chute.

Except for a little bit loose steering, the Jeep drove and perform virtually flawless. It had no problem going over the numerous bumps, rocks, and ledges we went through as we traversed Flat Iron Mesa trail. The trail starts out fairly mildly, with nothing to extreme, but definitely some nice small obstacles to keep you paying attention. Eventually we reached The Chute, an optional steep, slightly challenging climb. Mike’s Jeep climbed it with no problem, not even spinning a tire. After The Chute there is another optional waterfall to climb, so of course Mike decided to try it. After having to reposition himself a couple times, he eventually made it up with little difficulty. Here is a video Nena took of Mike going up the waterfall, https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=776944195652158&set=vb.100000097548839&type=3&theater (I’m sure there’s some way to embed it from Facebook, but I can’t figure out how, sorry)

Coming down Tilt a Whirl.

Coming down Tilt a Whirl.

The trail is bisected by the County road, giving you a northern section, and a southern section. We completed the northern section fairly quick, and headed off down the County road to begin the southern, and more difficult section. We soon reached Tilt a Whirl, an interesting obstacle which you have to drop down while turning fairly sharp to the passenger side, and dropping down a series of ledges. Other than providing a good opportunity to flex the suspension, everybody made it down without any issues.

A little further down the trail we decided it would be a perfect spot to stop and have some lunch, as we were provided with a beautiful view of Hatch Wash, a several hundred foot deep Canyon we had been paralleling for most of the southern section of the trail. It was still fairly cool out, but with the sun shining, and the wind staying at bay, it ended up being a very pleasant spring day.

Here you can see how closing Gayla gets to coming in contact with Easter Egg Rock.

Here you can see how closing Gayla gets to coming in contact with Easter Egg Rock.

The next obstacle which we came to is known as Easter Egg Hill. Here you have to go up and over a rock on your driver side, while your passenger side dropped down and to the right, this causes your Jeep to lean precariously to the passenger side, where hopefully you don’t make contact with the Easter Egg Rock, which is called that because all of the lines of paint from Jeeps rubbing across the rock making it look like an Easter egg. All 3 Jeeps made it through unscathed, and without touching the rock, but it was close, definitely.

The Intimidator, yes it really does feel that tippy.

The Intimidator, yes it really does feel that tippy.

Right after Easter Egg Hill, is the appropriately named Intimidator. For this obstacle you have to squeeze between a very narrow spot, with a wall on your left, and a several hundred foot drop on your right. It wouldn’t be too bad, except you are leaning, pretty dramatically, towards the downhill side, making it feel incredibly uncomfortable to drive. While it feels like you are going to roll off into a bottomless abyss, I actually have never heard of anybody rolling in that spot. Nena wanted an extra set of eyes, so had Mike get out and spot her around the corner; for me this is one of the funniest part of the day as the professional four-wheel-drive instructor screamed like a little girl, and not only ignored her spotter, but argued with him! With the appropriate rush of adrenaline, we all made it through the obstacle unhurt and alive.

I'm pretty sure Mike likes his new buggy, what do you think?

I’m pretty sure Mike likes his new buggy, what do you think?

From there the rest of the trail is fairly easy, before eventually meeting back up to the County road, which we followed back to Mike’s truck and trailer. It really was an amazing day, with great friends, magnificent scenery, good drivers, and a fun trail. Mike fell more deeply in love with his newly acquired buggy, learned some of its capabilities, and we all just had a heck of a wonderful day.

Taking a quick break in the middle of beautiful Pritchett Canyon.

Taking a quick break in the middle of beautiful Pritchett Canyon.

It’s springtime in Moab, and that means it’s time to break the Jeeps out of their winter hibernation, and start taking advantage of some of Moab’s beautiful spring days. Recently the Moab Friends for Wheelin’ decided that it was time to check on the conditions of Pritchett Canyon, and how it survived the winter. We knew that some of our torrential rains from last fall took out some of the trail markers, so the plan was to drive the trail, replace the missing signs, and of course enjoy a beautiful day on the rocks. I always enjoy my trips up Pritchett Canyon, between the beautiful scenery, and the challenge of the obstacles, in my opinion it’s just about perfect Moab Jeeping!

I often state that Pritchett Canyon is the most beautiful canyon which nobody ever sees. Pritchett Canyon definitely earns its 9 out of 10 rating. And because of that not very many vehicles are equipped to drive the trail, and those that are, the driver is so concentrated on driving the extremely difficult trail, that they rarely get a chance to look around and enjoy the beautiful canyon which they are driving in. Pritchett is such a wonderful, iconic Moab trail that it was selected as one of BFGoodrich’s Outstanding Trails for 2008 for the Moab Friends for Wheelin’.

Jeff, Glen, and Gary installing some signs along the route.

Jeff, Glen, and Gary installing some signs along the route.

A group of 8 vehicles met on the slightly cool spring morning to head out on the trail. Jeff Stevens, who I would bet money on has driven Pritchett Canyon more than anybody else in the world, was our illustrious trail leader for the day. After a quick stop at the trailhead to air down, we headed into the canyon. For a large portion of the trail, you drive in the bottom of the canyon, zigzagging back and forth across the dry wash. To ensure people don’t mistakingly drive up these dry washes, we had installed signs reminding people to stay on the trail, and out of the unauthorized washes. Each time we came to a wash crossing where there wasn’t a sign, we installed one. This trail is high on the target list of the anti-motorized recreation crowd to try to close, so it is exceptionally important to stay on the designated trail while driving up Pritchett Canyon.

Here's Glen making The Brickyard obstacle look easy!

Here’s Glen making The Brickyard obstacle look easy!

The first “real” obstacle is what we call The Brickyard (we started calling it that a few years ago when on one of our trips we noticed there was a random brick in the crook of a nearby tree, very random), this obstacle has 3 different lines, easy, medium, and hard. Of course everybody in our group chose the hard line, after all we are in Pritchett, so why go the easy route? Honestly, you can’t say that you’ve driven Pritchett Canyon, if you take the bypasses! Even with a little bit of water at the bottom of the line, everybody made it with little difficulty.

This is a comparative picture of Chewy. This picture was probably taken in about 2005, just when this section of trail started getting chewed up.

This is a comparative picture of Chewy. This picture was probably taken in about 2005, just when this section of trail started getting chewed up.

Susan Stevens expertly making her way up Chewy!

Susan Stevens expertly making her way up Chewy!

Up next is the infamous Chewy obstacle (we started calling this obstacle Chewy because up until about 10 years ago it literally was pretty much a graded road, then it started getting more and more chewed up, hence the name, and the obstacle we have today), this obstacle is gotten so bad over the years, that at this point it now is one of the hardest obstacles on the trail. It can rarely be conquered in one attempt, almost always needing multiple tries to make it up this slippery, steep, off camber, ledgy obstacle. This obstacle really is more like two separate obstacles combined into one long hill. You have to go up the first steep, very slippery climb before then making a hard right turn and climbing a series of ledges, which tip you precariously downhill making you feel like you are going to roll down the hill at any second. Gratefully there are to winch points on this obstacle, in case you get into trouble and need a little extra help. The winch anchors went unused today, as our group each successfully climbed this gnarly obstacle.

When Rick's back tire fell in the hole, he got a little bit tippy in the play area before Rocker Knocker.

When Rick’s back tire fell in the hole, he got a little bit tippy in the play area before Rocker Knocker.

After a mile or two of more fun trail driving, you come to a little play area right before the Rocker Knocker obstacle. There are numerous options through this short section, but of course, we all chose to take the difficult line. This included a very steep climb after driving through a puddle, which made getting traction on the climb that much harder due to wet tires. This climb is one where a longer wheelbase, and big tires is definitely an advantage. After we all got up this obstacle, we decided to take advantage of the nice sunny day and took a seat on the rocks to enjoy our lunch.

After lunch we headed around the corner to Rocker Knocker. This obstacle is probably one of the most unique in the Moab area, because the most successful way to climb the obstacle, is also the most successful way to roll over on the obstacle! I tell people if you feel like you’re about to roll, then you are on the right line! Rocker Knocker is a series of 2 large ledges running perpendicular to the trail, to get up them, you go up the

Going up Rocker Knocker. Yes, this is the correct line. And yes, I thought for a second I was going to roll over!

Going up Rocker Knocker. Yes, this is the correct line. And yes, I thought for a second I was going to roll over!

first ledge with both of your front tires, then make a hard left. This causes your front passenger tire to climb the 2nd ledge, and your rear passenger tire to climb the first ledge. You then slowly work your way crab-walking to the left until your front driver tire runs into a large rock, and you are able to drive up the notch and get out of the obstacle. Going up this way leans you dramatically to the driver side, which is the best way to make it up this obstacle. Rocker Knocker always makes me nervous, and today was no exception. At one point I thought for sure I was going to tip over onto my driver side, as my front passenger tire kept climbing higher and higher on the ledge. It was at this point that Jeff reminded me that I could do a front end dig; this is when you put your rear axle in neutral (if you’re equipped with a twin stick transfer case), and only have power going to be front tires. This pulls your front end around, while leaving your rear tires in place. For me this was the perfect solution as I wouldn’t climb any higher on the ledge, but rather my front end would slide sideways like I was trying to do. After a nerve-racking couple of seconds, I got in position and was able to make the rest of the climb successfully.

Me on the top section of Axle Hill, it's definitely a little bit tippy.

Me on the top section of Axle Hill, it’s definitely a little bit tippy.

Rocker Knocker marks the beginning of the last mile of Pritchett, which is by far the most difficult of the trail with one large obstacle after another. The first obstacle doesn’t have an official name, at least not one I’ve never heard. Anyway, it’s not too bad, after dropping into the wash you make a climb up a series of small ledges, where a little Moab Bump to give some momentum should successfully take you to the top. Next up is Axle Hill (so named after Jeff’s lovely wife, Susan, who on this obstacle many years ago broke her rear ring and pinion, then to add insult to injury, broke a front axle shaft, leaving her with one wheel drive), this obstacle is also tricky, similar in some ways to Chewy where you have a steep slick climb followed by an off camber right hand turn. This obstacle is definitely trickier than it looks, and I’ve seen numerous vehicles roll on this short obstacle.

Perry Reed coming down The Rock Pile back in 1993 when there actually was a pile of rocks there.

Perry Reed coming down The Rock Pile back in 1993 when there actually was a pile of rocks there.

This is about as far up The Rock Pile as Jeff was able to get.

This is about as far up The Rock Pile as Jeff was able to get. Remember, he has 113 inch wheelbase, and 38 inch tires, that should help give you an idea of how tall this obstacle has become.

Next, and the obstacle for which Pritchett Canyon is probably most famous, The Rock Pile (so named because years ago used to be a ledge which people had stacked up a pile of rocks at the bottom of to help you go up the obstacle). One day, about 10 or 12 years ago, all of the rocks on The Rock Pile were gone, and you are left with a large ledge to climb. This caused the creation of a bypass, known as Son of Rock Pile, which while easier, is still a very formidable obstacle in of itself. Over the years, The Rock Pile has become more and more dug out, so today it’s probably 8 ft. or so tall, and is fairly close to vertical. It has gotten so big, in fact, I don’t think it is climbable anymore by any vehicle with a full body. As I mentioned Jeff Stevens has done this trail probably hundreds of times, and in the past he has usually climbed The Rock Pile fairly easily. But the last 3 times he’s done the trail, he’s been unable to make it. And that’s after pushing his front axle out an extra 5 inches, and bringing his overall wheelbase to 113 inches. And trust me, his not making it was definitely not for lack of trying; he probably played around on that obstacle for 20 minutes, trying every conceivable possibility before finally admitting defeat. I was smart enough not to try it, because if Jeff Stevens can’t do an obstacle, there’s virtually no chance that I can!

Coming up and over Yellow Hill.

Coming up and over Yellow Hill.

The last obstacle on Pritchett Canyon is called Yellow Hill, due to the color of the soil. Going up this hill really isn’t too bad, you just need to be sure to straddle the crest of the hill, sliding off either side would definitely result in a rollover. But take your time, and go up the middle with just a little bit of momentum, and you should be fine. From the top of the hill, definitely plan on stopping and enjoying the beautiful view both in front of you, looking out towards the Behind the Rocks area, as well as looking behind, at the beautiful canyon you just drove up. Be proud of yourself, especially if you made it through unscathed, and without assistance, for there is not very many people who can say they have done that!

A big thanks to Mike Elhers for being my copilot for the day!

It sure is a beautiful view from the top of Pritchett Canyon, it's almost as good as the feeling of having completed the trail!

It sure is a beautiful view from the top of Pritchett Canyon, it’s almost as good as the feeling of having completed the trail!

This is a picture from the first ever Jeep Safari back in 1967. Even still every Big Saturday we lineup on main Street, just like they did back then. Photo courtesy of the Times Independent

This is a picture from the first ever Jeep Safari back in 1967. Even still every Big Saturday we lineup on main Street, just like they did back then. Photo courtesy of the Times Independent

Easter Jeep Safari started in 1967, and was originally organized by the Moab Chamber of Commerce as a way to try to attract visitors to the Moab area, and give them an experience enjoying our unique backcountry. From its humble beginnings, with the Behind the Rocks Trail being the only trail offered on the Saturday before Easter Sunday, 2014 marks the 48th annual Easter Jeep Safari which now offers 42 unique trails spanning nine days, starting the Saturday of the week before Easter, extending all the way through Easter Sunday.

The early Jeep Safaris were fairly low key events with members of the Chamber of Commerce being the trail leaders. There was no charge for the one day event, and participants signed up that morning for which trail they wanted. For a few of the early years participants were even treated to individual ice cream packages dropped to them by airplane during their lunch breaks. The Safari was run this way through 1982, at which point the BLM began to require permits and insurance to cover the event. With this change in policy, the Chamber of Commerce was no longer able to put on the event, so they asked the recently formed Red Rock 4 Wheelers if they would take over the event.

logoRoundIn the early 1980s the Red Rock 4 Wheelers was formed as a small local organization by George Schultz. Most of the meetings were held in members homes. In the early months of 1983, after agreeing to take over Easter Jeep Safari, club members were being recruited to organize and run the Safari, a feat which today involves roughly 300 volunteers. Taking over Easter Jeep Safari really transformed the club into what it is today, a club with over 1000 members worldwide.

Watching some of the over 900 Jeeps drive through town on Big Saturday

Watching some of the over 900 Jeeps drive through town on Big Saturday.

Under the direction of the Red Rock 4 Wheelers, the event began to grow in number of participants, number of days, and number of trails being offered. Today we offer over 125 individual trail days to choose from, and typically have on average 2000 participating vehicles throughout the 9 days. We are literally the largest four-wheel drive event in the world, both in scope, and length of event. The day before Easter, which has always been known as “Big Saturday”, is our largest single day with 30 different trails being offered. That morning all of the participants of the various trails lineup along Main Street and adjacent streets, and precisely at 9am began a well oiled procession of one trail group after another leaving town heading for 30 different destinations.

Looking at this stage of all of the raffle prizes for the Grand Giveaway

Looking at this stage of all of the raffle prizes for the Grand Giveaway.

In addition to trail rides, the Red Rock 4 Wheelers also host the annual Vendors Expo on Thursday and Friday during Jeep Safari, which is free to the general public. This is located south of town at the Spanish Trail Arena and brings together over 150 off road oriented businesses, where you can talk one-on-one with many of the largest companies in the off-road world, see their newest products, and buy directly from many of the dealers, oftentimes getting a “Jeep Safari discount”. Special interest groups are also present to provide information for those interested in the future of four wheeling. The show is culminated with the Friday night Grand Giveaway, where items donated by the vendors are given away as door prizes to Jeep Safari participants. Every person who registers for Jeep Safari receives one free ticket. Tickets must be present to win, but it’s well worth the wait for a chance to win one of the hundreds of valuable prizes which we give away.

Here is a picture of me starting up Hells Gate, one of the newly permitted routes which makes up part of the Escalator to Hell trail.

Here is a picture of me starting up Hells Gate, one of the newly permitted routes which makes up part of the new Escalator to Hell trail.

New for 2014, we had been given permission in our new 10 year permit from the BLM to add eight new trails to our Jeep Safari offerings, all of these trails have been open to the public for years, but were only just added to our permit allowing us to use them during our events. The eight new trails include (the trail rating on a 1 to 10 scale is included in the parentheses following the trail name): Cameo Cliffs (3), Deadman Point (3), Day Canyon Point (4), Jax Trax (5), Where Eagles Dare (7), The Pickle (7), Rusty Nail (8) and Escalator to Hell (8). We anticipate these new trails will be well received, and become a popular choice for both Moab newbies, as well as experienced Moab veterans.

Starting in 2010 the Red Rock 4 Wheelers instituted a new program whereby interested vendors could contribute to our MUD (Multiple Use Defense) fund, and become a Trail Sponsor of a trail for the day. This gave the companies a perfect opportunity to mingle with their target market groups, show off their products, and join us for a good day on the trail. Typically, vendors will show up for the trail and pass out “swag” from their company, this could be T-shirts, keychains, water bottles, hats, etc. So far this program has been very successful, both with the participants and companies enjoying themselves, and we anticipate it will continue into the future.

Here is the lunch stop for the Poison Spider Mesa trail. That low point in the rock just above the Jeeps on the right-hand side is the top of Little Arch, and provides an outstanding view of the river several hundred feet below.

Here is the lunch stop for the Poison Spider Mesa trail. That low point in the rock just above the Jeeps on the right-hand side is the top of Little Arch, and provides an outstanding view of the river several hundred feet below.

Jeep Safari participants are expected to provide their own four-wheel drive vehicle, we make no restrictions as to what type, make, or model of vehicle is used, as long as it has a 2 speed transfer case offering both hi and lo range. Vehicle safety equipment is extremely important, and all vehicles must have an integral metal top or rollbar, and be registered and insured in their home state. It is recommended that each vehicle carry a fire extinguisher, first aid kit, tow strap, spare tire, jack, assorted tools, and vehicle specific spare parts. No ATVs or UTVs are allowed to participate due to their dissimilar speed which they are able to travel the trail compared to full size vehicles. Participants must also furnish their own food, and nonalcoholic (alcohol is forbidden on all trails, at all times, for both driver and passengers) beverages for the trip. It is suggested you carry plenty of water, sunscreen, and layered clothing as the weather here can change quickly in the spring. It is essential that participants stay on the permitted routes, and under no circumstances are they to go off the trail.

The Red Rock 4 Wheelers have gone through many changes and added many new members, but we haven’t forgotten that the club was formed as a family club to have fun and promote responsible 4-wheeling. So now, instead of just Jeep Safari, we have the Labor Day Camp Out, trails of the month, we cleanup and mark the trails, and participate in other club outings. We also work to keep the roads that we have open.

For more information feel free to go to our website:  www.RR4W.com

We are also on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/rr4wmoab/ and https://www.facebook.com/groups/EasterJeepSafari/

As we go through life, I would venture to guess that the average person meets tens of thousands of people, most of those people we see on one occasion, and will never see again. A much smaller number becomes regular acquaintances, you know, people you see every so often, but don’t really “know”. An even smaller number become friends, people you see fairly regularly, and know quite a bit about. And then you have the core of what I call “good friends”, these are people who in one way or another have helped shape or direct your life (these can be family members, but I don’t think being a family member automatically puts you in this category). These are the people you can call in the middle of the night, and you know they’ll be there for you. In my opinion, these are the people who make life worth living. Acquaintances and friends come and go, but good friends are always there, even if they are thousands of miles away, or you haven’t seen each other for years, you know they’re out there, and that makes life better.

I think we often wonder what influence we have on those people who we come in contact with. Deep down I believe everyone wants to make a good impression, and be remembered for something positive. However most of the time we will never know the influence we have on people around us, even with our core of good friends, how often you really sit down and tell another person how much they mean to you. Honestly, the answer is probably, not enough.

It’s a little after midnight, Misty and I are getting ready for bed, and all of a sudden my phone beeps at me indicating I have a new email. I glanced at it, expecting it to be something silly, or something which could wait for the morning, but what I found waiting for me was the following email from my good friend, Jim Crum. With his permission I have decided to share with you, not to pat myself on the back, or toot my own horn, because frankly I think much of his praise is rather over exaggerated; but rather I share it is a testament that we often times truly really never know the influence we have on other people. After reading Jim’s email, I felt very humble, but mostly a felt appreciative, appreciative of my good friends who have blessed me by allowing me to be a part of their lives, I love you all! Maybe this email will serve as motivation for you to share with someone you care about what influence they’ve had on you and your life, I guarantee you they would love to hear it.

Below is Jim’s email in its entirety. (Please take his praises with a large grain of salt.)

 

I can’t really tell you why I started writing this other than the fact that I utterly felt compelled to do so.  I am awakened from a sound sleep from a long week in the middle of the night, yet there is no explanation.   The only thought that seems to be consuming my conscious is that I must write a story about Dave Adams.  

Who is Dave Adams and why would I need to write a story about him?  The later question I have no answer for, but the first one, well the first one I can honestly tell you he is a person that will leave a lasting impression upon you and will become a part of your life before you know it.   Dave Adams is one of the most amazing people I know.   Just a quick fact before we get started.  Dave has what is called Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.  I won’t bother going into details about it, so look it up if you want, you will find a lot of good informative information about it, even though most in the US have never heard of it.  I had not until I met Dave and even then, it was literally years before I knew the name or anything about it. Why would I not know what ailment of someone that I consider such a good friend and an amazing person?   Because that IS NOT who Dave is.  That is a something that Dave has and has it he does. He owns that bitch, he does not let it own him.    Me asking Dave about it would be like asking you why your eyes are brown or blue.  It is a characteristic of Dave and it makes him who he is, it does not take away from him, it enhances his Daveness.      Yeah, I know it is not a real word, but if you met Dave, you would know exactly what I was talking about and be calling up Merriam-Websters and demanding it becomes one.  

I told you this was completely free from and I am just typing the stuff that comes into my mind.  Maybe if I do, I will be able to get some rest.     So back to Dave.    I met Dave after moving to Utah in 2006.   In fact, I met Dave the spring of 2007 in nice little place called Moab, Utah.   Moab is a place where thousands of tourists go each year.  They go to ride backs, hike the trails, climb the rocks, raft the rivers.   Oh, and if you ever get the pleasure, there maybe a jeep or two down there too. Actually, if you go there, you will see a LOT of jeeps and a few things that started out as Jeeps and have now been transformed into  “crawlers”.    Very expensive vehicles that are not really rode worthy, but can climb a vertical cliff like you were taking your grandma to the grocery store.     This is a place that as a child I would dream about going to.  I would sit and watch 4×4 shows and truck shows about Moab and be amazed at how they would drive these vehicles on the rocks and up the inclines.  

Jim and his beautiful Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon LJ.

Jim and his beautiful Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon LJ.

Well I moved to Utah and I got my opportunity to go vista the Mecca of the off road community.    I took my shiny new jeep signed up for the Easter Jeep Safari and was ready to take 35,000 worth of machinery on a road that, scratch that, on a trail of sandstone and dirt that I am sure now, any good insurance policy explicitly says they exclude coverage on.    I tell you all this so I can tell you the rest of the story of how I met Dave.   Again, Moab from the description seems and is a pretty hardcore place.   So here I am, in my shiny new jeep ready to go on a treacherous trail, which a few months later, I would later laugh about because it really wasn’t anything when comparing it to things I would do later.  But regardless, I am here, I am ready and a little nervous and excited at the same time.  So we have a driver meeting and everyone in the trail group is requested over the CB to come up to the green jeep to meet the trail leader.    So here is Dave, sitting in his jeep, my first thought is that he looks like a younger Hugh Laruie.  Look it up. For those that know Dave…. you are going  yeaaahhhh I see it.  Any way back to the story.   

Jim having some fun on the Hells Revenge trail.

Jim having some fun on the Hells Revenge trail.

I along with 20 other eager newbies, I say newbies, because this really was a newbie trail.  It is fun but still a newbie. I think I did it once a year just because it was pretty and we got to see petroglyphs at the end. Right about now, most of you in the know are going…. hey…… I know what trail he is talking about.      Anyway we meet Dave and he is telling us about the trail and what it will be like and what is going on..  It is early, Dave is wearing a red jacket that I would later learn is the Red Rock Club Jacket and he was the land use officer too.    Anyway we are on the trail and Dave takes this behemoth of a green jeep roaring up some obstacles.   This thing was well loved… By Dave and the rocks of Moab.    But it was awesome. I wanted mine to be like his, but not too soon.. Like I said I had only had it for about 6 months.   Anyway, I was behind Dave and followed him up the line he took and made it. I felt a since of accomplishment and was all proud when he hollered at me and asked me to come help him. I thought what can I do to help this guy?   I am giddy over going up a 3 foot ledge.  He wanted help getting out to spot the others. That is when I learned that this man who was leading us around the backcountry of Moab couldn’t get out of his jeep due to some physical ailment.   I was extremely impressed AGAIN. Here is this dude, with a bad ass jeep, in the most bad ass part of the country I know and making his own and he was by all definitions of the word Hand…… I can’t say it and I won’t … because DAVE is NOT that word… Dave is a bad ass himself… I was like sure. So we walked together to the spot that I am sure he sat at dozens of times. It had to resemble the scene of were Yoda was sitting in the swamp telling Luke what to do…. Anyway,  that is my first meeting of Dave.   We continue the trail and get out a few more times, stop for lunch, and then finally end the trail.   At the end I talk to Dave because I am after all like a little kid in the candy store. I am in Moab for pete’s sake.    So fast forward a little bit to the next day and I am on a trail again with Dave.  This time I am on Hell’s Revenge.  Now I thought the previous trail was hard….. Within the first 100 yards of this trail you are on a knife’s edge rim driving on sandstone that is barely wide enough to keep your vehicle up. Dangerously skirting the edge of what would be certain demise if you were to go off either edge.  Well that is what it felt like.  But now, I think we have actually passed other jeeps on this “knife edge”.  

Right after I rolled, Jim realized the other guy is only there to videotape, here he comes to the rescue.

Right after I rolled, Jim realized the other guy is only there to videotape, here he comes to the rescue.

Pushing the guy who is videotaping out of the way, Jim put this head in my Jeep to make sure I'm okay.

Pushing the guy who is videotaping out of the way, Jim put this head in my Jeep to make sure I’m okay.

Here is Jim single-handedly "birthing" me out of my overturned Jeep, he was the the most gentle midwife I ever had!

Here is Jim single-handedly “birthing” me out of my overturned Jeep, he was the the most gentle midwife I ever had!

Finally freed from my Jeep, thanks Jim, I literally couldn't have done it without you!

Finally freed from my Jeep, thanks Jim, I literally couldn’t have done it without you!

Anyway we get on the trail and it is amazing. The beauty of the rocks and I  am just amazed and in aw that I finally made it here…. So soon we are at a “Hot Tub”.  Basically it is a depression where the water has eroded the rock….  Jeeps have been driving in and out of them for a very long time you could tell by the rubber depots on the sandstone. So we stop and watch a few jeeps go in and out. Then our leader, Dave starts to go down into the hot tub.  I was like what?   This guy is insane… I like him….     So he starts and he tries it and doesn’t make it the first time. While he is backing up and getting ready for his second attempt I hear people talking about how they saw him do this before and other stuff he has done.  So people know this guy, which doesn’t surprise me now.   He has the personality to take over a room and people notice him.    So he tries to go up again and just when you think he is going to make it, he flops…. I mean HARD.  Right from the top of this bowl he plummets to the bottom.  It has to be 10 feet right on his top. So right away, this dude slides down in, and I am thinking ok, he is getting him. But this ass hat is just video taping him, not helping.  So I slide down in there because I am like really concerned because I know this guy has some issues… Don’t others?  Why aren’t they helping! And I usually act way before I think things out and sliding down a 10 foot sandstone embankment soaked in oil, gas, and rubber with standing water and jeep parts in the bottom of it is something you should probably think about doing before you do it. Well I realize that now, but anywhere I was there. Dave is hanging upside down by his waist seat belt and I ask him if he is ok. He says yea, then I say Well I am Jim and I will be birthing you from your jeep today or something like that. At least that is what we say I say now, cause its funny.  So I get him out of his jeep and slide him across my lap because like I said, there is water and crap in the bottom.  We get the jeep right side up and continue on.  

I don’t know exactly when I started to know Dave to the point where I would call him my friend. Like I said at the beginning he sort of becomes part of your life without you realizing it.   I would go down to Moab and see him the Moab Brewery or on the trail, we would talk and started doing trails.  Then I started meeting people he knew. The next thing I knew I was sleeping on the guys couch when I would go do to Moab.  But I will admit, delivering a guy from his Jeep starts you down the friendship path pretty quick.     So now I am starting to meet a lot of people through Dave and what is funny is I know more people in Moab and because of Moab than I do in the town I live in now.   I have not had a jeep for 5 years, but we all keep in touch still and I consider Dave and everyone I met because of Dave my very good friends.   I mean like I will go pick you up at the airport type of friends. Not these… I will say Hi to you every other year friends.  We may not see each other regularly, well I don’t see them, regularly, the rest still have their jeeps and go play. Not that I am bitter or care that they remind me about it often. (Jeremy, Jonny)  But we all still talk and communicate to each other.    We have some good memories and stories; Set it on fire,  the Penguins are complaining,  just to name a few.  

After delivering me from my Jeep, Jim didn't step back and let others help out, rather he stayed right in the middle of it helping out a gimpy guy who he barely knew. Thanks Jim!

After delivering me from my Jeep, Jim didn’t step back and let others help out, rather he stayed right in the middle of it helping out a gimpy guy who he barely knew. Thanks Jim!

Anyway, I know this seem to get off the topic of who Dave Adams is, but it didn’t really. What you just read IS Dave Adams. He is the Coach, the Chief of the APC  (Adams Pit Crew).  You see he is the center of a very tight universe that feeds off of kindness and friendship and love.  Dave has not had the easiest life, but he is NEVER a victim.   He is the guy yelling at you from his chair telling you that you didn’t tighten the bolt on the transfer case enough when he can’t even see the thing.  He is the guy telling you that you need to go faster and hurry up and fix his jeep so that he can go out in the morning. But he is also the guy that would do anything in the word for anyone.   He and his wonderful wife Misty open their lives and home up to anyone that needs a place to stay. Whether for a night, a week or a year, I know you are welcome there.    And they accept you quickly into their lives and you accept them into yours.  I have stopped and talked to people that I met though Dave and Misty on my way to other locations.   Why?  Because we share a common trait that makes us all better people. That trait is having Dave in our lives.   I know that I may catch some grief over this from people who may read it and you can tease me all you want. But you look me in the eye and tell me you don’t feel the same way.   So I started this out by asking the question, “Who is Dave Adams?”  Well you know, I realize that now, with a few tears in my eyes.. (why ???? I don’t know…)  that who is not the right question. The better question is “What is Dave Adams?”

He is a good that you don’t usually find, he attracts good, and he makes you feel good.  We are all better for knowing him.  What do I mean he attracts good?   Well his wife Misty is one example.  She is the sweetest person you will ever meet.  Kind and generous and willing to do whatever she can to help you.  And Dave and Misty have a circle of friends and family that surround them. They are the core because I truly believe that people at attracted to that kind of pure goodness / Daveness  and they want to be part of it.   We are all better people for it and I am glad to say that Dave Adams is my friend. I admire him.     

 I realize this was a long road that seemed to take a few detours, but I have pretty much been typing my thoughts.   So we started with a question and finished with an answer.    The other question we didn’t answer is why I am writing this?  I don’t know, but I feel better by writing it. Maybe Dave and Misty needed to hear these things.  Maybe someone who may see this needed it.  I don’t know. I don’t pretend to know all the answers when it comes to stuff like this, but I do know that this has been sort of an emotional roller coaster for me for some reason. But I wrote it and I am going to send it to you Dave and Misty. I love you guys and I hope everything is well with you. God Bless.

Here is the video of me rolling in Mickey’s Hot Tub. Watch closely, towards the end and you can even see Jim sliding in to come rescue me. Now that’s a good friend!
Poor CJ, it's been a long winter!

Poor CJ, it’s been a long winter!

I know my blog has been quiet recently, and for that I apologize, but Old Man Winter has taken a death grip on Moab for the last 2 months, and seemed content to hold it in a freezing grip for the foreseeable future. In fact, my CJ hasn’t been off the trailer since I picked it up before Thanksgiving from Jimmy’s 4×4, after getting my transmission rebuilt; it sure is sad seeing her sit there looking abandoned and covered in snow! So today’s blog is going to be a little bit different, I have entitled my blogging page as, “The Adventures of the Handicap Jeeper in Moab.” Well today, we’re going to focus more on the handicap part than on the adventures part.

As I explained in my About Me page, and went into more detail on my first blog “Mo-who?” (http://moabdave.com/2011/08/11/mowho/), I have a rare neurological disorder known as Charcot-Marie-Tooth, a.k.a. CMT. As I’ve stated before, CMT is a peripheral neuropathy, meaning it only affects the nerves in my arms/hands and legs/feet. It is a degenerative disease, meaning that it is going to get worse over time, it can’t get better as nerves, once damaged, do not regenerate. Thankfully I don’t experience any chronic pain with my disorder, whereas many people with CMT do. As a result of this, I rarely see a doctor regarding my disease, as there is no medical treatment which can improve my situation. In fact, probably the last “CMT expert” I saw was the podiatrist I went to while growing up, and he was an expert because he had CMT, albeit a very minor case. So I can easily say it’s probably been over 20 years since I’ve seen a doctor who knew more about CMT than I did; oftentimes when I tell a doctor I have CMT, I then have to explain what it is!

Recently, at the behest of my loving, caring, always worried about me, and wanting the best for me mother, I began looking into the possibility of once again meeting with a CMT expert to see what if anything has developed in terms of research and/or treatment of the disease. I found that there are numerous CMT research clinics located around the world, but the doctor who is probably on the cutting edge of CMT research is Dr. Michael Shy, who works at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. I found that he held clinics for people with CMT, where we could be evaluated by him and his staff of experts. So just a couple weeks ago, Misty and I flew to snowy and cold Iowa, for a series of meetings and evaluations by some of the world’s leading CMT experts.

Prior to traveling to Iowa, I was asked to fill out several questionnaires regarding my medical history, both pertaining to CMT, as well as a general history. I also filled out a very detailed family record including my grandparents, parents, siblings, and nephews and nieces, and whether any of them displayed symptoms of CMT (Typically, although not in my case, CMT is a hereditary neuropathy being passed down from one generation to the next with a 50/50 chance of the offspring inheriting the disorder. I say not in my case because I am unique, and there is no family record of anybody either older or younger than I have any indication of CMT. This means that I am a first-generation mutation.)

Upon arriving at the clinic, we were met by Dr. Shy, a very soft-spoken man, but obviously an incredibly warm and caring individual. Throughout the day we met with numerous experts, all with the intent of helping me, and better educating me regarding CMT, and possible treatments, or things I could be doing to help myself.

We first met with Dr. Shy and a couple of his assistants, who went over my medical history, where they concurred that indeed it did appear that I was a first-generation mutation, having not inherited CMT in the traditional way. He then did a series of motor tests to verify the strength in my arms and legs. He then poked me with a needle starting at my toes and working his way up, asking me when I felt it, then repeated the test on my hands and arms. Lastly, he had me close my eyes then moved various joints (toe, ankle, knee, hip then finger, wrist, elbow and shoulder) either up or down, and had me tell him which way he had moved the limb. They strength tests showed that I had minimal strength in my lower peripheries, and didn’t get to a more “normal” strength until you got above my knees and elbows. Same thing with the needle test, below my knees and elbows sensation was greatly reduced, and the time it took the message to reach my brain was greatly increased. The last test showed that I didn’t have accurate spatial recognition of where my limbs were until he got to hip and shoulder joints. All of this was pretty expected, and the results were typical of most CMT patients, although mine being on the more severely affected side of the spectrum.

Without getting too medically in-depth, the underlying cause of CMT is peripheral nerve damage to both sensory as well as motor neurons. Typically the damage is either to the myelin sheath (the outer layer which insulates the nerve, similar to the plastic covering protecting a typical copper wire) or to the nerve axon (the end of the nerve which actually sends and receives signals and impulses). In my case both the myelin sheath, as well as the axon are damaged. The axon damage explained my reduced strength, and lack of spatial recognition; the damage to the myelin sheath explains the extended time it takes for the message to reach my brain. In order to determine how damaged my myelin sheath was, Dr. Shy had me undergo a nerve conduction study. For this, sensors were placed on various parts of my arms and legs, the muscles were then stimulated, and a sensor determined how long it took the message to travel the specified distance. A normal nerve conducts at about 50 meters per second, my nerves were transmitting at between 11 and 17 meters per second.

Based upon the results of the nerve conduction study, as well as my personal family medical history, Dr. Shy speculates that I have CMT type 1B, the third most common type of CMT. Approximately 80% of CMT patients have CMT 1A, about 10% have CMT 2, and about 5% of us have CMT 1B. The remaining 5 percent is made up by the remaining 70 or so extremely rare types of CMT. In order to confirm this diagnosis, I submitted to a blood test which will be able to determine whether or not I do for sure have CMT 1B. If the blood work comes back negative, then the University of Iowa will submit my blood to additional testing, trying to figure out exactly what kind of CMT I do have.

For the rest of the day I met with various other experts, including a genetic counselor, physical therapist, occupational therapist, orthotist (a person who builds leg braces, like what I wear), and an MDA representative. All were very knowledgeable of CMT, and gave me suggestions on things which could help me, and make my life better.

At the end of the day I again met with Dr. Shy who summarized the days results, and shared with me his prognosis about how my disease will progress in the future. They measure CMT patients on a scale from 1 to 36, he said they rarely see anybody over a 30, based upon his tests with me he said he would put me at a 28 in terms of severity. This is both good news, as well as bad. It is bad because it means that my CMT is very, very severe, but it’s good news in the fact that my nerve damage probably won’t get any worse. This means that if I can stay physically active, I hopefully will be able to maintain about the function which I currently have.

The other interesting thing which we learned was that if Misty and I decided we wanted to have our own biological children, that there is a way in which they could take only the chromosomes from me which do not carry the CMT gene, implant them into an egg from Misty, and thus guarantee that the child would not have CMT nor be a carrier of the disease. This was very surprising, as I had not heard of anything like this before. Before this, I had never wanted to have biological children, because I did not want the possibility of passing on my disorder, which if Misty had gotten pregnant in the traditional way, the child would have a 50/50 chance of having the disease. Obviously this genetic testing would be very expensive, but at least it gives Misty and I something to think about, and decide if we want to pursue.

The next day I met with a pulmonary (lung) doctor, as some people with CMT have decreased lung function as a result of the disorder. My tests all came back within the normal range, which is definitely a good thing. Lastly before leaving for home, we went to an audiology clinic where they tested my hearing, again it’s been shown that often times people with CMT have diminished hearing. My tests concluded that I did indeed have some hearing loss, mainly in the lower frequencies. They also showed that it was hard for me to pick out specific sounds if there was a lot of background noise. Which from my own personal experience seems to make sense.

The 2 days of testing I went through were very informative, and I’m extremely happy that Misty and I attended. I can’t say enough about the professionalism we experienced, and how impressed we were with Dr. Shy and his staff. I look forward to hearing the results of my blood work, because that can determine if I could possibly qualify for some future experimental medication they are developing. And I figure the more you know about your body, especially the problems with it, the better off you are in this life.

I saw this the other day, and thought it was cute.

I saw this the other day, and thought it was cute.

Here is my Facebook post from November 5th.

Welcome to SEMA!

Welcome to SEMA!

Me proudly showing off my SEMA access pass, without one of these you can't even get in the door

Me proudly showing off my SEMA access pass, without one of these you can’t even get in the door.

Great friends Orly and Amit, without them my dream of going to SEMA would never have happened!

Great friends Orly and Amit, without them my dream of going to SEMA would never have happened!

Here is a map showing the booth locations from this year's show, they should give you some idea of how large this exhibit truly is, as the smallest spaces, the ones which you can barely see on this map are 10'x10'.

Here is a map showing the booth locations from this year’s show, this should give you some idea of how large this exhibit truly is, as the smallest spaces, the ones which you can barely see on this map are 10’x10′.

Well today was quite the day. For several months now Misty had been telling me she had to work in St. George this week, so I would be accompanying her there. I was told that her boss would be flying us from the Moab airport directly to St. George. The downside was, we had to be at the Moab airport by 4am; since I’m a night person by nature anyway I figured I would just stay up and sleep in St. George while Misty was working. As we got to the airport Misty informed me we weren’t actually flying out of Moab, but rather out of Grand Junction. While checking in at the desk in Grand Junction, I learned that our true destination was actually Las Vegas, after a brief lay over in Salt Lake. Our flight left Grand Junction at 6:30 and arrived in a snowy Salt Lake City where we made it to our gate just in time to board our final plane to Las Vegas. So, just so you can keep this straight we woke up in Utah, drove to Colorado, flew back to Utah, before continuing on to Nevada.

Upon arriving in Las Vegas, I was told we would be met by some friends that were already there in town. Much to my surprise however, as we collected our luggage from the baggage claim I was greatly surprised to be greeted by our wonderful Israeli friends Amit and Orly.

This had been a grand conspiracy all along; there was never any trip to St. George, nor was there any plans for our Utah friends to pick us up from the airport. Rather, Amit, Orly, and Misty had orchestrated a closed door, super secret mission to surprise me by bringing Misty and I to Las Vegas to be able to experience the annual SEMA show; something I have wanted to do for a long time, but never had the correct “in” to make it happen.

So here we sit in the Hard Rock Hotel in fabulous Las Vegas after a wonderful day wandering around the gargantuan SEMA show. We have three days left here before Orly and Amit will be returning with us to Moab to spend some quality time with us there. I am giddily excited about seeing SEMA plus the benefit of doing it with great friends. Thank you so much Amit, Orly and Misty! I love you all and am grateful for your efforts (even if they were a bit conniving).

And as I’ve now been up for something like 34 hrs, I think I’m about ready for bed!

For those of you who don’t know what SEMA is, here is the description from the SEMA Show website:

Here is a photo of a small sampling of what SEMA is

Here is a photo of a small sampling of what SEMA is.

“The SEMA Show is the premier automotive specialty products trade event in the world. It draws the industry’s brightest minds and hottest products to one place, the Las Vegas Convention Center. In addition, the SEMA Show provides attendees with educational seminars, product demonstrations, special events, networking opportunities and more.

SEMA Show 2012 drew more than 60,000 domestic and international buyers. The displays are segmented into 12 sections, and a New Products Showcase featured nearly 2,000 newly introduced parts, tools and components. In addition, the SEMA Show provides attendees with educational seminars, product demonstrations, special events, networking opportunities and more…”

Misty hanging out with Nicole Johnson, off-road racer, and monster truck driver

Misty hanging out with Nicole Johnson, off-road racer, and monster truck driver.

SEMA is absolutely incredible, with 2100+ exhibitors, covering over 1 Million square ft.  of area it attracts somewhere around 150,000 attendees. Keep in mind SEMA is not open to the public, in order to attend you must be part of the “industry”, or be a guest of someone who is, like we were. To me, probably the most impressive thing was the 1500+ customized vehicles: there was everything from Lamborghinis, Ferraris, and Porsches to American muscle like Corvettes, Challengers, Camaros, and Mustangs; there were hundreds of classic cars, muscle cars, souped-up hot rods, and virtually every type of vehicle you could ever imagine. But probably the most common vehicle was the

One of my favorite views of the event, where else are you going to see (from right to left) a Bantam prototype, Willys MA, Ford GP, and finally the iconic World War II Willys MB

One of my favorite views of the event, where else are you going to see (from right to left) a Bantam prototype, Willys MA prototype, Ford GP prototype, and finally the standardized iconic World War II Willys MB.

good old Jeep. Most of the displayed Jeeps were the newer JK version, but I also saw a few CJs, YJs, TJs a Wagoneer, a Willys Wagon, and a few Willys Pickups (making me wish that ours was currently running). One of the things which I greatly enjoyed was the display which had one of each type of military Jeep, from the first 1941 Bantam prototype up to the M38 A1, which was used up thru the 1970s.

There’s no way I can begin to show you a small fraction of what we saw, and believe me we probably didn’t even see half of what was there even after wandering around for 8 hours a day for 3 solid days. But I’ll try to include some of the highlight pictures to give you an idea of what it was like.

We'll start with this one, because if there's one thing which SEMA is about, besides cars, it's women, lots and lots of hot women. This one is from the Harley-Davidson display, and trust me, I'd ride one of her bikes any day!

We’ll start with this one, because if there’s one thing which SEMA is about, besides cars, it’s women, lots and lots of hot women. This one is from the Harley-Davidson display, and trust me, I’d ride one of her bikes any day!

If you’re interested in seeing more pictures which Misty took at SEMA, click here to see the album on my Facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151992065704566.1073741828.822619565&type=1&l=25793a15cb

While nothing can ever do the experience of SEMA justice, unless of course you attend yourself, here is a short video which kind of gives you an idea of what being there is like.

Big Dave, Gunner and I at the top of Cliffhanger during Jeep Safari of 2004, just a couple months before Big Dave gave Gunner to me

Big Dave, Gunner and I at the top of Cliffhanger during Jeep Safari of 2004, just a couple months before Big Dave gave Gunner to me

Gunner taking a break in Kane Creek Canyon

Gunner taking a break in Kane Creek Canyon

Gunner behind the wheel of my 1968 Jeepster Commando

Gunner behind the wheel of my 1968 Jeepster Commando

It didn't matter how muddy the puddle was, if there was water on the trail, Gunner was in it

It didn’t matter how muddy the puddle was, if there was water on the trail, Gunner was in it

Gunner resting in the shade off the side of the trail

Gunner resting in the shade off the side of the trail

Every little boy wants a dog, a good old-fashioned stick retrieving, lake swimming, rope tugging, best friend who would accompany them on all of their outrageous adventures. I was no different, and while we did have a dog while I was growing up, she was a fairly small poodle/terrier mutt who wouldn’t fetch, and hated the water. I always begged my mom to let me get a “big” dog, and her response was always the same, “When you get your own house, you can get whatever kind of dog you want.” Fast forward a few years: I had just finished college, was newly married, and was living in my first real house when one day, out of the blue, one of my best friends told me that he needed to find a new home for his Yellow Lab. You see, my friend Big Dave was an over-the-road truck driver, and for the last 2 years he had a dog with him which had been riding around in his truck as his companion. However, Big Dave was going to start training other drivers, and according to company policy he could not have a dog with him while he was a trainer. Therefore his dog, Gunner, needed to find a new home. My wife at the time and I were hesitant, not because we didn’t want the lovable Gunner, but rather because we were not allowed to have dogs in our rental house. After some discussion we figured what the heck, what our landlady doesn’t know won’t hurt her, plus we were planning on moving soon anyways so why not!

It was May 2004, and I was finally able to realize my childhood dream of having a “real” dog. Gunner was about 3 years old, and a purebred 70 pound Yellow Labrador Retriever. About the only thing that Gunner loved more than playing in the water was fetching his ball; he would do either of these for hours, and if you combine them together he was about as happy as you can imagine! In June 2004 we moved to Moab, gratefully, into a pet friendly rental, which even had a large fenced backyard. As we began getting to know the local four-wheel drive community, we found that several of them would take their dogs with them on the trail, not too surprising, but what I found interesting was that rather than riding inside the vehicle with them, the dogs would run along the trail with them as they drove. To me it seemed like a great idea for Gunner, because of my disability, and therefore my difficulty in walking long distances, taking Gunner out for a walk wasn’t very feasible. Letting Gunner run the trail, however, was a great way for him to get exercise, and soon enough I found that he absolutely loved it.

I’m not sure how, but somehow Gunner always knew when I was getting ready to go wheeling, and as soon as I opened up the front door and told him “Jeep!” he would get so excited he could barely contain himself. He would run outside, and dance around until I told him to “load up”, at that point he would jump up into the Jeep and get into the backseat, where he always rode. When we got to the trailhead, I would usually let him out while people were airing down and getting ready to head up the trail. At that point, depending upon the length of the trail, Gunner usually wouldn’t get back into the Jeep until we were off the trail. Typically he would run just a little ways behind and to the side of my rear driver side tire, which was convenient because I could usually see him in my driver side rear view mirror. I always made sure he had plenty of water, although he did an exceptional job of finding water for himself out on the trail; oftentimes he would head off by himself, and when he came back he would be soaking wet, and there was no water to be seen by me anywhere around, but he would always sniff it out if it was there.

Gunner and Rubi on the trail

Gunner and Rubi on the trail

In July 2005 we had the opportunity to buy a Great Dane puppy from two of our closest friends, Wyatt and Andrea. While I was a bit hesitant to buy a dog which I knew would grow up to be so large, I couldn’t pass up the cute puppy. In addition to Gunner, we now had a new best friend for Gunner, a brindle Great Dane named Rubi (her AKC name was Red Rock Rubicon). After she got old enough, we began taking her for a ride out in the Jeep, but wouldn’t let her run the trails until she was fully grown as we didn’t want to hurt her growing joints or muscles. Soon enough however, we had 2 dogs running the trails behind the Jeep. Life was good!

For years every time we went out Jeeping, Gunner and Rubi were there with us. As Gunner began to get older, he wasn’t able to run nearly as much, but still more often than not we continued to bring him with us, and he would just ride in the back seat. Over the course of the years, we had a few other dogs, come and go for whatever reason, but Gunner and Rubi were always there.

Gunner playing in some water he found near the Golden Spike trail while Rubi, who wasn't a huge fan of the water, watched from the dry land

Gunner playing in some water he found near the Golden Spike trail while Rubi, who wasn’t a huge fan of the water, watched from the dry land

Unfortunately just a few weeks before Jeep Safari of 2012, our sweet Rubi suddenly passed away, just a little bit shy of her 7th birthday; that’s about an average age for a Great Dane to live. We’re not sure why she died, we found her peacefully laying in the sun in our backyard, where she had passed away. She is now buried right next to our porch in the backyard, and I think of for every time I go out our back door.

Thankfully, Gunner kept plodding along, but as age got the better of him, he unfortunately wasn’t able to go out on the trail as much as he probably would’ve liked. We still took him occasionally on short trails, and he would run a little bit, but he tired quickly. He still loved going to the lake, and down to the stream where he

Rubi didn't so much play fetch, as she played more of a game of "keepaway from Gunner"

Rubi didn’t so much play fetch, as she played more of a game of “Keep away from Gunner”

would chase his ball for hours. Gratefully, Gunner had always been very healthy, but about a month ago he began to not eat his food. Worried about him, we took him into the vet who said that he had developed a large “mass” in his stomach. There wasn’t much we could do, besides let him eat when and what he could. Misty began making ground turkey and mixing it with cooked rice, which for a while Gunner ate enthusiastically, but unfortunately after only a few weeks he wouldn’t even eat that.

We took him to another vet, as our previous one had suddenly retired, who ran some additional tests on him, and found that he had lymphoma (a type of cancer). It had progressed so far that there was little in the way of treatment, and we were told that our time with Gunner would be short. With in a week’s time, Gunner took a drastic turn for the worse, and Saturday morning, Misty and I made the decision to put him down. Here is my Facebook post from that day:

After having a good day on Thursday, Gunner went quickly downhill yesterday, not eating or drinking, throwing up numerous times, and in very obvious discomfort, which resulted in him not being able to sleep for 2 days. We took him back to the vet this morning, and she basically said that anything we do at this point is only going to be a Band-Aid fix. So at a little after 10 o’clock this morning, we made the decision to release Gunner from his pain and suffering.

He is now back with Rubi, and my good friend Big Dave, whom I originally got Gunner from almost 10 years ago. I know he is happy now, running, jumping, swimming, and playing to his heart’s content. He was the perfect dog, and we will miss him greatly, but I know I will see him again, and we will never have to be separated again.

Below is a picture of him from September 2004, just about 6 months after I got him. He LOVED going Jeeping, and put thousands of miles on his feet running the trails behind my Jeep. Even after he got older, and couldn’t run the trails anymore he always wanted to, and would always give me that look when I would go out Jeeping without him. I am grateful for the time I had with him, for he made my life better by him being in it. We have chosen to have him cremated, so that way we have the opportunity to spread his ashes on the trails which he loved so much.

Godspeed old friend, I love you, and look forward to the day when we’ll be reunited.1417701_10151927217739566_207680271_o

Misty and I right after I graduated from my training class with my new service dog Hurley

Misty and I right after I graduated from my training class with my new service dog Hurley

Our newest dog, Wheeler. We are hoping he lives up to his name and becomes a great Jeeping dog!

Our newest dog, Wheeler. We are hoping he lives up to his name and becomes a great Jeeping dog!

For so many of us, dogs play such an important part in our lives that it’s hard to imagine living without them. I am grateful for the 2 remaining dogs which we have, Hurley, a big Black Lab who is my service dog that I’ve had for 2 ½ years, and Wheeler, our Black Lab and Border Collie mix who is a very energetic 14 months old. We actually got Wheeler when he was 8 months old because we knew Gunner was getting on in years, and we wanted him to train another dog for us, as he’s done several times before. Being my service dog, Hurley isn’t allowed to go out on the trails with us, but Wheeler definitely has the makings of a good Jeeping dog. We love them both very much, and are extremely happy to have them in our lives. While it’s impossible for them to fill the gap of dogs who’ve gone before them, they bring their own joy, happiness, and memories to our lives, and we look forward to being able to spend many more years with them in our home, and on the trail.

Here is a video one of my friends shot in 2010 of Gunner and Rubi doing what they loved, running the trail. I am driving the Grand Cherokee, and you can see Rubi running right behind me. Don’t they look happy?

Use the comment section below to tell me about your Jeeping dog, I would love to hear your story.

My wife, Misty also talked about Gunner’s passing in her weekly blog, read it here: http://www.therecoveringfatchick.com/2013/11/special-edition-world-feels-lesser.html