Archive for February, 2012

As most of the country has, Moab has been blessed with a very mild winter this year, this is fine with me because it gives us more opportunities to go out 4 Wheeling.  Taking advantage of the nice weather, a couple weeks ago we went out to Area BFE to drive one of the newly created trails, Dropkick.

At the trailhead

For those of you that aren’t familiar with the Area BFE, it is a section of privately owned land about 10 miles south of Moab.  Here is how it is described at areabfe.com.

“Area BFE is a 320 acre recreational park for many different outdoor activities. The park had been a dream of ours and in April 2004 that dream became a reality for a group of guys who had a vision; “Create a place where people could go without the threat of being kicked-off of a fun little playground and insure that people will always have a place to recreate!” Since then, we have been working to make trails, camping areas and many other fun destination points on the property.  This project has reassured our faith in the OHV community and the values these people hold close to their hearts.”

Since the creation of our 4-wheel drive club, the Moab Friends for Wheelin’, we have been very supportive of Area BFE.  And several years ago we were asked to create a new trail out there, so with the majority of work coming from Jeff Stevens and Jim Molter, the trail Lockjaw was created.  It was a successful endeavor, and now thousands of people a year use that trail.  Just recently the owners of Area BFE contacted us again about creating some new trails again, so Jeff and Jim went back to work and created not one, but three new trails (with an additional super extreme trail being created by the Grand Mesa Jeep Club).  The three new trails are Dropkick, a loop called S&M (named for Stevens and Molter), a short connecting trail named Blackout, and the extreme trail Smashing Pumpkins.

Squeezing through one of the tight spots on Dropkick

Squeezing through one of the tight spots on Dropkick

Dropkick is a lot of fun, with several challenging obstacles, including crawling over large boulders, fitting through some tight rock squeezes, hugging the edge of a 10 foot drop off, and one nice steep rock wall to climb.  It is also now one of the longest trails in Area BFE.

Our group consisted of Chris and Tara Bolos and clan, Ben and Kamille Billingsley, and Tyler Jones, plus myself; and since my CJ still isn’t back I was bumming a ride in the Bronco again.  Since Dropkick is so new, I’d bet we were one of the first 10 or so vehicles to drive it.  There is a lot of loose dirt on this trail, and many of the rocks break very easily, so it will be interesting to see how this trail changes as it is used more frequently; and in several spots that trail changed just from our passing.

The first part of the trail went well, with a few good, fun obstacles.  We then stopped for lunch, and had our obligatory lunchtime fire where cheesy weenies were grilled and eaten.  I however had lime

Cheesy weenies or lime spritzed shrimp, you choose

spritzed shrimp and vinegared cucumbers; Misty and I are on a diet to try to lose some weight, so I’m restricted to only 500 calories per day, thus my interesting trail lunch.  After lunch we finished Dropkick, and decided to run the S&M loop.  About half way down we ran into Jeff and Jim who had been out doing work on the trail.  Jeff, who was just about to start Blackout (a 100 yard trail which connects S&M to Dropkick) but his Suzuki wouldn’t start because of some kind of electrical issue.  So we decided to give Blackout a try.

Ben on the first obstacle of Blackout

Tara went in first, with me riding passenger.  The first obstacle is a huge rock you must put your passenger side tires up on tipping you heavily towards the driver side; she got through that okay, but the second obstacle, where you put your driver side tires on then must make a hard left turn, hung her up.  Chris jumped in to try to get the Bronco unstuck, after flailing around for several minutes, the Bronco all of a sudden died and wouldn’t restart.  After spending nearly an hour trying to get the Bronco running again, we decided it was a useless cause and we need to winch the Bronco out, then take her back to the trailer and home where she could more easily be worked on.  Sounds simple right?  Unfortunately it wasn’t so.  Ben came around top and hooked up a winch line, but because of the angle we were at, and the fact that we had a large rock on our driver side, when Ben started winching instead of going forward we were pulled sideways, up on two wheels, then over on our side.  As Chris called it, we experienced a “winch induced role.”

Trying to work around the second obstacle on Blackout

The recovery was interesting, necessitating the use of both Ben’s winch, and Tyler’s.  Eventually the Bronco was righted and as the sun was disappearing over the horizon, the Bronco was slowly but steadily winched the remaining 50 yards up the trail.  After reaching the top of Blackout we were back to the relative safety of Dropkick.  By this time it was full dark, and it was decided that rather than trying to drag the dead Bronco the mile or two back to the trailer, it would be easier to leave it overnight and return the following day.  This was a bitter pill for Chris and Tara to swallow as they had never left their beloved Bronco on the trail overnight alone before; as Chris said, “I’d rather leave Bjorn (their 13-year-old son) out here than the Bronco!”

Extracting my gimpy self from our, “winch induced role”

Long story short, although it may be too late, the Bronco was left, but Chris, Ben, and Tyler returned early the next morning, and after some fiddling with wires under the dash, the Bronco fired up and was driven back to the trailer.  Chris definitely agrees that a little bit of a rewiring is desperately needed in the relative near future.

All in all, we had a great day, with good friends, good food, good wheeling, and we got to experience a brand-new trail.  In my opinion, you can’t ask for much more than that from a Saturday in February!

As you may remember from my previous blog, Reopening Coyote Canyon (http://moabdave.com/2011/10/03/reopening-coyote-canyon/), the Moab Friends for Wheelin’ has been trying for several years now to get the iconic Coyote Canyon trail reopened.  There has been two different public comment periods, and literally years of deliberation by the BLM.  Well finally a decision has been reached, and Coyote Canyon is to be reopened.  But, and that is a huge but, they’re going to be some restrictions, MAJOR restrictions.

From the BLM’s environmental Assessment (EA), here is a list of the restrictions which we must obey in order to be able to use the trail:

  • The trail must be reserved with the BLM in order to run it. You will need to get a permit (free) at the BLM office, and they will give you the combination to a locked gate at the trail.
  • Only seven rigs per day allowed.
  • No motorcycles, ATVs, or UTVs are permitted.
  • It will be open on Friday and Saturday only, and will be closed for a couple of months during the winter.
  • Vehicles can only be on the trail between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
  • The Moab Friends for Wheelin’ will need to install all of the signs, fences, gates and whatever else as stipulated before the trail can be opened.

So yes, technically the trail is open, but I for one am not happy about the overbearing stipulations.

For those who aren’t familiar with the Moab Friends for Wheelin’ (MFFW), we are a group of friends who decided to form a four wheeling club back in 2005 with the focus being fun and responsible 4-wheel drive recreation.  We also work very closely with the local land agencies, as well as doing numerous service projects for local groups and charities.  One of our major focuses has been to have a close relationship with the local BLM office so we can help them on projects which are mutually beneficial to us both.  Since the founding of our club we have literally done thousands of hours of service to help upkeep, maintain, improve, clean up, and help keep open our local trails.  Many of these hours of service have been at the direct request of the BLM for various projects they have asked us to do.

I guess that’s part of my frustration with these overbearing stipulations, is that it feel as a club we have been very accommodating to do the things that BLM has asked us, even sometimes things we didn’t particularly want to do.  And with the MFFW being the ones responsible for petitioning the BLM for the reopening of Coyote Canyon, I feel like we were not treated fairly.  I feel we have bent over backwards to do the projects they have asked us to do, but when we ask them to re-open a trail that should never have been closed, we’d get, as I feel, a slap in the face.

I could see maybe one or two of the stipulations, but all of them is ridiculous!  There is no precedent in this area for restrictions like this on BLM land.  So much of this decision was based on the opinions of the few, in fact, during one public comment period 398 comments were received; and of those only 9 comments opposed the reopening of the Canyon!  So much for the will of the people in government bureaucracy!  Ironically the week that the BLM’s decision came out, I received an invitation on my Facebook profile to meet together at a local Moab mountain bike shop because they were going to build a new trail north of town.  Mountain bikers seemed to get just about whatever they want around here, but the “evil” motorized users get screwed!

Am I excited about the possibility of running the trail again, absolutely!  But boy do I feel like we were given the short end of the stick on this one, despite all that we do, and have done for the BLM.

The entire Environmental Assessment can be seen here: https://www.blm.gov/ut/enbb/files/11-0149.pdf

My wife, Misty, and I met on the internet, yeah we are one of those couples.  I was living in Moab at the time so I typed into the dating site’s search engine to look for girls in Moab.  One entry came back, a girl named Misty who was moving to Moab to be closer to her best friend and help take care of her daughter.  So I sent Misty a message, and said when she got in town to give me a call and we could get together.  This started a conversation between the two of us and we chatted online, and over the phone for about two months before she moved out here.

Anyway, to make a long story short, Misty moved out here the first week of February, 2009.  It took us until the 14th to get together (Yes, Valentine’s Day, although neither of us realized it at the time).  That night we met at the Moab Brewery, one of my favorite local restaurants.  For some reason, still unknown to me, Misty decided she needed to bring reinforcements with her to dinner, so she was accompanied by her best friend Dawn, Dawn’s eight-year-old daughter Lizzy, and Dawn’s boyfriend.  Misty and her entourage had arrived a few minutes before I did, so when I pulled into the handicapped spot in my bright orange ‘68 Jeepster Commando, Misty immediately knew it was me.  We hugged each other, and I was introduced to the entourage.  Dinner was great, and we all had a wonderful time.

Later that night, we ran into a group of my Jeeping friends who said they were planning on running the Fins and Things trail the next day, and invited me to come along.  So I ask Misty if she would like to go with; Dawn and Lizzy were also invited as it seemed the three of them were a package deal, at least in the beginning.

The four of us met the next morning and headed out for the trail, to meet up with the rest of our group.  Arriving at the trailhead, we decided that since I didn’t have seatbelts in the back of the Commando, that it would be better for Dawn and Lizzy to ride with somebody else.  This was a bonus to me because it gave me my first opportunity to spend time alone with Misty.

To backtrack a little bit, Misty was not new to four wheeling, in fact she owned and heavily modified a Suzuki Samurai which she often took out on the trails back around her home in northern Colorado.  But this would be her first time on Moab slickrock, an experience nobody ever forgets.

The scenery on the Fins & Things trail

The trail went great!  Misty and I had a good time to talk and chat.  At one of the first obstacles Misty and I got out of my Jeep and were watching other people, I hugged her, and during the hug she leaned forward and gave me a kiss.  Our first kiss was on the trail, how appropriate!  Later that day, I ask Misty if I could have a drink out of her water bottle, as mine was in the back and I couldn’t reach it.  I didn’t realize this was a major faux pas, but as I later learned Misty doesn’t share drinks with ANYBODY.  She reluctantly agreed and handed me her water bottle, I being ignorant of the sin I was committing against her.  But true to her mantra, she didn’t touch the water bottle for the rest of the day.

After lunch the group decided that instead of only doing the first half the trail as we originally planned, we would do the entire trail.  This was fine with us, but my only concern was I only had about a half a tank of gas left, but with a 25 gallon gas tank, half a tank should still be plenty.  So onward we went.

Now for those of you that have never run Fins and Things, towards the end of the trail is one of the most famous obstacles of the trail, Kenny’s Climb.  It is a very, very steep slick rock climb which you drive straight up for about 30 feet before it again levels out.  Now I’ve driven Kenny’s Climb a bunch of times, with no problem, in fact it even driven down Kenny’s Climb.  So I start up the climb not thinking too much about it, Misty was a little bit nervous as this is her first major obstacle in Moab, but she’s doing fine.

Surveying the damage, if you look close you can see where my hand is, my solid steel bumper has been pushed about 4 inches from hitting the rock!

I get about two thirds of the way up win all of the sudden the Commando sputters and dies; in that fraction of a second it flashed through my mind that my fuel pickup is in the front of my gas tank, and on such a steep hill all of my gas has sloshed to the back of my gas, tank so therefore my fuel pump is only pulling in air.  Not a good situation to be in at such a steep angle.  With the loss of engine power, I also lose the use of power brakes, and my brakes without the extra boost from the engine are not sufficient to hold me on such a steep hill.  So down we come, quickly!

We are slowed down when my rear bumper crashes into the rock behind us, literally breaking off a large chunk of sandstone.  We finally come to a stop after the ground

Kenny’s Climb, take 2. It feels MUCH steeper than it looks!

leveled out.  I look over at Misty, and she is somewhat shaken but states that she is otherwise okay.  I got out to survey the damage and found that there was nothing major, so I decided to save face in front of my new girlfriend and tried the Climb again.  Despite the fact that part of her seat had torn through the floor, Misty was determined enough to ride up with me again.  The second time went much more smoothly, with me giving it more gas to make sure it didn’t die.  We reached the top this time, unhurt and unscathed.

All of this happened three years ago today.  After finally convincing Misty that Jeeps were better than Suzukis, and forgiving her for her past Suzuki fondness, and after one night when out of the blue she unintentionally proposed to me, we decided to get married.  We’ve now been married for 2 1/2 years, and couldn’t be happier!

P.S. Misty often times claims that I am stuck with her because I only found one person in the Moab area to date, I on the other hand claim that all I needed was one because she was the right one!

Misty and I got married on October 1, 2009.  Our wedding present from my parents was a cruise down the west coast of Mexico the following May.  Misty and I were so excited, as neither of us had ever been on a cruise before, but had always wanted to.  It was both of our first times to Mexico, and we looked forward to seeing some of the country and exploring the region.

Enjoying our Jeep Safari

After leaving Los Angeles, our first stop of the seven-day cruise was Cabo San Lucas.  Misty and I had made up our minds that we wanted to take advantage of the various onshore activities which were available to us in each of our three ports of call.  Looking at the options in Cabo, we saw one called “Jeep Safari,” as you can imagine this instantly piqued my interest.  Looking more into it we found that it was a six hour tour through the desert of Baja California, with lunch at a local orphanage, and including a drive along the beach before returning to town.  It sounded perfect, so we signed up.

My Mexican Jeeping twin, Paul

We arrived at the meeting spot, and found that we were one of six couples going on the tour.  We also met our tour guide for the day, Paul.  He was an awesome guy!  I didn’t expect to meet a Mexican version of me, but I’m pretty sure Paul and I are kindred spirits with our mutual love of Jeeps!  You could tell that for him this was more than just a job, he loved Jeeping, and was just thrilled to be able to drive them and get paid for it!  It was kind of funny because that day I chose to wear a shirt from the 2009 Jeep Safari, when Paul saw it, he said, “Hey, this is also called Jeep Safari.”  I explained to him that where I lived we also had a large event every year called Jeep Safari.  He asked where that was, and I responded Moab, Utah.  All of the sudden his eyes got huge, and he said, “You guys are from THE Moab?  I watched all the videos online of Jeeping in THE Moab, I would love to go there!”  He was extremely excited.  I told him briefly of my various Jeeps, and Jeeping experiences, he was duly impressed.

Driving part of the Baja 1000

We were driving 2008 Jeep Wrangler two-door JKs with the six speed manual transmission.  The way the tour worked is one person from each couple would drive to the orphanage, and another person from the other couple would drive back to town.  I was elected to drive first, which to be honest started out a little bit interesting as it had been a while since I had driven a manual, and it took me a little while to get back into the groove of it; and I might’ve killed at a time or two on the way out of town.  Maybe.

We wound our way through town, on mostly dirt roads, in what appeared to be a very poor part of town, but later we concluded most of the town looked that way.  Soon we found ourselves in a sandy wash surrounded by cactuses, brush, random cows, occasional palm trees, and supposedly abundant iguanas, although I never saw any.  At one of our stops along the way, Paul announced to us that we were driving along the very last 10 miles of the Baja 1000.  I can now honestly say that I’ve driven part of the Baja 1000, how cool is that!

At the beach

The little town we stopped in which had the orphanage, was a very cute little town with extremely friendly people, including one ex-patriot lady originally from Oregon who allowed us to look around her property, home, and outbuildings.  She was very gracious, and loved living where she was in a simplistic stress-free life.  Lunch was quesadillas with a side of refried beans, and was very tasty.

After lunch we switched drivers, and the husband of the other couple drove down this windy canyon road with some beautiful views along the way.  Eventually we ended up on this incredible sandy beach, where we spent some time playing around and taking pictures.  From there it was back to town where we had about an hour to kill before returning to the cruise ship.

One of my favorite pictures which Misty took

It was an awesome day, we saw incredible sights, met some wonderful people, and did all of this while getting to drive jeeps across Baja Mexico.  Can’t get much better than that!

To see all the pictures from our Cabo Jeeping trip, look here:

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