Three days of off roading with a great couple of friends.
I've been going on off road adventures for years. It started with meeting other internet forum nerds who had Honda Pilots & Odysseys back in the mid '90s. We'd all pick a spot to go play and then meet up. Our biggest gathering was almost forty people from three (or was it four?) different countries in Coal Creek, Tennessee. Over the years many of us became good friends and have stayed in touch long after the forums have moved on to internet never-never land.
My friend Steve, a.k.a. OddyKnuck on the forums, who I've ridden with quite a bit over the years hit me up one afternoon a few months back.
"Hey, you ever been to Moab?"
"No, it's on our (my wife Robyn and I) bucket list of places to take the RZR. Why?"
"You're going in October."
Steve proceeds to tell me that he's coming west from Ohio with his wife, Jeanne and their Canned Ham XP Turbo RXPCZwhatever (unsure of proper designation - I pay no attention anymore) and that he's wanting to go play in Moab. Being the smart guy Steve is, he knows it's safer traveling in packs (I could pick on him here and tell the story of some sudden suspension item removal...) and he knows I'm actually within a reasonable distance. I'm also the only one he knows anywhere out this direction.
I'm in. A quick conference with my wife and she's in too. Cool, we're going to Moab, the supposed Mecca of off roading here in the United States. (where's my little American flag emoji?) Plans are made, dates are set and two full hookup spots are secured in the campground. We're set. This will also be a fantastic way to really put the new Gayzer through it's paces.
Saturday, Oct 14th rolls around and we head off on an eight hour drive. Should have left two hours earlier but oh well. We made it with no issues (my truck didn't throw its normal ECL on the hill after Sedona! YAY!!! &$%# DEF crap.) The drive is beautiful. We start in the desert of Phoenix, surrounded by cacti head north to the pines in Flagstaff and then head out through the high desert of north eastern Arizona where the Road Runner/Coyote cartoon backgrounds came from. Ever see Forrest Gump? Remember the scene where he's running along with all the minions following him and he just stops and says "I'm done"? Yeah, that scenery, it's spectacular. It got dark on us as we headed up the eastern border of Utah so we couldn't see the sights but it doesn't change a lot other than having more vegetation.
We arrive after dark, the campground has changed our location (not happy about this - we'd made reservations months back and were within a couple of spots of each other). I back into what I'm thinking is our spot and start to get things in order. Where are the hook ups? There's no power, water, septic, just a cable tv box. What the heck? I go wandering a bit. Oh, that's the issue, I've tried to park in spot "zero", spot 2 is two over on the other side of spot 1 and I'm in the wrong place. A few twenty seven point turns later and I've got the toy hauler in its place. We get hooked up, settled in and call it an evening. Steve and I have plans to go snag a trailer in the morning that will fit his Canned Ham two seater and our four seat Gayzer to move our rides from the RV campground to the trail heads. Steve's not street legal (he lives in Ohio - they FROWN at anything being street legal. Trust me, I know... Still have the ticket on my wall in my shop from the DezTaz days) and one of the trail heads is close to twenty miles away. It's easier to just trailer to them.
Somewhere in Wiley's World
We get up Sunday morning (Oct 15th), go snag the trailer, head back to the RV campground, get the off road rides loaded up and head off to our first adventure in Moab. We've chosen Sand Flats Road with Hell's Revenge and Slickrock trails as our first location to go see what we could see. It's one of the more well known routes plus Steve's got a book with him that describes the different trails well. It's written by a Jeep guy so a couple of the things he considered double black diamond were just black diamond trails for us in the UTVs. It's amazing where a modern, off the showroom floor, UTV will go.
We have probably somewhere in the range of sixteen thousand miles behind the wheel of a RZR. We've been all over the country checking out where ever we could so we've seen quite a bit of different terrain and scenery. This was similar to quite a few of the areas out here in the west but also very new. I've never seen rocks quite like this before. It's almost like someone fossilized the sand dunes. The terrain is actually quite smooth and has a well defined blue groove showing where the trail goes. There are also little white stripes that are about a foot long or yellow arrows that are about a foot wide painted every few yards. It's really hard not to follow the trail.
Right off the bat Robyn and I are impressed with what we're seeing. Doesn't take long for us to get into the first obstacle, though. The road gets rough and rocky (similar in spots to Crown King, a favorite destination here in Arizona) and we have to do some low range 4x4 crawling up a couple of ledges. That was cool. I wonder what's around the next corner? A few more rocky sections and ledges to traverse. I'm impressed with the grip level. This stuff's like driving on sand paper. (maybe because it's sandstone?)
Another big plus about this terrain, at least on this day, is the lack of dust. Robyn and I are used to going out solo so we're not eating people's dust. This was a big bonus for us as Steve's Canned Ham wasn't kicking up much at all and there was just enough of a breeze that the air was nice and clean.
I'm not really sure how far it is to Hell's Gate from where we started. Maybe four miles? I'm kinda guessing watching the Relive video.
It took us about forty five minutes (I love time stamps on photos!) from the time we first got onto the Sand Flats Road until we arrived at Hell's Gate. The speeds were quite slow as we traveled along enjoying the scenery and crawling along over the different terrain. I've not left the XP in low 4x4 for a trip before.
We actually didn't realize we were at Hell's Gate. We came over a small rise and there were a group of off road vehicles sitting at the top of a ridge off to the right and there were probably a dozen or so people sitting off to the left spectating. Huh, I wonder what this is all about? We stopped, got out and started looking around. Didn't take us long at all to realize where we were and what was going on.
We joined the spectators and watched for a few minutes. The first vehicle that we saw come up was a well modified jeep (it's the vehicle in the last part of the video). A heavily modified Ford Ranger comes up afterwards - they were running together. The driver of the Ranger hops out and says something along the line of 'that was even easier the second time'. We then watched a bone stock Chevy pickup come up this supposedly gnarly passage.
Hmmm... This seems easy enough. Looks gnarly but doesn't look bad. I talk to a couple of people about it and then comes an XP4 (what we have) up the trail. It just cruises up without any drama at all. Robyn, who's been sitting behind me watching, taps me on the shoulder and says "Okay, let's go do this thing." I was getting ready to turn to her and say the same thing as she tapped me.
Steve and Jeanne were sitting there with us and were onboard. It was time to take on the mighty Hell's Gate. We loaded up and drove over to the entrance where all the other vehicles were parked, watching the show.
The drop in was actually more exciting than the climb out. There's one shelf at the top that you can't see over. It's a drive of faith over the edge. It drops away and then transitions into the smooth sandstone that we've been driving on, heading down into the turn around area.
We drop in then wait on Steve and Jeanne to come on down and join us. We all get to the bottom and then head over to the climb out. I get lined up, step on the fun pedal and off we go. The XP4 is a goat. It just climbs right up without any issues. Steve follows us up.
Another Off Road box checked off. We've done Hell's Revenge.
After the fun we headed back to the Sand Flats road loop and continued on around back to where the trail split off into the loop then back to the parking area (I believe the downhill is what they call Slick Rock but don't hold me to that).
Our total time off roading was 1:17 to go a whopping 10 miles. We averaged 7.7 miles per hour which is way lower than our usual pace of around twenty to twenty five miles per hour. I'm usually bored to death with slow stuff (the old racer in me says "GO!") but this was new and fun. I'm really glad we've done this and it's only the first day. I believe we were out for about four hours total. We'd gotten a slightly later start than planned (had to go get the transport trailer) and we had three dogs and a cat back at the toy hauler that needed attention so it was time to call it a day.
Relive 'Sandy Flats to Hell’s Gate, Moab'
We headed back to the RV park, got settled in, had a nice dinner (thank you Ladies!) and then sat around the camp fire and chatted for a couple of hours. We also decided that we'd take on Poison Spider tomorrow. Plans were made, plans were laid. Time for the night nap.
Monday the 16th we're up and ready to leave the RV park by 10:00a. We wanted to get an earlier start so we had more time to explore plus it was about a twenty minute drive to the Poison Spider trail head. The drive there was beautiful so the drive in the stuff should be incredible. Moab's not been a disappointment yet. We parked, unloaded and started off down the trails.
It didn't take long to require a pull over for a photo-op. We also found some really interesting stuff to climb.
After a couple of hours of fun it was decided that lunch was needed. So what do you do when you're out in the middle of nowhere? Stop and have lunch! The views were wonderful.
Lunch time view at the Giant Pothole
We'd run the Golden Spike trail up to the top of Sand Hill and then decided it was time to head back. We ran down the hill and noticed off to the right a large cavernous recess in the rocks. There were a group of off roaders just leaving so we decided to inspect. This place is impressive. Steve decided to attempt a climb up the wall where all the tyrah (Appalachian for tire. There's a long backstory to this word) marks were. He proceeded to make a bunch of blue smoke then finally get up over the ridge.
We worked our way back to the parking area and called it a day. I did have to laugh at the parking lot tango we played with a young woman and her jeep. She kept trying to park out of our way but not illegally. Nope, we had to get her to move three times. No brains at times. I'm trying to maneuver a 24 foot long trailer out of the parking area and she's clueless.
By the time we got back to the RV park we'd been gone about six and a half hours. That makes for just about a perfect day of off roading. The stuff we saw today was more intense than yesterday's ride but nothing that was overboard or terribly hard to tackle. We made it 18.8 miles and averaged exactly the same 7.7 miles per hour as the day before. Relive doesn't keep time track of non-movement so I don't have the exact amount of time we were out on the trail (taking time stamps from my pix).
Relive 'Poison Spider Trail, Moab'
Once we were back at the RV park I posted a few pix on Facebook. One of my friends from Ohio, who now lives in Salt Lake City, responds back fairly quickly: "One of my favorite places. What other trials did you guys ride? Metal Masher?"
Metal Masher, eh? That sounds interesting, maybe? Our little camp of four went off to dinner at a place called 'The Sunset Grill' had discussion on where to go tomorrow and Metal Masher sounded like it would be as good as anything else, plus it came recommended so why not? We called it an evening with Metal Masher as the go to for tomorrow.
Tuesday, Oct. 17th we're up and on the road by 10:00a. Metal Masher's about fifteen minutes away. We park the truck and unload the UTVs. Time to see just what Dean's getting us into.
The first part of Metal Masher was really tame. Pretty much just a two lane dirt road that wound through the mountains. We'd stop and take pix and Steve was seeming pretty bored with the road (Robyn and I were enjoying the smooth versus the previous two days' beating).
And then we came to the signs...
|This looks like it could be interesting and I think we've found the terrain that Steve & Jeanne want to run in. It's listed in Steve's book as high on the difficulty rating and it has a couple of interesting looking options, especially Gemini Bridges. We headed off towards Rock Chucker.
It doesn't take long to understand why this is called Metal Masher. This terrain is rough and tough. Lots of shelves, lots of slow crawls, lots of elevation change.
Robyn and I have had our RZR in some interesting places. We've been through some really challenging stuff but I've never had as much challenge in such a short time as this loop. It's throwing everything at us. By the time we got to the area known as Rock Chucker I was ready to throw in the towel if it got any worse. Yes, I was weenieing out. I'm just not hard core anymore.
The hardest part on us was bottoming the chassis on the ledges. Steve's in a two seat Canned Ham. It's got a short wheelbase, comparatively. Our XP4 on the other hand, has a lot of real estate between the front and rear tyrahs. The geometry of it all makes it so that the majority of belly flops onto the ledges and shelves is directly located under the front seats. This drives the thumps right up through your back (and we have comfy aftermarket suspension seats - can't imagine what stockers would have been like). We did have one moment that made both of us blurt out "OH SHIT!" when climbing at an angle up a fairly tall ledge. I got the left front up on the ridge, the right front follows and then the right rear drops into a small hole. I felt the entire chassis unload and start to lean back and to the right. The last time I felt this we ended up laying on our side. There's a picture of that in one of this website's pages. I wasn't going to let it happen again.
WHEN IN DOUBT GAS IT!
I stabbed the fun pedal to the floor and instead of lurching back and maybe over onto our side the XP just sort of leapt up on the shelf and sat there on all four wheels. Whew! Dodged that bullet. I was glad that this was now past the worst area and looping back towards Gemini Bridges Road. We decided that skipping the Widow Maker loop was a good decision. It think that by this time even Steve and Jeanne were starting to get tired of the beating we've taken over the past three days and especially the last couple of hours.
As I keep saying, the area is spectacular for scenery. We crawled along taking it all in and enjoying the smooth sections when we came across them. I'm tired and beaten, as is Robyn. We finally come to the intersection we'd crossed by earlier in the day and took the turn that lead to the Gemini Bridges.
We got to the bridges, wandered around and took in the area (very cool!). We had to make the obligatory walk across both of the bridges. Once done with the tourista activities it was time to throw out the blanket and have ourselves a little lunch.
It was a long way over the edge! About six seconds of fall time according to the rock that happened to jump to it's death whilst I was there... Who knows, it may have been pushed.
After lunch we headed back to the parking area, loaded up and called it a day. I got a kick out of Robyn the last mile or so of the ride. We're up on a very high cliff wall and out of the passenger's side is a spectacular view of the area around us. I'm already conscious of the drop off so I'm hanging to the left side of the road, up against the cliff wall that the road traverses. I'd hear over the intercom on occasion "Stay left." Yeah, no worries, that's exactly what I'm doing. I don't wanna fall over either.
All in all we spent about four hours out playing in Moab for our last day. This trip was just under twenty eight miles and the travel time was two hours and twenty minutes. We averaged almost four miles per hour faster at 11.5 mph versus the last two days of 7.7 mph. The two track to and from the obstacles allowed for faster travel. The dust was a lot thicker too so Robyn and I hung back a bit to stay out of the crusty boogie producing air.
We made it back to the truck, loaded up and headed back to the RV park to get cleaned up, have a bite for dinner and then get ready to head out the following morning for an eightish hour drive home.
Steve and I took the trailer back to the rental place after unloading the UTVs and the ladies. I backed it into its spot and Steve's decided he'll walk up to the office to let them know we're returning it. As I'm getting it unhooked a guy in a golf cart comes up beside me, hops out and starts inspecting the trailer. Hey, just the guy Steve went to find. He and I have a little conversation about the world and Steve comes back, huffing a bit about the thin air. He also sees the Office Guy and kinda laughs "I was just up there looking for you!" Office Guy says all is good and we need to head on up to the office to finish up the paperwork. I look at Steve and ask "You walking up again?"
"Are you kidding me? NO!"
I look over at Office Guy as he's getting into his golf cart and say "Hey Steve, he's got an open seat. You can ride with him if you want." The look I got was great.
"I'm NOT walking back!" We drove on up to the office. hehehe
As stated in the beginning of this tale, Moab had been on the Bucket List of places to go. I do believe we'll be going back. In the three days we were there we just started to scratch what's out there.
Thank you again Steve and Jeanne for inviting us (well, more like telling us) to go ride with you. I'll do it again any time you're in the area. Come on down here to our neck of the woods and we'll show you our beautiful back yard. We'll have to get that Crown King trip in. The burgers at the Saloon are worth the ride.
One sad note: We've traveled all over the country in our camper and we've always had our dogs and cat with us. They're great travelers. The two girls are both around five and then the old guy, Luke, would have been sixteen on October 31st of this year. His health has been failing for the past year or so (his brother's been gone 5 yrs) and we've wondered how long he'd hang around.
We put Luke (and our deaf cat Helen) in a pet stroller and push them around the different camp grounds we've stayed in. I always fought the idea of pushing dogs in a stroller but once the old guy got to the point of not being able to go much farther than a block or so I gave into Robyn's whim of the stroller. Turns out it's pretty nice and makes life easier. (Yes Steve, I admit it again!)
We've made comments to Luke the past few times about making it through another trip and have wondered when he'd take his last adventure with us. Turns out that this was it.
We got back home on Wednesday the 18th and Luke decided it was time to go be with his brother Ali about 9:30a on Sunday, October 22, 2023. You were a good little dog, buddy. You'll be missed.Return Home