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aka: my half-asses story on my trip to Moab

In June of 2003, I took the wife and kids to Moab, Utah. I warned the wife that I would be returning in the future. This is the story of the preparation and execution.

A couple of guys began talking about a trip to Moab between thanksgiving and Christmas of 2005. The consensus was to go just after the summer heat. Maybe catch it when it ain't too hot... not too cool. Eventually, September of '06 was settled on. The dates were later cast as the weekend of 9-9-06. It was January '06 when the plans began to take shape. I spoke with the wife and told that I thought that this was it. Do or die. I think the way I put it... nicely... was I was going, and she was welcome to accompany me. Sounds harsh as I read what I said... but I think the actual execution was the key to avoiding a beat-down (me being beat down).

I looked at the ZJ sitting in the yard... covered in dried leaves, spider webs, dust and grass clippings. Things happened at the worst possible times. The tranny going out... things wearing out... all that 'wheeling was catching up with me. I had removed the Loc-rite from the D35 because it was just too damned loud. I knew this time, I was going with spare shafts, so lockers were on the menu. I found a fellow member of Quadratec selling an Aussie Locker for the D30. I got that and held on to it or several months before replacing the grenaded XJ HPd30 with a '94 ZJ D30. When I settled on regearing, I installed the Aussie Locker. Works great! I like it. I scanned ebay and found a Trac-lock OEM Jeep Limited Slip diff for the D35. I got it at a good price and installed it. Funny thing. When I actually reset the gears, they are now quieter and run better than before!

I recently (as of early August '06) had to hook the winch to one of our fire trucks that found itself in a ditch. The confines of the dirt road left 3 wraps of cable on the drum. I ended up with two more bad flat spots on the cable that I was not comfortable with. I replaced the cable with Viking Winch Line from Quadratec. I also ordered up a VIAIR 450c and install kit. I do alot of shopping before settling on that one... but I liked what I read and what I heard. I had a 2 gallon tank from a Cambell/Hausfeild unit that the pump had failed on. With the install kit and the tank, I set up an onboard air system. Not too bad. I miss the York system I did on a previous Jeep ('73 CJ5). It spoiled me.

Welp. I went. I left the house on Sept 3rd at the urging of the wife. I arrived in Moab at about lunch time on the 5th. 2 and a half days driving. 8-)
I got to play around in the area and do some things that I had not gotten to do my first trip. I spent my first day in town exploring a loal road.. Onion Creek road. It ends at Rose Garden Hill trail. I rode it a short distance. This is important to note... as I was driving Lori's Tahoe. I shot a littel video, nothing special. Onion Creek Rd is just that. It is a maintained road. It is navigable in your aunt's Tercel. There are lots of areas for camping in the rough... or you can haul your camper in to most of it. The funny part of it? I had gotten a tripod on the way to Moab. I shot several little videos on the trails as I drove through in the Tahoe. That night, I posted the funniest little video. Truth be told.. I knew I would break the ZJ. It was just a matter of "when". I drove the Tahoe on some easy stuff just to preserve the ZJ. Anyone who knew I was there was expecting to see the ZJ bustin the trails... was surprised to see the Tahoe. You can see that here.

The next day, I searched for and found the Mi-Vida mine that Charlie Steen founded. This is rumored to have been the true beginning of the mining surge... and putting Moab forever on the map.

I rode the area with the aid of some information provided by this write-up. I found this initially in a magazine. I dont recall which one. It could have been FOURWHEELER magazine... I don't recall for sure. When I posted about it on the Quadratec Forum, I was provided the listed link. I found that it was indeed the one I had been searching for.

The "trail" was easy. It is reachable with a capable 2wd vehicle, since it is a degraded paved road. If you have great ground clearance and a limited slip, you can get right up near the mine site with careful navigation. There are severl washouts and the road is covered with fallen rocks that have slid down from the ligher ground. The road in is still used for local natural gas operations. The road is no longer maintained past the last site on the road, which is in eye sight and walking distance of the mine if you so desired. Fear not, but the mine entrance is caved in right behins the old mine cars. I could see an opening near the top of the "cave-in" where critters slip in an out. I took a couple of wuick shots and backed out.

Once that was done, I set out to explore the local "trails". Some are quite interesting. A few lead up to the top of the mesas in the area. I got out there shortly after 10AM and left, getting back into town around lunch time... or a little after. Dont recall.

I met up with UtahJeepster (Steve), one of the few members who was arriving Thursday. I had inadvertently given Tinknocker (Jeff and Carrol) my old cell phone number, so we missed them that evening. (sorry again, guys) That afternoon, we went out and ran a portion on Cliff Hanger. I had a pretty decent time, and between riding the area off the end of Steen's Road and Cliff Hanger, I was ready for the carnage that I knew would end my weekend of fun short.

The following pics were taken by Steve on Cliff Hanger.

Friday afternoon came, and the meeting at the City Market was initiated at about 1PM. I made my arrival ... um shall we say "Fasionably Late"? When I got there, I made contact with Paul (PB2). I had a chance to meet him at another run back in 2002, at Attica Indiana. I also met Yzergod for the first time in person. The list continued, with IBJEEPIN, IH8PVMNT and Longboy, UofA TJ, and several others. The blend was pretty neat. A rental LWB TJ, my ZJ, an XJ, a YJ and the rest, TJs... plus one heavily modded "YJ". Also in attendance were two friends of Steve's, one in a TJ and another in a freshly modded ZJ running a long arm system.

Off we went to hit Fins-N-Things.

On the way we passed Lion's Back... which after looking at it, I wasn't that impressed, really. I wasn't going to pay to go up it....
Anyways. We got trail-side and stopped so those that hadn't could air down and disconnect their swaybars. I immediately noted that I was about to 'wheel with some guys with good experience. All of us had installed discos on the front swaybars. Many inexperienced offroaders fail to do this. This essentialy eliminates the ability of the suspension to flex. Once we were all set, onto the trail.

We did the whole trail... I guess you could say the "bottom" and the "top"?.... the actual terms escape me at this moment. We shot some beautiful pictures. I got some decent video of the guys hitting the near verticle inclines. I got another Jeeper to shoot some video of me riding up and pretty good incline with a sharp left at the top of the slickrock. The video turned out great, and with a perfect position of the sun behind me, it set up an awesome still shot. We lumbered on to the end of the trail, and at the urging of several of us, we went to Potato Salad Hill.

I had seen this in SOOOOOooooooo many pictures and videos that it was just sickening. I had seen alot of rollover footage. Some of it highly publicised. Once I got there, I saw that it really wasn't all that bad, except right at the top... which just happens to be where the action starts. Steve wanted to give it a shot in his TJ. He runs ARB lockers front and rear with long arms.... and I think 33's. Anyway. He took a line to the right of center, and settled on cutting to the left once near the top. From what I had seen on the videos and pictures, this is a no-no. ....and Steve found out, because he honestly came very close to rolling. He took the strap over the top. HERE is a video of Steve's run. It is closer that it looks.

Tinknocker (Jeff) took a run at it. Jeff's extended wheelbase, and large tires made short work of it. He took two runs on it. The first run, he bounced at the top alot, and the rig shifted left... but the tires caught and it crawled up. On his second run, he used what he had learned, and the "YJ" flew up the obstacle on nearly the same line. Nice job! HERE is his run.

So. I opted to take the ZJ up it. I went up with a simple view. The ZJ has no cage. Any rollover, and the ZJ is toast. This obstacle has claimed many rigs, and I did not intend to junk my rig. I figued that if I couldnt crawl up it, I'd take the strap. A couple of guys watching my climb said that I nearly got it, but the right rear dropped in a hole and the way the top is, I just couldn't make it. The front tires clawed up, then slipped off... to the left. Someone tried to get me to take that line to the left, but I wasn't gonna try that. Too risky. Unless I backed down, I wouldn't be able to shift the rear over enough to make that line I had intented, so I took the strap. Another guy with us... Randall.... he has a heavily modded TJ with Currie 9" axles front and rear. He tried a similar line I tried, but a little more to the right. No go... he got strapped, too. Both mine and Randall's rigs are fully locked. THIS is my try.
Me running the ZJ up a steep incline.

With that completed, we ambled back into town. We gathered later for some good food, friends and a a brew.

A little ZJ poo before Fins-N-Things. :-)

Poison Spider / Golden Spike / Gold Bar Rim
Trail head of Poison Spider

Saturday, 9-9-06, was to be our longest trail day. We were to run Poison Spider to Golden Spike and then run the Gold Bar Rim out. I was excited to run this one. Poison Spider is the trail that the family ran in 2003. I wanted confirmation that the V-Notch that I ran the ZJ down was in fact "The Wedgie", and I wanted to see how the ZJ would fair on the steep incline that we video taped in 2003. I was pleased to see the trail. The Wedgie was the same obstacle. What was funny, is that in 2003, it seemed more of an uphill run that it is. YZERGOD performed spotting for those that wanted it. I accepted it. Once through, he asked me if I wanted to try an more adventurous line that should get some air under the left front tire. So, I went back for another shot. Right at the end, he had me drop hard left, then hard right, which put the right tires down in a hole. There were a couple of laughs, cause the ZJ just flexed it's way out with all 4 tires in full contact. "Too Much Flex" was the excuse..... ok. I'll accept that. :-)

Below are some pics taken by Longboy on my first ride through.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

The video for the second run, also taken by Longboy is HERE.

Further up the trail, I got to the ledge that the wife had taped for me. The ZJ was running essentially the same lift. The only changes were the limited slip in back and the Aussie Locker up front with the 33's and 4.56 gears. What truly surprised me is that the approach to the obstacle was WAY more difficult. A rock slide had rendered the "easy" line impassable. There is no bypass at this stage. Adding to the difficulty level was the rains that had been falling over the weekend. It took me a second, but I clawed to the top. Once at the base of the incline, I bailed out and carried my video camera up to Carrol and asked her to tape my ride. I expected the ZJ to slip a great deal due to the rain. Several vehicles had tracked wet sand up the rocks, and there was a puddle at the top.

I put the ZJ in gear and pointed it at a part that I recognized as being more difficult than the line I had tried in '03. The ZJ started up, I added throttle. I heard the tires slip a bit on the sand.... but... it clawed up the rock, and right into the puddle at the top. Carrol's quote? "Oh, Sweet!" :-D

Here, You can see the Video Lori shot in June '03.
HERE is the video Carrol Shot. Sept 2006.

From there, the trail gets pretty easy. There were some differnces here and there where the trail had become more difficult, or had become less difficult. I remember in '03 we had driven in to the "Little Arch", but we turned off before then, which broke me away from memories of Lori getting a workout, Chelsey, Amy, Johnathan and Stephen running about, climbing rocks and generally being kids. This blossomed another new branch to the memories. We were headed to The Golden Crack.

Golden Spike is a tough trail. Not the hardest my any means. There are lots of elevation changes with some switchbacks. On a couple of these elevation changes, it takes you over many different layers of earth. Some of these erode away over years and years. Several were more than a foot down. I got to tag my rock rails twice on this trail. The bad part? At some point, BOTH of the bolts which secured my tranny crossmember to the bottom of the ZJ sheared the threads out and fell onto the trail, leaving my crossmamber hanging by the two passenger side bolts. OMG! At this time, Jeff and Carrol were having some trouble with their YJ. It would idle and rev, but would not pull forward.

I dug in my tool bag and found a pair of bolts that would probably hold. Todd (IH8PVMNT) had a small MAP/OX "torch" in his TJ. Funny. I had just bought mine, but it was in the back of the Tahoe at the hotel. I began cutting an access hole with the intentions of putting nuts on the bolts from inside the "frame". I called out and asked if anyone had a welder. (My 90 ampre model was in backof the Tahoe at the hotel.. but it runs on 110v AC anyway) As luck would have it, a couple of guys in another group had a Ready Welder 2. I pulled my Optima, and Jimmy, from the Creepers Jeepers Gang pulled the battery from his Rubi to assist in the welding. After a couple of passes with the unit, I got the crossmember securely welded to the bottom of the ZJ. I had confidence that it would hold fine.

With that out of the way, we carried on. There is was. The Golden Crack. As I got there, Jeff was making an attempt to drive accross it, but the 3.5 mad squirrels just refused to cooperate. He had to get strapped. Sucked, too, 'cause the YJ didn't lift a tire. I watched the others drag accross, and helped UofA TJ get accross in his um... BORROWED "LJ". Then I dove in the ZJ and picked a line that that I knew would work for my longer wheelbase. "Work, How?" YZERGOD wanted to see my ZJ lift a tire. I knew I would on this one. While the ZJ flexes pretty well, it still uses OEM control arms/mounts. (with some adjustments)

I pulled up, and dropped the l/f tire in. I had expected to hear the ARB drag, but it didnt. The l/f tire clawed it's way up, and the r/f dropped into the crack. Once the suspension reached the end of it's flex, the l/r tire lifted... and boy did it lift. I didn't have the best view, but one of the on-lookers said I had about 18" of air under there. I paused for a couple of people to take some pics. Then I started forward. The line I took was on the aggressive side. The r/f tire didn't want to come back up. The l/r was in the air, and useless. The r/r was onthe ground and pushing. The l/f was trying, but it was sliding. I cut the steering wheel to the left. The Front end got a bite and clawed up. This started a teeter-totter, and the left rear dropped in. Again, I paused for some to take gratuitous photos, and clawed out. As the right rear dropped in, I heard a dull scrape. The right rear of the "bumper" had rubbed the crevase. Ofcourse, I posed next to the honorific trail scar. :-)
That said... HERE is the vid Longboy shot for me. No stills. A still would be AWESOME, but the video is just plain killer.

We continued on Golden Spike onto the Gold Bar Rim. While somewhere in between... where exactly, I am not quite sure... I had noticed that the right front tire was rubbing a hell of a lot more than it should have been. I became alarmed when I heard a loud noise... which... I honestly can't describe as anything but a "Dull groan"... or low toned squeak. It came from the right front tire. I stopped. On a quick inspection, I found that a cap had departed from the r/f axle shaft u-joint. All the needle bearings were present at that time. added some tape to the top to retain the guts. This was when I noticed the right front tire. (!!!!) I was missing (!!!!) several of the lugs!

I initiated a full inspection, finding that the pinion angle was WAY off, with the pinion rotated up probably 10 degrees. As it turns out, the control arm mounts had ROLLED BACK! It was obvious that one of the ledges I dropped off of had caused the control arm drop brackets to contact the ground. It was hard enough that the "frame" caved in a little. The support bracing had separated and the the whole assenbly had rotated clockwise. (right front assembly as viewed from the passenger side) This caused the axle to slip backwards. I tried strapping the axle forward, but it would not work. Luckily, the trail was pretty easy. To save all the components, I put the ZJ in 2wd. Only 3 more times did I need 4wd to climb some supper steep ledge. Otherwise, the ZJ impressed me with it's 2wd offroading ability.

Once we lugged in to the trailhead, Randall dropped the strap from Jeff's YJ. I found at that time, that either Carrol and Jeff were going to get a ride in to town to get their truck and trailer. Since I obviously had to drive slow due to the Ujoint and jacked up control arms... I offered to tow them into town. That was accomplished with little fan-fare. I then returned to the hotel. The day's damages would end the ZJ's trail activities.

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