A Long Way to Cruise Moab 2016

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May 7, 2006
Kelowna, BC
Cruise Moab 2016 Prequel

Greg (Greg_B), Gary and I (Glenn-BJ74) planned to meet in Green River, Utah for 12 days of adventure wheeling and backroads exploring through SE Utah and northern Arizona prior to meeting John (gofast) in Moab for Cruise Moab.

I left a few days before Greg and Gary to go to Grass Valley, California for a rear bumper install. From Kelowna I headed south via Hwy 97 and arrived at the US border brimming with excitement. I handed my passport to the US border guard and he looks at the passport and raises his head with a bemused expression and says "Judith" - long pause ........... holy crap..... I had my wife's passport!!- Our passports somehow got switched in our passport cases last time we were down. The border guard smiled and asked for my driver's licence and after a few minutes (felt like eternity) let me through. Was I relived!

Continuing south along Hwy 97 I was running low on fuel aiming to fuel up just south of Yakima at the Toppenish in the Yakima Nation. I had checked Gas Buddy before I left Kelowna and this was 'the place' to load up, the cheapest for hundreds of miles. I took on 170 litres (45 us gallons) of diesel at the great price of $0.60$C/litre. This should get through California where fuel prices always seem to high. That evening I stayed near Goldendale, WA not far from the Stonehenge replica which is WWI memorial near the Columbia River crossing of Hwy 7.


Next morning I had a great breakfast of pancakes smothered in country butter, fresh eggs, crispy bacon, toast and lots of coffee. Back on Hwy 97, I drove through central Oregon passing through Bend, and Klamath Falls and finally connecting to the much faster I5 Interstate at Weed, CA. The plan was to be positioned that night so I could get to Grass Valley, mid-morning. After pulling off I5 and driving up and down a bunch of hills I finally found a long steep dirt track (needed low range) and spent a warm night perched on a small hilltop near Mt. Shasta. The next day I got back on the I5 headed to Grass Valley, CA and just outside Redding, I noticed my coolant temperature had spiked to meltdown mode !!! I quickly pulled over on the freeway shoulder and popped the hood. I had boiled off my coolant, most of it must of boiled off the night before while I was climbing those hills looking for a place to camp. When I checked the cap I found it loose. Then I remembered I loosened the radiator cap just before I left home (1,300 km ago) and did not re-tighten it !! Fortunately I had lots of water and dumped in a 10 litre Scepter water jug and waited a few minutes and was good to go. Disaster averted again!


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Grass Valley 4x4 Labs

After that incident I wound my way along a bunch of convoluted country roads and arrived at Grass Valley (nice little town) and my destination 4x4Labs. There I had made prior arrangements with Luke Porter and his motley crew to fit their rear bumper to my HDJ81. The 4x4 labs crew started hacking and grinding off my rear frame cross member and dropped my LRA subtank down and removed and shorten the subtank bracket to allow the bumper bracket to slide in. The 4x4 Labs rear bumper requires about 40 lbs to be removed to enable the bumper to be mounted snug to the body. Given my experience so far with my big ass 80 (last rig was the short assed BJ74) -- it needs the best possible departure angle for those 3 foot rock steps awaiting me in Utah. After checking out the 4x4 Labs shop, playing with Luke's cool dog (built for the heat), I was happily on my way looking forward to meeting Greg and Gary in Green River.

Nevada Leg

Next day I was passing through Reno and had my 5 tires rotated and balanced at Discount Tire (no charge), before setting out straight through middle of Nevada, passing Fallon, Austin and Ely on Hwy 50 - reputed to be The Loneliest Highway in America. I loved it. Latter in the day I turned onto Old Hwy 50, now called Hwy 722 and onto a dirt track and followed Buffalo Creek to camp for the night. Eventually I found a gorgeous place backing on a large white hoodoo, which I climbed on to admire the setting sun. Next morning– I continued driving across Nevada soaking in the desolation.


Latter in the day the weather turned nasty and I was forced to camp up on a cold windy wet mountain ridge I would rather forget.
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Green River

The following day I crossed into Utah and hit the only Wal-Mart along the way and loaded up on groceries before meeting Greg and Gary at the cardboard walled flophouse called the Robbers’ Roost in Green River. I arrived first and after some bewilderment (no one there – door locked - number to call - no answer- leave message - wait for call???). So I called and the owner's father shows up in an oversize 1968 badly done tie-dye T-Shirt, which I guess are making a comeback in Green River. After a power outage, a lost password, phone calls to get on the computer -- we got checked in finally, cleaned up and headed for dinner at the 'best restaurant " in Green River the Tamarisk Restaurant beside the Green River.

The Robbers' Roost is named after the nearby Cottrel Ranch where the likes of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid would hide out in the old days. Gary and I visited there in 2014

Maze Leg

Next morning --with fuel tanks and fridges full for a week or more - the three diesel Cruisers headed out - Greg's 1994 FZJ 80 with a 1HDT diesel transplant, my 1995 HDJ81 FT JDM diesel and Gary's (always for sale) JDM 1989 HDJ 61. We past the Green River Airport and got on the trail and after a few hours of red dust and dodging big cattle 'round up' that was in full swing, we arrived at the Hans Flat Ranger station to confirm our overnight permit.

After chatting with the Ranger, including listening to the obligatory lecture on Cryptobiotic soils and the fact that if we accidently stepped or drove on this stuff we would be subject to the Wrath of Satan for disturbing this unique microcosm of disturbing looking life forms. This was followed up by an ominous warning of a possibly impassable section of Bentonite clay. The problem with Bentonite clay it absorbs water and when driven on the water gets squeezed and the result is zero traction - like ice. Being true Cruiserheads we always get excited when people remotely describe a trail as being 'impassable'. This added to our anticipation and were keen to go.

We said our good-byes and headed south along the red dirt trail and disappointingly passing the Bentonite clay without incident. Down the Flint Trail then stopped at Teapot Rock to have a spot of lunch before we got to the fun bit – about 1.5 hours of easy rock crawling. This section of the trail deters many visitors and helps preserve the Maze the special place it is – a wilderness wonderland.

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Doll House

Fairly late in the day we arrived at the Doll House #1 and set up camp for two nights, discussing which direction the wind was blowing and how best to position our trucks and tents. Gary and I stayed here in 2014 and it offers a unique cathedral like camping experience deep within the tall monolithic red rocks - hence the name the Dollhouse.

Little did we know the 'wind gods' were angry that night. The winds were so fierce I thought the sides of my rooftop tent were going rip wide open during the incredible wind gusts. The truck was rocking like two big guys leaning on the truck rocking it back and forth. The morning brought calm and we lazed about and after Gary's famous big skillet breakfast we decided to hike the Granary Trail, which is a one of coolest and shortest trails in the Maze.

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Doll House

Chimney Rock

Next day we had to pack up to go Chimney Rock for 3 nights. There we experienced rain, hail, wind, sun, skies with light shows and ominous cloud formations and various backpackers trodding by, some fairly beat-up from the weather. I can't imagine those backpackers trying to erect a tent while soaking wet with the hail coming down at full force.





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The next day it cleared and we decided to hike down into the canyon floor over to the Harvest Scene, which a popular hiking destination. In 2013 I had hiked down from the Maze Overlook, which is another 5 star camping spot.

Down we go.
More Chimney Rock





Out we go for more adventure.
Maze to Monument Valley

We left the Maze on Friday and headed out via Hite Marina looking for fuel and a shower, neither of which was available. We continued south on Hwy 65 and camped at White Canyon in Glen Canyon National Recreational Area and had a fire for the first time. Next day we continued along scenic Hwy 65, called the 'Trail of the Ancients' then down Hwy 261 through Mogi Dugway and Valley of the Gods and stopped at the Goosenecks on the San Juan River.

While at the Goosenecks there were packed busload of Korean tourists some of which were admiring our Landcruisers, probably wishing they could trade places. We continued south but the weather was getting grim, so grabbed a motel in Mexican Hat to shower up - first time in 6 days. We had dinner and breakfast at the San Yuan Inn overlooking the San Juan River. Gary parked his truck under a steep cliff with a big sign that said "park at your own risk" while walking away from the truck said it is fully insured (I think he wants an 80).

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Monument Valley

Next day we set off to the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, which is on Navajo lands. Although a bit of a tourist trap, which I generally avoid, this is a totally cool place. This is where John Ford directed John Wayne in some of his best know movies, such as 'Stagecoach', 'Fort Apache', Rio Grande', The Searchers, and 'She Wore a Yellow Ribbon'. The American Film Institute voted 'The Searchers' the Greatest Western of All Time. Monument Valley is characterized by a cluster of red sandstone spires, buttes and the mesas, each representing a progression of erosion.





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Monument Valley

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San Juan River

After driving the loop and seeing the Monument Valley Visitor's Center (very worthwhile) we continued driving through northern Arizona up to Bluff, UT, continuing on our 'long way' to Moab.

The plan was to stay at the Sand Island BLM campground on the San Juan River near Bluff. When we got there it was jam packed with RVs, trucks, boats, and people everywhere so we were forced to bushwhack and find a camp, before it was completely dark. Following some barely marked trails we found a white rocky plain at the end of Butler Wash, out of sight of the highway. As we began to pitch camp it started to rain - so we hit the fart sack early that night. The morning was clear so we fired up the coffee grinders with Starbucks Dark Roast and had a easy morning exploring our strange surroundings. Then an older dude puts up on a small trail bike parks not far and goes for a hike without talking to us. Well that is the first clue something must be interesting around here.

Greg suggested we explore an unmarked trail further along the highway he saw the night before (good call). We found it and drove down a long sandy wash as it crisscrossed back and forth through the puddles and after a long while we came to a steep hill, with crowd waving at me at the top. Latter I learned they were on holiday and not accustomed to wheeling and thought the 'big hill' was a big deal, so we joined in the fun. There they were in a bone stock 1960's Willies and we stopped and introduced ourselves and chatted awhile. After that we saddled up and found an interesting place along the San Juan River with historical significance.

We had stumbled upon a section of the San Juan River between Bluff and Mexican Hat that has world-class rock art panels, Petroglyphs and cliff dwellings. There were rock art scenes, writing and the 'River House', set up high in the cliff. Latter I found out that River House was occupied by ancestral Puebloans between AD 900 and the late 1200s. This is a place worthy of another trip.

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To Lockhart

Unfortunately we had to leave if we were to get to Moab by Tuesday afternoon. We retraced our track through the sandy wash and back to pavement then took the Comb Wash backroad along the western side of Comb Ridge. Comb Ridge is a very distinctive landform, which is a huge north to south monocline 80 miles long in southeast Utah and northeast Arizona. We eventually came out on pavement Hwy 95 and turned right heading toward Moab.

We blasted along the highway until Monticello (don't speed through Monticello - the speed hawks are always there) and then onto Blanding, which is 75 miles south of Moab. Since it was getting late we stopped at the 'Horse Head Grill -- for the so-called 'Mexican dinner special'. We speculated the chimichanga came out of the frozen food section of the local market and the rice was almost unidentifiable. The consensus was it was truly awful. With that under our belts we took the short cut behind Monticello up through the mountains to connect Hwy 211, just east of Newspaper Rock. Hwy 211 goes to an overlook and Elephant Hill. We found the Lockhart Basin trail turnoff and we were losing daylight and anxious to the get to camp. About 5 miles from the turnoff and just on the other side of Indian Creek we got a choice spot just beside a small waterfall.

I have been to this spot before and never seen falling water. We settled down for the evening while Gary climbed the highest rocks he could find, while we listened to the 'good old boys" whooping it up further up the creek.




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Next morning we started to tackle the Lockhart Basin trail, which runs below the big cliffs of the Needles and Canyonlands Overlooks. This is an all day trail and toward the north end passes Chicken Corners, and goes though Hurrah Pass, Kane Creek and eventually arrives through the backdoor in Moab near the MacDonald's.

Coming out at MacDonald is instantaneous culture shock from where we have been for the last 12 days. From there we went Zak's Pizza for dinner (Greg thinks he picked up a bug there that laid him up for a few days ). After that we headed to the Pack Creek Campground to meet John, who was cooking up a steak and just bubbling with excitement.

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Moab - Cool Rig Show

Next day we went to Slickrock to take in the Day 1 of Cruise Moab excitement, watching the tech inspections, drooling over cool Cruisers, buying Cruiser crap, and talking to people from all over the US with this shared addition.

From this point on, John's trip report basically takes over.


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Run Pictures

The guy on John's roof had perfect balance through that obstacle.

Earth Cruiser

On the way home Greg and I decided to make a deviation to Bend, Oregon to see the Australian Earthcruiser. The Earthcruiser uses a Mitsubishi Fuso FG 4x4 frame with a pop-top camper roof.

Earth Cruiser

Earth Cruiser

Earth Cruiser EXP Chassis is $240,000 USD
Currently only the automatic is available in the US (only thing their customers want ???)
Only the 5 speed comes with a transfer case.

Then we went home.


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