Don't Go To Moab!
Easter Jeep Safari 2004
and a few from
||For weeks, the voices in my head kept
telling me, "Don't go to Moab!" I guess I'm too stubborn to
even listen to myself...
|So far this trip has been one for the books. The
voices in my head have been saying "Don't go to Moab" for the past three
weeks...yet, we went anyway! It all started with a pretty simple
miscalculation on my part. A week before we were to leave for
Moab, I realized that I didn't have the two weeks to work on things that
I thought I had. Thus began the race against time...Al vs. Moab.
The first and foremost task was getting the CJ smogged and registered.
Now, understand that I could have taken the YJ...and considered it many
times, however, doing so would eliminate the ability for us to take our
dog. So, the CJ it was.
|The CJ's smog history is an interesting one. I
purchased the rig after it had been sitting for a good couple years.
Over the past few months I'd been lazily acquiring various parts in
order to make it smog legal. I've also been lazily trying to get
it to pass smog. Before all the smog gear was plugged in, it
passed smog with flying colors...but failed the visual. After
plugging in all the smog gear, I suddenly became a gross polluter.
Someone remind me how this makes sense again? Sitting on the shelf
is a Holley ProJection kit waiting for installation, but, of course,
that's not legal either...regardless of how much cleaner it would make
the system run. Anyway, after having an obnoxiously loud exhaust
leak at the header fixed at a muffler joint, the shop started working on
it the Monday before we were to leave. The Jeep was running
insanely rich and I was told a couple days would suffice, and could
probably pick it up on Wednesday. I also worked it out so that
when I came to get the CJ, I'd drop off the Suburban and have some work
done to it, pick it up on Friday so we could leave Saturday.
Ahhh, the 'Burb. Check engine light, failing transmission, leaking
radiator, brakes squealing. The previous weekend was spent
replacing the TH400 Transmission. I managed to lose my 2nd gear
braking in the other tranny, this being only 1.5 years after the last
rebuild. <rolls eyes> So, we put the new one in (thanks to
the help of many friends and Bud's garage) and that actually seemed to
cure the check engine light as well as the obvious tranny issues.
<shrug> Don't ask me, I'm not complaining though. So, that
left brakes and the radiator...piece of cake.
Tuesday rolls around and I check up on the CJ. The guy says he's
played with it a bit, but "things keep coming up" and that he's going to
be able to spend some time with it later. Oh oh... "Don't go to
Moab..." I hear whispering in the wind. Talk to him on Wednesday.
Similar situation, has "played with it" but hasn't really been able to
dig in. Also says there's no way he can get to the Burb, at all.
Wrench in plans... I remind him that it's imperative that I get this
Jeep back EARLY Friday so I can take it to another shop to get it
smogged (he also told me the rig was apparently a Test Only
vehicle...something I wasn't aware of). No problem he says.
Meanwhile, I take the Burb to another shop in the area to check out the
brakes and radiator. I'm told them I had to have it by Friday, and
they said it would be easy...no problem. At this point I'm
skeptical about everything, to say the least. I get a call within
a couple hours saying the brakes are fine (70% left). I'm shocked,
figured I'd burnt up way more than that...but happy. I'll deal
with the squeal! The radiator's cracked and is on it's way to the
radiator shop to see if it can be repaired or if it needs replacing.
I remind them of my schedule, and they respond as confidently as before.
I'm still skeptical. A couple hours later I get a call saying that
it could be fixed, but they recommend replacing it. The prices are
so close to each other, that I go ahead and have them put a new one in.
By the end of the same day, I have my Burb back! Whoooo!
Something that went right, I'm a happy guy.
While all the Burb stuff is going on, I take the YJ (sometimes it's good
to have three vehicles) and decide to stop in on the Jeep guy to see
what's going on. After conversing for a while, he says he's going
to get to the carburetor tomorrow and wasn't very convincing about being
able to complete it before the end of the day. I reminded him that
I HAD to have the rig by tomorrow, and he almost seemed surprised.
I continued to explain that the whole reason I brought it in to him the
first day of the week was so that this would get taken care of. He
then says he'll start taking the carburetor apart tonight and get it
figured out in the morning... I'm now officially a babysitter!
It's Friday, I take the Burb up to Bud's place to return his video
camera (see the CalROCS videos!).
B.S. with him for a while and on my way back I give the shop a call...
He's working on it, and making progress. Says it'll be a couple
more hours. This is around Noon or so. On the way home I try
to find some lug nuts for the Burb, because the shop that worked on the
Burb shattered one of them and I was missing two already. Can't
find the same style to save my life. They have a shoulder that
goes over the threads...this shoulder is what the wheel rests on.
Weird setup, but whatever. I think it's kind of old-school truck.
Also decide to try and figure out my speedo gear situation. Oh,
did I not mention this one?
When we swapped out the tranny, the speedo gear the place I got the
tranny from was apparently the wrong one. I was reading about 85
when I was doing 70. So, I decided I was going to put my old one
back in from the original tranny. I let the rig cool a bit and had
at it. Drive off for a quick test...nothing. No speedo
reading! Hmmm...I take it all back apart and realize the original
gear has a smaller diameter than the one that was reading wrong.
It then dawns on me that I have my original housing for the gear in the
garage, maybe it's different than the one they put in with the wrong
gear? I'll be damned, it is...it's built to position the smaller
gear closer to the matching gear inside the transmission! So, I
slap the old housing and old gear into the new tranny and drive off.
Damnit! It's reading the SAME as the new one! Way too fast.
It appears that the gear inside the trans is considerably different.
After a phone call with a speedo shop, he tells me they may not make a
gear small enough to match up with the one in there to get the right
reading. Great! <shakes head> I'll use my GPS for a
After all this, I suddenly notice that it's 3:30 PM. I have heard
nothing from the guy with my Jeep. Friday traffic is winding up
quickly, and I'm 10 miles (side roads) from my CJ. The Test Only
smog shop is right near my house and they close at 5 PM! I get on
the phone, and he says he's buttoning up the rig right now...it's
running good and is passing! I race out there, as fast as I can in
bumper-to-bumper traffic, re-attach the CJ to the Burb so I can tow it
to the Smog shop (nice feature when you don't have a 2nd person to take
you there). I pull into the smog shop at 4:50 PM. Apparently
they close at 5:30 PM, so I wasn't as close to the deadline as I
thought. Regardless, it passes considerably well and I'm on my way
Throughout this Friday from hell, I manage to forget to pick up my dry
cleaning...which has a shirt that I'm wearing to a wedding that is on
Saturday. The dry cleaners are closed, and not open the next day.
Doh! See, the whole reason we have to leave Saturday morning is so
that we can get to Megan's friends' wedding in Los Angeles that same
After getting the rig back, I park it in the garage and shake my head
over all the work that needs to be done to it before we can leave.
See, I expected to have it back on Wednesday...but, instead, I have it
back the night before we're leaving. It's 5:30 PM. After
repeatedly shooing off the voices in my head, 3:00 AM rolls around and
I've finished doing everything I need. We're getting up at 7:00 AM
to hit the road. Wheee!
Tasks for Saturday: Stop by Mom and Dad's to give them a key so they can
take care of the cat when we're gone. Go to a dog sitter in LA,
drop off the pup at Noon (when they close). Stop by AAA in Los
Angeles before 2:00 PM (when they close) so we can register the CJ now
that it's smogged. Go to resort where the wedding is taking place,
take a nap, go to wedding at 7:00 PM.
Results of Saturday: Manage to make it to the dog sitters at about
11:50 AM. No joke. Make our way to the wrong AAA (that was
closed), and then go the wrong way on the freeway heading towards the
correct one. After being on hold (while driving the wrong way) we
finally get in touch with someone that advises us of our directionally
challenged situation. We flip a beotch and I'm haulin' booty back
the other way. Oh...by the way, the Burb...with the brand new
radiator...is running consistenly hot, especially on climbs. We're
told we're 30 minutes away from the AAA we need to be at, and we have 20
minutes before it closes. Fast forward, and we pull in no more
than a couple minutes before the bell tolls. Broke some land-speed
records in the process. Registered, and tagged...we head out for
some food and a seriously overdue nap.
Megan fell asleep in the bath tub, wakes up and crashes next to me on
the bed. Later, I'm woken up by a disoriented and slightly
disgruntled girlfriend telling me we have 25 minutes to get the the
wedding. We made that, just in time.
Blah, blah, blah...on to the rest of the road trip. Virgin River
Gorge, and a dead Jeep! Yup. No juice. Measuring good
(well, OK) voltage...something like 10V. Figured that'd be enough
to make a peep or something, but, I get nothing out of the dual Optimas.
Tried jumping it, but it's not helping much. Tired of dealing with
issues and last-second situations, so, I'll deal with it when we get to
Moab. Yes, the voice are still telling me to turn back and go home
after half-way through the trip.
Stop by Napa to pick up some basics that I managed to forget at home
(air fittings, air gauge, driveshaft u-bolts I left on top of the Jeep
as we left the dog shop, blah, blah). As I walk out of Napa,
something catches my eye. I realize that I've lost four bolts to
my right front beadlock. Great. Somehow, I managed to shear
off four grade-8 bolts. Go to a local shop, and a
great kid helped me with air tools/jacks, etc. Got the spare on
and headed off towards St. George. We were on our way to the Toyo
tire shop, since they helped us on the way out to Moab last year.
Luck had it, they had an 8-lug, 15"x12" wheel in the back "junk" yard
and mounted (and balanced) the 35" SX on the new wheel for me.
Don't need a beadlock for a spare anyway, right? On
the road...again! What lies ahead?
It's late when we get in, and we unpack. Bump into
Jody and Sarah Everding, as they're apparently just a couple rooms down from us...we
chat for a bit and talk about various trails and stuff going on.
After doing so, I get on the Jeep and have the Burb power it up for a
bit. After a while, my happy oil light comes on in the cab.
Hey! Making progress...maybe the dual Optimas are just taking a
while to charge. Finally get the engine to start turning and Megan
comes out to tell me to leave the sleeping neighbors alone, since it's
after 11:00 PM. Ok, I'll deal with it in the morning.
Found a business card from
on my windshield when I wake up in the morning, apparently she's in the
same hotel too! Charging the rig up again in the morning, I get it
to crank over. Blast around Moab for a while and let the
alternator do it's thing. Rig's running solid, I park it and we
get lunch with Megan's parents (Barney and
Karen) who are also in town.
Go back to the rig, and the batteries are holding charge. Appears
that I must have turned the key too far forward and killed the battery
on the way out... Anyway, it's good news. The four of us
decide to head up to Dead Horse for a bit of a "dry run" for the CJ to
make sure she's REALLY running good. Megan and I in the CJ, Barney
and Karen in their newly lifted TJ.
|The road's mildly rocky, but the CJ's taking it like
we're riding over railroad ties! So, we air down and that helps
some. Crummy shocks, too much air, and a ridiculously poor
traction bar setup in the back account for a majority of the really bad
ride. Something to deal with another day... We stop after a
good 30-35 miles of driving, freeway and trail, to check out the sights.
On our way out, the CJ sputters a bit...then won't hold any RPM's.
Eventually it starts running, and we continue up Shaffer Trail.
There's a section of it that's got a lot of switchbacks...I mean, a LOT
of them. Big drop offs too! I'm lovin' it, Megan's hatin'
it! Then it happens again. Sputter, and eventually dies.
No joy getting it running again, so Barney straps me up the rest of
these switchbacks. There were a couple tough corners to make, but
by shortening the strap he managed to pull me all the way to the top.
At this point, I'm just wishing we would have brought the YJ and left
the pup at home. It's become readily apparent this vehicles is not
ready for Moab, or any trail for that matter.
A drizzle starts, and I decide I want to try and get this thing started
instead of just strapping me the remaining 31 miles back to Moab.
Fumble around with some stuff, pull the air filter and play with the
carb. Barney gets in and hammers on the gas to see if she'll fire.
After a bit of sputtering, she revs up and runs like a champ.
We're on our way home. I stop to check out a view point and on the
way out, the rig starts sputtering again. Barney mentions "heat"
being an issue because it's happening every time we stop for a little
bit. The rig gets warmer 'cause the fan's no longer running...then
we take off. The bells begin to ding in my head, temporarily
obscuring the "Don't go to Moab" chanting that continues despite the
fact that I'm already there. The dinging bells remind me that I had the
guy working on the smog situation put in a thermostat, since there
wasn't one in the rig at the time. I couldn't get the rig to run
hotter than 150 prior to this...and now it's been sitting pretty
consistently at 200 during normal conditions, higher during stress.
I'm wondering at this point if he didn't put the wrong thermostat in,
instead of the 180 degree one I requested. The rig sputtered again
after stopping to make a right turn onto another freeway.
Definitely something going on regarding heat...
After getting to the hotel, we unpack and head out for dinner.
Wednesday is fix-the-damn-Jeep day. Yes, it's become a
and his cohort Valentine graciously offer up their help for the day,
since they have nothing planned. I drive the CJ over, and we're on
it. The t-case/tranny cross-mount (the one that stops twist)
ripped a hole in my frame, so we needed to fix that. Valentine was
going to be the man for this job. As well, the temperature
situation needed to be fixed, so we pulled the thermostat. There
was a 195 in there, instead of the 180 I requested from the shop.
Super. Wonder why it was running so hot? So, off to CarQuest
to get a new thermostat and Moab Offroad to get some metal for the
|Just outside of the CarQuest was the Jeep
display...lots of incredible one-off rigs (including a TJ with a Hemi, a
very well built Unlimited, one of the three official Tomb Raider rigs)
and various other very nice looking vehicles I'd love to have in my
driveway. Brad introduces me to Jeep engineer Dave Yegge...who,
ironically, I've known since college! Small world. We chat
for a bit, and it's off to get some parts. On the way out, I run
into Mark DiPonio, who I knew from high school! Small world?
He's working for
Metalcraft doing a bunch of custom stuff for Jeep / AEV. Very cool products...wish I had some pictures.
|Distractions and reunitings aside, I picked up a 160
and a 180 thermostat, and decided to put the 160 in to eliminate all
doubt of a temperature issue. In the meantime, Valentine started
working on plating the hole in the frame and re-welding the cross-mount
to the new plate. Then, the rains came. We packed everything
up and started drinking beers and watching Terminator 3. More
rain, more rain...then, the sun started breaking through. A slight
buzz and no lunch later, we got back to work on the rig. I ripped
out the driver side traction bar, since having two on the vehicle
obviously means no flex and a stiff ride. Valentine finished up
the welding, and I buttoned the engine back up. Filled the
radiator back up and fired her...fired her...fired...oh crap.
She's not starting. Cranks all day long, but no start. Damn
So, we start debugging. Luckily,
Rockcrawler.com happened to stop by and has some of the very same
MSD components that I've got in the CJ and he knew a couple things about
them. After finding minimal spark coming out of my coil and plenty
of gas going to the carb (and squirting out of it onto the engine...yes,
we fixed that too), we started trying to figure out where the weak spot
was. We swapped a few parts between rigs to determine what was
working, and what was not... After many cross-wirings, jumpered wires,
and engine cranks (not to mention clenched teeth fearing electrical
shock)...it turned out that the coil was shot. Back to our friends
at CarQuest, thanks for the ride Cole! Didn't run into any
long-lost friends this time, but did manage to pay way too much for a
coil. Gotta love the EJS pricing schedule. We figure we must
have fried it while welding on the frame. Go figure.
Plugged the new coil in, and she fired right up. WHOOOO! Ran
the hell out of it South of Moab for a while...stopped, ran the hell out
of it back to Moab...stopped for gas...and ran it back to the hotel.
No issues, running solid. Al's happy again, and so's the Jeep.
For now...? Anyway, we went to dinner with Megan's parents, Brad,
Valentine, and Cole. Then met up with a Jeep engineer (Jim Repp),
Kilby and crew at Moab Brewery...had some more beers and called it a
So, it's Thursday and it's the first day of the vendor showcase down at
the arena. Megan and I mosey our way down there in the morning to
start peddling my upcoming
storefront systems, and spend a good three hours there meeting and
greeting. Off to lunch with Barney and Karen, and then back to the
room. Megan crashes and I take a ride out in the Jeep to assure
everything's working as expected. Went out and played around the
Dump Bump / Hell's Revenge area and was happy with how the CJ worked.
The goal is to hit Pritchett Canyon on Friday...we'll see if that
Brad and the Jeep folks co-sponsored a BBQ (affectionately known as a
RedNeck.com BBQ) at Brad's swank-ass motorhome spot just South of town that
night. What is a RedNeck.com Gathering, you ask? In the
words of Jim Repp:
"Well, think on it.. a bunch of fat, "middle aged guys drinking
Tequila, beer, wine.. whatever.. and cooking burgers and dogs.
Of course no women to speak of ... just hard drinking and fulltime
Jeep stories. Yea, I like it."
All kinds of Jeep employees of various flavors, Moab local
legends, and various other "off-road celebrities" stopped by for
burgers, hot dogs, carne asada, Cole-garitas (mmmmm...), beer, wine, and
good company. Had a great time out there yappin' with everyone,
and sharing old war stories from my days back when I used to work for
|So, ever since last year I've been wanting to do
Pritchett Canyon. Didn't get to last year due to various complications
with the YJ... So, I talk to Brad Kilby about it Thursday night, and
he's game. Friday morning, twelve of us gather at the Moab Diner (best
freakin' green chile sauce ANYWHERE) for breakfast. Megan's sister Andi
Kay, her husband KC (trail leader for Hell Roaring Rim) and kids Katey
and Masey, Karen and Barney, as well as Megan's friend Cybil and her kid
Sage, Brad Kilby and Valentine. We chow, then Brad, Valentine, Megan and
I head out on our way to Pritchett.
|Pritchett sure seemed like it would have been a fun
trail, if everybody in Moab wasn't already on it! We managed to run it
from beginning to end, and back to beginning. We missed out on all the
fun steps and obstacles at the end because there were 56 vehicles IN
FRONT of us. Yes, I counted. So, instead of sitting around for 5 hours
waiting for everyone to try and get through...we decide to go wheeling
and head back. When we get to the beginning of the trail, there are 22
rigs trying to get up the drop off. So, we wait some more. The rest of
the trail is pretty minimal from a 5+ trail-rating standpoint. There's a
double step mid-way through the trail which had another pile of folks
waiting in line for it, so we took the bypass, which...was a tough one. Brad made it through fine, but I needed a strap. The combination of big
Dana 70 rear end, little 35" tires, and full-width (plus) axles forced
my rear diff into a rock no matter what line I took. So, Brad gave me a
little tug with a strap and I got made fun of by my girlfriend <sniff> ! On the way out we bumped into Jody Everding parked just off the trail
with a broken tie-rod end and busted front driveshaft. Oh yeah, he lost
his cell phone three times that weekend. The third time was
permanent! At least, that was his excuse for not calling me back the day before! Hung out with him and Sarah for a bit while they waited for Rick to come
back with parts. Due to the congestion trying to get out, they ended up
walking the parts back to him.
|After a few beers at the Moab Brewery, I checked some
fluids in the rig, and we headed out to the raffle. Andi/KC won a
set of top-of-the-line Bestop seats which they ended up giving to a
friend (BR), and Karen snagged a T-Shirt after body-checking a few
bystanders out of the way (kidding...!) We called it an early
night so we could get ready for Hell Roaring Rim in the morning.
So, it's Big Saturday. It's 7:30 AM, the dog has woken us up twice in
the middle of the night puking, and we're exhausted. Let's go wheelin'! If you've got no idea what "Big Saturday" means, it's something you
should at least see once in your life. Every trail in Moab has a crew
that heads out at precisely the same time Saturday morning. The streets
of Moab are shut down by local police, and each trail has a "side
street" that they line up in anticipation of riding down Main street on
the way to their trail. Hundreds of folks get up just to watch all the
rigs head on out, as if it were a parade of sorts. The 9:00 AM bell
tolls, and the first crew heads out...then the next...and so on...until
the streets of Moab are empty, and regular traffic is allowed to resume.
|Andi and KC are trail leaders for Hell Roaring Rim, and
have been for a number of years. It's not exactly your most
difficult trail, but the scenery is incredible! After zipping
around a sand hill, some rocks and dirt trails, we came across two
overlooks with MASSIVE drop-offs and incredible views of the Green River
hundreds of feet directly below us. If you've got any hint of
vertigo, it'll come screaming into your senses very quickly! On
our way out we made our way through Longs Canyon... Aside from the
sheer beauty of the entire drive down it, there's a really cool rock
that fell a couple years ago into the road that you actually to drive
|Somewhere along the way on this trail, Barney dubbed my
CJ as a "Praying Mantis". Resemblance? I can see it!
Might have some competition for naming, as "The Hulk" has been the
uncontested candidate thus far... Figures, I have my YJ since 1996
and it goes without a name...while the CJ ends up with two in five
months! You be the judge...
|Grab the crew, grab some dinner, and grab some sleep
after a long but fun day. The dog was up again sick all
night...and Megan woke up sick, apparently inhaling the entire trail
into her sinuses. After an Easter morning breakfast at Denny's, we
decide to head home a day early since Megan and the pooch aren't doing
|Strangely enough, on the way home we ran into the exact
same issue that happened on the way out with another beadlock. It
was the spare that was put on the same right-front. As we walked
out of the McDonald's near Victorville, I noticed the right front was
flat. As I'm grabbing my air gear, Megan says that four bolts are
missing. Argh... After realizing I didn't have the 1-1/16"
socket requied to pull the tire (duh), I put my jack away and we drove
20 feet to a local shop that was open. We swapped in the non-beadlock
wheel from the trip out to Moab and headed home. Did I mention I
picked up a sore throat too?
The voices may have been telling me one thing, but we managed to survive
despite them. Don't go to Moab? Not if I can help it!
Click here to view ALL of the
pictures taken during this trip