Easter Jeep Safari April 2017

Well,  I’ve been back from Moab for nearly two weeks and I’m finally getting around to writing something up.   Bit of a novel…sorry.

My Dad flew up from Dallas to do an 11 day road trip with me in my ‘90 YJ  for our first Easter Jeep Safari.   I’ve mt. biked in Moab and we’ve both driven through several times – but this was our first 4X4 Moab experience. It was also the longest trip I’ve done in the old jeep by far.

Our first day of the trip- crossing Oregon was brutal.  I honestly didn’t know if we’d make it all the way down there after how the first day went…   To describe the highway handling of my YJ as “slightly vague” is pretty generous and to couple that with hours of 35kt crosswinds gusting into the 50s…Talk about a white knuckle ride….Holding the steering wheel at a 45 degree angle to go straight down the road and then getting thrown a whole lane when the wind would suddenly stop or gust or when we’d cross a section where the road would cut through a hillside and the again when we’d come out ….Tumbleweeds weren’t tumbling- they were flying straight across the highway, in huge herds, six feet in the air!  We were very glad to finally get out of that.  The next day to Moab was much easier, thankfully.  I don’t know that I could have done another windy day.  For day two, all we had to contend with was a max cruising speed of about 72, a huge amount of wind noise…and a peanut sized gas tank that had us stopping every two hours.

Easter Jeep Safari.  For those of you who don’t know, this was the 51st year for EJS and it fills Moab with hundreds maybe thousands of 4X4s – and far and away, most of them are Jeeps, and most of those Wranglers.  There are also all kinds of vendors who show up to show their gear and talk about it, and ride with us and give away tons of stuff over the course of the event.

When you sign up to do EJS, you tell them what kinds of mods you have done to your rig, tire size, lift, lockers etc and based on what you tell them, a list of trails suitable for your rig is made available for you to choose from.  This actually (from our 6 days of trail riding experience) works out really well.  Everyone on the trail is capable…No one is getting stuck,  and even though the groups were often 20-30 rigs, it always moved along pretty well, and we weren’t ever waiting for someone who continually needed help.
Trails are rated 1-9 and my Jeep was OK’d for up to a 6.  I watched a bunch of You Tubes and decided I’d probably be smarter not pushing up to 6.  I’m still pretty much a 4×4 newbie having only been doing it a couple years now.  We did one 3, four 4’s and one 5, and I think the 4’s were actually quite a bit more than my dad wanted a lot of the time…sometimes for me too.   Some of the 4s seemed harder than the 5 and some of the 4s were definitely easier than others…so the rating are not totally consistent…   We had one ride with 7 rigs – it was in a National Park and limited to a total of 10 in a group  – 20 for the whole day– the other 5 days were between 20 and 30.  We had one Hummer H2 on the first day.  One Cherokee, one very modified Grand Cherokee on another and a very cool ’53 Dodge 2 ton Army truck with a Vette engine and 40’s on another day.  It was pretty awesome  He had done a lot of work on that rig.   Everything else for every day was a CJ, YJ, TJ, LJ or JK.

A typical day would have us meeting at a designated spot in the morning and leaving there by 8 or 9.  Trails were between 5 miles from town to the furthest we did which was about 80 miles from town…I needed my jerry can on that day.  We’d get to the trailhead, air down, have a safety meeting and start riding.  The trail leader would talk about the sites, obstacles, history, whatever along the way.  Some of the trail leaders were awesome “tour guides”….Some, quiet but very helpful when needed.  For the bigger obstacles, the trail leaders would spot…For many of them, we would look at it and say..”no way” or “this is going to be tough”   then they’d talk about how to do it, and we’d watch everybody in front of us crawl over whatever it was…and we would easily do the same.  It was really amazing how steep we could go- up and down.   It took a while to adjust to the different driving technique as well as vehicle capabilities down there… For the steep climbs and descents, you drive up to what looks like a vertical wall – I know it isn’t even close to vertical, but it sure looked and felt like it was to us!  To climb it, you slowly roll up onto the wall and start climbing.  The grip you get on the Slick rock is incredible.  Once you start going up, all you can see is sky.  The wall disappears, and if it is a fin, the sides disappear too.  To complicate things there are frequently fairly large steps or shelves along the way that you can’t see and have to anticipate.  Ideally, you roll up to them, kiss them with your tires, and crawl right over.   No drama.  On our first one, which was literally 100 yds from the trail head on our first day, I hit it too hard, and bounced up into the air…in the process, I slid forward and jammed into the throttle, bouncing us even higher.  Way more drama than I ever want again!….  Once you do that, It becomes immediately obvious how all of those You Tube videos happen that show the rigs tumbling over backwards, and rolling two or three times before coming to a stop….My dad later told me he had started wondering what was going to happen to the stuff mounted on the back of my Jeep….he hadn’t seen any of the roll over videos videos….My thoughts were completely about getting the nose back down on the ground again – which I did somehow.    Next thoughts were – “Am I WAAY over my head? “ And “NO MORE DRAMA!”….That quick lesson emphasized how different driving down there was going to be compared to anything I had done up here…Much different than bouncing up or down a muddy pile of rocks at Walker.  To go down a steep section – you drive up to what looks like a cliff.  It is just a hard edge in front of your tires and you see nothing below – except that the vehicle that was in front of you has somehow got down the section you can’t see and is climbing out the other side now.  You roll the front wheels up to the edge and let them slowly drop over.  Soon you feel like you are standing on the brake heading straight down.

By lunch time we’d usually stop at some scenic spot- have lunch then continue on for the rest of the day – getting back to Moab about dinner time.

Every ride we did was filled with breath taking scenery…and occasionally some breath taking exposure too from the expletives and large exhales sometimes coming from my co-pilot.  ??  I’ve attached some photos.  Dad’s standing in front of the YJ in the poser shot.

I had read about what a zoo Moab was during EJS…and yes there were really cool rigs (an amazing amount of money in the rigs down there) everywhere, and there were a lot more people in all the restaurants than when I’ve been there before…but it was still much easier than trying to get a table in Kirkland or Seattle at dinner time.  We always got right in- wherever we went.

They held a huge raffle give away one evening that went on for nearly 4 hours ….non stop.  Over $280,000 worth of stuff.  We stayed the whole time and all we walked away with were a couple T-shirts that got thrown at us – at least they were our size.

4 full days of highway and 6 full days of trail rides were a lot…I think I would take a break one day or two if I did it again and do some hiking or biking or something.

For us – EJS was a great way to do Moab for the first time….probably the next time too.  We got to meet a lot of great people from all over, see a lot of awesome rigs, get expert guidance on the trails, as well as see and talk to lots of people there to promote their off road gear.   People come from all over the US as well as the world to participate and drivers range in age from teens to one gentleman we met who told us that he drove his first Jeep in WWII.  One couple we met lived in Belgium and this was their 17th time they had flown over to do EJS.  I saw one Range Rover with plates from Argentina.    Rookie Moab drivers like us were in the minority for all the trails we did – though there were always a few who were there for the first time.  Most people were there for their 2nd to 10th time and there were always a few who had been there more than 20 times.   It was very fun… The Rigs you see range from vintage WWII jeeps to extremely modified Jeeps, Toyotas, Fords, Chevys to buggies and everything in between.  Many people fly in and rent Jeeps – we talked to many more people who started that way and eventually got a rig they could drive  or drag across country for the event, saying it was  a lot more fun to do it in their own vehicle.

See you on the trail