Moab Oct 2004

Translation Please? …. Unfortunately – time dims some memories, and even I have forgotten what some of the above comments were about. But – as with many Tamer trips, travel happened in groups. One contingency of Mark and Lori Stevens, Gary and Lori Yates, and a few others headed down to Moab (a 2+ day proposition) I think early on a Friday. Mike and Staci Robinson left a little later, but did catch up with that group. Moose, Jana Camacho, and Mary Solinger left after work the same Friday, lagging behind the first group by a little more than half a day. Also, Tom Baker and his dad, Art, Roger and his brother, Ron, and Jeff Darraugh found their way down to Moab independently.

Moose and the ladies got only as far as Yakima the first night, whereas Gary, Mark, and that bunch made it down to Pendleton, OR the same evening. I think, on the 2nd day of travel, they got into south Salt Lake City, and then on Sunday, checked into the Red Rock Lodge in Moab at a reasonable hour. Things didn’t quite go so smoothly for the other travelers. The first challenge for Jana, Mary, and me was to find lodging Friday night in Yakima in October. Don’t you think things would be slow in Yakima anytime of the year, let alone in October? Turns out, there was like some bike ride, some convention, and some kind of NASCAR stuff going on in town. And by the time we found a place that actually had rooms available, we were getting a little desperate to rack out. Rising the next morning went late, breakfast was leisurely, and we figured we’d make up some time on the road, by trying to keep the potty stops to a minimum.

Well. That plan didn’t work all that well, but also, my usually faithful ‘Burb conspired to get us even more behind schedule than I ever imagined. Heading into the Blue Mountains of Oregon, is a pretty good little hillclimb on I-84 the locals call “Cabbage Hill.” It’s a number of miles long, and I think ends up at something like 7,000 or so feet altitude when you climb to the top. Not that the ‘Burb shies from a good climb, but something seemed different once I hit the top of the hill. The trans had shifted out of overdrive, to 4th, to 3rd, to 2nd – but then kinda seemed to want to just stay there. With a diesel that redlines at 3500 RPM, 2nd gear translated into about 40 MPH wound out. This was starting to look like one long trip to Moab going at that crawl speed. I did consult with spiritual guru and mechanical advisor, Gary – who was w-aa-aayyyy down the road by now, and by this time a whole lot closer to Moab than we were, who suggested maybe all it needed was some cooling down time. A little rest at the rest stop, and all seemed well – but once things heated up again, the ‘Burb dropped back into 2nd. Not good. Our intrepid band finally pulled in at LaGrande, OR, to see if there was anything to be done. I was already having misgivings, as it was Saturday afternoon by now, in a small town that already looked like it had rolled up the sidewalks, even though the sun was still reasonably high in the sky as yet.

Having missed the Rubicon trip 2 years previous, due to 6 broken ribs from me and my CJ having a little tumble down a mountainside at Liberty, my brain was having a small, private meltdown of its own. LaGrande seemed to have precious little mechanical help going on that late on a weekend, and not even any places to rent a truck to hook the trailer to. Jana already was towing Calamity (her CJ) behind her truck, and Mary was (as usual) showing us all up by commuting in her trail rig, so there were no towing options between the two of them. But on my behalf, they ran around the parking lot of the Flying J truck stop seeing if anyone could suggest any help. But most of the bozos they managed to talk to were of no use, or had a greater interest in helping themselves (hey, ya wanna party?) – classy, eh?

Well – I still hadn’t quite reduced myself to the point of driving at 40 MPH to Moab, so I roused myself out of my catatonic state, and at least got on the phone to AAA. Not only did the AAA representative help find a mechanic in town, but even connected me directly to him on the phone. The conversation went like this:

“Oh – you’re at the Flying J?”
I replied, “Yes.”
“Can you see across the street?”
“See the log house over there?”
“And the brown metal shop behind it?”
“I do.”
“Is your rig drivable?”
“It is.”
“Well – that’s where we are. And we’re here right now. Come on over.”

Well – in the proverbial 2 shakes of a lamb’s tail, the ladies and I shook the dust of the Flying J from our tires, and headed across the street to Steele’s Garage, owned by 2 rough looking, but really nice brothers. When we pulled up, we noticed a good omen – they were doing a little welding on a CJ-7 in their shop.

Turned out they really didn’t have time to look at it then (“then” being 4:00 PM by now) and they said that even if they could, there were no parts in town (all parts being in the NAPA warehouse in Boise), and the soonest they’d be able to fix it was probably Tuesday. Well – Tuesday would pretty much make this a non-vacation for me, and darn those women anyway – I tried a couple of times to send them down the road, and being Tamers, they were dead set against abandoning me to my own little personal funk.

So – by now – the sun was getting alarmingly low in the sky – and we were still hoping against hope to get to the home of a buddy of mine in southern Idaho – in the booming metropolis of Wendell (pop. something like 748.) It was put up or shut up time. I figured I had to trust in everything, all the proper building and maintenance I had put into my rig. Yep – Moosenstein got unlimbered from its restraints holding it to the trailer, and was set free.

Well – not quite that easily. The spare had a plug in the sidewall. One of the other tires had a ply delamination in the sidewall the size of my ever-balding noggin. Not bad at 10 lbs, but pretty damn alarming at 30! It pooched out from the rest of the tire by another inch or so. So – the good tires went on the front, the plugged one on the back, the separated one became the spare, the ‘Burb and trailer were jettisoned, with Jana and Mary grabbing the bare necessities of my gear (cigars and bourbon, of course) – and with crossed fingers, and a little trepidation on my part, off we roared down the interstate a little after 5:00PM

Wishing to make a long trip mercifully shorter – we hoped against hope to get to Wendell by midnight – of course barring any further problems. Oh,well – one problem – I’d never actually been to my buddy Rollie’s house EVER before. So much for shorter. He said his place was within 500 feet from the Wendell (yes – just one) exit off the interstate. So – finding it in the dark might be interesting. Stops for gas and dinner were necessary, but weren’t making the trip any more abbreviated. And at 2:30 AM Sunday morning, more on sleep deprived auto pilot than anything, we pull off at Wendell. I did not relish the thought of trooping through the driveways of strangers at “0 dark thirty” in the morning – but we’d worked too hard for this particular little rest stop. So – I had the ladies park in front of some house that looked more like a junk yard than anything, while I did a little reconnaissance. Finally – almost too desperate and tired to care, I drove through some trees, down a little dirt lane, and saw a Cadillac with an Idaho license plate that read “RM 4”. That sounded like it could be the wheels of Rollie’s dad, “Richard Marlow”. God bless Rollie, there was a note taped to the door of the house, “Door’s unlocked, come on in, wake me up, I’m in the first bedroom to the right.” I radioed the ladies to come on down the lane, and there I found Rollie, asleep, covered in about 5 cats.

Rollie, and his folks Dick and Mona (lovely people) had gotten extra Mexican food for dinner, and they all got up, heated dinner, fed us, then threw us into bed. Of course, Jana, Mary and I committed to get just a few hours of sleep, and were going to hit the road by 6:00 AM.

About 7:30 AM – I open my eyes – and notice the house was still quiet, and the sun rising across the high desert of southern Idaho. Even Rollie (who is usually awake by 4:00 AM) was still in bed. Oh well. This was a Tamer trip after all – everything goes according to some sort of plan – but generally not quite to schedule. Funny how Tamer Time sometimes rules the universe.

Now, Rollie is a unique character in his own right. He and I have known each other about 12 or 13 years. Now 50, he’s still as skinny as a piece of pencil lead, has a very nasal voice that takes a little practice to understand, has quite a serious overbite, and he’s one of the sweetest, dearest people I know, and stumps around with a cane, on one good leg, and another that’s about one of the most mis-bent pieces of human anatomy you’d ever want to see. About 5 years ago, he’d gotten thrown from a horse and was busted up pretty good. Cured him from drinking, but he about lost his leg over it. But no problem – because Rollie is a “look forward” kinda guy. He’s so far past making lemonade out of his lemons – it’s more like he’ll spin gold out of misfortune, if he has anything to say about it. So he’s stiff-legged hopping around the kitchen, making coffee, and fixing us up with more half’n’half than I’ve ever seen in one residential refrigerator. And he and dad Dick are a matched set, since Dick also was thrown from a horse as a younger man, and they’re both bent funny, and stumping around the kitchen like the 2 high desert Idaho cowboys that they are at heart. The ladies and I were almost sorry to have to keep going – but Moab was still singin’ its siren song. Time to (as Willie Nelson was singing in our heads) get “on the road again.” At 9:00AM, Moosenstein’s dual flowmasters barked back into life, and after a few handshakes and hugs, and small bouquets of roses from the garden for good luck for each rig, our band of three resumed heading south.

The rest of the day was fairly uneventful but LONG. Especially the eternity of the 2 hours it took to get in, through, and out of the nightmare known as Salt Lake City and surrounding metropolis. I was actually making between 60 to 70 MPH in Moosenstein, with Mary and Jana keeping up with me, but they must raise a lot of kamikaze motorists down in Mormon country, because I had more than a few little rice burning pocket rockets pull in right in front of Moosenstein, with little regard for the fact that it is a vehicle that I don’t drive so much as generally aim, and stopping it is more of a high concept art form than a sure thing. No matter. 2 hours of white knuckle, finger gripping, butt clenching, vinyl sucking, forehead vein popping driving, and we finally turned left and headed into the last set of mountains we’d have to cross until we eventually got to Moab.

It was starting to get exciting! We were seeing a lot of dark-red-mud covered 4 wheel drives coming towards us – being Sunday afternoon, and they were heading back to the big city after a weekend of play. After getting through these mountains, we passed through a whole lot more of high, open desert. As the sun was setting on us for a third time, Mary was heard to ask on the radio, “I forget – now tell me again? Which part of nowhere are we driving through? Is this the beginning, middle, or end?”

The last turn south from the interstate, and it was flat-ass dark. We might have well driven through an unlit tunnel from the last 60 or 70 miles to Moab. But sure enough, once seeing signs of civilization, it didn’t take much to head down the main drag, and just as the others told us, a right turn in the middle of town, and there was a street full of some of the most familiar, and most beautiful (to our road-weary eyes) trail rigs you’d ever want to see. It was now 9:00 PM, and on the porch of a cottage at the Red Rock Lodge, with a big smile was Lori Yates, telling me they heard Moosenstein coming from about the last 2 or 3 blocks. Finally, with fellow Tamers waiting for us, we’d made it to our home away from home. And this was only the beginning…………