The World By Vehicle is combination of two passions of mine; seeing the world and cars. It only made sense that sooner or later these loves would join forces. In this vein I sold my Subaru, bought a land cruiser and set about learning how to
drag my knuckles over the ground travel by off-road vehicle. The overland bug bit me not long after my father died and I experienced a profound desire feel more free and do the things I've always wanted to do, before its too late. I don't think this is an unusual feeling, both after losing someone close or in general, after all we all want to feel free and those with a love of cars experience this in the form of vehicle based travel. This last week I took the first major step towards this goal of mine, to be free, by biking/driving the white rim trail near Moab Utah in the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National park. Its a 106 mile trail through some of the most spectacular terrain God ever did scribble out on this planet. I thought about dumping out the whole trip in one post, but it was just too big, so instead, enjoy part 1 of 3.
It began, as these things do, in a garage. This garage was my garage and we were here on this Wednesday night for a loadout meeting; a chance for everyone to get together with their gear and figure out of there is anything last minute we needed to get. I can't even image we could have possibly forgotten anything is this hoard of gear, but if you've ever been on even the smallest camping trips you know what a pain not have a can opener or lighter or cutting board can be.
I say that it began at the loadout, but that's not true. The truth is this trip has been in the making for nearly 2 years. As an idea at first and then starting just 4 month ago (the maximum advanced permit request time) and from there it took a lot of work from permit to trail. We would be camping 2 nights on trail and 1 night before hand and would need to be fully self-supported for those 3 days. It's a strange thing to know that if you don't have something you need, or you have a problem it's all on you to deal with it or make it right. That knowledge consumed more than one night of sleep. Water, fuel, and weight calculations as well as important fixes, mods, and updates to vehicles were in order. I think the thing that surprised me most about this planning was how quick and easy it was to reach max and over max Gross Vehicle Weight Ratings with gear and people. And because these vehicles would be supporting bikers, mix in bike repair, maintenance and spare parts to the fray. Then we would need cooking, cleaning, sleeping, sitting, shade and all the normal camp accouterments that you would expect, it was a lot to plan.
Back to the trip; The plan was to pack up all day Thursday, a job that took 2 guys 6 hours, and then get off before traffic became a problem.
Our first stop, aside from a quick roadside meal, was the arch view campground and gas station to get
gouged fuel and water before heading up towards the campsites we hoped would still be available. With the addition of fuel and water the cruiser was now 300 lbs over gross max. Thanks to new TJM progressive rate coils and dampers however, things were just fine.
With a little luck we were able to get a nice spot at the Horsethief campsite, named after Sir William Horsethief, the archduke of Moab….probably.
It's hard to articulate, especially for a literary boner (which Thesaurus.com tells me is a synonym for butcher) as myself but the emotion of being at the start of something like this that has taken months of hard work to plan and is filled with such apprehension and anticipation is immense and it's a wonder at all I got any sleep.
In the morning we get our permits and head out for the start of the trail. This is a good time to talk about my travel companions; 7 people, down from a max of 11 people that wanted to come initially including a mix of family and friends. 7 is a lucky number and a good number, it felt…strange…but more on that in a minute. Traveling remotely and especially biking and working together will help strangers become friends and friends become better friends; you'll learn more about a person in 3 days on the trail than you could from years of facebook…and probably more than you wanted to know.
Today we needed to cover 28 miles on bike, switching drivers every 5 or 6 miles for the cruiser and the Tacoma. The big part of day 1 is the Shaffer switchbacks, cut into the mountain side by hopeful uranium miners looking to strike it rich during the Uranium boom of the 50's its steep and intimidating on first glace but wide and well cared for; low range and relax.
Fun fact about uranium mining: the tiny town of Moab was once home to more millionaires per capita than any other place in the world while today the big jobs are cleaning up the tailings of that messy past and catering to tourism of which we saw a part of on our trip.
After Shaffer switchbacks we stopped briefly at the Colorado river overlook. If you have even seen those pictures of the river bending from the top of a big mesa, this is where we were, except on the other side. Its stunning, even for a jaded Utah boy like myself.
The next stop on the trail was Musselman arch, named for the muscle bound 20 foot giant that punched it out of the cliff face during reformation times…or so the legend goes. It's a pretty cool arch made even cooler by the fact that you can walk right out on it. I'm on record as saying I don't like heights; mainly for the strange and newly named "High place phenomenon" which describes the urge to leap from high places with no desire to kill yourself….weird and true. As you can expect, a 3 day trip along a continuous and enormous cliff face had its moments for me.
After pretending not to be afraid (that's when the musselman giant gets you) for the picture I promptly hopped off and got back on the bike.
After a mostly uneventful ride…well I say uneventful but every single place my eyeball vectored was new and utterly amazing and it's the truth that no matter how many amazing places you've seen in the American southwest or anywhere you will find something new and amazing about this place. The white rim is basically a giant geology lesson and I don't have the rock chops to give you the details other than hard cliff faces are giving way to softer layers in something like a 7 layer dip of amazingness and the formations are unique and awe inspiring.
We rolled into out campsite at Gooseberry around 330 and promptly set up chairs and fell asleep under the shade of the fortunately placed juniper tree at site A.
This seems as good a time as any to talk about the trucks that were supporting this trip.
My truck is a 1997 land cruiser FZJ80 with recently completed top end rebuild, axle rebuild and re-gear (4.10 to 4.56) and new suspension netting 3 inches of lift. That suspension replaced the tired stock suspension and I'm not sure this trip would have been possible without it. Matt at Rocky Road Offroad gave me a great deal and worked with me to make sure I got it in time and I wanted to give a shout-out. Rocky Road also built the rock sliders we both have.
My friend's truck is a nearly stock 2012 Tacoma TRD 4 door short bed, it's nicer riding than mine and gets much better mileage but, surprisingly, can't carry as much weight so it was relegated to the lighter duties such as dry food, camps chairs, sleeping gear (that wouldn't fit in the Yakima space box) and camp stove and propane. It's a testament to Toyota, our most favorite car brand, that the Tacoma was perfectly suited to this trip and that the cruiser remains squeak free after 242k miles and 80+ miles of abusive off road driving.
This ends part 1 part 2 is here