Moab, UT / Ouray, CO - July 2000
by Bob & Rusty Fleming

 Moab, Utah.  The name invokes images of obstacles such as Lion’s Back and the Golden Crack, as well as Poison Spider Mesa and others.  It also brings to mind images of vehicle rollovers and other mechanical wreckages.  The week of July 01 – 06 had all of this, but it also had its beauty.

            Rusty and I left Houston on July 1st to meet up with J.J. Long and family and with Dan and Diane Neuss for a week of wheeling in Moab. This was our first trip to Moab, but not to the desert, as we lived several years in Phoenix before coming to Houston, so we had a very good appreciation for the temperature and terrain of the desert canyons and mountains.  Still, the beauty of Moab was spectacular.  The colors were vibrant and the temperatures ranged from low 80’s to a high of 113. (But it was a dry heat, right J.J.?)

            We arrived on Sunday, the 2nd and settled into our cabin at the Slickrock Campground.  The cabin was nice and luckily, it came equipped with an air cooler.  However, as we headed back into town to meet up with the Long’s and the Neuss’, we got our first indication that this was not going to be rockcrawling for the weak of heart.  We passed Dan headed out of town in his truck, pulling an empty trailer, with JJ in the passenger seat.  I knew that could only mean trouble.  Since we couldn’t raise Dan on the CB, Rusty and I continued on to the motel and waited with Diane, until Dan and JJ returned.  As it turned out, the trouble was with Dan’s Jeep.  He and JJ had gone out for a late afternoon run to Gemini Bridges.  After only going a short distance on the trail, Dan noticed his oil pressure had dropped to near zero.  He shut his engine down and returned with JJ for the trailer.  By the time they returned to the trail, Dan was able to start his Jeep and drive onto the trailer, with no indication of low oil pressure. 

            Once back at the motel, JJ, Dan and myself tried to determine the cause of the loss of oil pressure, but could not find anything amiss.  I suggested that we reset the gauges (you cab do that on a TJ!) and see if the problem was a simple computer glitch.  After resetting the gauges, the oil pressure indicated normal, even after running the engine for approximately 30 minutes.  The only thing we could attribute the malady to was either an intermittent pressure sensor, or a defective oil pump.  We consulted the Jeep manual and determined that we could change both, if we could locate the parts.  Unfortunately, it was Sunday evening and the parts stores were closed.  We decided to go to dinner and meet at the auto parts store first thing in the morning.

            Morning brought more bad news.  No TJ oil pumps were to be had in Moab.  However, Dan was able to purchase an oil pressure sensor.  He decided to see what the folks at Moab Off-Road had to say, before deciding what to do about the oil pump.  Of course, the oil pressure was still in the normal range when Dan started up the Jeep and maintained the correct pressure for quite a while.  The Moab Off-Road folks told him that there was nothing they could do if everything was normal, so Dan took the Jeep back to the motel.  After some serious soul searching, Dan decided that he would try another run and simply keep a close eye on the oil pressure and temperature gauges.  We decided on a moderate trail, just in case JJ or I had to tow the Dandi-1 Jeep back out.  The trail we selected was Gold Bar Rim.

            This is one of the trails used to get to the Golden Spike trail and to Gemini Bridges.  It is also one of the more difficult of the “moderate” trails, with some interesting challenges. The “Looney Toons” Jeep performed perfectly, as did JJ’s.  However, JJ did have to put up with some annoying “barking dogs” on the slickrock terrain, but at least we knew he was still back there.  The Dandi-1 ran the trail with only a minor problem at one obstacle. (Ask Dan about “Dan’s Rock”.(J)) The trail took almost 3 hours to run and return.  The Dandi-1 ran fine during the whole time on the trail, so we decided to run the Gemini Bridges trail next.  This is a moderate trail also, albeit much easier.  Again, the Dandi-1 ran perfectly and no problems were encountered by any of us.  We got some good pictures and got to see some very beautiful scenery.

            We began our return to town around 4:00.  However, we had only gone a few miles on the highway before I experienced a problem.  The front drive shaft CV joint began making a horrible noise and I had to stop and remove the

drive shaft. It was soon determined that the CV joint was shot. The only place to get it repaired was in Grand Junction, Colorado, some 120 miles away, and the next day was July 4th.  This meant I was not going to get any wheeling done until at least late afternoon on the 5th.

            Not to be deterred from enjoying our vacation, I told Rusty we could spend the 4th doing what she likes to do; shop every store in Moab!  We started hitting the shops around 9:30 and had only visited 2 or 3 before Dan called us on the radio.  He and JJ had gone out to run the Moab Rim trial that morning and were heading back to town already.  Dan was asking if he could use our campsite to perform repairs on the Dandi-1.  It was not the oil pressure this time, however.  It seems that Dan had experienced some problems with the front differential. 

            I assured him that the use of the campsite was okay with me and asked if he needed assistance.  He assured me that it was under control and for Rusty and I to finish our shopping.  We returned to the campsite about 3 hours later and found Dan and JJ looking pretty forlorn. The noise that had been coming from the front of the Dandi-1 indicated that there was something seriously wrong.  Dan and JJ had pulled the differential cover and found that the ARB was blown apart and several teeth on both the ring and pinion gears were damaged.  Dan decided to take the Jeep to Moab Off-Road for a professional opinion as to whether it was repairable or not.

            Since I was going to drive to Grand Junction in the morning, we made arrangements for me to pick up a new ring & pinion set, if required.  As it turned out, the differential was non-repairable in the timeframe we were going to be in Moab.

            The good news was that Rusty and I were able to locate a driveline repair shop in Grand Junction, but we were told that it would take several hours to accomplish the repairs.  We explained that we were not only from out-of-town, but also out of state.  The service manager told us that he would see if he could get it done a little faster, but couldn’t promise anything.  He gave us an estimate of $160 and told us to go get breakfast and come back in an hour to get a better time estimate.  He even directed us to a close by restaurant.  The food was lousy and we could only hope and pray that the repair shop did better work.

            We returned at the appointed time and found that our prayers were not only answered, but exceeded.  The driveline was repaired and repainted to look even better than new.  I took a deep breath as I walked to the cashier, but could only smile when she informed me that I owed only $83!  The shop foreman had only charged me his cost on the parts and no labor!  He just smiled and told us to enjoy our vacation.  Rusty and I returned to Moab with a song in our hearts and praising God for His blessing.

            We got back to Moab around 2:00 and it only took me a few minutes to install the shaft. We were soon driving back into town to meet Dan and JJ for lunch.  It was then that we got the bad news from Dan, concerning his Jeep.  Since this was going to be JJ’s last day in Moab, we decided to drive a trail up through the San Juan Mountains, with Dan riding with JJ. The trail was an easy one, but it was also a long and dusty trail. We were once again treated to the splendor of the high desert scenery and cool mountain breezes.

 

             The following day saw JJ and his family head off for Ouray, Colorado.  Dan decided to try the Dandi-1 on an easy trail with Diane and his niece, Amber.  We selected a trail that turned out to be the hardest of the moderate trails called Top of the World.  This was really a pretty easy trail, but Dan had to contend with the obstacles with only rear wheel drive.  His driving skills and 36” tires combined with his low range and locked rear differential, allowed him to complete the trail with no problem.

            The next day, Dan rode with me and we headed out for some of the more difficult trails.  We drove the trail called Steel Bender first.  This trail had some pretty interesting ledges and slick-rock crossings, but the “Looney Toons” handled them without any problems, even though I opted for the more difficult obstacles.

From here, we decided to go run the Poison Spyder Mesa trail.  I had told Dan that I wanted to try one of the more difficult trails and Dan assured me that the Poison Spyder would more than fit my desires.  Just to add to the excitement, it had started to rain and the slick-rock obstacles were now living up to their namesake.

 

             By the time we got to the trailhead for Poison Spyder, the rain had stopped, but we could see another band of showers headed our way.  Dan reminded me that once we started on the trail, we would have to negotiate every obstacle in reverse to get back out.  This could prove extremely difficult and dangerous, if the rocks were wet. He also reminded me that we were going alone and I had no winch.  I told him I was game if he was and we set off, with Dan keeping a wary eye on the sky and weather.

            The Spyder proved to be a very interesting trail and the obstacles were indeed challenging.  Once again, I decided to attempt the most extreme path at least once on every obstacle.  The “Toons” came through again.  Even the rain held off, for the most part, until we were off the trail and headed back to town.  I was disappointed that we didn’t have time to run the Golden Spike trail, but I was also looking forward to meeting up with the Long’s, Burrough’s and other folks in Ouray, Colorado the next day.

 

 Ouray had some really scenic trails, with some very different obstacles.  However, the most interesting thing was watching Dan negotiate the Imogene Pass trail in a stock rental Jeep.  Dan really took a lot of teasing about his hard luck on this trip, but he took it all in stride and only threatened Steve and I a couple of times (J).  Check out Dan’s picture in the “Dandi-3” Jeep.  Notice we made sure the club sticker was prominently displayed (J)!  We only had to winch him over one obstacle (the only real challenge on this trail), but even then Dan had to add to the difficulty by ripping a sidewall on a rock.  Steve used three plugs and managed to repair the tire and we finished the trail with no other problems. 

 

 

            Many thanks to JJ for his trail guide duties on Black Bear trail and his knowledge of the local history.  He made our trail rides interesting and fun. We have a lot more stories to tell, but we only have so many pages in the newsletter, so I’ll close this article.  If you’ve never been to the Moab, Utah or Ouray, Colorado areas, you’re really missing out on some good wheeling and terrific scenery.  I’ll bring more pictures to the meetings.  See you on the trails.

 Bob & Rusty Fleming