ZUKIWORLD ‘Zukfari 05
Adventure Series Kicked Off With A Bang.
Editor: Eric Bewley Story: Bryan Zeigler Photo: Sara Bewley, Bryan Zeigler, Todd Paulson
MOAB, UT. The site of the 39th annual 2005 Easter Jeep Safari was a little different this year in it’s weather and in the town’s reception of the more that 15,000 visitors that descended on the small tourist town to enjoy another great year of wheeling with their friends and families. Nonetheless, the trails and camaraderie were at an all time high as the ZUKIWORLD ‘Zukfari motored on for another successful year of events and wheeling. With the help of volunteers Jason Hutchison, Jason Hoff, Bruce Hoff, Sara Bewley, Jim Phillips, and many vendor enthusiasts ZUKIWORLD was able to hold a very successful dinner and raffle in which we raised over $400 for the Red Rock Four Wheeler’s M.U.D. (Multiple Use Defense) Fund.
The following is a recount from Moab newbie Brian Zeigler who drove out in his Sidekick from Tennessee with one of his best friends, Raj. We have affectionately called this “Zig and Raj’s Excellent Adventure”. Please enjoy.
Over the past few years I have been getting prodded form fellow ZUKIWORLD members to make the pilgrimage to Moab for the ‘Zukfari gathering. I have always wanted to ride in Moab, but could never get a group up to go. After many years of getting hounded by Mike, Eric, and many others I finally decided to load up and dare the cross country ride.
After looking at many different options I decided to drive my 270,000-mile having Sidekick instead of towing it. Most everyone I know, including fellow ZUKIWORLD members, thought I was crazy for that decision, but it was part of the adventure I did not want to miss.
I had no idea of how long it would take me to drive the 1625 mile trip to Moab, so I left out a couple of days early, just in case I ran into any problems. Wednesday at 12:00 central I hit the road bound for Moab. After a long drive that day and about 4 hour drive the following morning, I was sitting having breakfast with Corey (Cwkick) in Topeka, KS. He had invited me to stop by on my trip and I am glad I did. Not only did I get to drool over one of the cleanest 97 Trackers I have ever laid eyes on, but I got to meet another cool member of the ZUKIWORLD family and sit and talk about everything from Suzuki to motorcycles to family and even a little about jobs (Mostly Suzuki though).
After a couple of hour break I was back on the road to Moab. I was hoping to make it most of the way across Kansas that day but ended up making excellent time and stopping in Denver, CO that night for some sleep. I had been told that I wanted to drive the Rockies during the day so I could enjoy the beautiful scenery. Boy was I in for a surprise the next morning.
After about an hour drive up into the Rockies it began to snow, and snow, and snow!!!!! I had always wanted to see a ‘good snow’ and the Rockies just gave me a small dose of what she could do. I have always wanted to see what deep snow looks like and in places I got to see 4′-6′ of snow blocking a closed road (FYI: deep snow for Tennessee is any thing over 4″-6″ and that much was on the interstate at times). After 4-5 hours of chugging along over the pass and through the snow I finally cleared the snow and was Utah bound.
Mike had recommended that I take the Route 128 Exit off of I-70 if I wanted to see some awesome scenery. At first I thought he was sending me on some cross-country rally racecourse. The exit dumped me off into a farm (really, IN a farm not by a farm). I was driving a remote road with nothing but cattle gates and watch for cattle signs everywhere. By this time I was ready to just get out of the Kick, I had been on the road for almost 48 hours and had spent more that half of it driving. Soon after exiting the interstate I started down into a valley and ended up riding along next to the Colorado River all the way into Moab. It was so beautiful along that stretch of road that I drove it three more times over the next two days while I was waiting on everybody else to arrive. (Thanks for the tourist hint Mike)
It was now 48 hours later and I was 1625 miles from home, in Moab, Utah, and ready to relax. I booked a room at the Moab Valley Inn and headed across the street to the Moab Brewery for a few cold ones and my first meal since Topeka, KS 30 hours ago.
I woke up early Saturday morning refreshed and ready to do a little adventuring. I headed down the Moab welcome center to get some maps and trail descriptions. While I was there I overheard some people talking about the WEROCK competition that was located just a few miles south of town. I decided to head down to the competition to see how the Pro’s did it. I was shocked. These guys did stuff with their trucks that looked impossible. Out of the entire course, I only saw 3-4 obstacles that I would even think about trying, and these guys were making some of the obstacles look easy.
Later that morning I went trail hunting. I found Behind the Rocks and played around on it for a little while and then spotted a sign to the back of Pritchett Canyon. I had heard about the high-speed Suzuki trips out of Pritchett Canyon, so my curiosity got the best of me. I drove out what seemed to be an endless desert road, stopping to play in the Sand dunes, check out Picture Frame Arch, and play on the other half of Behind the Rocks. When I decided to turn around and head to town for dinner it was rally time. I thought I was flying as I raced back out to the highway but later that weekend I would realize that the Kick could do a lot more on the desert back roads.
The following morning I was eager to hit City Market and finally meet in person all the people I have met on the ZUKIWORLD BBS. When I arrived there were 15-20 rides sitting in the parking lot ready to go. Heather and Nate were taking the group on a scenic ride to Chicken Corners. The morning started out overcast and a bit chilly, but the group had made their formal introductions and we were on our way in spite of the gloomy weather. Chicken Corners is a scenic ride across the desert with many beautiful views and overlooks. Chicken Corners is not a difficult trail but it does have a few spots close to the edge of big drop off that will make some people uncomfortable. The Vehicle version of Chicken Corner is not to bad, but the hiking version of Chicken Corners will really open your eyes. As you round the corner on the narrow ledge and get blasted with a 20 MPH gust of wind, you step into the last thing you would expect, a wide-open prairie with the Colorado carving a valley down both sides, a few hundred feet below. We all met back up just before the Chicken Corners and talk of Hells Revenge started flowing around the group (I think it was ‘them darn Suzuki boys’ that started the stir). Everyone decided to meet back up in town to head to Hells Revenge. 3-4 Kicks and a 1.6L Samurai all took off to head out Rally Style. This was the first time I realized just a little of what my Kick could do running across the desert (but I could not Keep up with them darn Suzuki boys).
We met back up at city market that afternoon and headed out to Hells Revenge. As we started into the trail I was confronted with solid rock hills that would unnerve the most experienced wheeler. After only spending a few minutes on the trail it became my personal favorite. They guided me up and down obstacles that I had no idea a Kick could do. Hells revenge is inspirational yet a very humbling trail. It makes a Moab Rookie realize that no matter how steep, long or impossible a trail has seemed in the past, it’s nothing compared to the accents and descents you can do on Moab “Slick Rock”(yea right, more like sandpaper). It also makes you look back on obstacles you have attempted before and failed, with a new perspective and plan of attack when you get home.
Monday morning as everyone else headed off to Moab Rim Trail, I relaxed, grabbed some breakfast and headed to Moab Airport to pick up my friend Raj that was flying in from North Carolina. He had received his leave from the USMC while I was on my drive out, booked a flight and arrived in Moab just a few days later. We spent the rest of the day riding around Moab, looking for a few trails, and then just gave up and did some high speed running on desert back roads until it was time to head back into town for some bodily nourishment.
Tuesday we met up with the group for the Hawk Strictly Suzuki ride along the Poison Spider Mesa Trail. As we all gathered our line of 24 Suzuki at the trailhead, and prepared for the days ride, Bobzuki asked the Zuki gods for safe passage through meditation and song. Poison Spider Mesa is an out and back trail with lots of sand coated rock climbs beautiful scenery and even a little sand area to play in as we ate lunch. By this time I was realizing that every trail in Moab was a completely unique experience all it’s own. This trail was unique from the two previous trails because it not only required traction and wheel control but if you missed you line you could easily slide into a V-notch and/or end up on your side. We all had a great time enjoying the views and challenges that the Poison Spider Mesa trail offered.
Wednesday morning it was time for the Calmini Golden Spike trail ride. Most people know this trail from obstacles like Golden Crack, Stair Steps, Launch Pad, and many others. Once again we had around 20 Suzuki lined up to take on the challenges of the day. To my surprise we ended up at the trailhead as the day before. Little did I know, but the first part of Golden Spike was also the entrance to Poison Spider Mesa. Golden Spike was a buffet of smooth trail riding combined with a whole array of tough challenges thrown in the mix. There were bypasses to some of the tough obstacles but even they were tough to conquer. When lunch rolled around we stopped at huge rock overhang and Steve Kramer of Calmini fired up the grill and cooked us all hotdogs as we lounged around in the sun. By the end of the day we had split up into 2-3 groups as the Golden Spike Trail claimed it’s victims. With an array of carnage including rolled vehicles, snapped axles, shattered ring and Pinions, broken t-cases, and even suspension parts ripped form the frame, we were getting everybody off the trail any way we could. It was AWESOME! Everybody pulled together and worked till after dark to get all of the vehicles off of the trail and back to Moab.
The following morning Raj and I were loaded up and hitting the road on our way back to Tennessee as everyone was lining up to hit Pritchett Canyon. It was pretty much an uneventful ride on the way back and 26 hours and 57 minutes later we were back home in Tennessee.
Side Bar From Raj (The Zuki Rookie of the trip)
As blasphemous as this will come out, I never really thought too much about riding around in a group, through the desert, in (I know, I know) vehicles that I FORMERLY thought of as little more than cute little trucks. When Zig called me from the road to Utah and promised beer. I thought of only that, beer and good friends, but now I am a changed man.
There truly is an evil seed that makes me do the stupidest things. I’ve got scars to prove it. When I landed at the Moab Inter county Airport, I knew I would be lucky to leave that place with only a hangover. The landscape was truly breathtaking and I could feel something besides jetlag stir within me. The evil seed. This was a beautiful desert the likes of which I had only seen in pictures in magazines. I have seen some deserts and this one took the cake. I had arrived like a rockstar being the only passenger in a little two-engine plane operated by, either criminally insane or retired, Salmon Airlines personnel. They were informative, friendly, competent, and, above all, humorous. They checked me in, loaded my bag, topped-off the tank, kicked the tires and whisked me away in good time.
Upon arrival, one of the pilots asked me if I needed to use his cell phone to ring a friend to pick me up. Of course, I did not as Zig, my driver for the week, was there to grab my bag, kick the tires, and whisk me away. What service. The first stop was, of course, beer and food at The Moab Brewery, a place Zig knew well already. That place rocked. The food was unique as was the beer. And I mean that in a good way, not like Uncle Rex is unique. The atmosphere was extremely friendly. As we walked in, Zig changed hats from my pal to Brewery employee telling me the specials of the day, which beers he found tasty and saying hello to the bartender, Karen. Like a rockstar. The next few hours were amazing. We drove around the town and took a few trips outside the town. Feeling so small and humbled, we cruised a few trails leading up to the real trails. I was having a blast. The rocks took my breath away. He pointed high and said that we would be up there the next day. I did not vomit.
I did not expect the composition of Suzuki riders to be so varied. The most curious characters to the most mild turned out to ride the next day. Older folks who made it all look easy (Harley) to children who could sprint up the side of a cliff in two ticks and a tock. From ages one to 92, everyone came out to enjoy the scenery, challenges, and, of course, the brotherhood of Suzuki. These are very handy people to know. Vehicles were breaking left and right. Ingenuity was a common trait. I knew things were not right when Zig clipped-off his antenna and hooked it up to a battery so someone could weld a Flux Capacitor to a Heisenberg Compensator. I am a firm believer that if it cannot be fixed by a Swiss Army Knife and Duct Tape, then it is beyond repair and it is time to get a new one anyway. These people made MacGyver seem like an unimaginative dolt. The whole latter half of our last ride, three vehicles had to be towed over or around obstacles!! I did not fully understand how one vehicle made it through that crucible, much less towing another! These people knew the terrain and their vehicles.
Thankfully, at night, I got to meet these people without being in a squeaking roll cage and without my innards being tossed about.
For that, I am the most thankful. Guys like Eric and Hutch were very patient with my novice questions…like why…and extremely hospitable. “The Sisters,” were a constant source of entertainment and cheer. Two words to describe them: Ain’t Skeert. (Is that two?) During the following 1600 mile drive in a exhaust-manifold-leaking, rollbar-squeaking, windshield-wiper-scratching Sidekick (or, “Kick,” if you’re in the know,) I had much time to process the previous days. Unbelievably, no scars! And no hangover thanks to Utah’s pansy beer. I was thankful to have my hands on the desert walls. I was thankful to have borderline chronic-activation pals. The scenery was, at the risk of overusing the term, breath-taking. I hope Zig gets another wild hair and I get earplugs for Christmas. I hope to have the chance to do something like that again…and bring my own beer. The Moab is a beautiful sanctuary where we can still enjoy the outdoors anyway we want. Mountain bikers, motocrossers, and four-wheelers enjoyed the same terrain and left nothing but a little rubber on the rocks. The Suzuki riders at that event could have made an audit fun, and that’s what it’s all about.
Even though I left with a vehicle that had just been gone through and maintained to good condition (for a Kick with 270,000 miles on it) and returned with my exhaust half gone, a busted header, brakes shot, a bad oil leak and my body/frame so badly tweaked that my roll bar is squeaking enough to drive you mad, the Moab experience was well worth the trip. The entire experience opened my eyes to view off-roading in an all-new light. Even though I have been wheeling for over 11 years and attend many events a year, the Moab experience is different than any thing I have ever done. If you ever get the chance, it is a wheeling experience you do not want to miss.