I love it when a plan comes together. The chatter on the NorCal Wagons mailing list started months before the event. The plan was to get all the elongated cruisers together on the same run at Cruise Moab 2004. Golden Spike was the trail of choice. I had run this classic Moab trail once before at CM2002 but couldn't past up the chance to wheel with my friends.
To top it off, Christo Slee, from Slee Offroad, would be leading the run in his extremely capable "Short Bus". Slee's knowledgable master mechanic Robbie Antonson would be driving his customized 80 Series fitted with 36-inch swampers and a 6-inch lift. Pulling up the rear as our tail gunner was the always smiling Ben driving his "wadded up and unfolded" fully equipped mini-truck, right down to the chrome wheel spinners. I knew this would be blast!
The line up was impressive, besides numerous 80 Series, are group included a couple of Lexus 450s and a capable 100 Series cruiser. We had a range of driver experience but most were well seasoned as the NorCal Wagons is a very active group.
The Golden Spike trail is long. It makes for a long day that starts by wheeling a good part of the Posion Spider trail and finishes by driving out the Gold Bar Rim trail. The trail has some famous obstacles including the Wedgie, Launch Pad, Golden Crack, Double Whammy, Golden Staircase and Can Opener Rock just to name a few. We've all seen the pictures and now it was time to do some wheeling.
Christo set a fast pace for this long trail. The 80 Series were true to their rugged and reliable heritage and rallied the trail with ease. We didn't have any mechancal problems (Aside from Robbie's broken control arm that was repaired in record time.) I chalk up our good fortunate to Ben's lucky spinners.
The first significant obstacle is a optional waterfall on Posion Spider. Everyone is still anxious when reaching this early portion of the trail and it's common to see some carnage. There are several options here, allowing everyone to bite off as much as they like. Often that turns out to be too much and many folks have had there day ended here before it even get started. Despite these warnings, a few of our group tried some of the nasty lines up a large cantilevered shelf. My buddy Jason, cleanly spanked a difficult line that denied me two years before. That attempt dented my rear control arms, muffler and striped my drive line - all at the same instant in time! This time I chose a less difficult line and drove right up like I knew what I was doing. We were wheeling now and it felt great!
Before long we found ourselves lined up at the "Wedgie" a crack that can be straddled by putting one tire high on the side of a steep rock. It's really not too bad especially with some good spotting. The exit presents an opportunity to lift a tire high into the air as demonstrated by Robbie. As would be the case all day, Ben took the "stupid" lines in his very capable mini-truck. He crossed it up pretty good in the wedge smiling the whole time.
Next came the Launching Pad. This is a very steep formation that includes a bump near the top. It really isn't difficult for the long wheel based wagons and most folks ran it with their lockers turned off. It's a different story for the short wheel based FJ40s. One of these trucks lifted it's front tires a foot off the ground when it hit the bump at the top of the hill. It continued up the hill on the back wheels just like a wheelie popping dragster. That had to be very unnerving for the driver!
Up and down, over and around, it wasn't long until we reached the Golden Crack. Once again, this isn't a difficult obstacle for a long wheel based wagon with lockers. First we literally had to push a Jeep out of the way. A little good natured fun ensued as everyone who touched the Jeep immediately began washing their hands before touching their cruisers. It was hilarious. Hopefully the Jeep owner wasn't too offended and simply thought it was some kind of "Toyota thing" he didn't understand.
Once the Jeep was out of the way we set about removing some large rocks the had been placed in the crack. I could only wonder what the Jeep owner thought as these "mall cruisers" prepped the crossing to make it MORE difficult.
Like I said, it wasn't difficult at all for the Land Cruisers and everyone walked right across. Amando may have put on the best show by lifting a IFS sprung 100 Series wheel high into the air. It didn't really matter as the other three locked wheels pulled the big cruiser across the abyss.
After enjoying a nice lunch at the crack it was time to get moving. I knew this meant Double Whammy was just around the next corner and I couldn't wait to check it out. For the past couple years I've been thinking about my decision to bypass this tough obstacle in 2002. I really wanted to try it this time.
The Double Whammy can be dangerous. Many rigs have rolled or broke attempting these wicked steps. I knew it would be tough when I pulled up to the first ledge and realized my 33-inch tire was going under the cantilevered shelf. Somehow, approaching at an angle I was able to put my right tire up onto the first ledge. Then I managed to get the left front up. I was poised for the charge. I pulled up a little further and realized I was not going to crawl these steps. My rear bumper was dragging and my underside dangly bits were hitting well before the rear tires even reached the ledge. Of course the front tires were hitting the second ledge as the back tires reached the first - hence the "double whammy" effect.
Well there is only one thing to do in circumstances like these. Yep, I backed up a bit and gave it the gas. It may not have been pretty but with a couple bounces I was up! What a rush! Still pictures just can't do justice to the maneuver.
A few more wagons followed clearly demonstrating the prowess of these might machines. Alvaro and Sean charged up the steps with little trouble while Jason was denied after three aggressive trys. Robbie made it look hard before he eventually found the line. Finally Ben put on a show as he tried crawling several unsuccessful lines. In the end, he resigned to using a higher gear and scooted right up. Driving up the Double Whammy was a highlight of my trip!
It wasn't long before we reached the end of the trail (or should it be trial?) Christo had set a blazing pace and we finished before 4:00 PM. We had conquered the Golden Spike in true 80 Series fashion: crawling all the difficult lines and high balling in comfort through the easy sections.