It makes good sense to schedule a short run on Friday. That leaves plenty of time to get back to camp, shower and head out to the Cruise Moab dinner and raffle. Jason and I were confirmed for Metal Masher along with several old friends and some soon to be new ones. I was happy to hear our very own TLCA president Tony Twiddy would be joining us on this run along with the infamous "those guys" Paul Elbisser and Chris Fryman. There were several other familiar faces lining up on this rainy morning.
The weather had turned the day before and it rained heavily throughout the previous night. This left the trail slick and muddy. It was very cold for this California beach bum too.
Rising Sun member and trail leader Neil quickly led us to the first major obstacle "Rock Chucker". Fortunately this is an optional challenge because the rain had left these huge rocks wet and muddy. Not surprisingly, Jeremiah Profitt pointed his big green machine toward the rocks and climbed up with little drama. The big tires, 2.5 ton Rockwells and rear steer made short work of this nasty climb. Now with the strap rig safely atop the rocks the other crazies could give it their best shot.
On a good day this would be a very challenging obstacle. Today, the wet weather made it down right treacherous. There were two main problems: 1) a large hole to the right that could easily cause a rollover. Naturally, the slippery rocks were always pushing you in that direction. 2) a steep, tractionless ledge that grabbed spring hangers and anything else except tires. There was no easy way to approach the ledge and no room to back up and re-align. A second line to the left required some flex and put the left side body panels at risk. Not that these guys seem to care. Either way was tough and only a couple vehicles made it to the top.
Chris Fryman put on a good show in his mustard FJ40 and a determined Paul Elbisser managed to beat gravity with sheer will power (and a helpful tug by a handful of willing spectators). Phil Passiak put on a good show in his humble sprung under FJ40. Phil used his excellent driving skills to try several courageous but unsuccessful lines. The rest of us watched and tried to stay warm on this blustery morning.
My favorite part of the trail, Mirror Gulch, was just around the next turn. This is a beautiful geologic formation that pinches in on both sides of the trail. A series of moderate steps or waterfalls must be navigated carefully and without many choices for lines. The wet weather turned this section into a creek and made climbing the vertical shelves difficult. Fortunately, the press of a couple buttons and the factory lockers pulled my heavy wagon up without a problem.
Shorty after this interesting section the trail takes a sharp trun and climbs a few more ledges. Again, nothing to difficult and soon we were having lunch at the edge of a huge cliff overlooking the highway into Moab. By now the weather was improving and jackets were being replaced with T-Shirts.
The rest of the trail is pretty easy with the noteable exception of Widowmaker. This extremely tall and steep ledge has a bypass that most of the group took. Jason and I were near the front and wanted to at least see this famous obstacle so we left the group and headed down the main trail.
Arriving at the Windowmaker my first thought was "this looks tougher than in the pictures". And, the pictures I've seen included numerous rollovers! I wasn't sure my low rider 80 Series' approach and departures angles would allow me to even get onto the steep rock face. Jason and I contemplated our options and we waited for the rest of the group to arrive.
Finally the big boys arrived and proceeded to show everyone just how tough this obstacle was. "Those Guys" gave it a good try but in the end I believe they both took straps. Chris came closer to rolling than I thought possible. The quick actions of some nearby spectators saved an almost certain flop. I think the yellow mini truck was the first to clean the climb, after depositing a significant amount of rubber on the slope.
Throughout this show, Jason kept saying "Look, we're not going up this so let's leave now and take the bypass around." I kept saying, "Wait a minute, I'm still undecided." Eventually, Jason got tired of waiting and jumped into his recently purchased '93 FZJ80 and headed back down the trail toward the bypass. Upon seeing this manuver, the large crowd of spectatorrs started heckling. It didn't take much, and Jason slammed on the brakes, threw it in reverse, and lined up on the Windowmaker.
I was thinking Jason would do a little posing before pulling off and heading back for the bypass. I was wrong! He hit the hill with authority, giving it everything that poor cruiser could muster. He almost made it. His back tires started climbing and all four tires were burning rubber. Sadly it wasn't enough and he slipped back into the hole. Having given it such a valiant try he gladly excepted a strap for the pull to the top.
After seeing his effort, I had to give it a try. Unfortuantely, my lower ride height and Kaymar bumper prevented my rear tires from ever reaching the rock face. I plowed quite a trench as my rear bumper dug into the ground, lifting my rear tires away from any chance of traction. It was obvious I wasn't going to make it and even the strap rig on top couldn't pull me up. In the end, I had to back down, turnaround and take the bypass I so much wanted to avoid.
At the end of the trail we found a little "play" area. The kind of place where one can easily bite off more than you want and end up breaking something. I tried a couple of "sick" lines before quiting while I was ahead. We aired up our tires and highballed down the road back to camp to get ready for the event dinner and raffle.
I met lots of people at dinner, putting faces to the names I so often see on the Land Cruiser Mailing List, IH8MUD forum and Pirate4x4 Internet sites. I even won a prize at the raffle - a complete set of all the color Toyota Trails magazines!