Wednesday, April 15, 2009

My First "Snud" Storm

Well, after 61 years, I believe I have just seen a new first in my weather experiences. A Snud storm! I'm not even sure that a lot of weather experts have seen this, because I think it takes a very unique set of circumstances:

First, the day began with a howling windstorm. Gusts were up in the high 30 mph range. Since most of the ground around Moab is red sand, after several hours, the town was engulfed in a red dust storm. Then, a big black storm cloud came over the valley, and proceeded to drop a little hail storm. The hail rapidly turned to rain, and then to snow... but not just snow, the snowflakes are, in effect, washing the sand out of the sky. The mixture of snow and sand is making a red mud, which I have determined shall be called "Snud". The flakes don't actually look that different from regular snow. When they melt on the windows or other surfaces, they leave a thick trail of red mud.

So here we sit, in a beautiful setting of rock mountains and desert Junipers just outside our window, watching the Snud fall as we sip our Gumbo. It's a crazy day here in Moab. If it keeps coming down tonight, we will build a Snudman and take a picture. Right now, it is 42 degrees and the Snud melts on contact, so it may not be a good day for Snudmen tomorrow. I'll keep you posted.


Sunday, April 5, 2009

Died and went to heaven...

We left Las Vegas after picking up new tires and wheels for the Trail Limo. It now looks like a real Jeep, with 35" tires and polished alloy wheels. The added inch and a half of clearance and much more traction with about twice the footprint as the stock tires makes the Trail Limo a very capable Jeep to go with the looks, too.

The first night after leaving, we stayed in a rest stop just south of Cedar City, Utah. The elevation of the stop was just under 7,000 feet and it was VERY COLD, to say the least. After a whole year of being in warmer temperatures, it was a real shock to step out of the rv to walk the dog and suddenly feel the full chill of 20 degrees. To add to the pleasure, all the trucks parked around us had their engines at high idle, so the noise was pretty hard to sleep through.

We didn't hang around the rest stop to enjoy the cool ambiance too long. In fact, I pulled out of the rest stop before 5:30 and headed to (hopefully) warmer and quieter locations. Driving north, the Sun did come out and the temps rose to a still chilly 35 degrees. Even after descending into Moab at noon the temps were around 49 and the wind was quite cool. Still, after 20 degrees it was a lot more comfortable.

We made reservations at the Canyonlands Campground on Main Street close to the center of Moab, but they were for April 3rd through the 7th. We arrived on the 2nd, so we checked out a BLM campground on the Colorado River just a few miles Northeast of Moab. The Gooseberry Island campground was very nice. We had a beautiful wall of red rock just across the river from us, and the sites were large and far apart from each other. In the Moab area, the BLM campsites are $12 per night with just pit toilets, a fire ring, trash dumpster, and picnic table. It was very quiet.

In preparation for the Jeep runs I hoped to go out on, I transferred a lot of the gear from the Jeep to the RV. I put the Portabote on top of the RV on the luggage rack, along with all the boating gear like anchors, tackle box, and the like. Then, I put the fishing poles, boat battery, and electric motor in the basement. I secured the trail gear, like tow straps, air up tank, air hoses, emergency blankets, hi-lift jack, cooler and such into the back of the Trail Limo. It almost seemed empty. Now, we were ready for Moab.

We had a great meal of hot dogs cooked on our hi-tech rotating wienie sticks over the campfire. Willa made up a side dish with a corn and macaroni. We followed the meal with fresh jet-puffed marshmallows that were a little burnt. It was a fun meal, especially since it had been a long time since we had a campfire. We seldom carry wood with us, and most places we have camped during our travels don't have fire rings. It was a treat.

It rained pretty hard that night, and the sound of the rain on the roof was restful. The next morning was overcast, but the rain eventually stopped, and we moved on into the campground in downtown Moab. I made reservations there so that Willa could easily walk to the downtown shops and walkways to have some things to do while I was on the trails. She is ok with a couple of short trails a week, but she's not into going every day or for 12 hours of straight trail riding.

We settled into our site at Canyonlands Campground. It was so tiny I had to put the RV up tight against the trees with the slide out open in order to get any space on the patio for the picnic table and chairs. If it was hot summer, all the Cottonwood trees would be a welcome relief from the hot sun, but it was pretty chilly after the night of rain, and we could have used a bit more sun.

The next morning, I got up early (oh-dark-thirty, I think) to go register for the Jeep Safari runs. There was some confusion about daylight savings time, so I had to hurry out the door to try and make it to the event registration in time to catch a trail before they left. I popped out the door, and was looking at about 3/4 inch of snow on the top of the Jeep! The temperature was about 36 degrees, so it was hard to force myself to continue towards trail riding, instead of going back to bed. But, I'm motivated by the addiction of Jeeping, so I couldn't resist. I started up the Trail Limo and headed out for the registration.

As I drove up the hill to the arena where the registration is held, the snow started again, and then got pretty intense. By the time I was at the parking lot, it was about 3 inches of cold blowing snow.

I went inside, and found out they were not going to be able to run Hell's Revenge (the trail I hoped to run) because it was too dangerous to drive on top of the rock fins with 3 inches of snow on top of them. Instead, they would take an "easy" trail that would be more difficult because of the snow and mud. I got registered for the trail, and added the Kane Creek Canyon trail for next week.

While I was in line to register, I ran into Bart Jacobs, who was leading the trail. Bart hadn't heard they were planning on running an alternate trail. Actually, he was hoping for a cancellation, since his vehicle was a rock buggy. Like most buggies, he didn't have some of the creature comfort of a trail limo. Creature comforts like heat, windshield, and windshield wipers. Leading a trip in a snow storm would be very uncomfortable in the buggy, and when he heard they were going to run the easier trail (7 Mile Rim), I offered to let him ride in the Trail Limo. He took me up on the offer, and let his daughter ride with his son, Eric, in Eric's Cherokee.

At he meeting place, we picked up two more riders in the Limo (Kevin, and his son Conner.) They were a camera crew for a new outdoors TV show called "Hooked on Utah". Having a camera crew on the trail added a bit of fun, and alse added a lot more time to the run. We had to drop off the crew ahead of the rest of the group, then stop the procession while they ran back to the Limo to ride to the next point of interest. The running was a little more difficult when they had an inch of putty-like mud on their boots. In short order, the Limo was looking a bit muddy both inside and out.

It was very enjoyable to spend the day with Bart. He and I have other common threads besides Jeeping that run through our lifes, such as growing up in the area north of Salt Lake City. He went to school where my cousins went, and we both went to Weber State University. It was a good time Jeeping together. He has a nice, laid back approach to Jeeping, and I always appreciated his low keyed approach, even when the going was extreme.

We had lunch stop at Uranium Arch, a nice little area off the 7 Mile Rim trail. Uranium Arch is really neat, as instead of having an open space behind it, it is more like a grotto, with an opening in the ceiling. I noticed their was a bush in the hole that was covered with ice. In spite of the icey conditions in the grotto, the slickrock was nice and sticky, and we had no problem negotiating the trails.

We took a second diversion off 7 Mile Rim trail to play on a slick rock hill named "Wipe Out Hill" Originally, the hill was run downhill only, but over the years as trail rigs became more capable, the loop trail out of the bottom of Wipe Out Hill was closed, and now you have the pleasure of going down the precipitous side of the hill, then after gathering your breath, you get to turn about and go back up! No sweat though, because there are two alternate paths back up. One is a little bumpy, but very steep. Short wheelbase Jeeps will tend to do wheelies when they try this route. The other is not quite as steep, but very ledgy and one particular spot where you come up over the ledge you are greeted by a large v shaped notch in the upper rocks that will usually put one of your wheels in the air.

Several Jeeps stayed up on top of the hill, and didn't attempt the optional Wipe Out Hill. Six of us did go down and back up. I was the first to go down, and the last to come back up. Eric (Brad's son) was the first down, and he went up the v-notched side. It took him several tries, but after some good spotting by Bart and some good driving by Kevin, he was able to get up the hill.

The next rig to go up was a full sized Wagoneer. It made it up the v-notch with a couple of hard skid plate bangs on the rock, and a lot of throttle.

The next attempt was a short wheelbase TJ Jeep was the first to try and go up the steeper smoother side. His front end raised well up off the surface on a couple of attempts, and he wisely elected to be pulled up by another Jeep up on top with a tow strap.

Then, a Stock Unlimited Rubicon, like the Trail Limo used to be, tried the V notch and came close, but couldn't get the low slung long Jeep up over the ledge. The Wagoneer hooked up to him and pulled him up over the hill.

A short wheelbase TJ Rubicon was the next to attempt the v notch. This Rubicon had a standard transmission, and the driver was pretty rough. He did a lot of scarey wheelstands, and eventually blew a rear driveshaft. He started taking off the broken parts and hooking up a tow strap, so it was my turn to give it a try.

I elected to take the smoother steeper side up and out, since I had come down that side, and the Trail Limo seemed to have plenty of grip and clearance to make it up without any wild antics. With Bart spotting me, it was really a very nice ride up. The tires barely chirped. The feeling of once again driving up a challenging obstacle and succeeding was like I died and went to heaven!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Movin' On Up!

Last Saturday, we moved out of the Q RV Park in Quartzsite to begin our gradual trip to our kid's place in Virginia. We expect to arrive in Virginia in about 6 weeks, so it will be a very slow move. The first stop is Boulder City, Nevada to visit my Mom, my brother Ted and his wife Lorna.

We arrived in Boulder City Saturday afternoon, and set up camp in the Las Vegas Bay campground on Lake Mead. It is a very pretty spot, with a mix of shrubs, palm trees, and large shade trees throughout the camp. Las Vegas Creek runs through the canyon below the campground, which is perched on a peninsula above the lake. Normally, there would be a beautiful bay of the lake surrounding us. There is a boat launch here, but with the lake being almost 100 feet below high water, the launch is high, dry, and closed. The view is more natural, with the creek flowing through the canyon instead of the reservoir backed up into it.

We are preparing to head out this morning and get "upsized" in the tire department. When I put the lift on the TrailLimo I planned to upgrade to larger tires and complete the build up for clearance. I decided to treat myself to the tires and wheels as a birthday present. Just in time to head out for Moab Jeep Safari tomorrow. I am hoping to go on the first run out on Saturday morning. It is being led by an old Jeeping friend, Bart Jacobs. I may also go on another run or two during the week.

We also stopped by the DMV to get licenses and tags for the Jeep. The DMV in Henderson was quite an experience. It is a supercenter, with lines of literally hundreds of people waiting for driver's license and other ways the government can suck money from those who choose to motivate beyond walking. The crowded lines are an excellent opportunity to see the marvelous diversity of the inhabitants of the Las Vegas area. Wide varieties of fashion and diet were experienced. It was interesting to see the opposite ends of the weight spectrum and their drinks of choice. I have longe believed that diet drinks make you fat. It originally was supported by the fact that you seldom see a skinny person drinking diet drinks. I just read that science has started to support my theory, saying that drinking sweet drinks, whether they are sweetened with sugar or artificial sweetners, will overstimulate the appetites, and in the case of diet drinks they will slow metabolism. Back to the line at the DMV, all the skinny folks seem to be drinking small bottles of water they have paid too much for, and all the big people are drinking from huge tankards of diet sodas.

Well, we are going to be pulling out this afternoon, and I need to be packing. More to follow, when we are back on-line in a day or two.