Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Toyota Trails Magazine Submission

above: the campground and the kids
below: Brian with Jeremy, Sam, Clarissa, Gavin, Stacie and Zoe
Slickrock looking over a forever drop to the canyon bottom
is not the best place to be standing with your kids. Scary.
Smile kids!
Scraping bottom. Lost some parts.
The famouse Utah Arch.

Todd J. Kaderabek, in an editorial introduction to the May/June 2006 issue of Toyota Trails argues with three common misperceptions Toyota Land Cruiser Association (TLCA) members engage in when it comes to participating in the various TLCA events. He suggests the misperceptions include: "...TLCA events are for hardcore wheelers, ...that your cruiser will sustain body damage, [and]...TLCA events are not family friendly" (4).

After a weekend in Moab with the Wasatch Cruisers with my husband Brian, our four children, and one niece, I completely agree these are misperceptions; TLCA events are certainly family friendly, you need not be a hardcore wheeler to enjoy and safely appreciate the sport, and with experience and trusted spotters you can easily protect your cruiser from sustaining unnecessary body damage.

Adventures in Fun Family Wheelin’

Betsy, the family “cruiser”, is the newest member of the our family. She is old, slightly handicapped, and was voted at a Wasatch Cruiser’s Fall Social to “be most likely to need a bus pass”. She is the color of rust, white wear she isn’t, with a couple of brown doors from a donor who now lives on through her. At times when we are driving her around, people wave, some may even recognize a part of her from earlier eras. Me, I am new to this whole club “wheeling” thing. I am learning the scene and getting to know what is behind the craziness of wanting to drive for hours where there are no roads, to an elevation where even breathing is a new experience, all the while knowing that if something happens, you could walk for days without seeing another person, much less be able to get a cup of “Joe”. Hard core wheelers we are not. With the dynamics of our family we just have to jump in head first and go along for the ride. I can’t really speak of the concern for body damage, I am quite certain that Betsy came out of Moab with a bit of dirt, but in her condition I don’t think damage is noticeable. I can however testify of the fun our family had while attending the TLCA event Cruise’ Moab 2006, and assure that by our experience this TLCA event was positively family friendly.

Troy DeMill mentioned in the Chapter Report for Wasatch Cruiser that 30-40 of the club would meet up in Moab for “our big spring run”. That we did. After Packing up old Betsy with the tent, food for the weekend, cooking grills, 4 kids, our 2 year old niece, clothing, ear plugs (for Brian to be able to concentrate on the drive while the family entourage asked “Are we there yet?” a billion times), blankets, pillows, and toys for a whole season, we hit the road, literally; the poor bumper could barely take the driveway, even with 32 inch wheels. As for extra parts, no room, hopefully if needed someone can spare something when we get there, or we would be hitching a ride home. We get three blocks before the first kid has to pee, and about two miles until the first knock down fight, “she is sitting on my side of the seat.” After about 10 minutes of freeway, the kids finally settle in for the typically four hour (6 for us) drive to Moab. We arrive in the dark, of course; it wouldn’t be an adventure if we didn’t have to cook hot dogs by the heat of the engine, while setting up the tent after the campground curfew.

The morning arrives to the sound of our daughter shrieking because her brother has “imagined” a lizard is crawling in her sleeping bag. They are off, finding the playground, chasing small helpless creatures, eating candy and donuts and drinking soda for a pre-breakfast snack. Brian and I crawl out of the tent, still feeling hungover from the sugar high drive the night before. TLCA has a dinner planned for the evening, and early to rise the next morning to meet the groups for the day’s adventurous challenge so today we explore on our own. We take the kids into Arches National Park, well worth the visit. Then we find an old rock and trinket shop, the kids spend hours looking at the dinosaur fossils. Do touch!; the sign says….”CRASH”, now we know where our kids are. The locals who work there give us some encouraging tips to search for dinosaur tracks (outside of their store) and we are off, with all five kids and all their fingers still in tact. Moab has some great little trails, marked for wheelers. We find some really cool dinosaur footprints, and a treasure box from a GPS club. After reading the journal and checking out the treasure, we are off to the dinner event. The dinner was held at Bar M Chuckwagon and the kids spent the whole time playing with new friends, checking out the horseshoes, and looking at all the really cool trucks. Our Jeremy, who is five, wants to have a parking lot of cars and trucks (just like daddy) and is happy to just walk around looking at all the cruisers, “can I have one like this”, “and this one”, and “this one”. Our eleven year old boy just wants to know if he can ride with someone else tomorrow, heaven forbid he be seen in old Betsy. The kids are covered now in two days of dirt and we are off to bed looking forward
to tomorrow’s adventure on Poison Spider Mesa.

Charles A. Wells Guide to Moab, UT Backroads & 4-Wheel Drive Trails lists “EAST Family Fun Runs,…MODERATE Sport Utility Adventures,…[and] DIFFICULT Hard-Core Challenges”. It fails to mention that the “EASY Family Runs” when five children are along for the ride become “Hard-Core Challenges”. To the valuable information in the book I would add an emergency list for families….diapers for the baby, extra ear plugs, leashes, diapers for the 11 year old, and a bit of something to take the edge off. Wells certainly is a veteran of wheeling but warns that “…by its very nature [is] potentially dangerous and could result in property damage…”, that as a driver and participant you must “acknowledge these risks and assume…responsibility…as to whether a trail is safe to drive…, whether your vehicle is capable…and [practice] good judgment and preparation…”. As a mother I agree that certainly the most critical factor is using good judgment throughout the adventure. With that in mind we join the group headed to the Poison Spider Mesa, southwest of Moab off Highway 279.

Wells book describes Poison Spider Mesa as “Difficult. A classic hard-core trail with many challenging obstacles, including tight switchbacks, high irregular ledges, steep slickrock climbs, and several tippy spots” (107). Let me take you on a ride with details from our party of seven; the true challenge in overcoming the chaos inside the cruiser.

We are all smiles as we start out, over rocks, bumps, turns and bruises…the Waterfall is the first obstacle that creates a minute of concern for me. I decide this is a good opportunity for me to get out and take pictures. Pictures have no ability to determine the sacrifice a vehicle is making to overcome the massive rocks and irregular ledges. Tippy spots, the book describes, and the “wedgy” your vehicle experiences is certainly exactly as described; we make our way along the trail; bringing new meaning to the stereotypical wedgy appreciated by all who have experienced one. My husband recognizes my fear and makes me stay in the car for the next obstacles. I love it! Who knew that you could experience such a rush, just taking it head on!! At one point I asked Brian if he knew how crazy this was. What were we thinking? But as we got further in the mountain, the views took my breath away. I bought into it, and sold myself on this family fun adventure. I looked back at the kids, calmed by the sheer emotion of the experience. We were all feeling it. Zoe, my 2 year old niece, said “Scary, Brian”: her experience hanging forward, harnessed into her carseat, as we made our way down the steep slickrock was seriously a new feeling for her. She still refers to our Moab trip as “scary”, but also answers she wants to go with Uncle Brian again in the famously named “monster truck”: Betsy. We really enjoyed the friendship as we stopped with the group as points such as the overlook. Our tri colored Betsy fulfilled three categories for one of the teenage boys looking for trucks of all colors. A monument picture taken of the 4-wheelers along for this trip at the overlook will always bring back a flood of fun memories for me. I could certainly understand Charles Wells description of “tippy” as we continued on the “loop”. His book also gives some background information for naming this trail Poison Spider, as “a girl named Mary Jane Francis was buried [near the High Speed Mesa, her grave marked] …in 1896…allegedly…from a poison spider [bite]” (109). The kids favorite part of the ride was the “whoop-ti-dos” near the High Speed Mesa, “again, daddy” they pleaded. Some bicyclists came across our path, I was impressed that anyone could, or would, take on such a challenge physically. One lady seemed just as puzzled at our challenge: one, two three four, five, six, seven; seven in that one, and five kids!, why “would” anyone do that to themselves …she commented as we passed. [It was a good question: I still ask myself sometimes.] All in all the adventure was incredibly fun, and we safely made it back to camp, with 300 beautiful pictures depicting every moment of our days fun and frantic, in one piece, and ready to plan next years involvement in the TLCA Cruise Moab.

This wheeling adventure, and reflecting on a few additional rookie family friendly exposures, has created an addiction in me. Thank goodness there is already a website for “rockaholics”. The website shows the potential for many awesome back country off-road adventures as experienced by average wheelers like us. I have become very interested in the behind the scene, the history of, and the future of wheeling for my family. In my searching I have come to find that many of the 4 wheel drive clubs and associations have similar goals of creating a safe, fun, family friendly atmosphere for wheelers, whether you are a veteran to the sport or a rookie. Arizona Dust Devils promotes as two of their top objectives “4-wheeling as a family activity, [and] promote [ing] responsible use of 4-wheel drive vehicles”. Many clubs are also very community oriented and willing to take on environmental tasks of cleaning up and rehabilitating the beauty of backcountry. “Wasatch Cruisers is the Utah Chapter of the Toyota Land Cruiser Association TLCA” their homepage promotes, “Wasatch Cruisers is a family oriented club, committed to a responsible off-road activity and to preserving our public lands.” I am proud that my family is part of Wasatch Cruisers and look forward to more family fun adventures in the near future. See ya all in Moab 2007

my happiness!

Daisypath - Personal pictureDaisypath Anniversary tickers
“You will have significant experiences. I hope that you will write them down and keep a record of them, that you will read them from time to time and refresh your memory of those meaningful and significant things. Some may be funny. Some may be significant only to you. Some of them may be sacred and quietly beautiful. Some may build one upon another until they represent a lifetime of special experiences.” ~Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley


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