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Old 09-16-2017, 09:08 PM   #1
Zoomad75
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Desert Trip 2017: Trip Report

In this yearís installment of the annual Desert trip that Larry and his cast of characters normally run there has been a couple of desert noobs to join in on the fun. Thatís me and our buddy Ian. Prior to this year my previous K5 was deemed ďunfitĒ for the trip. Something about not wanting to be hauling me or my junk out of the desert when it breaks came out of Larryís mouth a couple of times. As most have followed in my build thread heís worked his butt off to get my new K5 into a Desert ready form with my added work later, it was deemed ďfitĒ for the trip. So with emails sent back and forth to the crew the cast of characters on the trip ended up like this:


Larry and his Mother In Law Lynne in the 78K10/Pheonix camper combo

Ty and his wife Jody in his Ram 2500/Pheonix camper combo


Don in his 2016 Ram Power wagon


Bill and his girlfriend Jenn in his Cummins Dodge


Me and Ian in the only other Chevy, my 91 Blazer.


The plan was to ride out at O-dark thirty on Sunday June 11th and make our way for Moab as our jumping off point. Weíd meet up with Don that night for some Mexican grub and make our way to Green River UT on Monday to meet up with Ty and his wife. From there the plan was loosely set to explore the area of the San Rafael Swell North of I-70 and work our way back towards Moab by the end of the week. My how those plans got altered, but thatís part of the fun right?


Teeming with excitement I was up late the night before packing the Blazer to be ready to pick up Ian on the way to Larryís place the next morning. I might have got a couple of hours sleep before my phone alarm went off. But once it went off, I was off with a quick kiss to the wife and away I went. Got Ianís stuff loaded at his place and made it to Larryís just before Bill and Jenn rolled up. We exchanged some smart assed pleasantries and hit the road in short order. Keep this in mind, this was a first time most of us were meeting Jenn and Iíll say in only a few minutes she was fitting right in with us. Westward bound we shot down US 50 with a small amount of chatter on the CB between the trucks. Here we are rolling west on Hwy 50 outside of Salida CO. This would be a familiar view of Larry's rig for us for the week.





We made our way over Monarch pass, past Gunnison, Blue Mesa reservoir, the Black canyon and stopped for fuel and lunch in Montrose. Blue mesa here.

The first stretch of road mileage had my little 5.3 equipped Blazer keeping up with the two heavy hitters and knocking down 16mpg to boot.


Larry had planned to take the southern route to Moab rather than hauling up to Grand Junction and back down again. This proved to be a most scenic and fun way to get into Utah. Ian and I both couldnít believe the change in topography as well as ecosystems we encountered along the route. We had talked about taking the new Rim rocker trail that connects Montrose to Moab, but most trip reports up to that point had it listed as a two day run in a truck. Still, the route we took was still 40 solid miles of dirt before we touched pavement just before the Utah state line.

Looking down south from our route at the area near Telluride from outside of Montrose.

Same area:





We took our time at the line to take the obligatory photos with the Utah sign. Taking off again shortly after that was the first case of heat induced stalling in my rig. Larry and I had discovered the problem the week before due to Stevie Wonderís exhaust shop routing my pipes awful close to important things like the fuel lines and tank. So began process we would repeat many times throughout the week. Hook up the fuel pressure gauge, bleed off the air being created by the fuel boiling with the pump shut off and repeat until solid fuel comes out of the bleed line. We get it running again and press on for Moab.


Once we got onto hwy 191 heading north for Moab Larry called us on the CB to say he could swear Don was behind him in his Power Wagon. We laughed at the possibility but what was the chance? Larry tried calling him on his phone, but the cell coverage is pretty bad where we were at so it took a few miles to get through. Sure enough Larry came back over the radio to say it was in fact Don behind him. What great timing. We were only a few miles away from the famous ďHole-n-the rockĒ gift shop so we decided to pull in and check it out. Besides we are on vacation right? Ian and I got to meet Don for the first time after months of harassment via email. It was great to put a face to the smart assed emails finally. We checked out the hole in the rock and proceeded to get back on the highway and head into Moab.





From there we split up to our own lodging arrangements and last stop for supplies at the grocery store. Ian and I checked into our Campsite on the north end of town and hatched a plan to remedy our hot fuel problem before dinner. While the hotel folks were freshening up, Ian and I found the only hardware store in town and bought some 18ga sheet metal to make some shielding from the exhaust. We met up with Larry and Lynne at their hotel and waited to hear from Don, Bill and Jenn. Dinner was fun for a first full meeting of a portion of the group. Don is a riot by the way. What we didnít expect is Jenn punking the entire group before we dug into our food. She got us all with a well-timed joke that none of us expected from her. Bravo Jenn. After dinner we split back up with Ian and I getting to work in our campsite blacksmithing out a heat shield. Iím pretty sure we got some odd looks but it was well before dark and we worked quickly. The fix in place we setup our sleeping arrangements and kicked back to relax.




Our fix:





Monday found Ian and I up early breaking up camp to hit a local Dennyís for breakfast as my camp stove was in Billís Dodge. The rest of the hotel crew caught up to us there and we headed out for Green River to meet up with Ty and Jody.

Heading north on 191.

The drive up takes no time at all, but we noticed the closer to I-70 we got the windier it got. We rolled into the hotel lot where Ty and Jody were. Pulling in, they were waiting for us.


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Old 09-16-2017, 09:29 PM   #2
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Re: Desert Trip 2017: Trip Report


Those who have been in this rolling circus exchange heartfelt hellos to longtime friends and were introduced to us Noobs and accepted us right into the fold. We take a few moments to check out each otherís rides while Bill and Larry sort out the route for the day. Somehow at this point Larry handed over trail boss/navigation to Bill. So from here we are to top off fuel and take off 30 miles west of Green River on I-70. Wind by now was brutal and we are driving the aerodynamic equivalent to a barn door and itís pushing back on us. I know I had the 5.3 wound tight between the wind and the grade, but it was affecting the whole group. Even Larry said the 8.1 was not happy if it wasnít in the right gear.
Westbound on I-70. Even the highways look cool in Utah.


Soon enough we bailed off of the interstate crossed under it and pulled up onto a lonely dirt road. It was finally time to air down. Like a well-oiled machine, we all took to the task of getting our tires down to trail pressure. Photos were taken by most as this is happening.





For the three first timers we just keep getting awestruck by the expansive scenery we are looking at. Excitement is building as we are heading off to an area nobody in the group has tackled before. The Swell is new to all of us. We shove off in a cadence to keep the blowing dust from choking out each of us. The trail starts out simple as a dirt road passing back under I-70 in a tiny underpass that looked like it might be tight for Ty and Larryís rigs. They fit, but Tyís was the closest with a little room to spare.






From the underpass we wound around in a northerly direction on some gentle two track for a little bit. Iíll add here, the intended target for the dayís ride was to make our way to the large Sinbad petrogliff and find a place to camp for the night. We didnít notice or flat missed a sign for the turn needed for the ride to Sinbad. Not seeing it, we really didnít get too concerned as the trail started to get interesting.
We did see this though. Could that be us later if we don't find our way??


Hey look it's an arch!




We got to the first obstacle, which was a fairly steep climb on loose rock. It was fairly straight with a turn at the top. Steep and loose enough to get the blood pumping. Bill was leading the way and made short work of it.


Ty


I follow and scramble up without much drama. Same goes for Larry, Ty and Don behind me. By now the trail is mostly rock with a nice white stripe every now and again to keep you on the path. Pressing on, we cover some more minor stuff and after coming down a section I can see Bill having to take a 3-point turn to get around a tight spot. Uh-oh. Weíve reached the edge of the mesa and have to make a sharp left to follow the trail over some more fun stuff. Bill stopped to let the group survey the section, as there was a large uneven spot with drop offs to both sides. It was much higher to the right than it was to the left, but too narrow to allow cheating to one side or the other. We had to straddle it. Ian took point to spot through. Billís long wheelbase took the section in stride and I lined up for my turn.




After seeing how it caused Billís truck to tilt I took a different line and didnít quite follow Ianís instructions to my own downfall. I managed to get the K5.3 on an amazing side tilt, which ramped up the pucker factor greatly. Not feeling right I wanted to back out. Ian calmed me down while Ty tried using his size to add weight to the right side and keep me from flopping. I gently backed up and followed Ianís directions right through it. Larry followed with Ianís spotting as did Ty and Don.








Shortly after that we come up to spot with a major climb up over 3 large shelves. Again we stop to let the group survey the section and formulate the plan of attack.

This was where I got volunteered to go first. This surprised me, as my rig was the most unproven of the bunch. But the idea was to get me up first in order to be a winch point if anybody else has a problem. Ian and I discussed the line and due to my short wheelbase we would pull more to the right on the approach and then line up to the second shelf by turning on the first shelf. From there the Blazer just walked over the second and third shelves based on Ianís excellent directions. No pics of me, but I've got video of it. Bill followed next and hugged left to lessen the amount he would have to turn on the second shelf. The line of attack managed to get Bill crossed up and without traction devices managed to get hung up.




We spooled out Billís winch to my truck and I held the brakes to keep it from being pulled to him. It didnít need much of a pull, but just enough to get his front wheels over the hump and it drove out. Larry followed Bills line to the left and went into a full blown Code14 as he hung the rear diff up on the ledge in such a way he had the left rear hanging and the diff was dug in stopping any backing up. He had to take the cable too. Again like Bill, it didnít take much of a pull. Just enough to get the diff off of terra firma.
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Old 09-16-2017, 09:44 PM   #3
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Re: Desert Trip 2017: Trip Report



****
Rare sight for sure. Larry's rig on the hook.

Here's why he's on the hook. Good thing he added a pinon gaurd last winter!




Ty follows and walks over it. His skill behind the wheel of that massive Dodge had Ian and me questioning if it was an automatic trans or not. He like Bill is surgical with that truck. Very cool to watch.


Don was the wildcard here. No lift at all, one size larger tires. 3 large ledges. Have to admit it was kind of a gut punch to watch that Power Wagon work. Showroom stock and he crawled right over it. He did drag his belly and one of the lower rear control arms over one ledge but itís got a lot of protection so the scraping was superficial. A little lift and this rig is perfect.


It was at the top of the 3rd ledge the ladies of the group found a stray calf. He was laying down, crying for itís momma which we had no sight of. The girls fed him some water and I made cruel jokes about cooking veal for dinner that night. Sometimes my humor is under-appreciated. Poor taste yes, but I thought it was funny.


From here Ian and I were left in the lead dog position. Oh yeah, we still havenít the foggiest clue what trail we are on. We know itís not the right way for Sinbad, but at this point, we were on for the adventure. We all got enough food, water, and beer for 5 days weíll eventually run into a landmark we can find our way out. Ian and I are still in awe of our surroundings at this point. 360-degree views. Not a bad direction to look in. No sign of man at all. Could have been 1817 or 2017 if it wasnít for our rides. Another oddity, no traffic on the trail. We didnít see a soul on the trail this day. Might be the trail we are on if we knew what it was!
The scenery





We plod on reaching a few more technical spots connected by two track. We pulled a ways ahead of the group when we lost radio contact due to Don cutting a tire on a rock and the group knocked out the tire change without much lost time.



Ian and I guessed something was up and took a break to wait for the group. Ty ended up catching up to let us know what was going on. The sun was starting to reach for the western horizon so the call was made to search for a campsite.


Not too soon down the trail we come across a wide flat area that was the best we had seen. It fit the need for Bill to be able to get around with his wheelchair. The camper crew liked it as it was relatively level and those of us in the tents had to use every thing we had to weigh down our tents to keep the wind from blowing them back to Moab.
Room with a view for sure!


As the first official night on the trail, dinner is Billís doing. His camp stove fried chicken is something of legend.




While Bill and Jenn got the frying pans on high, the rest of us rats mow down on chips and salsa brought by Don and Larry. Beers are toasted and we review the dayís fun. Billís chicken is to die for. No if ands or buts about it. Perfect cap to the day for sure.



Funny thing about our location at this point. While we couldnít see a sign of man in any direction we were barely 6-8 miles north of I-70 at this point. But we still had cell coverage. I get a text from my buddy John back home who has been tracking us via Spot all day. I ask him if he can gauge what trail we are on from the Spot location. He can see we were near the devilís monument, but couldnít ID the trail we were on. Every body turns in with the wind making it chilly. I stay up a little bit and play around trying some long exposure night shots. I turn in and enjoy my Flintstone accommodations.
My first time with long exposures. Pretty cool effect.



To be continued....
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Old 09-16-2017, 09:58 PM   #4
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Re: Desert Trip 2017: Trip Report

Day two on the trail opens up to a bright morning and the continued excitement of fun on the unknown trail.
Breaking camp:
Everybody packs up, eats a quick snack and we take off again. Bill is back in the lead dog position and we plod on. The trail is less technical at this point. Dirt in most spots and less rocks. But what rocks are there are sharp and one reached out and gashed Billís left front tire. So the spare is put to use and in 20 minutes or so we are moving down the trail again.


A little while later weíve come to a steep sandy switchback going down hill. We watched Bill and Ty navigate down and both got the right rears a little light just before the turn. Larry and me talk about the line and take a similar path down.



We see a riverbed just ahead and go check it out. Thatís where we find it. The name of the trail we had been on for the last two days. It was the Devilís Racetrack. Hmm fitting name.

Near the trail sign is a nice trail board with great map laying out the area. They rated the trails much like ski runs. Black for difficult, blue for moderate and green for easy. The Devils Racetrack was marked black.

We discuss the options based on our new discovery of where we are. We decide as a group to take the Eva Conover trail to lead us back to I-70 and we would cross back to the southern side of the swell from there. This is rated Blue and looks like it covers a nice sandy wash for quite a way.


The new trail is a refreshing change of pace after the last day and morning. Sandy and fast we could carry some speed at the bottom of this canyon. We make our way north for a couple of more miles and at the next trail sign make a turn back to the south.



A sense of scale can be had in this pic.





Stopping for a quick break at the turn we confirm out direction and mush on. Iím back in the lead and we are having fun in the sand. I take a wrong turn at a sand bar and almost get stuck in some really deep stuff. I hear some heckling over the CB from Larry but I managed to get out un-assisted. Larry reports back Iíve got so much sand pouring out from the rear bumper it looks like a waterfall. We keep riding south and notice the canyon walls getting closer and closer the further we ride.

Just impressive being at the bottom looking up in such a cool canyon. But we all know we climbed down to get here, we probably are going to have to climb up to get out.

Sure enough we reached a narrow spot that was barely 20 feet wide. Up front it looked like the trail went on and around a right hand bend. The reality was shown to us in a small white arrow on a short post. It pointed to our left. To my immediate left was nothing more than a rock wall. But in my mirror I could see the exit leading up 180 degrees in the opposite direction we were pointing. Oh yeah itís a good steep loose rocky slope too. Uh-oh.



I hook the turn and methodically make my way up with the group behind me. Steep donít quite cut it for a description and photos or video donít do it justice either.

Half way up Iím struggling. Itís narrow as much as it is steep and rocks sitting in all the wrong places. Ian hops out to spot once I get hung up. He gives some direction and no way. Itís not working. He stops and asks whatís up as I walked through tougher stuff yesterday. I respond back it just doesnít feel like Iíve got the same forward bite as yesterday. Ian says heís going to look at something while I take another shot. I try and fail, but Ian is pretty certain Iíve killed the right side hub on the front. The axle shaft is spinning but the wheel isnít. With the tru-trac it damn well should be. By now Larry and Ty have hiked up to survey the mess. The path is too narrow to get somebody past me to act as a winch anchor and there wasnít anything substantial above to hook to either. I need to see what this truck can do with an open rear diff and some throttle. I had to bounce it up. Not the ideal way to go, but effective as long as I donít break more stuff in the process. I make it up and get into position to take pics and video of the rest making it through the same mess.


Bill is next and used the heavy Dodge to keep it on the ground and maintain forward traction. He gets up without much drama.


Larry follows and takes a safe line and scrambles up with a clean run.

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Old 09-16-2017, 10:06 PM   #5
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Re: Desert Trip 2017: Trip Report

Ty added a little extra pucker factor by hanging more to the edge down low, but pulls it back and crawls up.

Don takes his turn and manages to roll his left front tire right over the point of a rock near the top and Larry and I are almost certain the tire was going to blow through. Donís spare was already on the ground so we couldnít afford another flat. But he makes it without damage.



We figured this was as good a time as any to break for lunch so we all assembled some sammiches and got our grub on. Once our bellies were full I plopped down and pulled the hub to inspect. I had a spare set of hubs on hand, so I wasnít too worried. Then I got the hub off and it was found to be in solid working order. No damage. Hmm. Sum Ting Wong. I noticed the end of the axle shaft was a little loose. For some reason I tried to rotate the end of the axle and it spun free. Uh-oh. I showed the guys and we all agreed I managed to break the stub axle. Great. We are barely half way out of this trail and Iím lacking a front axle.

Oh and the moderate rating from this point forward was questionable at best. It was a rough, steep rocky climb. At this point we were off the grid, as cell coverage wasnít reaching into the canyon we were in.






The group decides to let Ian and I boogie ahead to get as much distance covered as we can before we need help. Once we get cell coverage weíd start making outbound calls looking for parts, but the general idea would be we would head back to Moab. This way we could lick our wounds, replace slashed tires and get the part I need. Weíd fix at the campground on Kane Creek and reset our plans.


Larry gets a call out to Stephen Watson at ORD who gives him a couple of contacts to reach out to. Larry radios up to us the contacts and one of them happens to be Extreme 4x4 tours in Moab. I follow this guy in Instagram and am able to fire off a message in IG to him with my phone number to call me. About 10 minutes down the trail I get his call. I tell him what I am looking for and heís out of D44 spares, but he suggested calling Moab 4x4 outpost. He did ask where we were at and what we were driving. He was impressed by us taking 5 full-size trucks into this area. I called Moab 4x4 Outpost and the guys are stocked. They had new in the box Dana/Spicer parts on the shelf. The price wasnít far off what I could have bought them for at work either. I radio back the good news and the new plan is put into action.


We reached I-70 in short order. Ian and I air up and hit the road to make sure we can get to the shop in time before they close. Bill and Jenn and Don made plans to hit a tire store in town and Larry, Lynne, Ty and Jodi would secure the campsite while we ran our errands.






We made it back to Moab with time to spare. Moab 4x4 outpost is a cool place with Jeeps, tube buggies and hot rods strewn about it was a place worthy of exploring on itís own. They were busy for a Tuesday too. We werenít the only knuckleheads to break stuff I guess.




Getting done at the shop our campsite was actually not to far away and right on the Colorado River just outside of town. Kane Creek is primitive camping, but the group site we got was right next to the shower house.



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Old 09-16-2017, 10:28 PM   #6
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Re: Desert Trip 2017: Trip Report

We take time to get camp set up and I park in the shade to start the repairs. Things went pretty smooth and I have to give Larry props here. He managed to swap in the new shaft and u-joint using nothing more than my hammer a couple of sockets and beating them in on a flat rock. We didnít loose a needle bearing in the process either. Reassembly goes as planned and the wheel is torqued back again. Beer time for sure.




Everybody cooks for themselves tonight and we gather around the campfire in a can as the sun sets over the red rocks and the Colorado river. Again itís a clear night except I choose to run my hammock between Tyís truck and mine. Much more comfy. Beers flow as well as the stories and we all turn in fairly late.

Continued....
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Old 09-21-2017, 02:45 PM   #7
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Re: Desert Trip 2017: Trip Report

I definitely enjoyed this thread. Keep it coming!

Wil
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Old 09-21-2017, 11:15 PM   #8
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Re: Desert Trip 2017: Trip Report

We had a slightly later start since Don and Bill had to go to the tire store to get fresh treads, Ian and I needed ice and the rest felt like a Mickey Dís breakfast. The rest of the tourists in Moab wanted a McMuffin apparently too.
Waiting for the crew getting tires installed.


That place was a madhouse for a Wednesday morning. From breakfast we hit 191 south headed for Canyonlands National park. Not sure where we are going to in the park we figured we would hit the visitors center and check trail conditions. On the way we stopped at Newspaper Rock.

Itís a huge petroglyph thatís worth checking out.


The run into the visitorís center gives a taste the new surroundings. Larry, Bill and Ty take time checking with the Rangers on whatís good to run on while the rest of us check out the souvenirs. With an objective set, we roll back out. Heading back the way we came in we avoided having to buy a parks pass.
At the Visitor's center:


We follow to a cool little canyon with a small creek filling a series of small pools as a stopping point for lunch. Some of us hike over to them and check them out. It most certainly was itís own little oasis in the desert. The little pools teeming with life. Tadpoles we very visible in the clear water in the upper pool and adult frogs could be seen coming to the surface in the larger pool below.



Trust me Ian and I had about enough of the heat at this point and were very tempted to jump into the lower pool to cool off. We couldnít tell if it was 6 feet or 6 inches deep from up there so we wisely decided to cool off with bottled water.


Lunch consumed we hit the road back looking for the trail to Beef Basin. Decidedly easier than the last couple of days, but a new area to explore for all. We got to the trail and aired down again. This was mostly a graded dirt road for the first few miles that turned to deep silt. This silt had the consistency of flour. The dust stirred up by each of us was thick and really prohibited taking photos for sure but we got a couple.


The grade increased so gradually it snuck up on you. Add the deepness of the silt in spots and the trucks really had to work to make this climb. On the previous two days off road the Blazer didnít act up at all. But on the north end of the swell temps were easily 30 degrees less than down here on Beef Basin. So with high 90ís shown on my outside temp gauge, steep gradual climb and drag from the deep silt the Blazer begun to act up again. Engine temp was climbing steady and even when I could keep the speed up and engine rpm up, it just wasnít coming down. I stopped when it stalled. It didnít want to restart so we ran the same procedure over again. Don was the only one behind us and waited for us to get rolling again. The guys stopped and waited ahead and we got it running again. The dust from the silt was choking and required a lot of distance to keep it down. It was bad enough for us in my truck it was better to close the windows and loose the airflow than choke on more dust. The group decided to let me run ahead to keep it in clean air and keep my speed up. It worked. I could baja it to a certain extent with the Bilstiens and keep the temps happy and the fuel flowing. Plus we were ahead of the dust cloud. Only responsibility we had was finding our next campsite. Further up the trail we came out of the trees and discovered an overlook to the west. Looking into Canyonlands it was breathtaking.


The pace slowed so we could find a spot nearby. Not too much further I spotted a set of tracks heading west off of the main trail. We waited for Bill to catch us and we went down to check it out. Sure enough about a quarter mile down the trees open up to a clearing with enough room for the 5 trucks and that stunning overlook.







Larry broke out the camp shower before dinner. Never has a shower felt so good or refreshing.


It made us human again. Much needed over the amount of silt and dust we plowed through. We all burned meat over an open flame and sat near the overlook to eat, talk and enjoy one of the most majestic sunsets Iíve seen in a long time.
Don burning some chicken

Me burning some steaks.
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Old 09-21-2017, 11:26 PM   #9
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Re: Desert Trip 2017: Trip Report







Once it went dark, drinks were had and stories told. Everybody found the way to their individual sleeping arrangements and I managed to climb into my hammock again.


Continued...
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Old 09-22-2017, 12:30 AM   #10
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Re: Desert Trip 2017: Trip Report

Great read. Thanks for taking us along the journey!
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Old 09-27-2017, 12:13 AM   #11
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Re: Desert Trip 2017: Trip Report

Excellent read and pictures, thanks for sharing.
I need to figure out how to make a trip like yours a reality. The Midwest has a lot to offer but nothing like the vastness and scenery you are able to enjoy. Some day....
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Old 09-27-2017, 10:08 AM   #12
nbrfd007
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Re: Desert Trip 2017: Trip Report

Thank you for letting us follow along on this Great adventure and allowing to take this trip vicariously!!
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Old 09-27-2017, 09:49 PM   #13
Dieselwrencher
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Re: Desert Trip 2017: Trip Report

Another great adventure with Larry and his people! I'm really jealous. I'd love to do one of these one day. What beautiful scenery you guys see and man, there were some serious rocks and jaunts there! A couple of the shots looked like you guys were nearly on the edges of the cliffs a few times. Does that get your hair on the back of your neck standing up a bit? Thanks for taking the time to post this up for us to follow along too!
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