Warm days, chilly nights, spectacular scenery, and exciting 'wheeling - Moab in May can be paradise for four-wheelers. And the first full weekend in May, Toyota 4x4s from all over the U.S., Canada, and even South America rendezvoused in Moab, Utah, for the Toyota Land Cruiser Association's (TLCA) Cruise Moab.
Located between Canyon Lands and Arches National Parks, Moab is surrounded by tens of millions of acres of public land. Four-wheel-drive trails that were once mining roads wind through an endless maze of cliffs, pinnacles, sand hills, and slickrock domes, offering great 'wheeling for every level of experience. Some trails even extend into the snow line on the nearby mountains.
TLCA's equipment checklist determines which trails a vehicle may run. For example, a stock Toyota may run the easier scenic trails such as Poison Spider Mesa. Rigs equipped with 31-inch or taller tires may run trails of medium difficulty such as Hell's Revenge. And to challenge Moab's hard-core trails such as Pritchett Canyon requires 33-inch or taller tires and lockers.
In TLCA's early years, stock FJ-40s were the norm. But today, most of the venerable old short Cruisers sport any number of enhancements. And long-wheelbase Cruisers, mini-trucks, and 4Runners almost equal the number of FJ-40s.
At Cruise Moab 2000, six late-model Land Cruisers from Venezuela were the center of attention. The Cruisers arrived by freighter in Miami. The expedition team then drove the Cruisers to Denver, where they hooked up with the Rising Sun 4WD Club for the trip over the Rockies to Moab. From Moab, their plan was to 'wheel the length of Baja and then drive from Mexico to Panama where they would ferry back to Venezuela.
The Venezuelans had had plenty of jungle and mud driving experience, but slickrock and sand were new to them. On the Fins and Things trail, they initially drove their Toyotas like they'd seen Ivan Stewart drive in the Baja race videos. Fortunately, the tough Toyota drivetrains and Old Man Emu suspensions survived, and the expedition drivers quickly learned to rockcrawl like veteran Red Rockers. On their second day in Moab, they ran the Golden Spike trail. One Cruiser snapped an axle while crossing the Golden Crack. Unfortunately, because of the time lost changing the axle and a desire to make it back in time for the western-style barbeque, they didn't have time to try their skill on the infamous Double Whammy.
The Venezuelan Cruisers sported all the best equipment, except for differential lockers. After watching us crawl a few ledges, they quickly realized the value of locking differentials. It's a good bet that their Toyotas will soon sport Detroits or ARBs.
While most of us were reveling in the joys of 'wheeling our favorite trails, the hard-core four-wheelers tested their trucks and their skill on truck-busting trails such as Pritchett Canyon and White Knuckle Hill. Therefore, evenings in camp consisted of repairing drivetrains and straightening sheetmetal. One of our favorite evening treats was the short drive up Moab Rim to watch the sun set against the snowy La Sal Mountains. The alpine glow imbued the rocky landscape with gold and crimson.
Darril Bragg, who helped guide the Venezuelans in his silver FJ-60, summed up the Cruise Moab experience by saying, "I love the camaraderie on the trail and in the camp. And it's fun to watch first-timers discover the excitement of Moab's beautiful and exciting trails."
InformationIf you are interested and would like to attend Cruise Moab 2001, contact the Toyota Land Cruiser Association, Dept. 4WDSU, P.O. Box 210, Windsor, CA 95492, www.tlca.org; or the Rising Sun 4WD Club, Dept. 4WDSU, P.O. Box 260175, Lakewood, CO 80226, www.risingsun4x4club.org.