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Moab, Utah, has one of the finest collections of rocky trails available anywhere, trails with names like Metal Masher, Steel Bender, Poison Spider Mesa, and Cliff Hanger, winding through rugged canyons and across the rims of starkly beautiful cliffs. Itís a Mecca for off-road recreationists, and a lot of mountain bikers, hikers, and 4x4 clubs make Moab the destination for many of their outings.
The townís strung out along Route 191, south of I-70 near the Colorado border, a collection of tourist-oriented establishments with motels and restaurants alternating with 4x4 repair shops and Jeep rental agencies.
If you live in that section of the country, you can join a 4by club, and let the experienced rock crawlers in the group show you the ropes. Make sure you choose a club that knows what theyíre doing, or you may all end up stranded a long way from your motel or campsite with a bunch of broken axles, twisted driveshafts, bent wheel rims, and ripped sidewalls.
I decided to go the professional route. I signed on with Bill Burke, a world-class off-road instructor, who runs 4-Wheeling America, headquartered in Denver. Bill organizes off-road training expeditions, and also makes himself available for customized sessions with individuals or small groups. I had just finished some business in Denver, and Bill swung by my motel. We loaded my camping gear into his Land Rover Defender 90. I didnít have to bring much - Bill furnishes almost everything except your toothbrush. It was a sunny spring morning, making for a pleasant trip on I-70 to Moab. We cut down route 128 near Cisco, just past the border, arriving at Billís campsite south of town midafternoon.
We set up camp, then set up the Defender for some serious off-roading, which occupied most of the daylight hours for the next three days. Billís Defender 90 is a í94 model with a manual transmission, lifted 2Ĺ inches with the Old Man Emu suspension lift. Heís got ARB air locking differentials both front and back, a 9000 pound Superwinch on the front, and light truck tires. He carries a HiLift jack, a Pull Pal ground anchor, and various winching accessories - D-shackles, pulley blocks, and nylon tree straps and tow straps. He also brings along a variety of tools and spare parts, just in case.