Moabzu '98 - Moab Isuzu Run

Trails and Tribulations, Edition 05-98

Nov. 01, 2005 By Steve Gardiner
This was the first 'Zu Zoo event, that is, a run for Isuzu owners. Many thanks to Randy Burleson, for coordinating on the Isuzu web page and even more thanks to Todd Adams, our volunteer Trail Boss, and David Killey, our volunteer Tailgunner. Participants: Name, Where From - Vehicle
  • Todd Adams, UT - 1992 White Isuzu Amigo, modified
  • Linda Adams, UT - 1991 Red Jeep Wrangler, highly modified
  • Randy & Kammy Burleson, CA - 1990 Black Isuzu Amigo, highly modified
  • Fred and Jane Fitzgearld, OR - 1969 Primer Grey Ford Bronco, highly modified
  • Wayne Flower, CA - 1989 White Isuzu Trooper, stock
  • Steve Gardiner, CA - 1990 Blue Isuzu Amigo, modified
  • Dale & Adrian Hartog, UT - 1995 Green Isuzu Trooper, mostly stock
  • Jason Hays & Sara, OH - 1986 White Isuzu Tropper, modified
  • Dan Houlton, AZ - 1994 Red Isuzu Amigo, modified
  • Aaron Jenson & Kevin, AZ - 1989 Red Isuzu Trooper, modified
  • Dave & Judy Killey, UT - 1994 White Jeep Wrangler, highly modified
  • George & Angela Reiswig, OR - 1990 Black Isuzu Amigo, highly modified
  • Mike Riley & Greg, WI - 1995 Red Isuzu Rodeo, stock
  • Steve & Terry Wright, CO - 1997 Grey Honda Passport, stock

The dropoff is almost enough to get your attention off the breathtaking scenery. Almost.

Very few of the people that participated had met before. Todd Adams had skied with Randy. George and Randy knew each other. Fred, Randy, and George have 4-wheeled together often. All of us had e-mailed with Randy. None of the rest of us had ever met before. My anticipation was high because of meeting new people and not knowing the area. I am also feeling self-imposed pressure: what if the stock vehicles can do an obstacle and I fail, what if I break, what if my driving skills are not as good as everybody else, what if... what if.... I need to get on the trail and, after 12 hours of driving on Thursday, I need to engage 4WD Low Range!!

Friday - Metal Masher - Trail Rating = 4

At the 9:30 driver's meeting, we make introductions and went over all of the do's and don'ts. We leave camp at 10 am, with 10 vehicles (8 Isuzus plus our two honorary Isuzoids, Fred & Dave). Todd had been telling trail stories and showing us pictures of his experiences in the red rock country the entire evening before, so we are all anxious to get some dirt under our tires (and maybe a little apprehensive). Todd has been telling us of the obstacles that will give us trouble, Rock Chucker, Mirror Gulch, Widowmaker. We drive though Moab to the north, till we get to our turnoff. Here we stop to regroup and air-down. Only a few of the group had been to Moab before, the rest of us did not know what to expect. We do expect to have trouble with the stock vehicles, we warn people about the possibility of body damage, but none of us want to bend any sheet metal. With some good spotting and some good luck, maybe we will all make it.

The trail starts as a dirt road, winding up the cliffs. We work our way through Little Canyon and past some rock formations. The area seems to have names for every rock formation, canyon, climb, turn, hole, rock, spring, obstacle etc. We took a 5 minute break at "Gooney Bird Rock." Next we turn right up a hill, then veer right at an intersection, then another right, then another right . . . these guys really hide their trails out here, good thing we have Todd with us. Now we start to crawl across some red rock, nothing unusual yet, but the views. All the rain on Thursday has left the air clear as a bell. Every turn presents a new view better than the last. This is beautiful country.

This mean-looking Scout manhandled its way up Rock Chucker as our group passed by.

Rock Chucker is coming, I feel the apprehension just thinking about it. No worries, there are bypasses for most obstacles. The group is starting to loosen up, playing on some "cracks", crossing up the suspension and walking up some steps, nothing major, but fun. We wind a little higher up the red rock, as we round a corner we get a look at an evil looking International. He had the full "body nerf" setup protecting all of his dents (the body nerfs must have been an after thought!), he had maybe 5 psi in his tires (which were very large 38") and lots of primer. His truck looked like a monster truck and our vehicles looked like the cars that were going to get crushed. Is that what a vehicle needs to look like to run the red rock? This is Rock Chucker, I drive right by, pretending that I don't see it, and park with others in our group this is an optional obstacle, I think I will pass. Randy sees a crack, and like a moth to a candle, he is drawn to it. As he starts to climb out, we hear a loud clanking. He looks at me and asks "Are any parts hanging off of the bottom?" I take a quick look and see nothing. Someone else says "Universal Joint!" He starts forward, clanking again! Randy jumps out to assess the situation. The pinion is pointing up towards the floor pan, an unusual angle for the u-joint. It seems the axle housing has rotated within the "clamp on" brackets.

"Lunch Time!" It was close to the lunch stop anyway, as part of the crew start to work on Randy's rig, some are playing on Rock Chucker, the rest start eating lunch. Before Randy can even climb under the rig, cameras are out and everybody is getting pictures. We figure we can reposition the axle housing then tack weld the brackets semi-permanently, using George's under-hood welder (Premier Power Welder). George hands the welding gear to Randy, "Your rig, you're welding!" With 3 supervisors, 10 observers, a couple of disinterested bystanders and a couple of workers the job is done in about an hour and a half. I don't know what the people who have not experienced a trail breakdown were thinking, but to me it was all in a day on the trail, now it is time for the next obstacle, "Mirror Gulch".

Mirror Gulch must have removed a couple of mirrors to get its name, there is a step, then an off camber with a big rock wall on the down side (this is where the mirrors might leave the vehicle) then a couple more big steps. Todd was concerned about this area, thinking we would need to "strap" a couple of rigs up. Todd goes past the first couple of obstacles and comes back to spot for Rodeo Mike and Trooper Dale. Mike gets up with a little bit of tire spinning and some rock throwing, Dale gets up the first step as he approaches the off-camber we hear a whirring noise. Electric mirrors!! He can fold in his mirrors by flicking a switch! We all get out our "List-of-Things-We-Need" and write "electric mirrors" Too cool Dale! The 1995 Trooper was definitely the Cadillac of our group.Now it is my turn, the stock Rodeo and Trooper made it, is it my turn to be embarrassed, with cameras and videos recording everything. I made it (not as easily as I hoped) with a little tire spinning, but not too bad.

The rest of the rigs are catching up just a couple more need to come up the gulch. Looks like Bronco Fred is having trouble, better get the camera and go see. Fred is pouring ATF in the slush box (automatic transmission) as I walk up, he is at the bottom of the steep rock. His tranny just kind of stopped on mid hill, it didn't like running a couple quarts low! Fred and the Bronco had to work a little, but he got it up the hill. Next was Randy, his freshly repaired rig starts to climb the rock and clack, clack, clack, we've heard that noise before, the spot welds broke. Todd thinks the rest of the trail is pretty flat, so Randy decides to take out the rear drive shaft and drive it out in front wheel drive. Fred straps him up the first rock, then up the next ledge till we are all bunched up again.

Todd starts up the trail and radios back that the next section of trail is rougher than he thought and he thinks that Randy should go back out the we came in. Fred, George and Randy turn back, Metal Masher has won the battle. The rest of the group make our way up to the top and stop to enjoy the view. We are standing 1,000 feet above the highway that we came in on, quite an impressive view. Still one more obstacle on Metal Masher . . . "Widowmaker Hill" a friendly sounding place.

There is a hill before Widowmaker that is a little difficult, Todd is telling us to walk up the hill, look at Widowmaker, if you want to try it, then come up the hill otherwise there is a bypass. Five of us drive up the hill to attempt Widowmaker. The hill is interesting, at the top there is an off-camber section that leans you toward the downhill side, the driver doesn't really notice but the passenger gets a good look down. Todd tells us that most of the rigs that roll, only do 3-4 rolls down the hill! Thanks Todd. We all make it up to Widowmaker. Widowmaker is a rock wall about 6 feet high at about a 70 degree angle.

Now what? I ask Todd "Have you made it up this in your Amigo?" "Oh yeah, a couple of times." Todd tries first, he gets the front tires on the rock wall then his rear bumper drags with his back tires still 2 feet from the wall. It appears that the approach to Widowmaker has changed a little since Todd was last here. He tries a couple more times, then prudently backs off to let the next victim try. My turn! Three wacks and I decide to give up also, I was getting to much wheel hop. Next, Trooper Dale decides to show the short wheel base guys how to do it. Three wacks and Dale gives up. Dan is next up. He also is turned back. Now Dave in his Jeep shows us how it his done. With very little overhang in the back, Dave walks right up and over the wall, then turns around and comes back down. Nice show Dave! All of our rigs were grouped around the base of Widowmaker like debris. Back down the hill and onto the bypass.

Top left and bottom: Wayne Flower crosses the chasm. The looooong drop to his left has his attention. Top right: Check out the view through the arch under Dan Houlton's Amigo.

We have a little drivers meeting to decide what to do next, it has been a long day, we are behind schedule, does anybody want to go back to camp or do we want to go to the Gemini Bridges? Everybody decides to go do Gemini Bridges.

The Gemini Bridges are a couple of natural bridges, side-by-side with a drop of 200-300 feet on each side. There were a lot of mountain bikers and hikers that were sightseeing, when they heard that we were going to drive across the bridges, they all started to gather to watch. Todd gives us the lines, saying the little bridge has an off-camber exit (remember the 300 foot drop on both sides!) and the bigger bridge is pretty flat all the way across. I decide to follow Todd across the narrow bridge, they tell me I lifted a front tire pretty high on the exit, I might have been a little heavy on the gas, (remember the 300 foot drop on both sides!) Most tried the narrow bridge, everybody made it.

The road through Long Canyon winds its way down and under a rock that is literally bigger than a house.

It has been a long day, do we want to go straight back to camp or go through Long Canyon on the way back? Long Canyon sounds good. What a bunch of troopers (no pun intended), everybody is still ready for more. We get a cell phone call from the group that turned back, they have made it back to camp with no further problems. The road to Long Canyon took us by some very scenic overlooks and there is a low bridge that was created by a rock tower that fell onto the county road. Really neat stuff. It must have been around 9pm by the time we got back to camp. Everybody was exhausted. Randy still has to fix his rig so he can do some more 4-wheeling tomorrow. The rest of us go straight to bed after eating.

Saturday - Seven Mile Rim, Trail Rating = 3+

Two new rigs showed up today, Steve in his Honda Passport, and Aaron in his '89 Trooper. We get a call from Randy, they were working on the rig till 1am but he is ready to go. A quick drivers meeting where we make the introductions again, go over the do's and don'ts, for the benefit of the new folks and we are off. Today we have 10 Isuzus with the Jeep and the Bronco, 12 rigs total.

Looks like that live-axle swap paid off....

The trail is pretty mild, but as we were working our way toward our lunch stop, we crawled out onto some slick rock with some nice sized cracks. All of the sudden, several Amigos veered off the main route and headed straight for the cracks. Everybody wanted to test their suspension. Multiple cracks with multiple Amigos flexing in them, an interesting sight. Fred had to give his Bronco a little stretch also. When play time was over, we all gathered for lunch.

....dontcha think?


We worked our way to Uranium Arch. The trail wound to the right of the nice sized natural arch. There was a nice little climb up some slick rock with a technical section at the top, of course there was a drop off on the left. Their were several lines at the top, most of which were off-camber. You got to choose between being away from the drop-off and being off-camber or get close to the drop-off and be level. The level route was also the toughest. Some took a couple of tries but nobody had any major trouble.




Wayne Flower creeps slowly across the sidehill, while Todd Adams spots him -- standing bravely in the truck's fall line. Check the photographers trying to take pictures on the slope!

After working our way across a plateau, we got to a section with lots of side hill action. Nothing really tough but everybody with an inclinometer was watching closely 25 degrees, 30 degrees, were does an Isuzu roll? Nobody reached the point of rolling, but the inclines do make you feel a little uncomfortable.

The little canyon we ended up in had one last side hill, the grand daddy of side hills for this trail. (The Red Rockers probably have a name for it, but I don't remember). Todd showed us the line . . . up, across, then down. It was the across section that really gave us the thrill. Randy was near the end of the line and he was the most worried, since his Amigo stood taller than everybody else's rig. He choose to take his spare tire off the top of his rig to lower his center of gravity. He made it without any problem.

Todd Adams spots Randy Burleson's taller Amigo. Note that this time he's standing out of the way, to the rear. Serious sidehill!

Todd lead us to an ugly hill, Wipeout Hill, with two near vertical truck-sized steps. This was an optional hill, we didn't have to go down it. Several people asked me if I was going to go down, I looked at it and decided that I could do without this thrill ride. Dave, in his well-built Jeep started creeping down the left side, a steep drop off of about 10-12 feet. He managed to keep traction and with total control walked all the way down. He decided to come up the other route which included a 3 foot ledge. He needed to coax the Jeep up the ledge, but he made it. Now, George decided to take a turn, with his low gears he stood the best chance of creeping back out after going down. Fred jumped in the passenger seat to get the feel of the hill. George did the down side easily, on the up side he had a bit of a problem on the ledge, he rearranged his driving light grill a little and had to work pretty hard to get up the ledge. But on the third or fourth try he got it. After seeing George and Dave make it down and up, Randy had to give it a try. He got down pretty easily and decided to go up the same side he came down, it looked smooth but steep. Randy is running 34 inch tires with stock gearing, steep climbs are not easy for his rig. He got up to the last climb and didn't seem to have the power to make it. After stalling a couple times he really gunned it, and got it up on two wheels (both on the right side), we all thought it was going to tip, but it came back down. Todd convinced Randy to take the bypass out (it didn't take much convincing after biycycling!), which was no problem for him to negotiate.

Dale felt the need to see what his long wheelbase Trooper could do on this hill. He had been doing very well on all of the obstacles, maybe he felt a little invincible at this point. This area was built like a little bowl with a hill on two sides and the "trail" on the third side. We were all sitting or standing around on the hills watching the show. Dale creeps up to the edge and has his front two tires hanging over, Todd yells "Let's get a strap on him now!" I'm thinking he wants a strap as a safety precaution, no big deal. Todd notices that nobody is responding to his request, so he adds "He has no brakes, the pedal is down to the floor!!!!" This got some action, three or four of us jumped up running to out rigs, my Amigo was closest so I got in position quickly, we got the strap on and pulled him out. The best we can figure is that his brake system was low on boost, because after we got him out the brakes were fine. In the scramble to help, George backed into Randy's front left fender, unfortunately it was the only fender that was pristine. Now it sports a fairly large dent.

That was enough excitement, I think it is time to head back to camp. We wind down through some more scenic areas. As we get lower into the canyon, there is quite a bit of water, some mud in the road and a few of the rigs could not resist getting a little mud time in.

On the highway we start back, there is a vicious wind blowing, with the tires aired down to 13psi, I'm having trouble getting up to speed. I'm going as fast as I can and big rigs are bearing down on me. A big gust, hits me from the side and I see one of my hats blow out the back window. I'm not giving up that hat, so I stop, turn around and went back to get my ARB hat.

With the hat recovered, we worked our way back to camp, the plan was to have a pot luck dinner and watch some of the videos from the previous runs. We also had a small raffle where we gave away some neat stuff. Thanks to CALMINI for a set of shackles (won by Aaron), Warn for a winch recovery set (won by Honda Steve), and Desert Rat for a couple of t-shirts. Isuzu had given us a box of Isuzu Windbreakers, one for everybody, even Bronco Fred and Jeep Dave got Isuzu Windbreakers. Everybody has eaten, some have drank, and we all slept.

Sunday - Fins & Things, Trail Rating = 3+

Dale and Adrian had left for home that morning, Jason and Sara went to explore Arches National Park on mountain bikes, Todd's wife Linda was driving her Red Jeep today, that gave us 12 rigs. We had a helter-skelter start with some people going into town to get gas others coming from town, some came from town to the campground and we were all supposed to meet in the park. We all somehow made it. We paid our $5 entrance fee and went to see what all of this "Fin" stuff was all about. The trail started at campground "E", hard to find, good thing we have Todd as a trail guide. This trail is tough to see sometimes because it is mostly run on the slick rock. You have to watch for the smooth spots or better yet keep an eye on the rig in front of you.

Todd told me not to tell Randy about the first obstacle, it was a sand hill. Randy's Swampers were much better diggers than floaters. Todd went up first, made it easily, then Randy got his turn. He struggled quite a bit, dug some big holes and just couldn't make it. What are we going to do? Somebody noticed that his front wheels weren't turning. Hmmmm, Kammy had asked his if his hubs were locked, he said yes, but only one hub was locked. Shoulda listened to the wife, eh? Lock both hubs and up the hill he went. Honda Steve was next in line, the Passport didn't seem to like the sand.

We lowered the air pressure to 15psi and with a little more work got him up the hill. After seeing Randy and Steve struggle up the hill, the rest of the group devised a plan - lots of speed! That's right, nail the gas at the beginning and see if momentum will get us up the hill. Rodeo Mike went bucking and kicking up the hill in 4WD hi and second gear, never even slowed down. Everybody else made it, I think we all went a little faster than we needed to.

A passle (herd? pod? gaggle?) of Isuzus crawl over Fins and Things.

Fins and Things. The fins look like little sandstone hills, the trail winds in and out and up and down and around. They really don't go anywhere. It is just a fun little trail. Some of the fins have steep sides that are quite challenging to get up or down. Todd led us to some nice fins where there might be three or four routes up and down, you go down one route and up the next and down the next etc. The traction is so good you can walk down a 60 degree hill side and then back right back up it!!

Our lunch break was near a little step (about 3 feet high). While some played on the step, the rest of us ate lunch.

The after lunch part of the trail, had several steep fins to climb, Frenchy's Hill, Ice Chest Hill, Ken's Climb and a bunch of others whose names I can't remember. Some of the fins have bypasses, some don't. At the tough spots Todd would radio to everybody, "the bypass is to the left." or where ever it was. I said to him "Every time you tell them were the bypass is, everybody takes the hard route!" There were very few obstacles that our group turned away from. The Rodeos and Troopers went everywhere, not bad for mostly stock vehicles. On the rough sections they just had to go slow to avoid dragging the bumpers. With a little spotting, there was not even much bumper scraping going on, although on a flat section of road, Trooper Wayne did manage to bend his trailer hitch on a cattle guard, that's right, after three days of four wheeling, the hitch was done in by a cattle guard!

'Zu Zoo '98 - Moab was coming to a close. The CB's had been pretty quiet this afternoon, everybody was feeling the effects of three days on the trail. Back at the road out of the park, we stopped to say some goodbyes, pass out some business cards, exchange e-mails. This was the unofficial end of 'Zu Zoo Moab. The trail was over, but friendships were made that will endure, memories were created that will last, and I think more 'Zu Zoo Runs will spawn from this weekend.

Jason needs to get together with us next year, his Troopers clutch had gone out two days before the 'Zu Zoo, so he and Sara drove her VW Jetta from Ohio, just to be here, next year we want to see his Trooper. Mike and Greg drove from Wisconsin, the longest drive for an Isuzu, Jason and Sara drove farther, but not in an Isuzu. Aaron graduated from college Friday night then he and Kevin drove all night to get to the trail head by 9:30 Saturday morning, then ran the trail without any sleep. Randy and Kammy had some mechanical problems, arrived Friday morning at 4:15 am, slept for a couple hours then ran the trail till, they broke, then Randy was up till 1am Saturday morning working on his rig to have it ready for the Saturday run.

We came from California, Oregon, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Ohio and Wisconsin. Some of us represent 4WD Clubs, all of us like the great outdoors. Wayne and I are going to get together in Southern California to do some Isuzu 4 wheeling, maybe Aaron and Kevin from Arizona will come join us. Randy wants to get together later in the summer for a "Rubi-Zoo" or an "Isuzicon" on the Rubicon Trail. Did we have fun, I think so. What better place to share some trails than the Red Rock in and around Moab, well, maybe the Rubicon later this summer.

See you at 'Zu Zoo Rubicon, or Rubi Zoo, or Isuzicon, later this year! Little Buddy, over and out.

The long awaited Official 1998 'Zu Zoo Summary is also posted, including pictures and video!

For more information on the 1999 Moab 'Zu Zoo event, check out this year's planning page. For questions or comments about the story itself, please contact the Isuzu ORC Staff.

Please mail the Isuzu ORC Staff if you have questions or comments about this page. Newsletter
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