Grand Slam West Review – GSW 2015 Part 1
I suppose that it’s appropriate (call it fate, irony, or what have you), that as I’m publishing this, the midday sky is almost black and a storm is raging outside; putting my mindset, for better or worse, right back where this all started. As this is being posted, we are just over a month away from heading back to Moab for Grand Slam West 2016, so this review is close to a year overdue. Upon returning home from GSW ’15, our time was immediately consumed by a complete overhaul and update of our current business (all while keeping it up and running) in addition to working on launching an entirely new business. Any non-income-producing projects, like this review for example, had to take a back seat. Here, almost a year later, with the majority of our work caught up, I’m finally able to relax a bit, sit down, and do some more creative and pleasurable (non-administrative) activities. So here we go…
A first person view of Moab; meaning this is the first this person has viewed Moab.
I was asked by Kevin Fell if I would be able to join him in Moab to film and photograph Grand Slam West 2015. Aside from being a very tasty, very grease-laden, and almost immediately regrettable meal experience at your local Denny’s restaurant, Grand Slam is an annual family oriented Jeep Grand Cherokee specific off road event. It has many chapters across the country, with events being held throughout the year. Grand Slam West, or GSW, takes place in Moab UT. Now, Moab is just over 7 hrs drive from Phoenix and we would be there for almost a week, so this was a prospect I was going to have to sit down and consider very carefully. So I set about sitting down and very carefully considering that very thing, for about one billionth of a second, to which my reply was, “Hell yeah”! I have been off roading with some type of vehicle or another, both recreationally and professionally since as far back as I can remember; long before I could even legally drive on the streets. I’ve lived in the southwest United States for just over 15 years, and in all that time I had never been to Moab; so yeah, twist my arm. Plus it was a great excuse to take a cool cross country motorcycle trip. “Sorry, it’s for work, I HAVE to go, he he he”.
The anticipation built over the next couple weeks and I found myself online quite often looking at pictures and watching videos of Moab, all the while telling myself, “Yep, wanna do that, oooh, add that to the list too”, and so on. The night before my departure, I slept very little as the morning crept closer at an excruciatingly slow pace. The simultaneous feelings of frustration and excitement were reminiscent of some of my childhood Christmas Eves (minus the booby traps my father would set to keep us from sneaking out of our rooms too early) . Eventually a sliver of sunlight crept its way past the curtain’s edge, slowly crawling across the wall, signaling that it was just about time for me to go. Excited to get the first leg of the trip to Flagstaff underway, I started packing my bike and sent the larger “un-bike-able” gear with Kevin’s WJ. Now you might ask, “Wait a minute, didn’t you say that Grand Slam a Grand Cherokee only event? Why are you taking a motorcycle”? Well, the plan was, that on a bike, I could move relatively freely amongst the Jeeps on the trail and get the footage we wanted. So with my bike looking something like a two wheeled version of the Beverly Hillbillies, I got my motor runnin’, headed to the hiway, looking for adventure. And boy, did it ever come my way.
The following morning when Kevin, his daughter Ally, and myself left Flagstaff, the weather was chilly and raining. June above 7000ft can still be quite cold; it had snowed there about a week or so earlier. I layered up, donned the full body neon orange nuclear fallout suit, and we hit the road. It wasn’t long at all before we encountered our first bit of adventure on this trip. Stopping to fuel up, not even 5 minutes from the house, we heard the distinct hiss of air rapidly vacating a tire on the WJ. As luck would have it, the gas station we stopped at was next door to a Discount Tire and a grocery store. The original plan was to get groceries once we got to Moab, but since we had some time to kill while Discount was working to get us back on the road, we decided to go ahead and stock up in Flag. After about an hour delay, we restarted our grand adventure.
The ride to Moab was a stunning cruise through territories and vistas, most of which I had never before witnessed. Just gorgeous! As I imagine is the case with most Jeep owners, I absolutely LOVE to travel, explore, and just experience what this amazing world has to offer. I have not had the opportunity to do much of that at all in the past few years, so I was just giddy with every new stretch of road. Well, almost every new stretch of road. A bit after leaving Kayenta, AZ, Kevin decided to cut across Indian Route 12. My opinion on this decision? “Sure, I don’t know where I’m going, I’m just enjoying the ride, lead on”! Just a heads up for any other bikers planning to travel that area; As soon as we got onto that road, I thought I had hit something and blown both tires. I looked down to see that both tires were indeed just fine, as my teeth attempted to rattle themselves free of my jawbone, and my brain bounced around inside my skull like a basketball in an unbalanced washing machine. I was sure I was going to come down with a severe case of CTBI; the “Punch Drunk” syndrome that boxers suffer after years of having their skulls continuously and mercilessly pummeled. Surely, my grey matter wasn’t going to be much more than grey pulp if we didn’t get to a different road soon. Yes, the pavement was that bad; I could not wait to get off that road! We did eventually get to a new and thankfully much smoother (freshly paved) road, grateful that both my body and my bike were inexplicably intact. As an avid off-roader, it’s rare that I am elated to be driving on a perfectly smooth slab of asphalt.
Half a truckload of Advil and many miles of open road later, we rolled into Moab; it was late afternoon, I forget the exact time. We were higher and cooler than Phoenix, but lower, by about 3000ft, than Flagstaff; and much warmer as well. At this point, I was getting fairly toasty in my riding gear, and my butt was very happy we had finally arrived; it’s not the most comfortable seat for long distance riding. Just inside town, we pulled into Canyonlands RV Resort & Campground, confirmed our reservation, and proceeded to set up our home away from home. This wasn’t the rugged backcountry camping away from everyone and everything else that I generally prefer; it was several aisles of grated gravel generously planted with concrete tent/RV slabs and pic-nic tables. The entire property was shaded by massive Cottonwood trees that were in their “shedding” stage, and every time the wind blew, which was often, we had a nice thick fluffy “snow shower” in mid-80 degree weather. It was a bit surreal, and really cool too. We had power outlets, a pool, actual bathrooms with real flushing toilets, sinks and showers with both hot AND cold running water, and a small laundromat. Again, not how I usually go camping, but I had no complaints; I WAS IN MOAB DAMNIT! And soon, very soon, I would greatly appreciate our “Resort” amenities. Just a side note; if you are in Moab and looking for a camp-ish place to stay, I highly recommend Canyonlands. The grounds are nice and the staff is professional and quite friendly. An older gentleman, Michael, I think, stopped by our site several times as he made his rounds, just to see if we needed anything. I do however think he needs to re-evaluate his relationship with “The Big Man Upstairs”, as he referred to him. Michael said he had spoken with him earlier and that he guaranteed there would be no rain at all that weekend. Ummm….yeah…about that….
After setting up camp, we joined some other Grand Slammers for dinner, then hung out for a bit at the Red Stone Inn next door to our campground, mingling with even more people who came for the event. Then it was off to bed; for tomorrow the real adventure would begin.