By Chris Palsmeier
"Moab or Bust" seems to best describe my trip to Moab this year. I have been making the trip to the Easter Jeep Safari for the last 5 years and it has become one of those trips I can't seem to live without. My first trip was back in 2013 and ever since, I've been hooked and have never looked back.

Each year I make changes to my 1981 Jeep CJ-7, 'Blown Budget', which helps me tackle the trails of Moab. What you need to understand is, I am scared to death of heights and for those that know me; it makes my trips to Moab hilarious. It's a good thing we are living through the age of modern medicine or I could never run Moab.

This year, two months before I was to leave, I decided to completely rebuild Blown Budget from the ground up and still try and make my trip to Moab. The Easter Jeep Safari is an important event for me because there are many people that I get to meet up with only in Moab, so I needed to get the Jeep done in time. To best explain my success on getting Blown Budget completed would be like walking out the door of Caesar's Palace in Vegas with nothing in your hand because you went bust at the tables. As my departure time came and went, I had to push my departure two more times just trying to get the Jeep done. By 6:00 p.m. the 2nd night I was supposed to leave, I finally had to throw in the towel and leave the Jeep behind to grab a passenger seat with a friend! On top of my fear of heights, I don't ride passenger, just ask anyone! I was going to spend the next 4 days riding with my brother James Rhodes, whom I trust, but I had to just sit as a passenger!

I loaded my Dodge up and headed west; like you hear in all of those old westerns 'Go west young man'! With the radio playing all of my favorite songs, I hammered down with 849 miles in front me and after only a couple stops on the way, I was sitting in Moab having a drink with my good friends, James Rhodes and Chris Cox, ready to hit the trails. Of course, since they had already been wheelin' that day, they shared their stories about running 'Hell's Revenge' and 'Behind the Rocks'! Nothing like rubbing it in when you haven't even been in Moab for 30 minutes! Can you feel the sting? Ouch!

The weather this year was perfect and I was looking forward to seeing the beautiful scenery that I have come to love about Moab. I'm sure most can agree with me that the mountains of Colorado are breath taking, but until you see the beauty that Moab has to offer, you really don't understand how wondrous our country really is. Seeing Moab from any type of off-road vehicle that can get you off of the main road and into the heart of the trails can really help clear the head.

The first day was to be an easy trail which would help me become accustom to my unfamiliar spot as passenger. We headed out to 'Steel Bender', which turned out to be a great trail that anyone could run. We had a group of about 10 rigs containing a mixture of people from Texas, Missouri and Oklahoma; all together to just enjoy the wonderful sport of off roading. Matt Hodges, a good friend of mine, and owner of West Texas Off-Road joined us in our group. The only time we ever get to see each other is at EJS, King of the Hammers or SEMA, so being on a trail together was a blast. If you come out to Moab, make sure Steel Bender is on your list of trails to run. This is a mild trail for the average wheeler with a well-built rig and provides fantastic views of the mountains off in the distance. This is a great way to just unwind and relax (even from the passenger seat).

The second day, we head straight for 'Area BFE'! For the past 3 years, we keep planning on running 'Upper Helldorado', but have never made it. The first year, our trail guide broke at 'Gate Keeper'. Gate Keeper is the only way into Upper Helldorado, so we had no chance that year. The next year, James didn't make the trip to Moab and there was no way I was going to try and run it myself. Last year, James broke a 14 bolt axle shaft and we spent the next day repairing his rig which caused us to run out of time to hit it. So this had to be the year! It happened to be Crawl Magazine's reader appreciation day which brought a big crowd. They had it all setup with trail guides, so we lined up with the group and headed out to run Upper Helldorado once again. The trail was everything I had heard it was and at this point, was kinda glad Blown Budget was back in the garage! Everyone in our group made the obstacles look easy. Even 'Squeeze Rock' was not as hard as you might think, you just have to follow your spotter and take your time or damage is possible in a very short amount of time. Once you pass Squeeze Rock, you're at the waterfall and it's time to use lots of skinny pedal or winch your way out. You only throttle through if you have the wheelbase and you're lined up and ready. A lot of rigs have to use the winch point and just winch out. We had a mixture of those that tried the throttle and those that winched out. The waterfall, which happens to be the only way out, is a steep and difficult climb and if you hit the wrong line, you can flip your rig and do plenty of damage. Upper Helldorado is still on my bucket list and we will see if Blown Budget can finally tackle it next year.

Our 3rd day out, we headed out to run 'Pritchett Canyon'. This is truly one of the best trails Moab has to offer in my opinion. It is not a trail for the meek of heart or one with a mildly built rig. It will test you and your rigs ability as it places you in off camber positions and steep climbs that you are forced to commit to or you will be headed home with some damage. We ran this trail last year and it took us all day. Blown Budget broke on this trail, but luckily we were able to fix it and keep going. There was a group of guys that had passed us that broke on 'Son of Rock Pile' that were not so lucky. They had to leave their Jeeps on the trail that night and spend the next full day trying to recover them. When we hit Pritchett Canyon trail this year, we had some seriously built rigs and were able to finish the trail in about 5 hours, giving us time to stop and goof off several times. It really made the day go by quickly and made it relaxing! On our way out, we finished the day off with some of the 'Behind the Rock' trail; just to round out our day.

The last day in Moab, I headed for the Off Road Expo as it's always fun to spend time with old friends that I don't get to see often. During my treks to Moab, it has become tradition to spend a couple of nights at Grandpa's Garage, a local hang out for some of those in the industry. Each year, Chris Durham gives Grandpa a one-off fiberglass hood to hang in his garage and this year, a few of us got to sign the hood. Not just anyone gets the opportunity to sign the hood, so I felt very honored. It was a great evening of hanging out and talking with people in the off road industry. I also like to spend part of my time in Moab walking the streets, eating and buying shirts I don't need. There is just something about this town that always brings me back.

Reflecting on my week as a passenger, it was more enjoyable than I thought it would be, especially since I didn't have to worry about breaking my Jeep or paying attention on the trail to what I was doing, picking the right lines or trying not to drive off a ledge. I want to thank James for letting me ride along, as I know I am not the best passenger, but next year, I will be behind the wheel of my Jeep as I won't be tearing it apart the day before I leave for Moab! I look forward to more good times in Moab and reflect back on all the good times I've had over the years and this year was no exception!

Be sure to check out Chris' shop