49th Annual Easter Jeep Safari

From March 28th thru April 4th over 1500 Jeeps made the annual pilgrimage to Moab, Utah to enjoy over 3,000 miles of trails and to see their favorite off road products. A total of 163 vendors came to showcase their wares and to answer questions from curious onlookers. Trail rides occurred everyday and led participants through paths of varied degrees of difficulty. My wife and I joined in on a few of the trail rides with our bone stock two door JK Rubicon where the stock suspension pounded our spines mercilessly. After recovering from a nearly a week of orthopedic torture we made our way to the Spanish Trail Arena for the vendor show.

 

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One particular product that caught my eye was Fox Racing’s JK bump stop. It is designed specifically for street and trail use where a progressive rate and finesse is more necessary than surviving a fifty foot jump. Rather then providing harsh feedback when the suspension is fully compressed, these bump stops soak up smaller “bumps” and progressively increase resistance as they reach full compression for a much smoother ride––something we were lacking. The Fox representative stated that installation only required minor cutting and welding and could be completed in less than a day. Various pads are available to set the distance between suspension and chassis, and the body of the bump stop is threaded for even greater fine-tuning.

 

Of course Easter Jeep Safari wouldn’t be complete without Jeep, who showed up with plenty of gear to prep any rig for various duties. One product that stood out, actually it hid in plain sight, was JPP’s (Jeep Performance Parts) high line fender kit for the JK and JKU. Unlike most fender flares for the JK, these flares are designed to retain the factory appearance while allowing room for up to 35” tires without requiring a suspension lift and 37” tires. It seems Jeep took a page from American Expedition Vehicles’ book by integrating these flares in a way that is visually undetectable by most. Competitively priced at $795, these flares offer a great value. JPP also displayed a new wheel which appears to be a clone, but not direct copies of AEV’s popular Pintler and Savegre wheels, and are available in silver, black and argent––just like AEV. A Warn-like front bumper and Bushwacker’esque high line fender flares round out the clones. In case you were wondering about the topographical maps adorning the hoods of some of the concept vehicles this year, you can make your own with Jeep’s customization tool mopar.com/jeephoods.

 

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For my wife and I, this was our first EJS and we signed up for three trail rides just to be certain that we received the full experience. Fins ‘n’ Things, Seven Mile Rim, and Dead Man’s Point rounded out our choices. We drove to the Spanish Trail Arena and picked up our preregistration packets and magazine, which contained all the information needed for the event, including a map displaying the meeting points for the various trail rides. These points were indicated numerically, which corresponded with signs on the side of the road.

 

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Trail leaders handed out the obligatory legal waivers and informed participants of the CB channel they would use for the ride. After checking our names off of a list, we were off to the trailhead. Upon arrival, tires were aired down and a safety meeting was conducted along with a reminder to “tread lightly” and to avoid trouncing on the crypto-biotic soil. We were one of twenty-five rigs in the Seven Mile Rim trail convoy, and it showed in our progress.

 

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It took six hours to complete this trail, which has a difficulty rating of 4. We stopped often and forward progress was painstakingly slow. This was amplified by the wounded JK rental that the participant in front of us was driving. On our first hill climb, just moments after our safety meeting, I noticed his left rear wheel was loose and about to fall off. Hammering away at my horn and flashing my lights frantically finally brought him to a halt where we discovered one broken wheel stud, one missing lug nut and three loose lug nuts. It was clear that the lug nuts had been over-tightened one time too many and the wheel studs had been stretched. I feared that re-tightening the remaining lug nuts would only lead to the wheel coming off again––a fear that was realized halfway through the trail. The client made a phone call to the rental agency and the decision was made to leave the rental Jeep behind. Overall, the trail ride was a lot of fun and we met some great folks.

 

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Friday night a raffle was held where some $225,000 in prizes were passed out. The items ranged from a gallon of highly concentrated car soap that makes up to 150 gallons of soap to a $5,000 supercharger. There were at least five complete sets of tires, a Teraflex Dana 44 front axle, various suspension lift kits, and countless LED light bars and gift cards. All raffle items were generously donated by the 163 vendors who attended the show. A few items were given back and then promptly auctioned off to help cover expenses for a motorized wheelchair for a member of the Red Rock 4-Wheelers. It was an impressive event and the amount of prizes took over three hours to be passed out.

 

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Early Saturday morning participants lined Main Street and side streets for “Big Saturday.” Vehicles were divided up by trail and at 9am they headed out one group at a time until they were all gone. Those of us left behind took the opportunity to finally eat breakfast without waiting in line for 45 minutes. Next year will be the 50th anniversary EJS.  One can only imagine what kind of debauchery RR4W will have in store.

 

 

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For 8 years, Brandon cut his teeth building and maintaining high-end Porsche race cars for Autometrics Motorsports, provided track support for NASA, PCA, American Le Mans and Grand-Am events, and competed at PCA-sanctioned autocrosses. During this time, he worked as a mechanic and tire changer at prestigious races such as the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, and helped AMS achieve third place overall in the NASCAR-owned, Grand-Am racing series—the highest of any independent team at that time. For the past 9 years, the skills acquired from his racing background have been directed toward planning and modifying vehicles for overland travel, and organizing trips. When he isn’t traveling, Brandon can be found seeking zen in his workshop or planning his next outdoor adventure.

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