Have you ever wanted to go away for a weekend and reminisce about the good old days of metal bodies, big block motors and leg warmers? If that is the case than the ExpeditionUtah Relic Run is the perfect event for you! The idea behind this historic run is to recreate the feeling of travelling back prior to 1989. While the age of the vehicle is the only real requirement it is not uncommon to see tents, eskys (coolers), clothing and fridges all dating back to the 80s and older.
The particular trip that I went on recently was the West Desert Bomb Run that had us running around the Western Utah Desert visiting historic locations along the way.
The 4WDs for the run were an interesting mix, the oldest was a ‘64 FJ45 Landcruiser wagon with the newest being a 1989 Isuzu Trooper, just making the cut. In the mix we also had a 2 x FJ40s, an FJ55, 2 x CJ5s and a FJ60 (Old Blue shown below). I was lucky enough to be riding along in a right hand drive – yes it felt like home – diesel BJ74 owned by Kurt Williams from Cruiser Outfitters.
This year’s Relic Run was centered around seeing some of the history of Utah. Day 1 saw the convoy leaving from Vernon mid morning and following the Pony Express trail out to a location called Callao. Along the way out we stopped at the first of our Pony Express stations, Simpson Springs. This is a rebuilt home station, a location where riders would change over and live, it also had some remnants of the original station from the 1850s and made a great location for lunch.
We made our way further down the trail, seeing some spectacular views of the changing terrain. Fish Springs was the next on the list, this is a number of springs that combine to form a true desert oasis. This location is a wildlife reserve that is preserved for over 290 species of bird, including migratory birds that use it as a nesting and resting place heading both North and South.
While I have seen a number of warm springs in Utah our next stop was one of the most colourful locations. The Wilson Health Springs are a group of warm springs just on the outskirts of the Fish Springs Wildlife Reserve. These are plunge pool style springs that show the signs of numerous visitors over the years. Old bathtubs, parts of a bus, pallets and the signs of the numerous recoveries of 4WDs trying to drive too close to the springs.
Day 2 began with a leisurely breakfast followed by a short drive back into Callao for a guided tour of the Bagley Ranch, the important aspect to this ranch is the original Wilson Springs Pony Express home station that is still standing. While the station has had many modifications over the years, as it was being lived in until the 50s, it is still in the original location and full of information and memorabilia from the time. This station also houses one of the largest Cottonwood trees in the world, it last measured almost 30 feet around the base.
The Crystal Ball Caves are a cave system just outside Gandy, a small town of about 10 ranches. The system is unlike most cave systems in that it is covered in calcite, in some areas up to a foot thick. Calcite is only formed underwater, so while this cave is up in the mountains it was in fact once under the waters of Lake Bonneville. The cave is full of stalagmites, stalactites and other amazing formations and the tour guide makes the trip all that more enjoyable.
Friday night saw us at a campsite just out of the small town of Gold Field. Again the group shared a meal with everyone bringing a plate to share. Show and tell on Friday night meant that everyone had to find a pre 1989 object and tell a story about it. On this particular trip we had everything from a 1930s portable camp pantry through to a 1980s cookbook of jello recipes.
Wendover Historic Airfield was the final tour for the trip. Starting Saturday morning we went throughout the airbase to see a wide array of historical locations, everything from the barracks to the mess hall. One of the biggest kicks of this tour is that you ride around the airfield in the back of a range of historical and modern military vehicles. Wendover is famous largely due to the part that it played in the ending of WWII. Wendover not only housed the Enola Gay – they are currently gathering funding to restore the original hanger – but it was also the top secret location for the development of the 2 atomic bomb casings. So top secret in fact that the bombers that did test drops didn’t even know what they were dropping.
Our final destination for the trip was the Sun Tunnels. These tunnels are Earth Art that were erected in the late 70’s by Nancy Holt. The tunnels are designed to line up with the sunset and sunrise on both the Winter and Summer solstice.
I’m sorry if I have been a bit long winded but the 2016 Relic Run was one of the most enjoyable and informative trips that I have ever done. This particular run was nothing more than dirt road but there was so much to see, do and explore that it had me on the edge of my seat for 4 days just waiting to see what was next.
For further information on future Relic Runs make sure to check out the Expedition Utah website at www.expeditionutah.com