This trip had been in the works for the past 8 months, we had strategically navigated our route from Lethbridge Alberta, Canada south to the promised land of Moab and beyond; a spider web of blue lines viewed in virtual topography. My work scrambles me between the office and field work locations. As much as I wish I could predict when I will be where, it just doesn’t happen. I fly by the seat of my pants, often with 12 hours or less of notice before being required on some remote location. It just so happens that the months of March through June is the slow season in the oil industry in Canada due to the spring thaw. I had planned my trip specifically for this time of year to impose the least amount of intrusion on my superiors’goals and enable me to be granted the time off for such an epic adventure.
Again, my preparations were going well –new rear bumper built and powder-coated, sleeping platform 95% done, new slotted/drilled rotors and brake pads, stainless lines, all new fluids in the diffs, tranny, motor, T-Case, brakes, and coolant. However, despite my best effort I still had a few odds and ends to wrap up before I could depart. No problem, that’s what the weekend is for –until I walk into the office on May 1st to find that I’m to leave for North Dakota to drill a well with a new prototype tool we had been developing. I needed to hit the road an hour ago. Panic mode ensues and before I’m thinking of what things need to be packed into my Tundra to haul to work, I’m thinking of the “to-do list”of mods/maintenance that need to be completed before the Lexus will even roll out of my driveway under it’s own power on May 5th. I scramble, but manage to get my truck booked into my local Toyota Master Tech to have a few of` the last minute maintenance items completed while I’m away at work, leaving the truck ready for some abuse upon my return.
On May 3rd I land back in Alberta around midnight. I go to bed with my main focus for the next day being to wrap up any outstanding mods and begin packing the truck for it’s long journey. A newly completed truck with zero tested trail runs, what could possibly go wrong? 7 AM and my cell phone is preaching a chorus that despite it’s melodic tone, annoys the hell out of me. I snooze a couple times but am awake at a reasonable hour and immediately head out to the garage to fight the rainfall and less than ideal temperatures. Progress is slow, my hands are numb from the cold, and my 80 doesn’t fit in my garage so I’m working in the rain. I get the sleeping platform wrapped up, the ARB fridge installed, fix an issue with my stereo, and get the ARB twins ready to dish out 35 psi of compressed air to the four Kevlars on the daily. I’m feeling good but I still need to get my exhaust re-worked in the morning (the 5th–aka departure day) and pack the truck. I have it at the exhaust shop the next day as early as possible in hopes of having it back in my hands before noon. That doesn’t happen and I’m rolling back into my driveway at 3PM, or 11:59 metaphorically speaking.
I’m scheduled to meet my Father in Butte Montana at around 8PM. He’s traveling from Nelson BC and would be meeting up with me in Butte with another member of our company meeting us in Moab on the 6th. I recruited my father for the journey as I had also been consulting the build of his 01’Tacoma over the past year. He sold his ATV and wanted something more comfortable that would keep him out of the elements and his mint Tacoma fit the bill. Without any 4x4 trail experience I was somewhat tentative to bring him on a trek of this nature. However, my research dictated that Moab was full of bypasses which my father could take if anything was over his comfort level, so I digress. The third member of our group is a local Albertan who I have been 4x4ing with for the last 4-5 years. A great guy who leaves little to chance, and is never left unprepared. With a small group of 3, we figured we would be quite flexible and have the ability to change our plans without issue should the need arise. Something that would pay dividends, as we would find out.
3:01PM - I haven’t even loaded the truck full of it’s precious cargo. Hell, I just got the truck in my possession and I was supposed to be on the road an hour ago, headed for red earth and warmer skies. I load the truck with more haste than a well-prepared overlander ever should. Placing my Rubber Maid bins like Tetris blocks in the back of the now seatless-rear 80 Series. Packed, loaded, and probably forgetting something I kiss my fiancégoodbye and fire the thirsty inline 6 to life. Moab, here I come ready or not.
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