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Sheet Metal Gang at Blazer Bash 2005

Trail Report

  1. jms
    Article/photo's courtesy of:
    J. Michael Salbaum (jms), aka Lowrider

    Blazer Bash 2005 Adventures of the Sheet Metal Gang
    Every year as the end of summer comes around, we feel this irresistible urge to hit the rock crawling trails in the deserts of the Southwest.

    The perfect opportunity to satisfy this desire is at Blazer Bash, once more hosted by Steve Fox and ColoradoK5.com in beautiful Moab, Utah. Blazer Bash is the annual get-together for full-size Blazers and GM K-series trucks.

    This eagerly awaited long weekend at the beginning of October featured perfect weather and spectacular trail rides. For those of you that missed it, the event was featured in Off-road magazine, and the February 2006 issue had plenty of coverage on five colorful pages. Of course, we snapped many more pictures, and here they are:

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    Although the official kickoff for the Bash is always the barbeque and picnic on Friday evening (sponsored by Steve Fox and Ck5.com, with organizing help from Moab resident Dirk Phillips), those of us that cant wait to get out on the trails met up Friday morning for the traditional Early-Bird Run. This time, we went on the premier slickrock trail in Moab: Hells Revenge. This trail features slickrock fun for everyone, and nationally renowned obstacles for the hardcore crowd; since we wanted some paly-time, we ran the short version of the trail. As usual, the vehicle lineup featured everything from near-stock Blazers to Totally-Tube creations, with every variation in between.

    First up on the famous Dump Bump is Toby (moneypit). Jason (Willyswanter) made short work of the bump, so short in fact that this photographer had to ask for a do-over: Stephen in the ORD truggy Wally taught everyone how its done; Dave provided a good showing in the StormTrooper, and Brandon (mini wally) in the ORD buggy just drove up the bump, driveway-style, without any drama... The Hells Revenge trail features driving on so-called fins of narrow slickrock; here are the Storm Trooper and Max (Paxx) descending a fin.

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    Further along the trail, Dave is leading the group, Scott in the yellow Blazer aka mrk5 is not far behind, followed by Dirk Phillips in his K20, and Jason in the 96 crew cab or what's left of it. The escalator was the next big optional obstacle, and Toby sticks a big tire in the air. It didn't help that there was water in the hole actually, nobody knows whether it was really water, at least there was some gas, and some oil, power steering and transmission fluid, and probably some other flammable hydrocarbons of undetermined nature - we should have tried to throw a match to see whether it would burn to dry it out. Well, maybe not, probably not an environmentally conscious thing to do. By the way, a lot of us carry catch pans to collect oil or vehicle fluids in case of breakage. Jason with his big wheelbase (actually, everything on that thing is big) made short work of it. If you're not quick with the camera, this is the view you will get all day long of Jason's truck.

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    Then Moab and Blazer Bash regular Dave Cowley showed everyone how to crawl the Escalator, one big Swamper lug at a time. Dave with his excellent driving skills just owns these big obstacles in his bobbed K5. On to the Hot Tubs over some more slickrock; Scott is driving the steep climb up into the sky. For those of you that haven't been there (yet), this is a climb where the hill drops away from the truck to the left and the right, and a full-size truck just fits on the crown of the fin; so you line up, and drive into the heavens. Toby first sticks a tire out of the tub, almost as if to test how the air feels outside, and then crawls out of the tub.

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    Jeff (stallion85) gives the tub a try in his white locked 85, with the ugly fluid in the bottom just making things a bit more difficult, but progress through the tub was without drama. Jeff might have been new to Moab, but carries plenty of desert experience, in fact he is a veteran of the desert in more ways than one: four wheeling and rock crawling in the desert around Las Vegas, and serving his country in another desert on the other side of the world.

    Here's another view of the buggies and truggies with the marvelous Moab landscape and Arches National Park in the background, and then Ultimate Adventurer Nate Marsh in the honorary K5 comes up the tub with a little too much lean to the left, needing some cable before things got too hairy. This just illustrates the atmosphere at the Bash: you're welcome to try the hard stuff, but safety and sanity come first, and everyone's willing to help and lend a hand, cable, tool or part if necessary so that everyone has fun and makes it back to town safely.

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    Some more slickrock featuring Scott, and then Brian in his newly trail worthy Blazer on a little lift and 33s; Max follows in his minimalist no-top-no-doors (ahem, and also no-tools-no-parts-cuz-it-wont-break) interpretation of a 76 Blazer, Dave in the Trooper, and we were at the Car Wash Hot Tub.

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    Water at the bottom of Car Wash tub didn't help, and this was territory for full-throttle climbs with vehicles featuring link-and-coil suspensions. First, by popular demand, Stephen gives the 502 BBC in Wally a workout on the way out, then Jason does it with wheelbase, and a bit tire spin. Brandon in the ORB buggy just drove through the tub, too fast to get pictures... Just a note to everyone from this photographer: simply driving over or through an obstacle might demonstrate superior driving skills or top vehicle capabilities, but neither provides enough drama to be captured on film or chip, nor gives enough time to those of us working the cameras to set up properly!

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    Dave has the Storm Trooper at some incredible angles, and then its on to TipOver Challenge, first mrk5, and then Wally, this time driven by Stephens wife, Miranda. For the record, the Lowrider took the trail with ease despite some little electrical gremlins. Denise Watson of ORD made the day very pleasant by providing company in the passenger seat of the Lowrider, that was, until we reached TipOver. We cannot rule out that Denise was less than impressed by the skills of the Lowrider pilot in any case, she elected to drive herself over the obstacle. Gotta have a good ride for that, so Denise picked the ORD buggy, bumped Brandon Watson over to the passenger seat, and made it look easy. Now we think this encouraged Miranda to get on the wheel of Wally, and Stephen, as a good husband, complied. In the line of reporting duty, we must state that Stephen didn't look very happy in the passenger seat.

    The Lowrider, by the way, drove TipOver without a tire slip, unlike last time. Supposedly, photographic evidence for this exists somewhere in the CK5 community.

    We got to the BBQ just in time, great food great company, some old friends, some new acquaintances, a great raffle with great prizes, and a short night to get ready for the trail. Thanks to the luck of the draw, the Lowrider now sports tube doors courtesy of P.I.M.P. Off-road, a new Moab company by Dirk Phillips and Ryan Melton. The doors have a great fit and finish, and bolt on quickly. Not sure yet what will happen to the 14-bolt yoke protector (courtesy of GreatLakeOffRoad) that Lady Luck sent towards the Lowrider - the truck sports a D60 rear - but stay tuned.

    Saturday morning is the official start of the rail rides at the parking lot of the City Market. Two groups left in different directions: the hardcore and tube bunch mad off towards Pritchett Canyon, one of the most difficult trails Moab has to offer. Vehicle requirements are tires at 35 and over, one locker (two are better), and a motor that will run at steep angles. This run will be chronicled elsewhere. The other run features the Sheetmetal Gang, where full-bodied trucks go out on trail rides. Trails are determined so no one is left behind and everyone has fun. This time the trail choice was Gold Bar Rim, with a trail lineup picture opportunity under Gooney Bird Rock.

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    By the way, the FJ40 Land Cruiser we snuck in here is piloted by Claudia, former co-pilot of the Lowrider. Alas, we forgot another introduction: here's the Lowrider with its new ORD front tube bumper, sturdy, great fit, great form and great function. Paul from Arizona (pauly383K10) joined the Gang and had fun on some ledges, and then its on to the first bigger obstacle. Dave is working the Storm Trooper up the climb, Nick (B_to_C) was next and stuck a tire in the air, and then Scotty in the 1-ton mud truck from northern Utah tackled the obstacle.

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    Scott with mrk5 was next, and again in the line of reporting duty, here's the sequence of events. The yellow truck provided a good show on three tries, with tires in the air each time. Unfortunately, right after this picture was taken, a little bit too much enthusiasm resulted in a few rear axle ring gear teeth deciding to no longer partake in the fun, but go their own way - ouch! With Nick as chaperone, Scott nursed the truck back to blacktop and safely into Moab for repairs.

    Bryan crawls along some slickrock, and the whole Gang weaving its way along the trail. Picture Rock a little further on was a good photo op for Neil in his show-quality 87 on 33s and open stock axles, and Bryan, Paul, and Tom from ORD stuck a tire up the rock.

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    The big ledge of the Gold Bar Rim trail provided good photo opportunities for Dave, Paul, and Neil.

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    Same place, play time for Tom, Scotty, and the Lowrider:

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    The Lowrider on the last step up to Gold Bar Rim, time to show off those P.I.M.P. Off-road tube doors (We can see the trail better, and have a better perception where we are in relation to an obstacle; we really like them a lot!); and then this photographer up on the rim taking in the panoramic view of Moab. Neil is showing off his scratch-free paint job on the spotless 87, and Bryan working the Blazer up some slickrock. Dave, Paul, and Scotty drove the trail a bit further down to the Golden Stairs, whereas the rest of the group turned around to begin the return to town.

    We waited for everyone to catch up at the bottom of the canyon, and rode the long dirt trail back to blacktop single file in a huge cloud of dust. Everyone made it out safely, and the dust was just enough reason to meet up in the Moab Brewery for some well-deserved (and much-needed) food and drink. The hardcore guys came out of Pritchett where the trail had taken its toll, and we all had a good time together swapping stories (the best was Moab Rim in 10 minutes) from the day.

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    Trail selection for the Sheetmetal Gang on Sunday was a slickrock trail called FinsN Things; the tube-and-buggy crew tackled another hardcore trail named Coyote. Steve Fox, our fearless CK5 leader and webmaster, rode shotgun in the Lowrider on this run and provided great company. Fins is climbs and descents all day, and Nick, Neil, Max, and Ed in the yellow Blazer with the nose taper job slowly work their way along the trail. Some of the descents are steeper than others, and Max the Canadian Kid - drives the Blazer off the cliff.

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    Max is havin fun up and down the trail, even hopping the front end just for kicks. Tom driving the white Blazer down a rolling rock formation, and the next two pictures give you an idea of the roller coaster trail ride across the sandstone formations east of Moab.

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    I know, I know, tilted camera. Yes, that's not how steep it is, but that's how steep it feels from behind the steering wheel. Just try it yourself, and you'll get to know what I mean. Well, here's a more realistic picture of the Lowrider, and Scotty and Nick inching down the incline. Gotta have a passenger for lookout duty.

    With the days trail ride coming to an end, the official part of Blazer Bash concluded as well. Everyone had a lot of fun, and some people were already planning their next round of upgrades for Blazer Bash 06. A few of us stayed on for another day, and an exploratory trail ride on Sevenmile Rim to check out Wipe Out Hill as a Sheetmetal Gang trail for next year.

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    Four vehicles hit the trail, the Lowrider, Claudia in the FJ40, Max and Scotty. The trail provided beautiful views of the landscape north of Moab, and driving challenges included some rock ledges. We paused for lunch and some photo opportunities at the big ledge between Monitor and Merrimac buttes when we ran a little out of luck. Max needed to shape a bolt to fix his broken clutch linkage, and just when we were about to leave, Max noticed that the Lowrider had lost a U-joint cap on the front right side.

    A replacement front axle shaft assembly was on hand, ready to be swapped in, a simple task made more difficult by the driving wind and sand. Thanks to Scotty for parking his truck to provide a wind break during the repairs. A little more than an hour later, we were rolling again. After a slightly sickening off-camber section, we arrived at Wipe Out Hill. Having used up our spare parts, and due to the late time of the day, we elected to proceed out the wash without trying the obstacle. But: Well be back next year, for sure.

    On a personal note, Id like to express my thanks to James and Stephen Watson and everyone at Off-road Design in Carbondale, CO without them, there might not have been a Blazer Bash for the Lowrider. While scheduled for a drive-by front tube bumper installation on the way from Nebraska to Moab, the distributor in the Lowrider failed about a mile below the summit of Vail Pass. Dead truck in the dark by the side of the road, after 15 hours of driving. Well, at least that AAA Plus card came in handy.

    When Claudia called ORD, James and Stephen were still working on Wally, and James graciously allowed us to have the Lowrider towed to ORD. Not only that, James (and everyone else at ORD) lent a helping hand in troubleshooting, and when Claudia brought the replacement dizzy from Car Quest, James had it installed so fast I couldn't even blink. So finally, we could turn to the bumper; James cut the fenders, and the bumper fit like a glove over the frame horns. Strangely enough, by spending all the Adrenaline on fixing the truck for the Bash, it turned out to be the most relaxing Blazer Bash ever for me.

    (P.S. I did have a spare distributor. Brand-spankin new, from Summit Racing. With a high-output coil. In the garage, in Nebraska, for crying out loud!)

    As in the previous years, Blazer Bash was a big success, with great wheeling on challenging trails, a fabulous, enchanting, and timeless landscape, wonderful camaraderie among Blazer Bash regulars as well as newcomers, and stout trucks of all build levels ready to take on the obstacles Moab has to offer. We hope this account gives you an idea on what Blazer Bash is all about, and we hope yall can come to Moab for the next Bash. As for us we certainly cant wait until October comes around once more. Well, see you there