The On & Off-Road Tale Of Rally On The Rocks 2019
Jessica’s Epic Road Trip To An Epic Event
Red rock canyons, balancing rocks, snow-capped mountains, small town vibes, and “hold your breath” trails; you can expect all this and more when attending Rally on the Rocks. Naturally, after recently spending a week in the mud, I needed to dry out a little bit. So, I packed up a week’s worth of clothes and headed to Moab, Utah for the 2019 Discount Tire Rally On The Rocks.
After giving my lil’ peanut a hug and a kiss goodbye (Happy Mother’s Day to all the other off-roading mommas out there!) I got on the road Sunday evening with Mesquite, NV as my first stop. Once I awoke in the morning, feeling rested and ready for the second half of my journey to Moab, I filled up the DEF tank, picked up the green handle to top off the fuel tank and continued on. This was the part of the drive I was really looking forward to. I was told by the crew at PCI Race Radios that the drive from Mesquite to Moab would be great. It was more… so much more. As soon as I crossed into Arizona, yeah you drive through the north-west corner of AZ to get to UT, I started heading into this canyon of epic proportions. Excuse my French, but holy sh*t! Before you enter, you face a huge wall of sand colored stone with ridges of red and dark brown layers of sand and rock. The metaphorical “gates” to my journey. The interstate weaved through the canyon following the path of the Virgin River. Once through, I was only a few mere miles from the Utah border and St. George, a beautiful and welcoming town. Hunger was starting to set in, but I had another stop in mind for lunch. Beaver Taco.
While the food was nothing worth sharing, it is still a destination to stop at. Don’t get me wrong, it was good, but I live in San Diego… home of the California Burrito and just miles from the border where I can enjoy the catch-of-the-day, homemade tortillas and fresh salsa. At the very least, it was worth picking up a Beaver Taco shirt…
With tacos consumed, I continued with my drive. Having never seen this part of the country before, I had no problem stopping at every viewpoint along the way. If you don’t, are you even living? The views are breathtaking! A short detour off the interstate and I was parked on a cliff, overlooking a canyon stretching as far as the eye could see. As the Earth rotated, the shadows from the sun changed, exposing new terrain. As I sat taking it all in, my excitement for the upcoming week grew. I hopped back in the truck, giddy, and in a hurry to get to Moab.
Moab, Utah is a destination point for visitors from all over. Its landscapes and unusual terrain attract all types of patrons from hikers to jeepers, mountain bikers to road-trippers. It is no wonder that it has become a destination for UTVs as well. The Sand Flats Recreation Area is the primary location for 4×4 and off-roading within Moab, with almost 30 miles of 4×4 trails. Here, you will find the famous Hell’s Revenge and Fins ’n Things trails, amongst others. The trails consist of slick rock domes, bowls, fins, and endless views of the red rocks, and the La Sal Mountains.
I arrived in Moab around 4pm, checked in to my home for the week (Shout out to OK RV Park for their exceptional accommodations) and then headed to Grandpa’s Garage to pick up the trailer with our RZRs. Moab is known for its small-town hospitality and there isn’t anyone else who embodies that more than Danny and friends at Grandpa’s Garage. Danny, a retired veteran, opened his heart and garage to any off-roader in need. The garage is always open and it’s complimentary! I recommend stopping by at least once during your trip to share some good stories and a cold beverage (BYOB). After hooking up the trailer, I got a tour of the garage, shared a few laughs, then bid Grandpa’s Garage a good evening and headed to the Old Spanish Trail Arena to set up the Baja Designs booth.
A brief history of Rally on the Rocks: the event stemmed from a side by side rally that was started in 2008. In 2010, current ROTR owner Lanse Chournos, attended for the first time and fell in love with the terrain and the event. He acquired the event within the next year and started the planning process immediately. In its first year, they had approximately 300 attendees. This year, Rally On The Rocks had over 1,000 participants and 600+ registered side by sides. Lanse, being a family guy himself, really wanted to build ROTR as a family event and market it as such. Many of the attendees are whole families of multiple generations, and Lanse hopes the industry can find a way to keep these side by sides affordable so that more people can get out and ride. Rally On The Rocks offers four full days of guided trail rides throughout the area, and the guides are well experienced, trained, and equipped. If you are a novice, don’t fret, the volunteer staff and guides will ensure you are on the best trail for your skill level and assist you along the way. And with a 10-year permit for Rally On The Rocks granted by the BLM, it isn’t going anywhere soon!
While the first day of guided rides commenced, vendors continued to set up. For us vendors, getting our product to Moab can be a bit tricky. It’s not a short drive for anyone, and many choose to ship their goods and then fly in to the near-by Grand Junction, CO airport. One of those who chose the latter of the two options were my buddies at Raceline Wheels. Unfortunately for them, their pallet was grounded in Grand Junction, but fortunately for them, they knew someone who’s company truck runs on Racelines…. So off to Grand Junction we went! Four hours later I dropped them and their product back at their booth. Once they were done, we set out for our first trail ride.
Equipped with two Polaris RZRs rented from Highpoint Hummer, we headed out to the trailhead for Steel Bender. According to AllTrails.com, Steel Bender 4×4 Trail is a 17.6-mile trail rated as difficult and has an elevation gain of 2,375 feet, featuring beautiful wild flowers. So much so that I made everyone stop at least four times so I could take a picture of all the different flowers! At the very beginning of this trail you drop down onto the canyon floor where the single car trail weaves you between the trees and brush. I never realized how spoiled I was, until riding in a stock seat with 3-point belts. I will forever be grateful to PRP Seats for their seats and harnesses. After carving the canyon and crossing paths with the creek a few times you arrive to your first rock climbing obstacle. We threw that RZR into 4-low and started the climb. What I love most about these trails is that the rocks look slick. You don’t think that the tires will grip, but the sandstone is so porous that the tires climbed up with ease. After climbing a few levels of slick rock, we made it to a plateau with a T in the trail. We decided to go left (since life hadn’t been going right… haha) and stumbled on some fun fast washes. Rock climbing is new and exhilarating and neat, but nothing can take the need for speed away from this Southern California girl. We got to the half-way point of the trail and stopped to enjoy the views. To the East, the snow-capped La Sal Mountains stood tall like guards protecting Moab from the pioneers before us. To the North, you could see part of Porcupine Rim and Interstate 70. To the South and West, were more red rock canyons, forests, and the small town of Moab, home to 5,200 people. As we started the journey back in to town, the dust settled and the air started to cool down, and the sweet scent of Moab grew stronger. The air was so crisp and clean, smelling of sweet fresh cut grass and wildflowers, cool and green with hints of white, yellow, and lavender. Moab smelled like happiness and freedom wrapped in a cozy blanket woven from rays of the sun. Or, maybe I was just hungry… next stop Pasta Jays. If you are craving close-encounters, and family style Italian dishes, Pasta Jays is perfect. They are always packed and for good reason. Come hungry and leave happy.
The following day, the vendor booths were open for business. I was pleasantly surprised to learn how many ROTR patrons were excited to see Baja Designs there. It was our first year attending as a vendor, and the response was overwhelmingly welcoming. After becoming acquainted with some of the attendees, the rides commenced, and we joined in on a ride to Hell’s Revenge. This ride was much shorter than the previous day’s at only 6 miles. But the terrain consisted of slick rock dome climbs and drop-offs at every corner. It is rated dangerous and rightfully so. You can’t be an off-roader and not be a thrill seeker, but I am very afraid of heights. Well, I’m afraid of falling to be more specific. Hell’s Revenge tested me the entire time. There is not a single section of that trail that isn’t on an edge or climbing along a slick rock dome “spine”. On the inside, I was freaking out, on the outside, I was pretending it was all good. All fears aside, that ride was pretty exhilarating. At the turn-around point, conveniently located at Hell’s Gate (a 4×4 challenge with a steep grade incline that requires a good strategy and a spotter) you have more endless views of all the glory that Moab has to offer, including sights of the Colorado River. From there, we headed towards the North side of the mountain back towards the town. Along this part of the trail is where you’ll find the infamous Hells Revenge Hot Tubs. While I didn’t see anyone attempting them, I did hear some stories while I was there. Before making it all the way back to the arena to greet everyone returning from their trail rides, we stopped at Milt’s Stop & Eat where I enjoyed the BEST Chili Cheese Dog of my life! Not a single person there was displeased with their food, and if the season is right, you can order a Girl Scouts’ Thin Mint cookie shake! The best.
In true Baja Designs fashion, we had to get out for a night run. After the booths closed, we grabbed a quick bite and met up back at the entrance of Steel Bender. On our ride, we had the staff of UTV Sports Magazine, the crew from Raceline Wheels, Assault Industries brought their cars, PCI Race Radios rolled up four deep, and a few Rally patrons and fans of BD lighting joined as well. The rules were simple, go your own speed, ride your own ride, stop at the T, and most importantly have fun. If night riding is foreign to you, you are truly missing out. The excitement and rush you feel when taking on a trail in the night is unlike any other. Climbing slick rock spines where you can’t see to the right or left of you, unless you have our rock lights, or riding a trail first at night and then coming back the following day to see what you accomplished the night before is really rewarding. (If we ever meet, please don’t hesitate to ask to go for a night run. I love them!) On the trail we had an opportunity to showcase our XL Lasers. The pride I felt at how amazed everyone was with the distance we were able to see with these lights was immeasurable. After a few hours on the trail, we headed home to get a good night’s rest as we still had two more days of rallying.
While I didn’t make it on any trails over the next two days, I did enjoy homemade tacos thanks to the staff at UTV Sports Magazine, and shared stories with all the other vendors and companies representing out there. The crew from STI, System 3, and Dynojet sure did make me jealous when they shared their pictures and videos from the Moab Rim trail. I could tell it was a good one, because it was all they could talk about for the first few hours after they returned. As always, I loved networking with others in the industry. We are all enthusiasts, and all feel so fortunate to work in the off-road/UTV industry.
During my Rally On The Rocks experience, I couldn’t help but think about the settlers who stumbled upon this land years before us. Being in the off-road industry and knowing what our machines are capable of and the terrain we cover with them, I can’t help but imagine these settlers on their horses and in their covered wagons tackling these rocks. Do you think if they had cameras back then, that we’d see images of them rock-crawling and flexing? I know there had to have been pioneers who were as crazy about off-roading as we are. Or are we just connecting with those that came before us in the best way we can? Either way, I’m hooked, and you can guarantee I’ll be back to Rally On The Rocks next year. Hope to see you there!