By Pat Bickford


The training was to take place on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and half day Monday. Mark Stolte, Larry Grubbs and Pat Bickford met in Denver and drove to Moab together. We stopped at Bill Burke's home to pick up Pats Defender. Upon our arrival, Bill suggested that we take a shortcut to go in from Frisco to the Dewey Bridge and he would lead us through that. He did not think to tell us that we would be driving in wet Bentonite soil. This is some of the slipperiest stuff you will find.  The shortcut was the old wagon trail. It took approximately 100 feet off the trip.  It was very interesting sliding on the edges of the ravines and washes not sure if you would be on the top or the bottom of these washes. The most upset person in this whole adventure was Mark Stolte; he kept trying to figure out how to keep the mud off his vehicle. I don't think Marks vehicle has seen that much mud in its entire lifetime. Once we got over the shortcut and back on the pavement, we had to watch out for Larry Grubbs car, his car looked like an elephant making dumps along the way; he had so much mud on it.  We had to go around him so as not to lose windshields. We all made it to Moab.  We stayed at the Bowen Motel for $29.00 per night. Mark was happy because he was also able to wash his car.



Day 1 - Golden Spike


Trip Participants:  


Mark Stolte 1995 D 90

Mark Handlovitch 2000 Jeep

Larry Grubbs Norman Hall 1990 Range Rover

Tom Cryer

Sean Gorman                  


On day one we decided to do an easier trail so as to re-familiarize ourselves with our vehicles since most of us had not been off road in four or five months. Tom Crier and his son were along in a stock Discovery. They were looking for some fun. Before lunch, we covered the usual obstacles the Wedgie, the Waterfall, Launch Pad, and Skyline Drive. We had lunch at the canyon rim overlooking xxxxx. We proceeded through all those obstacles with no damage and little effort. In the afternoon, we did Golden Crack, Golden Stair, Body Snatcher and Gold Bar Rim. During the afternoon Tom Crier had a fuel problem with his Disco that would starve his car for fuel whenever he tried to go up any incline. We kept his car running and he was able to go out on his own power. Mark Handlovich and Larry Grubbs had to take their obligatory attempts at Double Whammy. Neither was successful.  We had dinner at Eddie McStiffs.  Tom Cryers son drove about half of the obstacles and looks like a future member of the Solihull Society.




Day 2 - Behind the Rocks


Trip Participants: We had the usual cast of characters, except that Dave Lucas and his wife; Tammy replaced Tom Cryer and his son.  


Dave Lucas and his wife met us for breakfast at the Moab Diner and discussed the possibility of driving with us that day. We told them we were doing Behind the Rocks and they were welcome to come. Dave wasn't so sure but his wife carried the day and convinced him they should do it.  They did very well that day. In the morning, we did the Tiptoe Behind the Rocks portion, High Dive, Upchuck and continued on toward White-Knuckle Hill. We decided to go up it, rather than down, so we took the trail that leads by the end of Pritchard Canyon and then goes up Hunter Canyon to reach White Knuckle Hill.  We proceeded uneventfully until we were to climb what looked like an easy piece of slip rock. Marks Jeep did not agree with that assessment. He ended up stripping all the gears in his rear Dana Forty.  Bill Burke and Mark started disassembling his rear differential so as not to do any more damage than had already been done. The rest of us went around him to clear the last obstacle before White-Knuckle Hill.  This last obstacle provided several interesting moments. Our friend Mark Stolte going up the obstacle banged one of his protection plates into a rock. Not realizing it was a protection plate and, not part of his car, he became quite agitated and used language I had not heard before, or since. Dave Lucas climbing the same obstacle not wearing a seat belt was almost ejected from the car. His right shoulder caught the upper part of the window and he was prevented from being ejected.  By the time the rest of us made it through this obstacle, Marks jeep was again moving. However, he was operating with front wheel drive.  By the time we had finished this latest episode, it was now too dark to do White- Knuckle Hill.  We had dinner at Zaks Pizza that evening.




Day 3 - Pritchard Canyon


Trip Participants: Fewer vehicles, more riders. Mark Stolte, Shaun Gorman, Pat Bickford and Larry Grubbs.


Pritchard Canyon is always a fun trip. Mark Stolte was selected by Bill Burke to be our leader. The first obstacle was Commitment Hill.   Mark decided to take an unconventional line. After completing this trip down the hill Mark was white and it took him about four hours to get his color back. He showed us how to do two wheeled bumps. After that, it was pretty uneventful until we got to some potholes just before Rocker Knocker. We were alternately practicing guiding and, we guided Larry a little off the desired line. He was at an angle of greater than 50 degrees but prevented from going over by a rock in his rear quarter panel.  The look on Larry's face showed that he did not appreciate this or, the pictures being taken. We then continued on to Rocker Knocker where we had a 50% success rate. Shawn Gorman and Pat Bickford made it over the obstacle. After Rocker Knocker we had lunch.  We then proceeded to go the rest of the way through Pritchard Canyon.  We got to practice our winching techniques going over the Rock Pile.  When we finished Pritchard Canyon, it was still early so we decided that today was the day to do White-Knuckle Hill. We all proceeded through Hunter Canyon to White Knuckle Hill. Pat Bickford was the first and, literally leapt up the obstacle. He looked like a pouncing frog.  Shaun Gorman drove up very smoothly and made it look like a piece of cake. We got to practice our winching techniques with the other two. After completing White Knuckle Hill we continued on to the sand dunes. We met our previous compatriots Tom Crier, his son and Dave Lucas and his wife at the dunes. The most awe-inspiring sight was seeing Tom Cryers Disco totally airborne above the sand dunes.  We then went to Bucks Grill House for dinner. Bill Burke presented awards and we all went home after a very satisfying day of learning and practicing.




Day 4 Lower Helldorado


Trip Participants:          


Pat Bickford,

Mark Stolte,

Shaun Gorman


On our last day we decided to do a short trail so that we could get out by noon so that Pat could fly to St. Louis on business and, the rest of the guys make it home at a decent hour.   Pat Bickford who had done pretty well during the previous three days ran into a couple of problems this day.  But thanks to the expert spotting of Norman Hall, the mad Aussie, he was able to get Pat through this trail.  After completing the trail we all met back at the Bowen Motel and started returning to civilization.      




In Summary:        


The Best Driver: Shaun Gorman in spite of being in a diesel, he drove most obstacles effortlessly and made it look simple.                



The Cleanest Car: Mark Stolte's white Defender never seemed to get dirty; it was cleaned & polished every day.



Instruction: The object of these days was to learn to be better trail leaders, learn to be leaders, learn how to handle difficult situations and, to be prepared for almost anything. Bill Burke did this in an excellent manner. He got us through all the obstacles, instructed all of us on how to be leaders, taught us all to practice our spotting skills and, helped us all to be better drivers.  It was four days well spent.  




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