All types: Moab Easter Jeep safari lures four-wheel drivers

Posted: Friday, April 15, 2005

OGDEN, Utah — Moab gets a little crazy on Easter weekend.

Nowhere else will you see a Hummer towing a trailer containing another Hummer. On no other Main Street in America are hoodless Jeeps and beefed-up, rusted-out Toyotas considered common sights. Nowhere else will you see so many trucks completely mud-covered other than the smeared paths of two windshield wipers.

But each year, for two weekends around Easter, off-roaders gather for the Mardi Gras of jeepin', the Moab Easter Jeep Safari.

Sure, there are dozens of organized trail rides. Serious drivers trailing responsible leaders on legal trails through some of the most beautiful — and difficult — terrain imaginable. Don't bring a stock Ford Explorer and expect to ride along on any of these trails.

Then there's Potato Salad, where hundreds of spectators line the steep, rocky run cheering, drinking, peeing and tossing beads.

Weber County sends four officers to Moab each Easter. Their only job: Patrol Potato Salad and nearby Dump Bump looking for alcohol violations, controlling the crowds and making ''sure people aren't flashing,'' said Deputy Chad Allen.

''See those guys wearing the beads?'' Allen said. ''They're trying to get girls to ...''

A few miles to the south at Area BFE, a fledgling, private off-road park, there was a similar scene. Professional rock-racers bounced down a sandstone wash flowing with melting snow, then climbed over a jarring series of obstacles to the finish.

''We just got a little bit tired of listening to everybody talking about closure,'' said Jeremy Parriott, one of seven investors in the park. ''We want to give the extreme side of the sport a place to go.''

Observers slogged through sloppy mud to watch the racers splash their way through the course. There were snowball fights. Plenty of drinking. An announcer lamenting that chilly weather made bikinis impractical.

In part a reaction to the unruly public spectacle that is Potato Salad, Area BFE plans to be an even bigger spectacle. But outside of Moab's busy city limits and not on public land.

''We took about 1,000 people from Dump Bump and Potato Salad today,'' Parriott said. ''People always want to excel. This gives them a chance to do it, but not in such a public area. It's out here on private land where it can be done without offending other people.''

The park will be open year-round. Drivers can use it for free, except during events. The well-known Helldorado trail begins at Area BFE, and there are plans to cut a series of mostly very difficult trails around the park.

To appease skeptical neighbors, 40 acres — with potential for climbing and bouldering — will be left nonmotorized.

What you couldn't see at Saturday's Area BFE event was variety. To attempt Potato Salad, there are no skill, equipment or intelligence requirements. Average Joe can test his mettle against a big hill and risk life, limb and a $20,000 investment in a very public arena.

A few highlights from Saturday: A circa-1980 full-size Ford truck that roared and smoked its way over the last hump; a trio of Jeeps — loaded with options, banners and decals — that made it look like a Sunday drive to grandma's house; and a Jeep so fresh it still had temporary plates.

The latter, driven by Shawn Christensen of Rifle, Colo., and copiloted by his 15-year-old niece Christina Neptune, delighted the crowd by almost going over.

''I was a little worried that we were gonna flip,'' Neptune admitted after it was over. ''Mom said she got scared and quit watching.''

Christensen said the Jeep was built up by its previous owner, made ready for obstacles like this. Christensen's previous off-roading experience was limited to ''a little here and there,'' but his next comment reveals the true spirit of the Easter Jeep Safari.

''Anything I can point it at, I'll go.''



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