Julia Lupine

They say that Jeeping is the fine art of doing nothing, going nowhere, and taking all day to do it. I’d seen the parade of machines with names like The Devastator and Red Rock Rampage that parade down Moab’s quiet streets every spring, belching exhaust and revving their engines like animals bellowing mating calls to each other across the savanna, and I was wondering what Jeep Week was all about.

So when my friend Dax asked Caveman and me the other day if we wanted to go Jeeping with him on Hell’s Revenge, I said, sure.

Nothing else to do. I’m almost done with this bowl of lentils, and the booze is almost gone.

We meet with the Missourians at the Virginian Motel, ten minutes late. They’re milling around their vehicles in camo shirts and Wrangler jeans, ready to go.

“Follow me,” says Dax, and leads the way in his green Jeep Cherokee that he’s spent countless hours and paychecks modifying.

Four Jeeps full of hooting and hollering Missourians rip out behind us.

“Be careful with my grandkids!” cackles a grandma in an American flag shirt.

“It’s funny to see Jeep Week from the inside,” says Caveman as we rumble up the hill to Sand Flats.

“Yeah,” says Dax. “This is their main vacation that they wait all year for.”

“And we just do it as an excuse to blow off work,” I say.

“It’s marginally more fun than counting Band-Aids,” says Caveman. He’s a river guide; this time of year he’s busy fixing boats and making first aid kits.

At the trailhead, the Missourians are all fired up, letting air out of their tires and talking shop with an air of hushed expectation. We walk around barefoot, put on our dumpster coats and aviator sunglasses, and read the stickers on the Jeeps. “Paved Road: A Needless Excuse for Government Spending,” says one.

“Wow,” says Caveman, “I never realized how much of a ritual Jeeping was.”

“The funny thing,” says Dax, “Is that when I first got here years ago I was like that too. Now I’m just out biffing around.” He met the Missourians on a Jeep website years ago, and has hung out with them on Jeep Week ever since.

They’re finally ready, and we crawl in the Jeeps up the scuffed surface of a rock fin, across a landscape of folded sandstone that Caveman, in guide mode, says was created by the action of underground salt domes. The ride is bumpy and we keel from side to side, sloshing us, toolboxes, coffee cups, bags of fruit, and chocolate eggs all over the place.

“This fin is called the Roller Coaster,” says Dax, “Because it goes up and down and up and down…”

“Aren’t roller coasters supposed to go fast?” says Caveman.

The obstacles are vertical rock surfaces that no rational person would consider driving. “Hang on!” says Dax, as we squeak and bump up each one, clankety-clank-clankety-clank, doing the hump-de-hump up against the rock face, kind of like this tortoise I once knew whose best friend was the porch. The Missourians get out, take pictures, and shout encouragement and Jeep jargon to each other.

“The front end ain’t locking!”

“Don’t suck up no more! Rear tire’s ready to blow!”


“Keep goin’!”

On the rim near Shrimp Rock, I sit barefoot on a rock eating a grapefruit while the Missourians lunch on Spam, Potted Meat, and Roast Beef Spread.

“Spam’s a bunch of guts an’ stuff!” one says.

“Clog yer arteries for sure!”

“Marion makes a mean fried Spam sandwich!”

“Spam Spam Spam Spam Spam Spam Spam Spam!” sings Caveman.

The Missourians take more pictures while Dax, Caveman and I lie on a warm rock, staring at the pretty colors in a cloud that only we can see with our polarized sunglasses, until a Jeep comes charging toward us, reminding us that we’re lying in a road. We continue onward, conquering Hell’s Gate, Dragon’s Tail, the Carwash.

“At the carwash!” we sing.

At the end of the trail is Potato Salad Hill.

“Y’all gonna do it?”

“Man, I don’t know…”

Thirty people mill around on top, waiting for something to happen. We sit in our Jeeps at the bottom, waiting for something to happen. Pictures are taken, beers drunk, and Jeep jargon swapped. But at the end of the day, the only person brave enough to take on ‘Tater Salad Hill is a kid driving a green RC car up the rock face while the rest of us, sitting in thousands of dollars of lifted Jeeps, cheer him on.