Drag Racing Online: The Magazine

Volume VIII, Issue 3, Page


Red Rocks, White Knuckles

Words and photos by Cliff Gromer

Rock ‘N’ Roll is here to stay.

The train doesn't stop in Cisco anymore. It used to, when Cisco, Utah, was a uranium boomtown. Now it's a bust town. Cisco used to have its own post office and its own zip code. That's when there were eight people in the town. Now there are six. Cisco used to have a gas station and a restaurant too. But one day a longhaired biker stopped for gas and took off without paying. So the owner shot him.

The law took a dim view of the whole episode and carted the owner off to the pokey. That left his wife, Ethel, to run the business. Ethel didn't serve just any­one, mind you. The restaurant door was kept closed, and you had to knock to get in. Ethel kept this big dog that would come out and clamp his teeth around your ankle when she opened the door. If you kicked the dog, Ethel wouldn't let you in. However, if you just froze and acted docile, Ethel would serve you a meal.

You know you're in Cisco, because there's a large "Cisco" exit sign on Inter­state 70. A few miles further up the Interstate is Moab. That's where we got off.

Moab used to be a mining town, too. But when the bot­tom fell out of the uranium market, the Moabites dis­covered tourism. Moab is the slickrock capital of the world. Slickrock is essen­tially sandstone rock forma­tions in various sizes ranging from large hills to small mountains. The rocks weather into unusual shapes and they take on names like Lion's Back or Castle Rock. The rocks are neat to look at. But folks don't come to Moab to look at the rocks. They come to ride them.
Slickrock, you see, offers a unique challenge for hikers, mountain bikers, dirt bikers and four-wheelers. They all ride around on the miles of slickrock at the same time. Once in a while, a mountain biker rides his bike off the miles of slickrock— straight down. That's when they have to call in the Flight for Life medivac helicopter.

But it's the 4-wheelers that are the real hardcore rock and rollers. They like to see how steep an incline they can climb without fail­ing over backwards. Or how deep an incline they can go down without the back end coming up and over the front end. Or, how steep an angle they can roll to the side without tumbling off the cliff. Moab 4-wheelers are a very competitive lot. It's not just whether they can make the hill, but whether they can make it up or down faster, or conquer a steeper grade than the other guy.

To a drag racer, it’s seeing how the other half of the motorsports world lives. It’s trading speed for slow and steady. To us, off-roading had always meant blasting through sand and mud, maybe jumping over a rise and all that kind of fast fun stuff. We were totally unprepared for the world of impossibly angled terrain, and a surface that challenged traction. We were on one of those “Jeep adventure tours,” because we didn’t know any better.

When the sandy trail turned into a near-sheer rock face, we turned to our guide and asked, “It's a joke, yes? Look, just show us the dirt trail with the mud-hole and maybe a few small sand dunes, and we'll just yank this here lever into 4WD and kick up some dirt.”

But he was serious.

And so began a full day's adventure of hair-raising entertainment at speeds well under one mile per hour. A string of Jeeps crawling up and down bare rockface like some giant cat­erpillar. Our tour-supplied lunch boxes containing apples, water and other nourish­ment, quickly spilled their contents all over the floor, and they rolled around, alternately slamming into firewall or tailgate, de­pending on whether we were pointed straight up or straight down. There seemed to be no in between.

After a while, we sort of got used to it, and developed a respect for this obscure motorsports niche. It’s a far cry from the guy with the 4x4 that shifts into 4-wheel-drive to pull out of his snow-covered driveway or make it through a small mud puddle, and thinks he's doing something really hot.

So, if you’re into white-knuckle excitement, you can stick with your top-fuel dragsters, or Pro-Mod monsters that will take you well up into the triple digits—or you can try a 4-banger Jeep, with gears in the cellar, racing up to single digit speeds. Either way, the ride is a trip.




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