We began our outrageous dallying journey with the climb to Dome Plateau, which gave us an overview of our campsite just across the Colorado. From there, it was down to the Canyonlands. (We suggest making your first pass through this wonderland as a passenger; the views are beyond majestic and the drops so precipitous, no one should be made to choose. First time for the eyes, second time for the drive.)
The route to Canyonlands took us past our first petroglyph sightings, then up Long Canyon onto Pucker Pass (where you stay puckered right to the point when you can again unlock your hubs). It seemed as if every square mile was an entity unto itself vastly different from the last sector we'd passed through, and nothing like what we were approaching. Wonderful hollow arches everywhere, but no two alike. At Musselman Arch, we steadied our nerve to walk across the 4-ft-wide bridge-like formation, with no bottom in sight.
Spires with names like the Priest and Two Nuns, Moses and Zeus, and Washerwoman, could be named nothing else, so obvious was the resemblance to their titles. Rock faces250 with chalky little dabs running up and a rope dangling down always led the eye to rock climbers reveling in their crazy pastime. We again got out at Gooseneck Overlook to search for the remains of Thelma and Louise. (Hans told us the film crew had to create a short asphalt road for the T-Bird to gather speed and launch over the edge. Three tries and three T-Birds later, the film was in the can. The flattened 'Birds had to be airlifted out, and there's no trace of the asphalt today.) Other groups made it to more difficult locales like the Navajo Sandstone slick rock of Poison Spider Mesa Trail, a real tribute to Sportsmobile mettle with the trails still a lot less than firm.
Back at our base camp, the cantina was heating up for the evening's festivities before next morning's departures. A seminar from the guys at WARN Winch was a hands-on affair, and Mike Quigley and Tiger Brun from Quigley Motor Company covered chassis science from bumper to bumper. After another feast from Fat City, it was Cowboys and Cowgirls at the Casino, a fun couple hours of casino games and raffle (with great prizes), the movie land villa a perfect backdrop to this Western-themed night. Then the official Sportsmobile All-Star Band, an unbelievably talented group of players, Sportsmobilers all. Each year they practice and write a song or two especially for the annual gathering. Our favorite? "Pop-Top Blues."
Camp broke up on Sunday, and we were off, though a lucky few with no Monday morning commitments stayed to tackle the more difficult climbs opened up by the good weather. Next year's rally will be a trek to the San Juan Mountains in Colorado, then for 2003 it's back to Moab.