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I purchased a 2008 FJ w/manual transmission last month in early July. It is a replacement for my lifted 2003 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland that Ohio's winter chemicals on the streets has made unibody rust a concern for heavy wheeling and future improvements. Along with my Jeep I have owned a 1980, 1984, 1990 Toyota 4x4 truck, and 1984 Ford Bronco previously and made Colorado trips in all but my 1984 Toyota so I was looking forward to testing out the FJ in a familiar environment.

My FJ came with a leveling lift, 285 Dune Grapplers and 53,000 miles that were mostly highway so for Ohio it was in really good shape. I ordered some rock sliders from White Knuckle which they made as quickly as possible to meet my departure deadline and added a few new USB ports in empty slots and magnetic mounts for phones and tablets. I wanted to upgrade the suspension to a real kit but time and money made that a plan for after my trip as I was on a tight schedule to meet family from Germany in Denver and get them to Las Vegas 5- days later. I did have concern about the rear shocks as I could see corrosion on the shafts and worried a full compression would wipe-out the seals along with the extra weight of 4-passengers and luggage.

After some mild national parks and local Colorado tourist stops we made our trek to Marble Colorado for another outstanding BBQ lunch at Slow Goovin' BBQ and once again they provided a fantastic meal for my family from Germany and exchange student daughter from the country of Georgia. We followed the "county road" to Crystal Mill for some photos and continue our plans to complete Scofield Pass all of the way to Crested Butte. While the road from Marble to Crystal is pretty easy although high ground clearance is a must as it has some rough areas. The town of Crystal to Crested Butte is a definitely one for a more experienced driver, and gave me a chance to use my rock sliders on one of the boulders in the path, but had some of the most beautiful waterfalls and swimming holes of the trip.
 

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Along the trail we stopped to help a stranded Toyota 4-Runner who evidently lost charging so we connected cables and I ran mine a while to charge his battery and sent him underway. From Crested Butte we made our way to Ouray Colorado for a much-needed escape from our vehicles and soak in the hotel's hot spring hot tubs. If you have never been to Ouray you really need to put it on your list as it is my favorite little city in the world and also know as "America's Switzerland" surrounded by steep mountain peaks and amazing views.

Next was the famed "Black Bear Pass" that we planned on attempting and around 30 minutes away from Ouray. The trail to the peak is pretty straightforward and nothing very technical. On the downside of the pass things got a bit more challenging but I must admit I thought the "stairs" and narrow switchbacks would be more narrow and difficult. We completed the pass without any major issues and were treated to amazing views although my cousin decided it was too much for her and walked from the stairs all the way to the 3rd switchback. Black Bear Pass is definitely one I would highly recommend for those who have good focus and can take their time.
 

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After our descent into Telluride we ate a lunch and then set our sights on Moab which was a 2.5 hour drive and was the southern entrance to town. If you are a long-time FJ owner you probably already know to fill up your tank at almost every stop, or to have some external cans strapped to your vehicle, when traveling across our southwest but for a guy from Ohio, with gas stations at every town and exit, I made the mistake of leaving Telluride with 3/4 tank and no worries as my GPS showed many towns along the way. (OH by the way it was a Sunday evening) Let me just say that many Southwestern towns in this route were 1 or 2 abandoned homes and during this 2.5 hour trip there was only one gas station and it was closed. This was the day I learned how far I could go when the gas light is on and the needle bottomed on E. We sweated out about 20 miles and actually made it into Moab using my best drafting and turning off the FJ coasting down hills. Lesson learned... Have external gas cans for my next trip.

I also learned after my drive to Moab that both of my rear shocks had blown and the road trip reminded me every dip in the road. Once we got to our hotel I overnighted some Bilstein 5100s and we spent the day shopping and enjoying the town. When they arrived the next day I stayed behind to install the new shocks while my buddy Steve took my group to Arches Park. The first shock took me about 2.5 hours to replace because it had fused to the lower shock mount and my basic tools were not up to the task. Thankfully, due to my Ohio Jeep experience, I know to carry a propane torch with me for any external fastener assistance and was able to remove the shock from the mount by burning away the rubber bushing, heating the fused metal sleeve and twisting it off. The second shock came off easily and only took 20 minutes so victory for me and off to test the new shocks out.

I climbed Baby Lions Back on both ends, spotted a JK family for their first climb and did the loop of Hell's Gate with no issues. Happy with my new shock's performance I met my friend Steve with my group and they wanted to go back and visit Hell's Revenge to see what that was like and Steve went back to the hotel. Unfortunately, after checking out Hell's Gate, and the nearby overlook, I was climbing a very steep slickrock hill in the wrong gear and had to downshift midway which caused front wheel hop and a loud snap I knew was not good and lost steering backing down the hill. A quick inspection informed me the upper ball joint had separated, broke my sway bar link no way back to town and 4 people in the FJ. Luckily I climbed the same hill that destroyed my ball joint and got a signal so i could call my buddy Steve to find a way to get me back to town. Since it was already getting dark, and storms were approaching, The Sheriff said they could send someone but warned us that it would be very expensive to get someone out there and recover the vehicle and my passengers. Since we had plans to leave the following morning to take my family to Vegas to meet other family arriving from Germany I was in a huge dilemma but tried to keep in good spirits to not freak out my passengers. Surprisingly they were all in good spirits and we sat and discussed options.
 

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As I sat on that lonely slickrock hill, pondering my situation, I saw some lights in the distance and it was a touring company called Xtreme 4x4 Tours and the owner Dave Hellman was taking his last tour of the evening on the Hell's Revenge trail. He stopped to see if I needed help, got out and helped confirm my damage and I asked how I was going to get it out of there to make the repairs. He said the best way was to fix it at the location because getting a tow vehicle there was a long and extremely expensive option. Thankfully, he said after he dropped off his tour group in an hour, he would come back and pick all of us up and drop us at our hotel. He gave us some water bottles and true to his word, in the blackness of night, we saw his lights crest the same hill that stopped our journey and buckled us in his modified Chevy Suburban for the rescue mission back to our hotel.

In my group I had my newly arrived 16-year-old exchange student girl from the country of Georgia, 19-year-old former exchange student girl from Germany, my cousin and her 12 year-old German daughter and to them this was a great adventure. Dave buckled us all in 5-point harnesses and in the darkness of night we started our journey back to town and our hotel. Dave knew we were a bit down from our situation and went into tour mode for us and gave the girls the off-road ride of their life. He would stop, turn on his bright LED side lights and show us different features of the trail including doing the tubs and other obstacles along the way making it all look easy and even some berm jumping at high speeds. After he dropped us off the girls said it was the best day of their life and even hugged his truck which had saved us. As I discussed my options with Dave and paid for his recovery of the 5 of Dave from Xtreme 4x4 Tours told me he had the day off the next day, but would try to get a Toyota mechanic, order my parts and he would take us back and repair the FJ on the trail. I was extremely fortunate for him to have found us and planned on calling him the next day.

I called him in the morning and unfortunately all of the parts stores in town did not have any upper ball joints for my FJ so Dave offered, on his day off, to take me in and we would try to ratchet strap the ball joint back into the socket and nurse my FJ out of Hell's Revenge and down to a local repair shop. So Dave picked me up with his other tour vehicle only this time loaded with jacks and tools to allow us to lift and reinsert the ball joint. We arrived at the location my FJ was awaiting and popped in the ball joint, strapped it tight and began our exit strategy although during the process we snapped a brake line and now I had no brakes except for the handbrake. We also cut the trail to go out the out the entrance as there was less flex to hopefully keep the ball joint in place. Unfortunately this meant I had to climb and descend the most steep and long hillclimbs of the trail and I cannot express how tense I was during these times and thankful I was I decided to adjust the slack out of my cables before I left.

All during this Dave was driving in front of me, stopping to spot my tire location so the ball joint would be under pressure, and basically spotting me for almost every inch of the trail in the desert heat. Amazingly after 3-hours we got it out of there and drove it to the shop to await repairs. We took it to Moab 4x4 Outpost and Dave did all of the scheduling with the owner which he knew and trusted to do a good job for me. I paid Dave a very reasonable fee and even bought him a couple beers at the Moab Brewery for his kindness. Dave is the type of person that would have done that for anyone and even felt guilty charging me anything but I was glad to pay him as helping me was costing him money in time, fuel and expertise in knowing how to get me out of there. The same can be said for the guys at Moab 4x4 Outpost as I ended up needing 2 metal brake lines, an axle, sway bar link but dsaid I did not need the lower ball joint I ordered to save me expense.

For all of my fears of being at the mercy of businesses taking advantage of those who are in crisis I can say both were amazingly honest, sincere and really cared about me getting back on the road and making a bad situation the least painful it could be. While I will take home memories of all of the amazing places we visited I can say that the best memory is the kind and generous efforts of David Hellman, from Xtreme 4x4 Tours and for the crew at Moab 4x4 Outpost for coming in early and replacing my parts before I had to check out from my hotel and pay for another day. If any of you are in Moab, and are thinking about using these type of services please look them up as they were amazing people to meet and truly are good people.
 

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Thanks for sharing all that. Sounds like quite the adventure.

Where did you get the tiger shark decals? I love that idea. I've been trying to find a way to pay homage to the First Order Tie Fighers. That red splash looks so cool with the black and white.
 

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Thanks for sharing all that. Sounds like quite the adventure.

Where did you get the tiger shark decals? I love that idea. I've been trying to find a way to pay homage to the First Order Tie Fighers. That red splash looks so cool with the black and white.
I have a sign shop and make wraps, decals for fleet and other vehicles. That one was a leftover one I had used on my 2003 Jeep Grand Cherokee and just did a quick application for the trip for my 12-year-old niece from Germany who thought it was the "coolest car in the world". LOL! I wanted to do a full wrap but lack of time, and Ohio's super hot and humid weather, limited me to just a decal application.

Now I have to make some Jeep-style badges for Black Bear Pass, Scofield Pass, and Hell's Revenge for my FJ rear windows. ;-)
 

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FYI: just sent Xtreme 4x4 Tours a thank-you note for taking care of one of the FJC fraternity. He's got my business next time we're in Moab.
 

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FYI: just sent Xtreme 4x4 Tours a thank-you note for taking care of one of the FJC fraternity. He's got my business next time we're in Moab.
Yes....from the sounds of it Dave at Xtreme 4x4 Tours went way above and beyond what most people would have done.

I imagine out in Moab this isnt a one time thing and week in and week out they encounter people who need to have their ass pulled from the fire (no offense intended), so my hat is off to them for taking on this responsibility.

My hats off to the OP for also being fearless. Doing Black Bear and Schofield Pass on what sounds like his first visit to Colorado takes some guts (or naivete or some combination of the two).
 

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As I sat on that lonely slickrock hill, pondering my situation, I saw some lights in the distance and it was a touring company called Xtreme 4x4 Tours and the owner Dave Hellman was taking his last tour of the evening on the Hell's Revenge trail. He stopped to see if I needed help, got out and helped confirm my damage and I asked how I was going to get it out of there to make the repairs. He said the best way was to fix it at the location because getting a tow vehicle there was a long and extremely expensive option. Thankfully, he said after he dropped off his tour group in an hour, he would come back and pick all of us up and drop us at our hotel. He gave us some water bottles and true to his word, in the blackness of night, we saw his lights crest the same hill that stopped our journey and buckled us in his modified Chevy Suburban for the rescue mission back to our hotel.

In my group I had my newly arrived 16-year-old exchange student girl from the country of Georgia, 19-year-old former exchange student girl from Germany, my cousin and her 12 year-old German daughter and to them this was a great adventure. Dave buckled us all in 5-point harnesses and in the darkness of night we started our journey back to town and our hotel. Dave knew we were a bit down from our situation and went into tour mode for us and gave the girls the off-road ride of their life. He would stop, turn on his bright LED side lights and show us different features of the trail including doing the tubs and other obstacles along the way making it all look easy and even some berm jumping at high speeds. After he dropped us off the girls said it was the best day of their life and even hugged his truck which had saved us. As I discussed my options with Dave and paid for his recovery of the 5 of Dave from Xtreme 4x4 Tours told me he had the day off the next day, but would try to get a Toyota mechanic, order my parts and he would take us back and repair the FJ on the trail. I was extremely fortunate for him to have found us and planned on calling him the next day.

I called him in the morning and unfortunately all of the parts stores in town did not have any upper ball joints for my FJ so Dave offered, on his day off, to take me in and we would try to ratchet strap the ball joint back into the socket and nurse my FJ out of Hell's Revenge and down to a local repair shop. So Dave picked me up with his other tour vehicle only this time loaded with jacks and tools to allow us to lift and reinsert the ball joint. We arrived at the location my FJ was awaiting and popped in the ball joint, strapped it tight and began our exit strategy although during the process we snapped a brake line and now I had no brakes except for the handbrake. We also cut the trail to go out the out the entrance as there was less flex to hopefully keep the ball joint in place. Unfortunately this meant I had to climb and descend the most steep and long hillclimbs of the trail and I cannot express how tense I was during these times and thankful I was I decided to adjust the slack out of my cables before I left.

All during this Dave was driving in front of me, stopping to spot my tire location so the ball joint would be under pressure, and basically spotting me for almost every inch of the trail in the desert heat. Amazingly after 3-hours we got it out of there and drove it to the shop to await repairs. We took it to Moab 4x4 Outpost and Dave did all of the scheduling with the owner which he knew and trusted to do a good job for me. I paid Dave a very reasonable fee and even bought him a couple beers at the Moab Brewery for his kindness. Dave is the type of person that would have done that for anyone and even felt guilty charging me anything but I was glad to pay him as helping me was costing him money in time, fuel and expertise in knowing how to get me out of there. The same can be said for the guys at Moab 4x4 Outpost as I ended up needing 2 metal brake lines, an axle, sway bar link but dsaid I did not need the lower ball joint I ordered to save me expense.
Sweet baby Jeebus that guy deserves a medal. Nice to know there are still people out there like that AND that you guys made it out ok!
 

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Thanks for the great story.
Glad you found some Western Hospitality

Where you going next? Can't wait for that story...>:D

In all seriousness, you can always get on the this forum when in a pinch and see if anybody's close. Lot of members hang out in that area.
 

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Yes....from the sounds of it Dave at Xtreme 4x4 Tours went way above and beyond what most people would have done.

I imagine out in Moab this isnt a one time thing and week in and week out they encounter people who need to have their ass pulled from the fire (no offense intended), so my hat is off to them for taking on this responsibility.

My hats off to the OP for also being fearless. Doing Black Bear and Schofield Pass on what sounds like his first visit to Colorado takes some guts (or naivete or some combination of the two).
Sorry for the late reply but didn't realize these were getting thrown into my SPAM folder. Thanks for the hats off but I have been going to Colorado since 1982 off-roading and I guess it's my 10th time there but this trip to Moab was my 3rd. Each year I have gone out west I raise the bar a little on what I will do because usually I am with a group and have to off-road AND be able to get everyone home on time. Already planning a quick Moab trip again this summer to take family and show them the majesty.
 
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