Rogue Overland invited me to join them on the 2023 Rogue Overland Expedition in Moab, Utah. 

Preparing for the Trip

Let’s just say that I was not ready for a trip invite that pointed out that the trip would return to Rogue’s “rock-crawling roots.” A standard overland trip would have been a piece of cake, but once you bring rocks into the equation, none of my vehicles are prepared in any way, shape, or size for the rocks of Utah.

We owned a 2017 Chevrolet Suburban and a 2008 Toyota Sequoia when the invitation arrived. Neither vehicle was prepared for rocks. The Suburban had a leveling kit on the truck and Vredestein Pinza all-terrain tires, but that was it for off-road mods. The Sequoia only has Toyo Open Country AT3 tires installed.

I immediately jumped on Facebook Marketplace to see what I could acquire for a reasonable amount of money. There was one 100-Series Land Cruiser that had appropriate modifications within our budget but was still going to need some skid plates and rock sliders added to it to be able to accomplish this trip. The extra modifications would blow the budget, so we passed on that truck.

Eventually, I decided that modifying one of our vehicles made more financial sense and that is when I tried to find vehicle modifications for the Suburban. Let’s just say that the options are limited for the #Dadburban. Almost everything was going to have to be modified for the Suburban. I could find skids and sliders for other GM vehicles, but not my generation of Suburban.

2017 Chevrolet Suburban Offroad Build Project

So I talked with my wife and let her know that I was going to drop the trip since we didn’t have anything that would be able to come back completely ruined by the rocks. That is when her 2008 Toyota Sequoia Platinum entered the conversation. We purchased her truck in March 2020 with 178,900 miles right before the world shut down. A couple of weeks before it all stopped.

Once I started to do research for Sequoia offroad bits, the conversation ramped up for modifying her truck for the trip. One of the best bits about the 2008 Sequoia is that the 3rd row and the captain’s chairs fold flat and create an even space that fits a 6’4” adult male. That would allow me to not need a tent on the trip. That’s a plus! Then my Internet research began for armor.

I found Tandem Offroad on the Interwebs. Tandem had a lot of options for the Sequoia: sliders, front skid plate, transmission skid plate, fuel tank skid plate, and rear differential skid plate were all added to the cart immediately. The rear e-locker was considered, but not purchased. This decision was based on the amount of time that I had to add the mods to the truck, before the trip to Colorado for Spring Break the week before the Moab trip.

Tandem Offroad Rear Differential Skid Plate - 2008 Toyota Sequoia

Land Rover Ron helped me install the skid plates and sliders at his house. It is always handy to know someone with access to a welder and skills to be able to use it. Ron helped me get all the skids installed and even took a face-full of the Sequoia’s “love dust” as he described it while trying to get the bolts around the rear differential loose to add the skid plate there. Everything went on relatively easy. We started in the morning and were finished in time for a lunch of tacos at Casa de Fiesta or “House Party” as I refer to it.

Land Rover Ron welding the Tandem Offroad Sliders to the 2008 Toyota Sequoia

The last accessory for the exterior of the truck was the Factor 55 hitchlink recovery point with the Warn Industries shackle. That was it for preparation for the truck. 

Factor 55 hitchlink with Warn Industries 3/4 shackle

I had to purchase a UHF radio to be able to monitor the rally’s communication and a 5-gallon fuel tank for just-in-case gas on the trip. I also purchased a battery backup for the 12-volt Fridge since it was an extended trip. I ran the fridge off the truck’s 12-volt outlet and when we stopped I plugged the fridge into the battery for stops and overnight.

Rogue Overland Expedition 2023

Day 1 of the trip for me was a travel day. I mostly packed the night before, got up crazy early, finished packing the truck, and headed West. It was a longish day filled with the prairies of Kansas and eastern Colorado, audiobooks, the Rocky Mountains, a couple of podcasts, and the Western Slope of Colorado into the Mars-like terrain of Utah. I made great time and got into Moab in the early evening. I stayed in a hotel that I will never stay at again unless forced to. It was nice to be able to shower and have a climate-controlled bed for the night.

I did make my first trip modification once I was in Moab. After my water bottle moved all over the place coming through the twisty sections of the Rocky Mountains, I added a Moab coozie to the bottom of the water bottle that holds it firmly in the cup holder of the Sequoia now. Very important upgrade with trails coming the next day.

7-Mile Rim Trail

The first day of the rally saw us starting early on the side of a highway near town. The participants formed up into our squadrons (Red, Gold, Blue, and Green). I pulled into line behind Margy’s Toyota Tacoma with an AT habitat on the back of the truck.

Margey Green's Toyota Tacoma

The guys at Rogue do a great job of curating the group of people who attend their expeditions. The overall vibe was friendly with people driving all sorts of vehicles on the trip. It is a Nissan-heavy group since Rogue began in the XTerra community, but there were also Toyotas, Jeeps, Broncos, a Ram AEV Prospector, an F-250 Super Duty, and an Isuzu Vehicross.

After the safety briefing and overall trip briefing, we loaded up and headed out on the trail. This was the first trip that I had driven a long time in 4-LO since a Jeep trip in 2004. And it took a little getting used to at first. The Sequoia did great on the trail. There were a couple of times when other vehicles were taking two or three attempts to get through smallish, more difficult sections of the trail, but the Tree did its job and walked up most of the obstacles. 

2008 Toyota Sequoia on 7 Mile Rim Trail in Moab, UT

Photo Credit: Hans Werner

There were two obstacles that I was concerned about on the 7-mile Rim Trail: the steps and the crack. I was able to take the bypass on the steps. Not because I did not think the truck could do it; I did think it could. But because it was the first offroad day of the trip, and it had started to snow too. Being cautious was the better path. I made it through the crack when we were socked in by weather, snow, and fog and did not realize that I was done with the crack until much later. 

Our lunch break was when the weather finally broke from the clouds, but the wind was still there. After lunch, we headed across the rocks to the tightest part of the trail. I did use the Sequoia’s powered folding mirrors here. Sergio’s F-250 was even tighter than the Sequoia, but we both made it through without scratches.

Rogue Overland Expedition across the Rocks

Next up was Wipeout Hill. A section of the trail that I had not found a reference to before the trip. I should have stayed in the Sequoia and waited my turn, but I got out and wandered ahead to see for myself what we were tackling. It is quite a hill. I also ran into Scott Tallon of Jeep at the top of the hill. He even asked me if I had seen the stock Sequoia in line. It was fun to tell him that was me. 

2008 Toyota Sequoia at Wipeout Hill. Rogue Overland 2023 Expedition. Moab, Grand County Utah USA

Photo Credit: Hans Werner

This is the first place that I know for sure that I scuffed the Sequoia. I drug the driver’s side rear bumper coming down the hill. It is also where I know that the truck was a tripod for more than a couple of seconds.

Nena Barlow did a great job guiding us down the hill. Especially since she was there with Jeep to lead their international flight of the Rubicon 20th Anniversary media drive. I even was able to hand her a podcast sticker while I was coming down. 

Day 1 ended with a trip back through town and ten minutes of cell coverage, so I checked in with the family. We camped south of Hurrah Pass that night at an adventure park that Rogue had reserved. 

[insert camp photo]

Onion Creek Trail

Day 2 started with coffee. The days always start with coffee for me. Wildland Coffee Company made it straightforward with their coffee tea bags. Boil water, steep the coffee bag, and enjoy. I loved this experience. Yes, I do typically take beans, a grinder, my AeroPress with filters, and a mug on my trips. The Wildland coffee bags meant that I left all of that except the mug put away.

Sergio's Ford F-250 Super Duty at Hurrah Pass

We drove back over Hurrah Pass and through town for a fuel stop. One of the more amazing parts of this trip is how the landscapes around Utah can change so quickly. After leaving town we headed up the snow cover peaks of the La Salle range. We drove into snow, heavy snow. The road we were using the transverse the mountains and coming down a trail was closed due to snow. Both the Ram AEV Prospector and the AEV Jeep ended up stuck on the road trying to break through. This was our first U-turn as a group and it would not be our last. 

2008 Toyota Sequoia in the La Salle Mountains in Utah

Another great part of Rogue curating the people on the trip so well is that when things went off course or a little haywire, no one over-reacted. Everyone was good with turning around and continuing the trip. 

We eventually made it to Onion Creek and with some local intelligence drove up part of the trail before again making a U-turn due to inches of deep mud and the limited size of the trail in the tighter canyons. It is a really pretty trail with some hoodoos as you are headed in and numerous creek crossings which were nice and damp from the previous day’s rain and snow. Really pretty trail and fun.

Margey Green's Toyota Tacoma on Onion Creek Trail in Moab, UT

Green River Ledges

Day 3 had the group visiting an old Air Force missile test center. Really interesting and spooky. Abandoned places are neat as you try to put together how you think everything was set up. Years ago I visited a disused nuclear missile silo in Kansas and enjoyed that experience a lot. It was also terrifying since we had the kids with us and were constantly on guard for them to fall through a hole or something else on the site.

Air Force Missile Test Site near Green River, UT

We spent a little more time here than I think was anticipated since Rogue One (Nick Savatgy’s Xterra decided to stop working on I-70 earlier in the day.

Anyway, the team picked up Nick, moved his Xterra to the campsite and we continued on the day’s route. After a quick fuel stop in Green River, Utah, and some short cell phone calls, we headed out to the surface of Mars. It was not red enough, but it was rocky enough. All vegetation was incredibly short or not there at all. There were zero trees around this trail. 

There was a spot where we ended up building a MaxTrax bridge to help most of the rigs come down a section of rocks without dragging the entire rear end of the truck. The Sequoia was mostly the reason for the bridge building and others were able to utilize the same route.

2008 Toyota Sequoia at Green River Ledges

Photo Credit: Hans Werner

This was a very rocky and dusty day. The campsite that night had nothing around. The Green River was down a slope with some trees near the water, but the plateau we camped on was barren. This is where I recorded the podcast with the leaders of the Rogue Overland Expedition. 

Plateau at Green River

Long Way Back Home

After 3 days in the dirt, I was starting to feel it. Turns out a memory foam pillow is the consistency of a brick in colder temps. Needed to leave my bedroom to learn that. There was another day of the rally, but it went in the opposite direction as my house and I was short on time. After airing up and a quick fuel stop in Green River, UT, I pointed the Sequoia east and waited for the new noises to be discovered on the trip home.

Turns out there were not that many new noises in the truck. Other than a slow down at the Eisenhower tunnel on I-70 where I lost almost an hour, there weren’t any big issues on the way home. I did discover an inner fender liner that had popped loose, but it popped right back in and did not make any more noise. 

The only maintenance that the Sequoia needed on my return was an alignment. This makes a lot of sense if you had seen how much bouncing the truck had done in the rocks. There was a new tear in a CV boot as well. I replaced the whole CV with a reman’ed unit. Will let you know how long it lasts. 😉

Maintenace update: the axle seal on the passenger front CV also had to be replaced in February 2024.

Scratches to the Skid Plates After Rogue Overland Expedition

After the Rogue Overland expedition. The skid plates were great!

I want to send a huge thank you to Nick Schulte, Nick Savatgy, Mike Shaffer, JD Davis, and Shaun Jorgensen for inviting me and helping to make this trip a memorable one! Their planning, leadership, and spotting skills on the trails made this a blast of a trip. Another round of thank yous to Nena Barlow, Margey Green, and Ian Yager too for helping spot me on the trails in my soccer-mom mobile.