By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
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By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
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The only sticking point in the romance, Andi remembers, occurred last spring when KC showed up in Moab with a brand-new cherry-red Avalanche. A Chevy Avalanche. "When I saw him show up with it, I thought it was a rental," she says. "I couldn't believe he'd buy a Chevy."
KC admits it was an awkward moment. "She was shocked and appalled," he recalls. "But after she got done retching on the side of the trail, she decided she'd still talk to me."
"After I'd learned he was single," Andi clarifies.
Looking back, it may have been the first genuine sign that the relationship was for real; that this time, love -- and a little luxury -- would finally conquer all. "It's got heated seats and hot-and-cold cup holders," Andi acknowledges. "Chevy's put in some nice lifestyle features. So I do like the Avalanche. I'm a bit surprised that I do. But I do."
Besides, she adds, on a scale of "no problem" to "deal-breaker," "there were worse things that could've happened. I figured, okay, now we've got one Dodge and a Chevy. So that's okay."
All that said, however -- and true love notwithstanding -- Andi feels compelled to set the record straight. KC's ride, she stresses, "is really nothing but a jacked-up car."
Andi -- that's Andrea Vogt, although if you called her anything but Andi, most rock-crawlers this side of the Mississippi wouldn't have any idea who you were talking about -- began four-wheeling approximately three decades ago, at age three, in the hills outside of Salt Lake City.
"My dad has always been a greaser," she says fondly. "He raced Triumphs and MGs in high school, wore a white T-shirt and rolled-up jeans. I think I was two or three years old when I was first taken out off-roading, and by the time I was nine or ten, the whole family was heavily involved. I just knew when I got older that that's what I was going to do."
"I love the adventure, the challenge, the scenic beauty," she adds. "I enjoy doing all the modification, jacking up the truck. I like mud."
It's funny, Andi says, that no matter how far you travel in this world, you almost always end up back home in some way. KC -- that's K Casey Kay -- grew up in Vernal, Utah, on a 2,000-acre ranch. If you're counting miles, it's not particularly close to Salt Lake. But if you're looking for common ground, Utah is Utah.
Compared to Andi, KC came to rock-crawling late in life, taking the controls of his first four-wheel rig in 1972, at the age of seven. Back then, of course, four-wheeling wasn't so much a sport as a situation. "Our thinking was that you only used four-wheel drive if it was hunting season, or if you were stuck," KC remembers.
By 1980, when KC had officially earned his driver's license, he'd already been piloting the family's 1971 Blazer up and down the mountains outside of Vernal for several years. In 1983, he bought his very first vehicle: the same Blazer. "My parents charged me $1,500," he says. "I got ripped off." The truck still runs, though, and can be found in his driveway in the foothills southwest of Denver, irritating his neighbors.
Andi's first car was less auspicious: a Gremlin X. "It was ugly," she admits. "We called it 'the zit.' It was bright yellow with a stripe. It couldn't really get up the rocks." But only for lack of clearance: "It had a straight 6 and a 4.2-liter engine."
It was always about the trucks.
KC had been pounding the trails around Moab for several years when one day in 1986 an acquaintance asked him if he could work as a guide. "I had been on it once before," he says, "so I said, 'Sure.' We even made it back into town, every one of us!" In the time since then, KC has become a fixture around the Moab area, leading tours and driving most of the trails that can fit a truck. And some that can't.
In 1995, he finally cut the umbilical cord, automotively speaking, and bought himself a truck of his own: a brand-new Dodge Ram. "The best four-wheel drive I'd ever had," he says. "It took me everywhere I ever wanted to go. And come to think of it, some places I probably shouldn't have gone."
A natural tinkerer and proud gearhead, KC was born to modify. He added lockers on both the front and rear wheels and 36-inch tires all around. He modified the transfer case, added disc brakes and a solid rear axle, and completely redesigned the rear suspension. He body-armored the outside with diamond plate and added custom skid plates underneath. For starters.
Andi had had more trouble getting her own rig. She started shopping for her new Dodge truck in October 1994. Her young husband had died of cancer a couple of years earlier, leaving her with a young daughter to care for. In Salt Lake City a decade ago, that made her an unusual customer.
"It was unheard of to have a single mom with a kid buy a full-sized truck," she says. "It took five dealerships to sell me one. The salesmen would ask, 'Where's your husband? Is your dad going to come down and co-sign?' They found it hard to believe that I was doing it myself. Finally, the fifth one sold me a white Dodge Ram. There were only three others like it in the state; mine was the fourth on the road. And none were female operators.