hot. Very hot. But as I enter the headquarters of Coyote
enterprises, owned and operated by the Marshall brothers,
I get blasted by cool air. Older brother Jesse is promising
“a surprise tomorrow” to a young man with an
accent who’s rapid-firing questions about an upcoming
expedition he’s booked. Younger brother John, a better
looking double for Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin, has just
returned from taking a group rock-crawling through Moab
back country and he looks overheated and jazzed. I’m
thinking to myself, “I’m in for a surprise,”
and the air is not the only thing that’s cool about
These two brothers, originally from L.A., grew up outdoors,
spending over half their weekends camping with their father
and other friends. For over twenty years, they’ve
been having fun off-roading, whether it was racing motorcycles,
jumping dune buggies or crawling rocks. It seems only natural
that they would end up making a living in Moab doing what
they do and love best.
After three visits to this area, Jesse decided to move here
in 1995, when he teamed up with his partner Lauren and opened
Coyote Shuttle, so named after the well-known cartoon character.
When looking at the desert’s red rocks and cobalt
blue sky, many of us expect to see an imaginary Wile E.
Coyote race over a rim and plummet only when he’s
acknowledged his circumstances and the inevitability of
the law of gravity, only to walk away and start a new scheme.
I can see why Jesse chose this particular character from
the cartoon as the Coyote’s ingenuity and resilience
are reflected in Jesse’s own personality.
When he began his shuttling business, which offers transportation
for folks biking, running the river and doing similar activities,
Jesse wanted his services to stand out. He explains that
when people are on vacation, what they get “should
be entirely different from what they’re used to.”
So, he wanted to avoid using conventional SUVs and came
up with VW vans.
They were an instant success as was his company. Jesse relates
people’s fascination with nostalgia as they would
see him drive up in refurbished VW vans. As soon as they
got in, the stories would begin as riders would awe over
not having ridden in one since high school and the memories
As Jesse’s success grew, his ability to maintain with
the vans diminished. Which is kind of where his little brother
comes in. John shares Jesse’s adoration for the Mercedes-Benz
Universal Motor Equipment, a behemoth of a mobile affectionately
known as a MOG. John describes it as the “most competent,
capable vehicle ever made. Period. Zero exceptions.”
Jesse gives the final stamp of approval by adding “it’s
the coolest truck in the universe.” They now own three
between the two companies.
John, his wife, Corry, and their two sons, Jamie and Tyler,
were ready to give up the uber-urban scene of L.A. and make
the move to Moab and entrepreneurship. Jesse recommended
that they start a company in a field they loved and felt
excited about, so John invested in a MOG and started the
satellite company, Coyote Land Tours.
The Marshall Brothers love their MOGs and love their jobs.
They certainly take their services seriously, as John and
Jesse both acknowledge that when they take guests out, they’re
taking those people’s lives into their own hands.
One reason why neither brother has or intends to hire employees
is they prefer to trust themselves with such a great responsibility.
Another reason is they enjoy the fun and excitement of introducing
visitors to what they have fallen in love with in Moab,
the slick rock, sand washes, canyons, rim-chasing and rock-crawling,
all of which they try to incorporate into each land tour.
Even Jesse, whose main purpose is to get bikers from point
A to point B, likes to give his willing passengers a taste
of this passion from time to time, reversing up Baby Lion’s
Back, a steep sandstone fin at the top of Sand Flats Road.
John and Jesse measure their success in hollers rather than
dollars. John knows he’s giving his customers their
money’s worth when they come back hoarse from whooping
and yelling in adrenaline-filled moments on the trail. “If
the tour isn’t the main topic of conversation that
night during their dinner,” he explains, “I
haven’t done my job.” He means to give each
individual a “real and memorable experience”
where “the fear factor takes a back seat to the adrenaline.”
Most customers come back with one hand clutching the Polaroids
and the other the sore throat.
I asked the brothers about limits, which is kind of like
asking a German driver about the autobahn. The only people
John turns away from his tours are those “afraid to
have fun.” He’s taken a child as young as two
(strapped in his car seat) and a lady as old as 84, and
that was on the same trip. And although the MOG easily accommodates
over twelve passengers, both Jesse and John are willing
to take groups as small as two persons.
despite the revved up, adrenaline-chasing attitude of the
brothers, it’s evident how serious they are about
ensuring the safety and comfort of their passengers. I liken
their tour to boarding a roller coaster; you know you’re
in for a good kind of scare, plenty of thrills and lots
of old fashioned “wahoo-ing”, as well as knowing
that you’re going to coming back safe and sound.
The land tours generally run three hours, not long enough
to need a meal, but John always has a stocked cooler in
the back with plenty of water and soda. He claims that it’s
not often that a water fight doesn’t ensue at some
point in the trip. One point John was very clear about was
no alcohol. It just doesn’t fit in with the heat and
the type of fun being had. It’s just not safe or necessary.
Something that’s particularly cool about riding in
John and Jesse’s MOGs is the mister systems that they’ve
each installed. Small spouts blow a fine mist of cool water
over passengers, refreshing hot riders.
In the crazy Moab heat, nothing feels more revitalizing
than a blast of mist, other than rounding a rim overlooking
a 2,000 foot drop and knowing that the only reason you’re
not sliding off the slick rock is the super grip of MOG
tires and the adroit maneuvering of the Marshall Brothers.
It’s just plain cool, in every sense of the word.
Coyote Shuttle and Land Tours is located at 397 N. Main
Street and can be reached at 259-MOGX (6649) or on-line