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Business Happenings - August 2003

A Howlin’ Good Time
with Coyote Shuttles and Land Tours

by Annabelle Numaguchi


Coyote Shuttle and Land Tours
397 N. Main Street
435-259-MOGX (6649)

It’s 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 this place.

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 flowed.

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.

Still, 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 at

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