I headed up to Columbus, Ohio to spend the weekend with my friends Dan & Gina. My friends Joe & Melissa also made the trip to hang out too. We hadn't all hung out together in quite some time so it was nice to catch up. So while the women hung out with the babies, the boys played in the dirt with Dan's Defender 90. The local dealer, Midwest Auto Group, hosted a Land Rover Challenge at The Wilds in Cumberland, OH east of Columbus. Apparently, the Land Rover dealer provides the park with a vehicle and in return they let customers tear up a bit of the park in their SUVs.
Of course, no good, relaxing weekend in Ohio is complete without lunch at Skyline. I have dreams about 3-ways and Skyliners... not what you're thinking. Get your mind out of the gutter.
Joe and I both appreciate fine vehicles. And Dan's D90 is one fine vehicle.
Dan had done the Challenge the year before with his wife and daughter so he thought he'd treat Joe and I to some fun in the dirt. The event the previous year was pretty messy (you can see the dirt on the underside of the hood) so he did the recommended check ups on the truck before he handed the keys over. Fortunately, Joe got the entire weekend on tape.
Here we are with Joe's daughter Sophia. She's such a beautiful baby, and loves fine vehicles...
We headed to the dealer first for the parade of Land Rovers out to The Wilds.
It was cool to see all of the Land Rovers lined up.
There were only two Defender 90s, tons of Range Rovers and Discoveries, and of course, someone brought their Freelander.
Why does someone always bring their Freelander?
Here's a picture of the other Defender on the trip. This one had the open back seats while Dan's has a hard top with four side facing jump seats, which are very comfortable when traversing boulders at high speed.
Did I mention that Dan's Defender 90 is a fine vehicle? It's a 1997 (serial number 277) that he has upgraded significantly. You can view some photos of the restoration process (click here) done by East Coast Rover. The upgrades included replacing the entire engine, bolstering the underside and installing rock sliders. Just in case you need to slide your terribly expensive 10-year old vehicle down (or up) some rocks. I love Dan's truck.
After about an hour caravan journey we reached The Wilds for some fun.
There were some hard core off roaders on the trip as witnessed by the decked out Rovers shown here. We started chatting to the owners of the Camel Trophy Discovery. You may not be able to pick it out, but the wind shield on the passenger side is duct taped. Apparently they were climbing a trail and the truck rocked toward the mountain face and it bounced off. Something had to give and the wind shield was it. They also described an instance where they were driving over a frozen lake and fell through. The priceless bit was the mark on the side of the fender marking the high water mark. They had to leave the truck in the lake the entire winter, because it got frozen in before they could figure out how to pull it out.
Both Joe and I had to take pictures of Pop Tart. She's the one wearing her slippers. Apparently she's the dealer/organizer's girlfriend, and she wrecked a brand new vehicle at last year's event. At one of the obstacles we asked her to move a truck for us since it was blocking the way. Her boyfriend had engaged parking brake. To which she said, "I hate it when he pulls up the thingy. I can't move the truck because the thingy is stuck." I asked if she was talking about the parking brake, and she said, "yes, that thing." A real piece of work.
The trail loops around the hillside within the park. It's a single track with obstacles every so often. The single track made it slow going, because we had to wait for everyone in front of us. Being impatient and having the baddest ass truck in the fleet we slowly made our way to the front by the end. I still can't believe Dan let us get behind the wheel.
This was the first pit we traversed. It doesn't look like much, but Dan could stand in it without seeing over the edge. The organizer went through with a Discovery and lost a couple bits off the back of his vehicle. So he stopped (blocking the pit) and walked the entire line of folks telling them to be careful. Dan didn't have any worries with his superior truck. The only problem was that Pop Tart couldn't figure out the parking brake thingy.
Joe about to enter the abyss...
Just to give you an idea how awesome our day was... the camera was held level and the truck tilted that much.
Some more action photos with me behind the wheel.
For a lot of reasons I wasn't having a great day. In particular, I couldn't get Dan's truck into low gear during the 40 degree descent. So I gave everyone a pretty wild ride while I rode the brakes down this hill. Dan drove back up the hill then Joe took his turn except in low gear for real, and the video of the descent is above.
After we were done playing on the hill, I needed to get back to the airport. I was behind the wheel and driving along the marked path. However, I was doing about 25 mph and none of saw the stretch of boulders embedded into the ground and cover with grass. They were only about 6-8 inches tall, but it was enough to bottom out the D90 suspension repeatedly and sending the unbuckled Joe around the back of the truck. He was then dubbed Pop Corn. My great day continued as Dan inspected the boulders and his truck, and I inspected Joe's back for puncture wounds.
Just in case you were wondering what Joe rolls in... and me.
I told you we like fine vehicles.
© 2008 Doug Rathburn