Mid Atlantic Rally - 2005

P hotos  

This years Mid Atlantic Rally was held from Thursday October 6th through Sunday October 9th at Pearls Pond, Rt 652, Buckingham County , Virginia . The event was hosted by the Rover Owners Association of Virginia and as this year is the clubs 30th Anniversary the plan was to make this13th Rally a big event. I had heard about MAR from many people but this was to be my initiation into East Coast Land Rovers. Many warned me in advance that Virginia can be notoriously wet in October. Whilst I heeded their warnings and took an extra tarpaulin for protection against the rain, little did I know what was to happen!

My original plans were to take 3 days to drive the 1,658 miles from Colorado to the event. Unfortunately the day before I was due to leave a bad vibration in my drive line cancelled those plans, Bugger!!!!!!! Luckily my wife agreed to use her work Frequent Flyer miles so I could fly over for the event. Like most newbie’s to events such as these I investigated as much as I could prior to arriving. Firstly I logged onto the ROAV website and spoke with various members about the activities, how the event was organized and what were the best camping spots. It was extremely pleasing to get several invitations from people to camp with their Club, in particular the Philadelphia Rover Club who went out of their way to welcome me.

Upon arriving at the Rally venue on Thursday I was surprised to meet up with Kevin Willey and Kevin Newell from Ottawa Canada , Kevin’s unpainted Defender 90 stands out in a crowd. The event area was bone dry, due mainly to a lack of rain in the run up to the Rally. As a result we were able to drive over most of the trails with relative ease and get a sense of the area and what fun was available. That afternoon a Four Wheel Drive Safety session was conducted for attendees by Steve Mason and Mike Young with many attendees taking the opportunity to explore the property and check out other vehicles. And then it happened, it started to rain! At that time we did not know that the rain would continue for 40 hours straight. No let up, no respite, continuous rain ranging from a slight drizzle to a full on downpour. As a result of the rain that night’s movie, “The Gods Must be Crazy”, was moved into the main tent. This was to be the first of many on the fly changes admirably handled by MAR staff.

The property hosting MAR consists mainly of red claying dirt which turns very quickly into red sticky mud. Friday morning saw all trails transformed from easy and a bit of fun into potential nightmares. Many people were wearing big smiles for the fun they thought was to come. First, what to do for breakfast? Not a hard choice, fresh donuts made on site were available for purchase along with a variety of muffins. All washed down with hot coffee which helped jump start the heart for the day’s adventure, especially after all that rain over night. Luckily for me, these items were available each day of the event.

Whilst many took in a Safety Session and guided drive conducted by Bill Burke and Steve Mason, the more adventurous took off in small groups to explore in the mud. “Rescue” crews from ROAV were kept busy most of the day going out to help those hapless many who found themselves bogged, stuck and even lost in the mud that was MAR [Short now for Mud & Rain]. The most interesting event occurred when one group of rescuers led by Kevin Willey came across a Discovery with only 3 wheels and no occupants. Apparently the entire end from swivel ball out had detached spreading parts all over the place. Another Discovery attempted the river crossing only to find itself drowned with water halfway up the windscreen. After being extracted and dried out the Discovery II was stuck in low range with the owner unable to remove his key. Friday was a full day of stories such as these.

Bill Burke entertained us Friday evening with a slide presentation from his Camel Trophy experience. He explained the process by which the USA team was selected, trained in the USA and England and then shipped off to Tanzania for their adventure. Bill still looks the same although he now has a few more wrinkles, his hair is longer and that mustache is thankfully no more. After Bill’s presentation Scruffy Murphy entertained everyone with some great music. I retired to my swag [that’s Australian for bedroll] and read my October copy of LRM whilst listening to the music that easily wafted over to where I was camped. Many also stayed up for the Midnight Madness Sale at the Vendor tents.

Saturday morning saw more rain and warnings of impending doom. At about 9 am the Island camping area was declared closed with all occupants requested to pack up and move. At that time the water was slightly below the causeway [it had been about 2 foot below the causeway on Thursday]. All left, although several campers were abandoned for later retrieval. By about 10.30 am the water was almost 2 foot over the causeway and one luckless driver lost his Range Rover over the side trying to get back onto firmer [I use the word firmer somewhat loosely]. He was recovered. I understand that people who went back a week later found the water approximately 10 foot above the causeway so you can just imagine how much came down. All trails were deemed closed by organizers. Whilst “Closed” these trails could be driven although warnings were given that anyone venturing out would do so at their own risk and that no ROAV rescue team would come to assist if they got into trouble. Needless to say this was like an open invitation for many of the more adventurous with well set up vehicles.

The annual Rally auction was moved to 4 pm due to the rain and many items form DVD’s to Winches were raffled. A small belt pack actually worn and used in the Camel Trophy was donated by Bill Burke. This item attracted the most vigorous bidding from a number of interested parties. Later that evening a Banquet was held with a “Creative Black Tie” as its theme. Steve Hoare [yes of LRM fame] took this seriously and turned up wearing a skirt [Ok it was a kilt but skirt sounds much better], Evening Shirt and Bow tie topped off with an enormous blue felt English Flag top hat.

Sunday morning everyone awoke to bright Blue Skies and no rain! Just kidding although there was no rain! Most people were packing up and trying to get out of the rally site with many non 4WD vehicles getting stuck trying to drive up very slight grassy slopes. The catering truck for Sunday brunch got bogged no more than 20 yards off the main road trying to get in to feed us all. Luckily someone had a Defender 110 [fancy that] close at hand to tow the Ford Pick up out of the way and extricate the catering trailer.

MAR attracted an eclectic variety of Land Rovers this year. From my wanderings I managed to view the Rare Cuthbertson tracked Series Land Rover, a Dormobile, 3 G4 Discoveries, Series I, II, IIA, IIB & III, Defender 90’s, Defender 110’s, Defender 130’s, Discovery I, II & LR3, Classic Range Rovers, P38’s and the Current Range Rover. There were also various hybrids along to show off the expertise of their owners in fabrication and innovation.

In my roamings I managed to talk with people from many Land Rover Clubs from places such as: New York State , Pennsylvania , Florida , Virginia , North Carolina , Ottawa , Georgia , Minnesota , Missouri , Colorado and Nevada . There may have been more but the attendee list was just too big for me to get around and talk with each and every group.

A number of Vendors had stands and I managed to meet many whom I had only spoken to over the phone such as Scott from Rover Specialties; Steve from DAP, Mark from Rovers North; Adrian from 4x4 Adventure Gear; Bill from Kensington Motor Cars, Eric from Atlantic British and Grampa’s Retired Rovers. There were also a few other vendors however regrettably I did not manage to chat with them. Steve from Rovertym and Jason from Red Rhino Products were also at MAR although neither had a stand this year.

An “Aluminum Man” contest was held on several of the Rally Days and generated interest for spectators and participants alike. This consisted of a number of 4WD related challenges to determine who was the most crazy, I mean creative and skilled. For example one of the challenges consisted of placing a ground anchor on the opposite side of a small ditch, once secure a team member had to climb back across the winch cable to pick up a piece of paper from the ground then race back to start a small fire without matches.

MAR organizers did a great job bringing everything together especially under difficult circumstances. The attendees I spoke with were all welcoming and very enthusiastic to discuss their trucks, where they had taken them and what things they had done to make them better. A better bunch of people would be hard to find! See you at next year’s event.