Huge snowfalls blanketed the Northeast US during the weeks leading up to this year’s Maine Winter Romp, an event that occurs annually on President’s Day weekend in the vicinity of Waterville, Maine.
The preceding weeks’ cold temperatures allowed the more challenging obstacles to freeze over, but some of the smaller, moving water challenges stayed wet. On the weekend of the event, temperatures soared, making for an enjoyable time out in the forest.
The changing temperatures also made for very challenging, constantly changing snow conditions. While many came prepared with tire chains, those chains became a hindrance that dug you through the surface of the snow and dropped you down onto your frame, requiring the application of a helping strap or winch. (Note to future attendees, Atlantic British carries a full line of recovery gear and equipment- make sure you're prepared before you head out on the trails!)
The majority of Rompers lodge at the Waterville Grand Hotel, whose 140 rooms were fully booked about a week before the event. The Holiday Inn down the road had even more Rovers; this was the largest Winter Romp to date. It is now one of the largest rallies in North America, despite the fact that it occurs in the middle of February in one of the coldest places in the US. Perhaps its appeal is that it relies on people attending to their own needs, and while indirectly supported by several different regional clubs, represents none of them, but the Land Rover enthusiasts themselves.
The event also brings an influx of cash into the businesses in and around Waterville at a time of year when things are otherwise slow. In fact, the Romp has grown to such an extent that it is beginning to strain the ability of the town to support it. Rompers are encouraged to visit the smaller, independent restaurants and pubs in Waterville, which now strain to handle all the people. Big G's, the traditional pre-off roading breakfast spot, even started to run out of food by Sunday.
Want to see lots of different Rovers? Visit the parking lot of the Waterville Grand Friday or Saturday night, or Big G's on Saturday morning. Just about all Land Rover models were represented this year. From three 80-inch Series I’s (All 1951's) to modern Range Rover Sports where there. (Sorry, no Freelanders!). Other Series I’s II’s, and III’s were all in attendance. From short to long wheelbase, Pickups and Station Wagons on the Series side. Defenders, from 90 to 110 to a pair of 130's showed their stuff (though they got stuck on the side of Bruce’s driveway- Noted changing snow conditions!) Even a 101 Forward Control made it to the event.
The trails themselves were quite pleasant. The pre-event trail clearing crews from around Maine and New England did another excellent job. It is amazing how the woods can absorb so many vehicles without the massive traffic jams of past years. Due to the enormous snow accumulation, event host and organizer Bruce Fowler even hired a bulldozer to make sure that the ridges left by the plows were cleared away and vehicles could get to the “Power Line” and other popular trails.
Groups of between four and six vehicles were continuously venturing out, running into challenges, hauling themselves out, and having a great time. While some neophytes made it through just fine, some of the more experienced ran into challenges. All a matter of fun and luck. And if luck wasn’t on your side, the Mattrack-equipped NAS D90 was there to save the day.
Text and Photos Courtesy of Dixon Kenner, Ottawa, Ontario
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