This past weekend, a handful of Land Rover owners traveled from as far as Ontario and Washington DC to a small farm in Upstate New York, to participate in the annual Guy Fawkes Day Land Rover gathering.
This little known, unofficial event has been taking place for over a decade, started by organizer Howard Smith in the early 2000's. Attendance can vary, and although this year's turnout was a bit on the small side, it seems a good time was shared by all. Being in upstate New York, in November, the weather and trail conditions are somewhat unpredictable.
This year, the weather on Friday was glorious with temperatures in the 50's or 60's and clear skies. I arrived late in the evening due to the usual last-minute delays in departure. Part of the problem stemmed from my choice to make the drive in my new-to-me 2008 Range Rover Sport Supercharged. While this ride is certainly more nimble on road than anything else in my Land Rover fleet, I still had to prepare it for the trails, which meant putting on the front skidplate which was left off by the previous owner, Dan. Of course, the bolts he left with me for its reinstallation were of the wrong thread pitch. To his credit, this was among several items he offered to fix before I collected the vehicle, which I declined in favor of a price adjustment.
All that said, the drive up was effortless thanks to the 4.2 liter blown Jaguar powerplant and the luxurious Range Rover Sport interior. I arrived well-rested and joined the party of "usual suspects" standing around chatting. As the night wore on and the temperature began to drop, a group of intrepid sorts ventured out into the woods. Unsure of my new vehicle's off-road abilities, I declined to join them. Eventually, I headed back to our hotel for the night and a last round of socializing with the few who perhaps wisely opted out of the off-road festivities.
Saturday we woke to light rain. This didn't bode well for the leaf-strewn trails, as they would surely not be offering any traction to my Rangie's road-biased tires. Its previous owner did provide a full-size spare, a nice feature to have if you are using your newer Land Rover off road. On this model, the tire protrudes well below the vehicle's frame. I opted to move the tire to the inside of the vehicle in order to increase the off-road clearance.
That accomplished, we headed over to the event site. There, after perusing the amassed vehicles and greeting various familiar faces, we slightly aired down the Sport’s tires and headed out to see what it could do. I’ve spent a little time behind the wheel of some of Land Rover’s newer models while off road, but not much. We ran up and down a few hills, and the performance was really quite good. The traction control and hill descent features worked exceptionally well and we made short work of several hills that other vehicles had to attempt several times. Then we did them all in reverse.
We also made the mistake of attempting to traverse the “mud bog” trail, despite all assurances that it was a bad idea. It turns out the assurance were correct, and we made it all of 10 feet before sliding off into the tall weeds on the side of the trail. Unable to reverse out, we were firmly planted and in need of assistance. Eventually, Dan circled back around in his Defender and winched us out of our predicament.
We ran a few more trails, but not wanting to push our luck, we mostly stayed in the field and watched the shenanigans of others with more capable vehicles. We saw some pretty impressive efforts to push the Land Rovers through some really tough trails, with incredibly steep hill climbs including one that only four vehicles have ever made, and a successful traverse of a deep V-gully that nobody has ever even attempted before.
All in, we had a great time on the trails. Now, of course this is a Guy Fawkes celebration. And no Guy Fawkes party would be complete without a massive bonfire. To that end, many spent the day using their vehicles to drag large downed trees out of the woods to add to a large burn pile. A potluck dinner was served, and promptly followed by the ceremonial lighting of the bonfire. The initial flames were upwards of twelve feet high with an impressive column of smoke and embers reaching high as you could see.
This of course was accompanied almost immediately by more rain. Once the rain let up, we all went back to relaxing and swapping tall tales in front of the fire, until the wee hours.
Sunday morning, I replaced the spare into the well underneath the car in the hotel parking lot, in order to make room to load up for the trip home. After a buffet breakfast, most folks departed early. I had to enlist Howard’s master metalworker skills to straighten the exhaust on the Sport that I had managed somehow to bend out of alignment.
Following that effort, I attempted to “air-up” the tires, only to have a valve stem break off. Two hours later I had the spare lowered down and installed in place of the bad tire and everything reloaded. Another late departure, and another effortless drive. Anyone that has not experienced a late-model supercharged Land Rover should really give one a go.
The Guy Fawkes gathering is held every year on a small farm near Cooperstown New York, on the weekend closest to November 5th, the day that Guy Fawkes, a member of the Gunpowder Plot, was arrested while guarding explosives the plotters had placed beneath the British House of Lords.(Wikipedia)
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