The Rover owners Association of Virginia holds their Mid Atlantic rally every year somewhere in Virginia, this year the festivities took place at Wheatland Farm in Southwestern VA, the same site that has been in use since 2013.
The one thing the mar has become known for, other than fun and four wheeling is rain, and mud. Lots of mud. Not just any mud but thick, sticky, red Virginia clay type of mud.
This year was no different with about 5 or 6 straight days of rain preceding the event. The forecast for the four days of the rally consisted of a nor'easter, and a hurricane due to strike toward the close of the weekend.
I decided to drive down to the event in Yamelo, my 1984 Tdi 90, with Sean Marks (MD) following in his LR3. With the predicted weather in mind, we snagged the last available hotel room in nearby Pearisburg, VA. We arrived to dry weather at the rally site Thursday evening, an hour or so before dark.
After making the rounds and saying hello to all the familiar faces, we headed to Pearisburg for some Tex Mex, and (perhaps a few too many) margaritas- fortunately the hotel was literally right across the street. Based on the online reviews, we were wondering how the hotel rooms would be, but ours was not bad. We visited with a few other rally attendees and then crashed out.
Friday morning we woke up to rain. We were a bit slow to get moving, but still made it back the farm for some breakfast and camaraderie before finally heading out on the trails. We opted for the intermediate trail run. Our group of about 10 trucks headed up for the gate at the top of the mountain. Once through the gate, the trail slowly wound its way back down, with a number of off-camber spots and steep descents. None of which would have been much of a challenge, but the trails were all covered with wet leaves that were sitting on top of a thin layer of slick mud. A couple of slick rock faces and some close-in trees provided challenges to many of the group. There was a fair amount of winching to be done, a few crunched panels, and one broken window. Yamelo, with the Tdi engine turning four brand-new mud tires, made short work of all the obstacles and thankfully didn’t really have any problems.
Friday night, our group feasted on a “Low Country Shrimp Boil” courtesy of Kraig Mackett (OH) This was basically 8 pounds of shrimp, and similar quantities of corn, Andouille sausage, cauliflower, potatoes, and lots of other good stuff. All thrown into a large cauldron with some Louisiana spice mix, boiled up, and then unceremoniously dumped out on a large table for all to feast on. I would have to say that this was one of the highlights of the weekend for me.
Saturday we did more trails, this time just running the fire roads as it had now been raining non-stop for about 36 hours. They provided some scenic views, a good opportunity to meet and chat with other drivers, and just enough terrain to make it interesting. This run took a lot longer than necessary (due to all the chatting) but we made it back to the rally site just in time to join in the RTV trials. I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of these, and usually take the time to walk the courses and try to plot the turns before driving them. All that paid off this time and I cleaned all 5 sections for an overall score of zero; a first for me after 20 years of doing them.
Dinner Saturday was a large group event at a local dining hall, a last minute change since the tent company refused to put up the usual big top tent with a hurricane warning in place and a statewide state of emergency. I guess that’s understandable. We all plowed through the fried chicken and sides. Then the rest of the group rolled in for the raffle, with lots of great prizes being given away by all the various sponsors.
Another late evening ensued back at the rally site, although we missed much of it as we finally tired of standing in the rain and went back to the hotel.
Sunday morning there was no breakfast to be had as we got up too late to catch the camp cooking. Charlie and Pam Haigh (VA) showed up a the hotel with panhard rod for Bo from North Carolina, and we spent a few hours trying to get it installed so that he could safely drive back home in his very nice 110. Once Charlie, Pam, myself, and Sean all got cleaned up, we finally caught breakfast at a nearby “Country Cooking." With our faces fully stuffed, our off road jones satisfied, and a truckload of wet gear (including the LED work light I won in the RTV) to dry out, we parted ways, and Sean and I headed back North. And with that, another MAR is in the books.
There’s much more to tell of course, every MAR is good for a few campfire-only stories. If you really want to know more, you'll just have to come see for yourself in 2016. And for those with newer vehicles who wonder if their rig can handle this kind of event, I counted at least one each of LR4, big body Range Rover (2010 model) and a Range Rover Sport. All of which came off the trails surprisingly clean. The 2010 RR may have suffered a ding or two, but based on the reports I would chalk that up to driving style more than anything else. See ya on the trails!
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