One of the oldest Land Rover clubs in North America held its 35th annual Birthday Party rally at the end of June 2018. The Ottawa Valley Land Rovers club has held the event in Ontario since 1984, and this year’s celebration on June 22-24 continued a tradition of a fun event with a friendly, dedicated, cross-border crowd.
The event is held about an hour west of Ottawa, in the eponymous Ottawa Valley, usually near the town of Maberly. A large part of the attendance comes from the regular active membership in the Ottawa metropolitan area. However, the event is only about an hour and a half from Upstate New York, and there has traditionally been a significant American attendance as part of the strong cross-border East Coast Land Rover community.
Having made the event part of my annual “dance card” of Land Rover events, I left on Friday morning from my house in New Jersey for the seven-and-a-half hour drive to Ontario. The main event is held on private land, and camping is available either on the event site or at the nearby Silver Lake Provincial Park. The area has a large selection of trails that criss-cross public Crown land, as well as a few on private property.
The most iconic trails are the “Heavy Off-Road” (rarely attempted) and “Light Off-Road.” More than one new attendee has been tricked by these names into thinking that the Light Off-Road is a lollygagging jaunt through the woods, only to be confronted with a water crossing through the edge of a swamp that can be quite deep, dependent on the activity of the area’s beaver population. Another popular trail, the Bolton Creek Trail, involves a water crossing that can be equally daunting in a wet year, with submerged boulders that can wreak havoc if you take the wrong line across.
This year, my group first ran the trail on private land, and everyone from a 1951 Series I 80” to an immensely fortified Discovery 1 got stuck in the bottomless, goopy gatekeeper mud pit. From there, we had a series of challenging hill climbs, water crossings, mud holes, and narrow tree-lined passages to thread trucks of various sizes through. The adventure wasn’t without some minor body damage, with turn signals and quarter panels suffering carnage on the wider trucks.
Saturday evening involves a large catered dinner, supplied by the nearby Fall River Restaurant, who also provide the land for the main event site. A selection of courses left a little something to satisfy everyone’s stomach.
Sunday morning, the event closes with the traditional auction, which raises funds for the club to offset the event and help with operating expenses for the next year. The items are a combination of donations from various vendors and supporters – including Atlantic British – and spare parts of varied rarity and quality donated by members. Americans tend to get some very nice deals due to the exchange rate.
By noon, everyone heads home with goodbyes and hopes to see each other soon. After three-and-a-half decades, it’s pretty certain that we’ll all gather again next year in Maberly, for what has become one of my absolute favorite Land Rover events on the continent.
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