Ottawa Valley Land Rovers
34th Annual Birthday Party
23 June 2017 – 25 June 2017
Silver Lake, Ontario, Canada
The goal was that the second time would be the charm.
Last year’s Ottawa Valley Land Rovers Birthday Party began in somewhat of a disaster. The Discovery suffered a fuel pump wiring issue of some sort on the way up, combined with a dying starter, and the weekend was a constant struggle with the Russian Roulette of a truck I was never sure would start. Since then, I’ve been fighting a semi-constant succession of electrical issues, with several trips aborted or complicated by hot stalls and non-starts.
Planning a second trip to the Birthday Party this year, I planned a few weeks of heavy work on the Disco to fix some lingering issues. I replaced the locked-up front brake calipers by doing a swap to Defender 90 brakes, replaced the rear A-frame joint to reduce the suspension clunks, replaced the corroded ground leads throughout the truck, replaced a leaky fuel tank vent hose, and ticked off a litany of small items that had been bothering me. Friday night I was ready to go…I filled the tank for the first time since April, cleaned the interior out, and prepped for a 4AM departure for the border.
Unable to sleep because I was so excited for the trip, I left the house at 3AM, the suspension tight and the truck running strong with clean power. For the first time in my ownership, it really felt like the premium vehicle it is. I cleared the Delaware River, and headed north on I-380 towards I-81 as the very faintest rays of the almost-solstice sunrise peeked over the horizon.
And then, as I rocked out with Morrisey to “This Charming Man,” there was silence from the engine bay as the speedometer and tach slowly crawled down to zero. I pulled over and investigated, flashers and lamps on for safety. I tried banging on everything that has caused issues of late, tinkered with wires, but all to no avail. Nothing. With no way of getting off the highway on my own volition, a running-down battery, and a semi-unsafe location on a busy truck-filled Interstate, I caved and called AAA.
By 7:15 AM, I was back home by way of flatbed, trying to sort how to get to the event still, even sans-Rover. I checked car rental prices, and for under $200 decided to go to the local Enterprise location. My dad gave me a lift, and by 10 AM I was in the seat of a brand-new 2017 Nissan Frontier pickup with authorization to go to Canada. The next 8 hours were spent running the Interstates through New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York through a combination of various intensities of rain, before hitting the border with an hour’s wait at 4 PM. In Ontario, a swift run through the 401, 38, and the Trans-Canada on Highway 7 led me to the campground at Silver Lake Provincial Park, where I met up with the Usual Suspects for an evening of conversation, food, and beers around the campfire, looking over the lake with the call of loons as a soundtrack.
The main wheeling component of the event was on Saturday. Our group wheeled twice — once on a trail on the private property hosting the event, and once on a public trail nearby. Both groups had a varied collection of Land Rovers, from several 1951 80″ Series 1s, several later Series trucks, a Range Rover Classic and an Australian ex-military Perentie 110. The terrain in the area is very wet, muddy, and wooded…typical Eastern wheeling, but with some especially epic water crossings.
I ended up shotgunning the wheeling, since I wasn’t going to test the rental Frontier’s low range box, but I did realize that there is one benefit to shotgunning, too — it makes off-roading a bit less lonely a pursuit. I’d much rather have enjoyed the trails with the Disco, but I certainly didn’t regret the efforts I made to still come.
Saturday at the event is a catered dinner, done this year by the owners of the event site. As the sun went down, our party transitioned from the site to our campground a few kilometers away, and another late night chatting.
Sunday brought breakfast, an auction, and then goodbyes as my friend John and I headed homeward via Kingston. We decided to take the Wolfe Island Ferries. The St. Lawrence was very choppy, and the waves broke over the bow of the Wolfe Islander III, covering the lead cars in sheets of water. This paled, however, to the international Horne’s Ferry, where I arrived to find the wharf under about a foot of water, leading to a ramp propped up by some 4×4 lumber leading to a boat bobbing wildly. Certainly this violated the rental agreement.
The border at Cape Vincent NY was swift, and after a stop at the Tibbet’s Point Lighthouse, we said our farewells to head east to Connecticut and south to New Jersey. I killed the next 5 hours in the Frontier swiftly, with minimal stops. I took a diversion through Lackawanna County at one point, some country roads adding a bit of variety to the route. As I headed home the final stretch down I-78, I saw a red D1 on the side of the road, and thinking of all the help I’ve gotten over the years on the side of the road, Friday included, spent 10 minutes giving them some hints on their overheat issue — as well as the number of a mechanic friend.
The weekend did not go as planned, and the Disco continues to need heavy electrical work, clearly. But the most important thing about any of these events is the social element, and my snap decision to rent the pickup turned the weekend into a more enjoyable one. Certainly though, I hope that next year the third time is a charm, and the Disco makes it to Ontario trouble free and gets to hit the trails.