“Vermontaneous” 12 September 2014 – 14 September 2014
Green Mountains, Vermont
It began with a phone call, and it was supposed to entail a weekend evening by the pool. My parents were away at a wedding, so I called my friend Jarek and asked if he wanted to come over with his family for an afternoon barbeque.
“Can’t do it man, Dan and I are going to Vermont tonight.”
I’d considered this Vermont trip, organized by the North East Land Rover Club, but had figured I couldn’t get the truck together in time, and I had so much going on. I conveyed this to Jarek.
“Dude! Just get in your truck and come.”
And so began one of the most spontaneous trips I’ve done in a long time. We met up at our friend George’s auto shop in North Jersey, got the trucks together, and began a trek to Rockingham, Vermont that would last us the entire night, right until twilight broke at 6 a.m. We found a rag-tag group of Land Rover people in the morning, all gathered by a group leader who ended up having a crisis at home and not coming. We took his maps and decided to wing it.
What followed was what is still considered an especially fun trip by the participants several years later. I archived these photographs and versions of their captions on my Facebook page after the trip in 2014. Now in 2017, I’m archiving this great time here as well.
The trip took us through the southern half of Vermont, mostly on Class IV roads. The group coalesced so well, yet there was little rhyme or reason to how they came together; even the nominal leader of the group was missing. The fleet was all latter-day coil sprung Land Rovers — Range Rover Classics, Discovery 1s and 2s, and Defender 90s. One former Land Rover owner also joined in his 100-series Land Cruiser.
We began at the Vermont Country Store in Rockingham, and wended our way north into the Coolidge State Forest, spending the night outside Killington. Day 2 took us as far as Ripton, before turning around for home. In the whole, we didn’t experience that many issues. One 1995 RRC blew out its rear rotoflex, one D1 spun out a wheel bearing, and one D2 had to bail because it couldn’t handle the trip on street tires with no locking center differential.
The captions below are copied directly from my Facebook album of the trip.
Like all good journeys, we begin in the driveway, booting up systems.
The first stop: E&G Auto Repair LLC for a balance job on Jarek’s tyres. George meets us, things are fabricated, things are cursed. As is usual at the shop, people are in and out.
The steeds await: Spenny and the Boar.
0000h, Saturday. George bids adieu. Rockingham, VT or bust.
Somewhere in Connecticut, 0115h: caffeine and loo break at the services somewhere in CT. A 4-pack of Monster for fortification.
Choice is good.
But some people only need one.
We pull into camp at 0530h. In a half hour, my alarm would be going off for work on a workday. The sun just starts to break in the east, the sky there a slightly brighter shade of black. We can’t find the group site; there’s no map and several loops. After piercing several trailers with our main beams, we decide to call it a night and park next to the office for a few hours’ rest. The next morning, I wake around 0745 and see the group a few hundred feet away. “It isn’t “tomorrow” until you sleep or the sun comes up…whichever comes first.” — Ben Smith
The others? Well rested. I pull in in Spenny to the camp, meet some new faces, put some faces to names, see some old friends.
An 0900h gathering at the Vermont Country Store. A haven of all things “Bijoux New England.” Maple syrup, Woolrich shirts, wooden toys. If they had the orange “Drink Moxie” shirts in my size, I would have taken one home.
Our first trail; a mudhole, navigated by Brandon Rabbie.
Anthony Nelson spots Dan up a hill climb. We deliberated which fork to take on the trail for 20 minutes; this was the path of less resistance.
We all have to start our off-roading career somewhere. The first time I wheeled in Ringwood State Forest with Rovers Club, I was scared shitless when the mud started steaming on the exhaust after a water crossing. For two kids from Long Island with a D2 running street tyres and no CDL, this was their first time. Prepared? Probably not. We winched them and towstrapped them a lot. But lessons learned? Yes — about both the modifications to make and the welcoming character of Land Rover owners.
I think the person who enjoyed this trip more than anyone was Jarek. After almost three years of doing his diesel swap, everything was all finally truly tickety-boo for an expedition-scale trip. Seeing it negotiating the trails was just great. Somehow his truck is big without being really overbuilt.
I really, really enjoyed making the acquaintance of Heather on this trip. A retired schoolteacher from Michigan, she crosses the country wheeling in her 1995 RRC LWB. Her ethos for modifications: as close to stock as possible. Her driving skill made that possible…great lines, great control of the truck at all times. Add a great personality and you have an example of what makes Rover people such wonderful people.
It wasn’t all rock crawling; there were quintessential Vermont scenes in the middle, barns and fields and cows and verdant hills and mountains.
A tree covered the path, until it didn’t.
RRC Double Vision.
The cockpit of Spenny as we cross the Class IVs in the rain, the wipers beating to the sound over XM of Liverpool FC getting a rather depressing beating from Aston Villa at Anfield.
Heather’s RRC steams as she plows through a water crossing.
Meanwhile, Adrian Gubbay’s 100 Series Land Cruiser gets stuck…again…a theme.
The first wheeling day fades into the darkness and rain, as we break for camp in Calvin Coolidge State Park. Some of us grab a meal first at the Back Behind Saloon in Killington, where I enjoyed a great smoked cheeseburger. The evening ended with drinks, chat, and rain macs.
We begin Day 2 on a much better weather note. Of note is that three of the four trucks in this shot once belonged to Tony Brooks; my1993 RRC LWB, Brandon Rabbie’s 1984 D90 pickup, and Anthony Nelson’s 1997 D90 station wagon. We joked that we should start a club.
Crom Abu — “Defend the Castle!,” the ancient battle cry of the Fitzgeralds.
There’s something so delicate about an RRC off-road…like it’s walking on air.
Guiding the D2 up a hill climb.
Anthony Nelson’s solidly-built D90.
Jarek found mud to play in, which had the same result as a puppy finding a leaf to play with.
I went in the mud and got stuck, which meant Jarek got to get excited again about using his new Superwinch Husky 10 winch.
Brandon Rabbie also partook.
He couldn’t immediately see the result, as his truck is RHD.
We break for lunch amongst “les montagnes vertes” of the Green Mountain State.
We tried to break new ground, and got kind of far, but eventually it was too overgrown even for our trucks.
A man and his dog.
A clearing; almost more Mojave than Montpelier; the perfect coda.
The storyteller and his steed.
Fortunately, an uneventful mile driving south down VT-100.
Cell reception is rather crap in Vermont, so we had no idea that when Bill didn’t follow us to camp the night before, he had blown a wheel bearing and was stuck. On the side of the road between Manchester and Rutland, we joined a merrie bande of characters to fix it.
To quote Daniel Marcello’s post on NELRC: Also here is a Step by Step instruction to replacing your wheel bearing by Bill – Pull over on the side of the road so the local hillbillies can hangout with you – Break C clip right away – Remove molten metal pieces from hub – Sand paper & file down stub axle – Chop random metal piece off stub axle – Wrap new hub oil seal with electric tape to fatten so it fits new warped crater hole hub – Grease wheel bearings… all 3 bearings – Put Hub assembly on – Tighten nub nut… like a lot – Remove hub assembly – File down hub nut because now it is 50mm on some corners and 55mm on some others – File down threads to stub axle – Put Hub assembly on – Eat bacon – Put 3rd bearing in without race… this is key – Follow with hub nut… real tight – Fold washer in there, probably – Put the other hub nut on too because we needed to stuff it with more shit – Put hub flange on – Wrap axle groove with electrical wire – Drive 5 hours home
Meanwhile, Heather’s Rotoflex was gone in her RRC. Nobody had a spare — my RRC was a 1993, so didn’t have one, and everyone with a D1 had converted over to regular U-joints. She was going to use her AAA Premier tow to get to Jarek’s, so we went to park at Zoey’s Double Hex Country Cooking to find someplace a tow truck could come. We also tried the Birmabright Brotherhood method, and soon Peter Batanero was here to help.
And then everyone seemed to show up. Bill’s truck fixed, everyone came to rally around Heather. Ron Harrington II came to the rescue with a replacement Rotoflex. If there was ever a moment in my Rover life that I’ve seen the power of community we have, it was seeing ten trucks in a restaurant carpark from all parts of the country, rallying to make sure one person gets home.
And then, Homeward Bound. A convoy; four of us would break off eventually Jersey-bound, Heather and Bill convoying to stay at Casa Della Maras.
A final goodbye at a fuel stop in Troy, NY. Eric Riston, I suggested giving you a call, but someone pointed out that it was almost 11:00 at night and you might be sleeping like a normal human.
And so we beat back against the current….slow 300D Discos, busted wheel bearings, cash tolls, and my fight against sleepiness as I rolled into the driveway at 0200h. Until we wheel again.