Unlike much of the working world, September is my holiday month.
It is marked by two major annual events involving Land Rovers. Mid-month is always British Invasion in Stowe, Vermont. It’s not a Land Rover event per se, but rather a British car show. They always stick the Land Rovers off in the weeds, like the ugly ducklings or unloved relatives, but we make the best of it (and kind of prefer it). We set up a canopy tent behind the line of Series vehicles, bring food and beverages and share our bounty with everyone who passes by. Most Land Rover owners who enter in the show ignore the trophy ceremonies — even if we won! We’re there for the socializing.
The weekend following British Invasion is always the Metal Dash event in Petersham, MA. This is another favorite event — as is Maine Misfits and Rover Bits in Greene, ME. I’ve written about both in previous issues; while they are both fresh in mind, I’m just going to give a little side by side comparison. Here’s hope that I can tempt a few newcomers into actually
attending in 2024.
The second annual Maine Misfits and Rover Bits event took place on the third weekend of August (same time next year). John Vallerand owns the property and as an attendee you are given full access, day or night, to the 200-acre piece of property that includes John house. Unlike Metal Dash, this event offers a wide range of off-roading. John collects $20 per person upon arrival and that money covers the food for the massive dinner on Saturday night. This year, he purchased 60 ribeye steaks, 30 pounds of chicken, two large pork loins and two long ropes of sausage. John’s daughter, Sharmane, and her husband, Warren, took command of the massive industrial-sized grill and cooked everything to perfection. Fresh corn on the cob, potato salad, pasta salad and a plethora of other side dishes were also served, topped off with a selection of pies for dessert. Those alone are worth the price of admission.
Metal Dash takes place every September, usually the third weekend of the month, but always the weekend after British Invasion. The only off-roading portion of the event is the late Saturday morning convoy through the Harvard University Research Forest, which is essentially light green-laning. That ride ends in Philllipston, MA, at the Red Apple Farm, where you can choose from a selection of gourmet pizzas and BBQ. The setting is very pleasant with the privileged Land Rover parking along the stone wall inside the apple orchard. Photo ops abound for the Rover gang as well as standard orchard goers. Metal Dash also only costs $20 per head. In this case the money goes toward two full breakfasts for the weekend. Don Flye created the event and owns the farm that houses the event. His son, Mike, handles all the breakfast duties. He presents a selection of bacon, eggs, sausage and hash browns, and there’s always plenty to go around. Niall Johnson, a Land Rover enthusiast and founder of Toltec Coffee, provides free coffee to all attendees.
In comparison to the dignified green-laning at Metal Dash, Maine Misfits was even more challenging this year due to the extraordinary amount of rainfall received this summer. Last year’s muddy trail had become this year’s raging river. Last year’s easy incline of dirt turned into two-foot-deep ruts of mud that had dislodged boulders. Several Rovers became high-centered and needed to be winched from the top of the hill by a tree-anchored Series III. As challenging as it was, the recovery made it all worth it when the whole convoy turned into a recovery team.
On Saturday night, we left the camp area at dark with eight Land Rovers. We zig-zagged through the woods, attacking one obstacle after the next until we finally reached the “Money Pit” (the name comes from the number of broken auto parts it has claimed). This section remains one of the toughest areas with very few Rovers making it though on thier own four-wheel drive power. I drove Mike Kenney’s ’71 Series IIA 88” with the Chevy V8 engine. Upon entering the pit, Mike suggested to just give it some beans; the Rover launched off the dry ground on one side of the pit and I managed to climb halfway out the other side before losing traction. A quick winch job yanked it out.
The last person through was Andrew Povolny from Brooklyn, NY, in his imported RHD ‘94 Discovery II with 300tdi. The sheer weight of the Discovery going into a mud bath that had already been ripped up by seven trucks ensured he would get stuck – and he did. Once high-centered, we latched his winch cable onto a tree and attempted to bring the truck forward. It was only plowing the mud and digging the Disco deeper into the pit. Eventually the winch started smoking and died. So we used the winch of Rob Wollschlager’s ’88 Land Rover Perentie; he circled through the woods to pull the Discovery from the rear out of the thick mud. Save for Andrew’s winch, we all made it back to camp without damage to any vehicles.
At Maine Misfits, there is no parts swapping. Originally, John hosted the event in order to sell off some of the Land Rovers and Land Rover parts that have long been features of his landscape. People came with tools and removed treasures from the Rover graveyard out back, then went up to John who sets a price.
Metal Dash, on the other hand, resembles a British auto jumble. Attendees bring their used and sometimes unused Land Rover parts to Don’s farm, spread out a tarp and hope to offload what they have brought. Year after year I have heard the common complaint, “I’m going home with more than I brought.” It’s a closed loop with parts traveling between the same group of people over and over. What you go home with this year might end up on your tarp next year under new ownership with hopes of another taker.
The two events share the experience of meeting up with familiar faces, sitting around the firepit and discussing all things Land Rover. This year’s Metal Dash suffered from intermittent rain, but we persevered. Four members of our group arrived with adventure trailers that we set up in a horseshoe pattern against the far end of the old horse paddock. Once the trailer roof tents were in place, we set up a 13’x13’ canopy tent in the middle, with another 10”x10” tent off to the side to serve as the kitchen. To ensure dryness, we lashed down tarps to cover the gaps from above. I received a message from Vallerand in Maine that he heard we had erected a church on Don’s farm! From across the field, the string of LED lights woven through the tent framework made the structure glow like a cathedral in the woods. We had a griddle top set up under the kitchen tent where we made chili, and we roasted potatoes on the fire pit ring. Jon Detwiler showed up with some deer meat and sauteed his own little concoction of fawn with mixed vegetables. A dozen folding chairs transformed the “church” into a dry dining hall, which later turned into a bar.
The other common element of both events is the Land Rover owner’s quest for info on why their Land Rover does this or that, how to fix this problem or make that improvement. We debate originality versus modification; the list is endless. When you sidle up to three guys standing next to an open bonnet or pointing at taillights, you know some serious business is going down. “You know those were originally Sparto lenses, right?” You can learn an awful lot by witnessing the level of knowledge with this many anoraks in one place.
Both Maine Misfits and Metal Dash are equally loved by many of the same people and it’s the love of old Land Rovers that brings everyone together. They each fulfil a crucial role; challenging off-roading in one, swapping parts in another, but it’s the experiences, the friendships and the passing on of Land Rover knowledge that make them each priceless.
[For more information on these events, contact VermontRovers@gmail.com -ed.]