Roy RitchieCar and Driver
From the December 2021 issue of Car and Driver.
We go through the effort to set up a secret alliance with Lindsey Vonn’s team, only to learn that our Land Rover Defender 110s are hidden amongst 4000 acres of woods, and our shared walkie-talkies are quickly out of range. So we spend the first hour of the morning standing next to some sheep with our photographer, Roy, while the other two guys on the team try to find our Defender 110 so we can begin the Land Rover Trek competition, on the Biltmore estate in Asheville, NC.
When the fellow members of Team Dirty Work eventually show up—they say the truck was “miles out in the woods”—we try to attempt the nearest of the many challenges vaguely mapped around the property. But we get lost and end up driving repeatedly through the parking lot of some skeet shooting competition, where people with shotguns start looking increasingly annoyed. When we finally find a challenge, it involves slowly navigating around pylons in a field, for an hour. In lieu of explaining how that works, suffice it to say that I have the time and wherewithal to build a lean-to out of branches to obfuscate a map hanging from a tree. We’re at the edge of the property, a Nissan dealer right across the street, harshing our Camel Trophy delusions with a row a 2021 Sentras just a nine-iron away.
The next challenge involves cooperating with a second team to use our winches to raise a beam, but their winch promptly breaks because its Bluetooth controller won’t pair or something. Valuable time is wasted airing down the tires for obstacles we never find. More minutes tick away waiting for another team to complete a trailering challenge that they are stupendously bad at. Our team is repeatedly warned by Land Rover staff, clocking the billowing dust clouds signaling our approaches, that exceeding 20 mph will get us kicked out of the competition. After building a bridge and driving over it—very cool, like solving a Defender-sized puzzle—we get lost again on the other side. As time runs down, we drive back to camp and encounter some of the other teams, veritably aglow with enthusiasm over the wicked challenges they conquered. Evidently, there was one where you had to identify old Land Rover parts set out in a barn. Another involved using your traction boards to escape a mud pit. Sounds cool. We didn’t find those.
This program was designed for Land Rover dealers to test their knowledge of the product, and it might. Or it might not! I’m sure the property-adjacent Nissan salespeople were jealous, but a Trek team could conceivably drive around all day in a fog of utter incompetence, earning no points and accomplishing nothing. We skate awfully close to that line. One page of my notebook reads, “Maybe the real lesson is about the punishing, relentless chaos and unpredictability of life itself, the futility of goals, the inevitable wasting of time as we shuffle inexorably toward the grave. Or maybe it’s that muddin’ is more fun with no dang rules and such!” Somehow, we place third.
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