Land Cruiser Down
Land Cruiser down!
Land Cruiser. These were my first words announced over our UHF radio as part of our 4WD training at the Great Divide Tours training center this weekend — and I must admit, it felt kind of cool. Our course was both scary and exhilarating and the balance thankfully shifted towards exhilarating over the course of the weekend.
We began with a tire placement exercise that has us driving down the “yellow brick road” trying to get both front and back tires to track directly over particular rocks. It was more difficult than it seemed like it would be at first glance. The instructors reinforced that when traveling over precarious ground knowing where you tires land is a reasonably important skill.
In the morning, I stepped into the drivers seat – taking the wheel of Cave Lion for the first time. (In urban settings, I am the designated navigator.) I completed the first task acceptably and avoiding stalling the car in front of the rest of the group, which was my primary goal (At that time I didn’t know that regardless of my driving, it is essentially impossible to stall our vehicle.)
The next adventure of the day was key starts. The innocuous name belies the stress of the activity. I should note that I enthusiastically jumped into the car for my turn on the wrong side of the car in front of the group – better to lower expectations. The activity involved getting onto a very steep track, stalling the car (Cave Lion is a manual), releasing the brake (apparently the engine holds the car after lurching) and then restarting without the clutch or the brake… All while staring down the steepest slope I’ve ever driven on. And that of course was the easy one. The more heart stopping challenge was doing the same thing except backwards in reverse! I might add our modifications to Cave Lion have rendered the rear view mirror useful so it was all done with side mirrors – eek!
There were moments at the bottom of the tracks when it appeared through the windshield that the nose of the car would land squarely in the dirt below. Then suddenly the car would be on flat ground again. Cheers for high clearance vehicles!
The rest of the weekend was filled with water crossings, mud work, side slopes, rocky crossings, navigating over deep ruts, logs and the final heart stopper – the log bridge. This exercise involved slowly guiding Jay across a log bridge. You’re thinking big deal – it’s a bridge. Nope, this one was two logs, set narrower than the wheels such that the outer portion of each wheel was overhanging as I directed Jay across. Slow, deliberate hand signals were the order of the day.
I’m going to go ahead and say I am uninterested in trying a similar exercise on our own!
All in all it was a great weekend learning all that our vehicle is capable of doing and all the practice we need to get more confident on our own!