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!


3 Comments on “Land Cruiser Down

  1. I literally got the biggest goosebumps I have ever had just reading this post. Sounds thrilling. I am thinking of all those skills as being similarly useful to bringing an umbrella on a rainy day just to ensure that it doesn’t rain. You won’t need to do anything that scary but glad you are ready for it!!!!
    It’s my 10 yr anniversary today and we r at the cape missing all the people who were here to celebrate with us that long ago. Missing you guys the most tho!!!
    Much love from “we’ve got the sun you’ve got the moon”(my fav amina quote about your trip)


  2. So what work did you have done on your car after this grueling class?
    Did both of you take the class or are you the designated driver?
    What a course! Sounds dangerous!


    • We got a snorkel added to raise our air intake in case we go through water that is deeper than we expect and it also helps with the dust in dirt roads. We also got all of our batteries tightened down (there are 3 in our car!) and installed a tire monitor so we know if there is trouble on the trailer tires before it causes a bigger problem.

      Jay is the primary driver on our team, but they had both of us do every exercise, so we all knew we had the ability if needed. A lot of driving in tight spots is as much about the navigator outside the car as the driver so we each got to practice both.

      The course was a blast. They were careful to challenge us without damaging the cars… Although apparently some cars have had to leave on tow beds when things have gone wrong. Glad we avoided that!


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