At 9 a.m., we took the Diamond Mill exit from Highway 6, pulled into the parking lot and aired down our tires to around 12 psi (for better traction). Doug Shipman, of Ship’s Mechanical, hand installed an ARB rear locker and compressor in my 1984 RHD D90 200tdi, and I was anxious to see if this mechanical advantage could compensate for my “still in the steep learning curve” driving abilities. (You’ll find a complete photo album on Facebook.)
Shipman acted as my instructor, and we began to plow up the hill. The snow was relatively fresh, and about 18 inches deep. My D90 with its narrow tires was at a relative disadvantage compared with most of the other rigs, whose wider ones allowed them to float on the surface with a little more ease.
We took turns breaking trail, and following a stint at the head, it was a relief to be in the back, following in the tracks laid down by others.The name of the game was building up a head of steam, plowing forward until I got stuck, then backing up ten feet and doing it again. It was tiring and, after a while, tedious.
The rear locker was a great help, but nothing could compensate for the deep snow that piled up on the front bumper, clogged the wheel wells and pulled at the differentials.
I couldn’t help but reflect on my experience with the Subaru Impreza, when I found myself in increasingly deep snow and decided to turn around and come back.We all took turns sliding off the road, but the judicious use of winches meant that we ended the day with the same number of rigs as when we began.
One of the rules for off-roaders is that they try never to go anywhere alone, and that they always bring along “recovery gear”—a tow strap, shackles, snatch block and preferably a winch. Even with all of that, there were some situations that really required two rigs to get someone unstuck.
I like Rovering; it’s almost like car therapy, where I am far away from the world of auctions, publishing, market trends and the like. I’m with a bunch of enthusiasts who love their Discos and Rangie Classics as much as guys love their Giuliettas and BJ8s. The trucks are being used in their natural state, and coming home with a few dents and dings is a badge of honor, rather than a cause for a quick trip to the body shop.
But Tillamook Forest is now in my rearview mirror, and I can see Amelia through the windscreen. See you there!