Dust. Thick, clinging dust everywhere.
That’s a consequence of being 7th in line on a vintage Rover tour to far eastern Oregon.
Every year or so, Doug Shipman of the Oregon Chapter of the Pacific Coast Rover Club puts together a summer tour. Camping out is a part of the equation.
Our trip started in Portland. My 10-year-old son, Bradley, and I drove across Mount Hood on Highway 26 from our condo in downtown Portland. We headed 150 miles to Bend, where we met up with our friend and SCM SEO specialist Michael Cottam and Benjamin, his 11-year-old son.
We were driving my rusty, dented — but reliable — 1984 D90 200 TDi. Right-hand-drive, it came over from England a few years ago. Doug has sorted out the mechanicals, and once the injection pump was rebuilt the rig has been terrific. He has also added a rear-locker and an on-board ARB compressor.
I’m around a lot of cars that are restored to better-than-new condition. It’s very relaxing to be in the D90, which proudly carries the scars of every off-road adventure it’s been on.
Vintage Rover fanatics (1995 and earlier) remind me of sports car enthusiasts from the ‘60s and ‘70s. The Rover guys like to get their hands dirty, and you’ll often find them making road-side (or trail-side) repairs.
The front u-joint on my D90 blew out one time, and I simply disconnected the entire front drive shaft, threw it in the back of the rig and motored on using only the rear drive shaft.
On this tour, we decided to cheat and bring Cottam’s 2017 Toyota Tundra TRD 4-door pickup.
Even though we had put our roof rack onto the D90 for the trip, having Cottam’s truck made packing simple — we just threw everything into the back of his rig.
The camping trip was four days long. Two days were spent “primitive camping” (no running water, no facilities), and two at Ritter Hot Springs, with an Olympic-sized pool heated by thermal springs.
There were 11 kids, 11 adults, 7 Rovers — and two dogs — on the trip.
Rigs included Range Rover Classics, 109s and 88s and a Disco.
Kids bring a sense of innocent wonder to these Rover trips. They enjoy being in the wilderness, and they find great pleasure in hopping out at every stop to explore. Their happy chatter helps remind us that part of our goal is to share these types of events with them, so that they can view these ancient machines as adventure-makers.
All 7 Rovers met in Prineville, Oregon at 11 am on Friday, June 30.
Our destination that evening was a campground on the northwest edge of the Black Canyon Wilderness area. The route took us along Forest Road 22 to Walton Lake and then to Mt. Pisgah lookout, where we stopped for lunch.
The washboard roads began to take their toll. The coil in a 1995 Range Rover Classic started overheating and leaking its insulation. Shipman said that the ignition coils of today are often not manufactured to the standards of before. If they encounter a lot of vibration they are prone to fail like this.
The owner installed his spare coil (of course he carried one, don’t you do the same for your Carrera RS?), and we motored on.
This was a bare-bones campground, without any facilities or running water. I had no cell service, so getting Domino’s to deliver a pizza was out of the question.
The kids discovered that by climbing onto the hood of the D90, they could get to the roof. Soon enough all 11 of them were standing on the roof rack. That’s not something I would encourage with my 1958 Alfa Sprint Veloce.
Everything tastes better when you are camping out, especially the ribeye steaks and corn on the cob that Cottam prepared for us. The Marchesi Vineyards cabernet we brought along was the perfect pairing. And the kids finished off the evening with s’mores — of course.
The next day we drove to the Wolf Mountain lookout. It is several stories high, and I’m told it is the tallest fire lookout in the Pacific Northwest. From there we went to Spanish Peak.
A deep snowdrift blocked the usual path to Spanish Peak. The snow was was still substantial — even in July. We took the alternative, steeper route and had to engage the rear locker to get the D90 to summit. The sweeping vista overlooks Rock Creek Lake.
We cooled off with a quick dip in Rock Creek, then back to our campground for dinner.
After bison burgers, we headed back to Spanish Peak to watch the sunset. Once again, the kids discovered that the roof of the D90 was a perfect place to gather.
On the way down, I got a chance to use my newly installed LED light bar. It is so bright that it makes all other forms of auxiliary lighting obsolete.
On Sunday we headed towards Ritter Hot Springs, a vintage resort with a pool heated by thermal springs.
Our route there took us south along the John Day River Scenic Highway, then north to Dayville.
While a few of the Rovers went for a run the next day, we decided to stick around the camp and let the kids play. Between the heated pool and the cool, shallow river that ran through the camp, they were happy and exhausted by the end of the day.
Doug noted that family events have a different rhythm to them than adult-only runs.
“You simply can’t pack too much into a day, for too many days in a row,” he said.
Kids need time to run around. Frankly, I was ready for a day off in the hot springs as well.
The next day we headed home. Cottam split off for Bend, and Doug, his son Neil, and I headed back to the Columbia Gorge through Condon, and then down I-84. When I got home, I had covered 900 miles, gotten 24 mpg and not burned a quart of oil.
It was a glorious few days. Watching the kids play was a highlight for me, and seeing all the vintage rigs parked at the top of Spanish Peak as the sun went down was something I won’t soon forget.