Just a few of the hundreds of enthusiasts at the Winter Romp
Let’s Go To The Romp! [Courtesy Rovers Magazine, Spring 2013]
By Jeffrey Aronson
In the UK they say that Land Rovers are “classless.” You never know whether the person exiting a Land Rover owns the land or works the land.
When driving through the woods of Maine at the Maine Winter Romp last February the person emerging from a Land Rover might labor as a banker, lawyer, firefighter, guidance counselor, architect, mechanic, artist, contractor, photographer, property manager, government official, survival trainer, IT wizard, securities analyst, resort manager, hospital administrator, environmental engineer, airline pilot, landscaper, machinist, classic car restorer, HVAC engineer, merchant marine engineer, Land Rover shop owner, service manager, choreographer/dance instructor – and that’s just a partial list.
You find a similar range of age, license plates and Land Rover interest among the 200 enthusiasts who brought 87 Rovers to this year’s Maine Winter Romp, held around Unity, ME, this past February. Waterville, the nearest large town (meaning one with motels and restaurants), lies only 17 miles away. For most participants, the self-proclaimed “Waterville Grand Hotel” provided a warm room and a convenient bar. The hardiest chose to huddle in the woods surrounding organizer Bruce Fowler’s house, enjoying winter camping.
Land Rover demonstrated amply that it remains one of the world’s most personalized vehicles; most of them seemed to show up at this year’s event. Once again Quintin Aspin, Deale, MD, trailered his banana-yellow Series I to the Winter Romp; for many attendees it’s the first Series I they’ve ever seen. At the opposite end chronologically Land Rover Manhattan found itself minus a few Range Rovers and LR4’s, all of which wound up on the trails of Unity. In between you found Defenders and Series Rovers with steering wheels on the right and left hand sides, Range Rover Classics and P-38’s, Discovery I’s and II’s and a few LR3’s. The kitting out options seemed infinite.
The Winter Romp, now in its 19th year, has settled into a set routine which never gets old because Mother Nature always throws a curve. In previous years we’ve endured snow so deep that we could barely make down the entry trail – or ice so slick that any incline, no matter how small, stranded the entire convoy. This year we enjoyed cold, comfortable temperatures and a moderate amount of snow.
The trails, fashioned and maintained over the many years by volunteers, and shared with local snowmobilers, have always enabled novices or green-laners to circle the more challenging trails that lie inside the circumference. This year the circumferential trail could only go part-way because of early closing for logging. That meant most everyone had to tackle the narrow, steep, slippery trails that crisscrossed the woods and fields.
Kevin Murphy, Ridgefield, CT, asked to jump into the QE I as a passenger; as his Range Rover Classic had fuel pump problems before he left, he had hitched a ride up with a friend. We quickly found ourselves on newly-hacked, narrow, winding, steep trails, the sort where a winch provides real help. You had very little room for driving error and I certainly found myself awfully close to trees and cross-axled a few times. Letting the Rover’s gearing and torque do the work for me enabled the II-A to climb and descend any obstacles. For a change, the QE I didn’t require a winch or a tow (or a repair) on the trails.
More adventuresome enthusiasts found more challenging trails with deeper snow, more ice and greater obstacles. The stories recited at the bars on Waterville on Friday and Saturday nights proved highly entertaining. As always at the Romp there’s a challenge for any level of off roader from novice to extreme.
The Romp features one fun run, often rendered impassible by snow and ice conditions, but available this year. A wide expanse of rock-strewn fields leads up to a long, steep hill which includes a row of electrical pylons. Just getting to the base of the hill can be difficult because of the boulders and holes that lie in the way; this year, snow filled in the sinkholes while still exposing the boulders. It seemed like almost every one of the 87 Land Rovers in attendance took a stab at the hill.
I walked down the trail to examine the hill up close; you could see where the earlier Rovers had spit aside the snowpack to expose the thick ice below. Without chains I knew my Series II-A would find the hill challenging. I gave it four tries and regardless of trying different lines of approach, once my wheels hit ice I lost momentum and spun to a halt part-way up the hill. Series Rovers with chains, especially those with diesel engines, had an easier go of it. Discoverys and Range Rovers found that their weight worked against them without chains but their traction control provided the necessary edge. The Defenders simply grunted mightily and walked up the hill.
The biggest surprise came when the new LR4’s tackled the hill. Even relatively inexperienced off road drivers found they could let the Rover’s brilliant electronic traction assist do its job and zip up the hill. Land Rover Manhattan’s Anthony Caligione kindly let me take one for a hill climb; I took two different lines up the hill, and at different speeds, and it succeeded handily both times.
The Maine Winter Romp provides enormous fun, from its terrific trails to changeable conditions to the largest breakfast/lunch menus imaginable at Big G’s in nearby Winslow. Enthusiasts from as far away as Washington, DC and Ottawa, ON filled the ranks of the nearly 200 attendees (kids and pets welcome). Someone in the crowd probably works as a butcher, baker or candlestick maker – we just never met them this year. As we Red Sox fans say, wait ‘til next year!
[Copyright 2013 by Jeffrey Aronson and Rovers North]
"The Land Rover is not a vehicle, it's a way of life."