One winter day sitting around, probably watching Game of Thrones or some other addicting show I tend to be watching on a weeknight, I get a text from my neighbor, Corey. Thinking it was the usual comedic gif or epic off-road vehicle, it wasn’t. He wanted to know if I want to go on a Beer Safari (June 2015).
Beer, trucks, beer, in Vermont – sounds good to me.
On the day of departure we met up with a couple of local guys to caravan to our destination. The rigs were: a stock Xterra (after seeing how it handled the trails was one of the reasons I got one) and a Land Rover Discovery 2 with a zebra paint job. We were driving a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited (JKU).
About 3.5 hours later, we pulled into the driveway of the farmhouse we were staying at to see a Land Rover Defender and a bunch of other off-road-ready rigs. It was already panning out to be one of the best weekends!
Upon check-in we were handed a Heady Topper, one of the most sought after, hard to find, beers in the US. This was my first Heady ever and it didn’t disappoint. Hoppy, floral, 8%, and 16oz.
Cool trucks and great beer, is this heaven?
Nope, still needed to pitch a tent on our own before heading off for dinner.
Oh, and I discovered I'm a chicken whisperer with the chickens on the property.
On day 1 of the safari I woke up way too early. It felt like Christmas morning knowing I would finally be going on off-road trails for the first time. I owned a Wrangler in high school but wasn’t interested in overlanding/off-roading at that time. (On a sad note, I would still have the Wrangler if the frame didn’t rust all the way through. You could tap it with a hammer and chunks would crumble off. It was a ’93, red paint, half doors, and was a blast to drive.)
There were around 20 vehicles in total so in order to make the groups more manageable we were broken up into two smaller groups. We were put in a group with the Land Rover Defender as our guide, a purple Toyota FJ Cruiser (not the best color, but it had a snorkel), a stock two door wrangler, a few other built up Wranglers, and a Land Rover Classic tailing the rear.
When we hit the trails it was the greatest feeling. You’re out in nature crawling along listening to the birds and taking in all the sights.
Not to mention it eerily felt like Jurassic Park. I kept imagining a T-Rex pop out whenever we went into some thick overgrown sections of road (especially when you come across a totally demolished car in the middle of the woods).
On one of the trails we emerged out of the woods to an overlook. It used to be an old copper mine, which is why the road was there, but it was abandoned now. The view from the road was absolutely amazing (we came back to this same spot with my own rig 6 months later). I’ve been to Vermont many times before this trip but never experienced anything like this before.
That night we all had our beer purchases from the day and drinking commenced as soon as we got back from dinner. Okay, it started at dinner, but the heavy stuff came out at camp… Let’s just say there was an explosion. Someone built the campfire on a concrete slab and it caused the concrete to literally explode, which caused a puff of smoke you could see across the field we were camping in. Seeing the smoke, we ran as fast as we could to make sure everyone was ok. Luckily, no one was hurt.
On the second day the trails seemed more difficult (even though our guide Peter, leading in the Defender, said the trails were easier).
About halfway through one of the trails we hear Peter say that we need to stop because his Land Rover was smoking. The 10 vehicles in our group pulled off to the side of the trail in case anyone had to pass and all got out to check on what the issue could be. With the hood open and multiple heads peering in we quickly learned the wiring had a short and melted through it’s covering, causing the smoke and vehicle to be disabled.
Just as we were all discussing how to tow it out, the second group caught up to us. As luck would have it one of the people in that group knew a thing or two. He asked if anyone had any spare wire and two minutes later someone was back with a spool of wiring. It wasn’t exactly what he was looking for but said he would just need to double it up to withstand the current.
In under a half hour he had the old wires out, new wiring in and the Land Rover back up and running (Wow!). One of the best things about overlanding, is the teamwork and problem solving that happens in these situations on the trail. Since we were all 20 rigs were together at this point it was decided we would all go to the next beer stop on our tour and celebrate not needing to tow the vehicle out.
Fast forward to the next morning, Corey was too hung over to drive so I took the wheel. This is when I was officially bit by the bug
I needed my own off-road machine!
Once Corey sobered up I took shotgun again and we continued through some more trails. It had rained on and off for the first couple days so the roads were muddy on day 3. Surprisingly the only casualty of the whole trip happened to the zebra Disco, a flat tire from a rock. We all stopped so it could be fixed and went on.
We weren't the only ones sliding around in the mud. A couple of local guys managed to get their car pretty stuck. To get them out the team used a snatch strap and MaxTrax under the tires. They were out in no time and very thankful. They also looked pretty confused as to why all these built up rigs were passing by and wanted to help.
The day ended at Prohibition Pig in Waterbury, VT where we all stopped for a group photo and some much needed food and beverages.
With new friends and a newly discovered hobby, it was a successful trip. Thanks again to Corey for inviting me along on this adventure and letting me drive his Jeep.