Return to Drenthe

Route book cover

map to get there This is where we go Some roads are interesting Jacco and Cath Aart and Daan come along Jaap at the bike, scouting the route

A new Drenthe tour

After a year of training by driving, I'm now properly set for a day of serious greenlaning again. So, the announcement in the late summer by Marc Rengers on the Land Rover Kroeg, a Dutch LR mailing list, that another Drenthe ride was forthcoming sometime in October, I immediately subscribed, as the event would be limited to approximately 30 Land Rovers. Officially, the event would start on Friday night for early arrivals at the campsite. The actual ride on Saturday would take about five hours (says Marc...), and in the evening the renowned barbecue. Finally on Sunday perhaps some more of the ride for volunteers, or opportunity to depart to nearby Friesland where the Land Rover Club Holland outing would be, or just going home. Due to family obligations I opted for the Saturday ride only. Rain during the whole of September promised much interesting mud.

At the same time I went to look around for a navigator. Recently we visited an ol' university friend, Paul Heise, and obviously discussed cars. He used to drive a H*nd* CRV 2/4WD car, and apparently did lots of awesome off-roading during vacations. For a new car he tried the Land Rover DSII for size (he is well over two metres tall), but disappointingly (for him) found that it just doesn't fit. Currently he drives an ordinary pluchemobil. With that in mind, and with an eye to the good fun that he brings, and using his GPS, I invited him, which he gladly accepted.

We're due to arrive Saturday, ten-ish, so Paul duly arrives in his pluchemobil at eight at our house, which is approximately in the same direction for him. Of course it helps to navigate your way around the excellently signposted motorways in the Netherlands when said pluchemobil is equipped with the latest in in-car GPS based navigation tools, Paul. Let's see what navigational skills he brings in the woods in Drenthe. After a cup of coffee we set off to Drenthe. As it is merely 100 km, a good hour's leisurely drive, indeed we uneventfully arrive timely at the Vlintenholt campsite in Odoorn, owned and run by the Dutch Forestry Agency (Staatsbosbeheer, SBB). And this in spite of the navigator pointing three times to wrong motorway exits. That's promising for the rest of the day; fortunately I must admit that he wasn't really paying attention :-S.

Jaap Knegt en Chris Klein Wassink, organizing committee Sheep and a cheap car This is a fun path Yes it was a fun path Especially Jos enjoyed himself Is that really the path? Yes it is. Great.

We're off

Several people have already arrived at the campsite on Friday night, and most of those have left at ten o'clock sharp, or are now ready for departure. So, at the front gate we meet up with a few fellow mailing list members: shake hands, greetings, hellos. Although it is late October, the weather is exceedingly warm for Autumn, and we bask a bit in the sun with a refreshing drink. Standing next to us is Jaap Knegt. He is one of the organizers together with Marc and Marc's girlfriend Chris Klein Wassink. Jaap hands out the well-prepared roadbook, in which he, his son Marc and some local friends (Jos, Jeroen) describe this Second Tour of Drenthe. And we also get an extra roadbook, for the maps, and for the bonus routes and deviations. This is where we find the designations 'Heavy going, mud, and deep hole.' 'Tough mud path,' and 'Watch out for angry farmers.' Clearly appealing. After due deliberation on which way is for picture one (Campsite Exit), we set off.

Paul's GPS is very useful in giving us reasonable compass direction. At least we know that we are driving due east. Unfortunately, the ball&arrow map that we have doesn't indicate a bearing in that direction. Aha, that very first camping exit left turn was already picture one: Lucky that we found that out as early at picture three. As we get the hang of it, we happily get on with the ride. The preparation of the full tour has really been excellent, and thus includes an awesome amount of dirt-road or even off-road.

First we drive through the village of Odoorn. After roadbook picture 16 (note: there are 153 roadbook pictures, so there is lots more of driving to do) we find the first bonus route at Valthe. Since this seems to be just an acceptable forest road with ruts, we think we can handle this in my 2-year old DSII, and indeed we can. Knowing the reputation of Marc's, I must admit that I gladly see here the cautionary writing down of Jaap, so that I can be relieved that this de-tour is indeed acceptable. Now we leave the Forestry of Odoorn, and cross the back roads south to the eastern side of the Forestry of Sleenerzand, near Emmen.

DSII Oops. Fortunately is free now. Jos get through here: it's dry now DSII + LW Ok, let's get on now Enjoying the scenery Mudlaning in Drenthe And some deeper mudlaning

The first cars stuck

Upon entering the forest, we're at picture 35, annotated 'tough path.' Since a long line of Land Rovers is blocking us, we stop the car in the middle of the path, and walk to what is blocking the group. There we see indeed Aart's white 110 V8 with its nose down in a hole. It isn't even a big hole, but its significant depth of one metre down, two metre width and again one metre up, doesn't allow the 110 to do much more than get in deeper. And it's full of mud. On the right hand of the path is a commercial corn field, absolutely not to be driven through, and on the left hand of the narrow path are trees. Since the 110 was the first car to give it a go, there is no-one in front to toss a line and give it a tow. Marc is making the round-and-about detour, to try to get in front of the 110, and see whether he can pull it through. And then all the others will have to come through... After watching this funny ado for half an hour, Paul joining in a bit to no obvious avail, we decide to follow some sound advice and also take the detour around this bonus path: I'd rather not haul the DSII through this hole, which I can't see being done without damage to it. Together with two other Land Rovers we go on. It isn't much more than two extra left turns, and then we're on the proper route again. As we are now in the lead of the whole troupe, we will have to do some serious map reading... and obviously miss the first left turn. Fortunately the other two too. And fifty metres further on we notice that we must have made a mistake, turn back, and take the proper path. This is a path fully overgrown with grass, so high that I can't believe a car has been driving this path for the last months.

Continuing in the small group, round about picture 65 we all decide not to go for the 'tough path with deep holes', but take the shortcut to picture 68 immediately. Then we come in the village of Benneveld, where the other two want first to do some shopping for the rest of the weekend. That leaves us on our own. In the knowledge that the whole group of Land Rovers is to come this same route later (they can't be stuck at picture 35 that long), we head on and find the appropriate route with no serious problems. The mud path that we drive wholly on our own is very challenging. And in the back of our heads we know that we might make a mistake and this very much deteriorated path perhaps isn't the correct path at all. And those other Land Rovers won't come at all here. Oops. But the pictures of the roadbook all fit 100% correctly to the scenery, and boisterously we approach through the fields a forest, where the entrance road has obviously be mangled by some huge forester's machinery. It is sheer mud, five metres wide, and unfathomably deep.

Enjoying ourselves, waiting for support There's always a lot of deciding: left or right We're having a break, Wim We're having a break, Paul 'Tractor Tyres' Tjeerd Long mud path. See us coming? Paul driving.

The Discovery is stuck too

Roadbook picture 88 tells us to enter the forest road, then turn left at the T-crossing and immediately curve right. We walk the first bit, and even on foot, it is hard going. During connoitring, in my mind, I choose to take the turn left with simultaneously crossing over the wide path to the right hand side where it's relatively dry, and then stop there. Next I should make the subsequent right turn as sharp as possible, since I guess that taking the bend too wide will land us in deep deep mud. And we hop in the car, do the left turn plus crossing and stop. Problemless. From high in the car I see that perhaps it is possible to make a wide curve as that will lead us to dry ground. And we give the car big throttle, and are immediately truly stuck! No effort will get it to go back or forth. As I step out of the car to investigate I understand why: that mud is even deeper than I had anticipated in the first place, and my knee (!) is muddy even as I had my leg straight down. Since we have no sufficient recovery tools (Paul had decided that for greenlaning in Drenthe, we would not need his hand winch, etc, and I hadn't contradicted him), we make the best of it: we attach the towing strap to the JATE ring, set up some deck chairs, take out some drinks and magazines, and enjoy the scenery. A phone call to Marc suggests that we may expect the next Land Rovers to arrive in 'any time, just a few minutes or so'. And indeed after a little more than half an hour the first group arrives. Marc's minutes are notoriously elastic, but who cares.

The first in the line is a the black 109 station wagon of Martin. He agrees on the crossing scheme, and positions his car behind the DSII. We attach the tow strap to a bridle on on is front attaching points, and he pulls... Unfortunately, his tyres are old and worn, and he don't get enough grip for a serious tug. On the contrary, he slides sideways, without any effect. Then Aart en Daan put their D110 V8 with MTs behind it, and gripping fiercely, he correctly puts the DSII back on the dry bit. The next is easy: I'll only have to drive it carefully and slowly over the righthand side of the path, completely as I originally planned, and we get through without further problem. A very wise lesson learned here: Never, ever, give in to this Jeepers mentality of giving throttle to get through. The other people in the group appear to be much wiser drivers. Even Rene with his very wide and long SIII 109 Ambulance faultlessly gets through the muddy bit, as does Jos in his LW. That the muddy stretch is now, due to passage of some five Land Rovers before them, very much dryer than before helps them a bit too, of course.

Aart about to get stuck or not A scenic SIII Some coming along, including Rene with Ambulance Aart is stuck. Lets jump the bandwagon A SIII plugging mud and getting through

The police give go-ahead

At the same time that Paul and I were stuck, and the following group of about six Land Rovers were giving a hand, another group has taken a shortcut of the full tour, and skipped the roadbook picture 60 to 116 part of it. They aimed for the situation of picture 117, a path in a wood, designated 'Very heavy, Mud, etc'. The wood is very easily reachable, as it is just around the corner, off the motorway exit. A police patrol car saw that particular group taking that exit turn, and quickly stopped the first of the group. He wanted to know who we were, and what we were doing there. Indeed forthwith he said that there wasn't anything illegal as we we driving a public road. The point was that last year a J**p group of over 100 cars had made an awful mess of a similar tour, during which very much damages to nature and to agricultural lands had been caused. And only three weeks ago, there had been a fight during a carefully planned and managed all-brand tour through Drenthe, where farmers challenged the rights of the 4WD to drive on a particular road. That in the end the tour organizers were right and the road indeed was a public road, hadn't been widely in the papers, but the fight did. And only last weekend a well-managed cross motors tour on public roads also did lots of damages to roads, all of which were correctly repaired on the Monday by a repair groups of the same organization with shovels and other big machinery. So that was the reason that the policeman just wanted to have a chat, and we separated in a very positive and happy mood. Marc (in yet another group) did do some extra explanation by phone to the police, pointing out that we explicitly did not choose those fighting farmers paths, and so on. All in all, we got a very friendly go-ahead, and the group went on, and got themselves horrendously stuck, and enjoyed themselves for some hours. Marc goes over to join in the fun, and probably also to see that the police doesn't get anything to point a finger at as an untoward result of the enjoyment of the group.

Daan en Jacco at the first mud hole Jos to be towed We're back, whose kids play here Talking to Ella on the phone Afterdrinks

Back to base

Our group, now consisting of six or seven cars, in the meantime did a further part of the tour. At about roadbook picture 100, it was about six o'clock in the afternoon, and we decided to call it a day. From here there are several normal roads, including a bit of motorway, getting us back to the Vlintenholt campsite, where we team up with some other subgroups in a friendly sit-and-drink session. William and Ella aren't back yet, and they promised to bring a cute Land Rover model of a 110 for me, so I give them a ring. They don't expect to be back within the next hour, but Ella very kindly explains to me on the mobile phone where to walk to, which tent to open, under which flap in which box to look: and there it is. It is to be a gift for daughter Daphne, who is a keen Land Rover spotter, at her barely two years now. The deck chairs come in handy again, while we leisurely sit a bit more and chat with the other to finish our Land Rover day.

While the others start thinking about heating up the fire and barbecue, Paul and I decide to start off to home, as we promised to be home 'timely,' be that a vague idea in itself. On the way out, we decide to drive by the 117 roadbook path or more correctly by the motorway exit to see whether that group is still there, as they haven't arrived yet. We don't seen them at the path, but while driving to the motorway exit itself, really heading for home now, we see the whole group coming towards us: lots of waving, and blinking lights. After a few minutes on the motorway home, we stop the car on a parking space, to clear a lot of mud from the wheels: they are very off-balance, and the vibration is very noticeable at speeds over 100km/h. Both of us are surprised to notice that if you really look for it in the wheels themselves, you keep finding more and more mud clods. After the second cleaning, the vibration is down to a minimum, and after the hour's drive, we're back in Huizen. Paul has dinner with the family, and later that evening drives his pluchemobil to his own home.

Barbecue, Anneke and other enjoying dinner Gathering at the campsite Breakfast for the Friday arrivals Model SIII 109 Stawag for Daphne Marc at the car, organizing committee

Cleanup afterwards

Marc and Jaap did a check-up of the important parts of the route later on Sunday afternoon and evening, and found everything to satisfaction. Obviously, on the places where people had become stuck, you could see that the path and verges were affected. They sensibly estimated that no effect would be visible in a week or two, and certainly nothing anymore after the rains to come in the Autumn.

I myself (Paul didn't come back for it) did, in my humble opinion, a thorough cleaning of the car, notably of the underside and the wheels, with my newly bought high-pressure cleaner, which took me several hours on Sunday. Everything appeared very clean, and the wheel vibration seemed to have disappeared. But, later that week I went on a long business trip, involving some motorway hours, and I clearly noticed that the wheel vibration hadn't fully disappeared. In the end, a couple of days later, I crawled under the car with a bucket and sponge, and cleaned the wheels from the inside by hand. The mud wasn't much, but apparently just a thin plaque of dried mud clinging to the inside of the wheel will cause vibration. The second lesson learned: after a serious off-road tour, always ever take the wheels off and clean them (and behind it) inside and out. One month later I purchased four larger BFG MT tyres for these kind of Drenthe tours, and the taking off is now changed into exchanging the MTs for the normal tyres.

Volg'nd joar weerkom'm

Text and editing Copyright © 2001/2002 Wim van Dorst. Photo collage Copyright © 2001 Chris Klein Wassink. Photographs Copyright © 2001 Jaap Knegt, Jos Schuurman, Janwillem van Aart, Tjeerd van Linge, Wim van Dorst