The Land Rover Club Holland annually organizes some interesting spring events. This time, a fellow member of the disco2owner mailing list, Crispin Glymph from Houston, Texas, chanced to be in the Netherlands at the right time for joining Isolde (6), Roderick (4), and myself (their young dad) in the 2001 Spring Surprise Ride. We agreed to pick him up in our DSII from Hilversum train station nine-ish on the Sunday morning. In the last week before the event we got the important secret surprise letter, stating where the event is to take place: Ommen. Be prepared and bring a compass and tape.
The trip up north (just 100 km or so) from Hilversum to Ommen was hardly noteworthy apart from the various other Land Rovers that we overtook. Upon arrival at approximately quarter past ten at the Bootsman Restaurant in Ommen (car park filled with a few dozen Land Rovers), we stood in line for the hand-out of the envelope with the road book and other ride information. Sitting down at a restaurant table, we took a short time to sort out the various bits. And translated everything into English for Crispin. The kids speak better English than he does Dutch....
The major part of the surprise ride was coded with a tulip chart (in Dutch: bolletje/pijltje-kaart) starting at the dirt road nearly right in front of the restaurant. And that a public road! Living in the Gooi-area, I am totally unaccustomed to public dirt roads. There just aren't any in my area :-(. So the ride went off on a good start. The children held the list with 10 questions for children (in Dutch) and asked Crispin if the next number (in English) was there yet. Just two more to go, he says. And then: the dirt road crossing where the first children's question is: what is being built on the right hand side? We all look out and see shrubs, trees, dirt paths, but nothing resembling a building site. A bit disappointed we drive on, and happily we then pass a new developing area, apparently growing into a golf course. Question One answered.
After a while we have been driving various short stretches over dirt roads through the woods, and are quite pleased with just being there. Then the second part of the ride is a compass activity. I had taken this very good reason this time to actually buy a serious compass, and this we put to use. Unfortunately, it acts more like a ventilator than like a compass, until we think that perhaps getting out of the car would be useful. As Crispin is the navigator he tells us to go east 'here'. That Land Rovers come back from the direction that he tells us to go to doesn't bother him. Nor me, since we are having good fun. Presently we're back there, and some five other Land Rovers stop too at the same cross road in the woods, from all four directions. There is one person having a really good, military style compass. That he hasn't a clue what to do with it (Oh, can I turn that dial? Oh, is that what that little mirror-thing is for) is easily solved, with my old boy scouts' training. And we're off, in that direction. 'Crispin, zijn we al bij fifteen?' And yes, the second children's question works out too: What is the number of the toadstool?
Driving on for some time in the various directions that the navigator tells us, we gather more answers to questions about what Moriaantjes mean (name of a school), where is the Silent Beach (sign on the house), and the name of the new trees here (willow?). Also we gather a lot of good impressions of the beauty of the Dutch landscape. Estimating I would say that two thirds of the ride is on dirt roads, which is a very high percentage considering the city density in the Netherlands. Compare it with an off-road course through one of the larger city areas in your own country: 16 million people spread over an area of 150x300km, (effectively 32,450 square km), so nearly 500 inhabitants per square km (equals 1250 per square mile). That unfortunately doesn't leave much room for dirt roads. The ones that we here drive on are highly impressive, some even for more than a kilometre on end. We all are awed with the scenery and Crispin takes plenty of pictures, with just one or two of his four cameras.
Further on is a piece denominated as 'lots of mud.' Coming on to it, we see some large corn fields (empty of corn now in spring, of course), and a path in between. On the path is a long line of Land Rovers, the first of which are stuck deep in the mud, and others are helping out. We make this the lunch break: Parking the car on the verge of road before the path, the four of us, with many other Land Rover people, walk down the line, look at all the nice cars and the nice mud, and watch from a safe distance Land Rovers being winched through. A really stuck Defender 110 gets pulled backwards out of the mud by an old Series I. . Some people think they can drive over the fields around the difficult bit, but, apart from being told off by the organization, they get stuck in the very muddy field too. Even more so for being stupid enough to think that trying once more with a little more throttle will help them out: they're up to the axles in the mud. Since stupid behaviour is not looked upon favourably, they aren't the once being towed out first. While walking back over the thick mud path, both Roderick and Isolde get their Wellies firmly stuck in the mud. Fortunately, muddy socks and trousers can be cleaned in the washer. Having finished lunch while walking, we get on over the 'alternative route for Freelanders.' Hey, I just have a stock DSII with non-aggressive tyres. And it's my daily driver. And I'm not a millionaire if things get dented/scratched/broken.
Having followed the tulip chart road book again for a while, we now are up to the third challenge of the spring surprise ride: a small piece of a military style map of the area was cut up into a puzzle. That is where the enigmatic tape comes in handy. The kids enjoy fixing the hard puzzle (just three pieces, but Roderick is only four, you know) into one map. We choose a nice route from S to E (start to end, coincidentally from north to south), and as a result there is an marvelous forest we pass through. And it is just a public road! Where I live this would be either Forestry Commission controlled and only open for walking public, or private property and not open at all. Sheer bliss.
The last part of the ride is a very funny combination of several farm roads, small dirt roads off the main paved road, leading to or by some farm buildings, around some field, and back to the main road again. Not really challenging in off-roading, but still interesting for its own sake. At the end of those farm roads stretch, we park the car on the verge of the main road, and take a last break. We see all the Land Rovers passing by, wave, and take more pictures. Then the main road leads directly to the next village where the children hand in the answers to the questions in the local bar at the village center. The market place in the village is hoarded by all kinds of Land Rovers, and before leaving we take a last walk around to look al all those cars.
Going back to Hilversum for dropping Crispin at his train station again, at last he gets to drive the car all by his own: a real Td5 he's driving (actually the T fell of, so we should call it a d5?), and a manual gear box too! He is so proud of this achievement that he promotes me to honorary member of the Houston Land Rover Club, with accompanying baseball cap. Thanks, Crispin, for the navigation, the pictures, the cap, and notably the pleasure of your company.
The LRCH is growing strongly in membership. So much so that they have decided to organize simultaneous events, and this time it was an off-road event in Zeeland, and an all-roads event in Drenthe. Although my wife isn't into this Land Rover thing, with some persuasion, she agreed to accompany the rest of us to join in the Drenthe tour. Just a few days before the event, the papers arrived, and the venue was changed to... Ommen? Haven't we been there before? Yes, it was exactly the same route, with the same road book, but unfortunately without the childrens' questions.
The dirt roads were dry as sandpaper, and no difficulty arose at all. The 'very heavy' bit was now 'tough' not really because of the mud but because some very deep ruts were dug by the first Land Rovers, and not even the well equiped cars (body lift, large tyres, winches and stuff) could just drive through. Discos didn't bother trying, as obviously we didn't either.
Looking back it was a bit of let down that I fully knew the route beforehand, but with my wife and children participating it was a nice day out.
Text, and editing Copyright © 2001/2003 Wim
Photographs Copyright © 2001/2003 Wim van Dorst, Crispin Glymph