It was time for my yearly pilgrimage to Mosport (Canadian Tire Motorsports Park). It was time for a long weekend of cars, drinks, and good times. I was still away at university and would need to rent a vehicle to make the trek across the province.
Having scratched driving on a racetrack off my bucket list the previous year (albeit in a rental car), I was ready for a new adventure. The question was, what would be that adventure? I looked around the rental lot and quickly made up my mind.
New to our fleet were a few Jeep Wrangler Sahara’s. Now, I was a car guy, but I knew enough about how capable and supposedly fun Jeeps were. Mosport had a lot of dirt trails and steep inclines throughout the infield that I’d been ogling over for years. What better way to finally have some fun bombing around the infield between races? Plus, I could do it topless!
I’ve Made a Huge Mistake
The big weekend arrived, I packed up the Wrangler and headed east for my five-hour journey. The drive consisted of nothing but multilane highways at speeds around 115-125 km/h. About 1 to 2 hours into my drive, I realized I may have been overzealous in my quest.
The Wrangler is a fantastic vehicle off-road, but is, at best, sub-par on road. I was driving a 2002 TJ Wrangler which was more civilized than Jeeps of the past, but a far cry from a contemporary car. At highway speed on the rutted highway, keeping the vehicle pointed straight was a chore. The bombardment of wind and road noise, even with the hardtop attached, was exhausting.
Compounding my misery was a stiff headwind gusting over 60 km/h at times. Every time a large blast hit the Jeep’s flat windshield head-on, it felt like a parachute had been deployed. Thankfully my Jeep at least had the 4.0-liter straight-six engine, so I could power-through these gusts, at the detriment of fuel economy.
Let the Good Times (Briefly) Roll
I finally arrived after my five-hour journey. I had purposely not told anyone what I would be driving this weekend – I wanted it to be a surprise. As I rolled up to our RV, I was greeted with thumbs ups and praise. My tiring journey was already becoming a distant memory and I was happy to be there with my rental Wrangler.
The next morning was a relaxing, uneventful half day of sitting trackside and watching the races. As the afternoon after went on, we became restless and decided to go for a drive in the Jeep. We took off the roof and strapped in. It was me, my cousin and the son of a family friend as well as his buddy that was visiting.
The four of us went bopping around the infield, climbing up small to moderate hills and genuinely having a good time. After wandering around various dirt trails, we came around a corner and there it was – a giant swamping mud pit.
I’ve Really Made a Huge Mistake
Unbeknownst to us, this mud pit was a local attraction for race fans with pick-up trucks, off-roaders, or who just generally liked to get dirty. There were about a dozen people with a half dozen vehicles – most were beaten to hell pickup trucks with big, fat tires.
As soon as everyone saw the four of us come around the corner, they smelt fresh meat. I was 21 at the time and my cousin was closer to 30. Neither of us looked our age and it didn’t help the two in the backseat were 15-year old’s. To all the onlookers, it must of appeared like a shiny new Jeep with a bunch of kids who didn’t know any better (which is actually not far from the truth).
They immediately goaded us to drive through the muddy pond. One truck was on the other side, so it could be done. They said, “You have a Jeep, of course you’ll make it”. Their only advice was “Floor it and don’t back out of the gas until you are at the other side”.
Now, remember, I’m in a rented Jeep I need to return to work in the same shape I picked it. I had the top off, so the prospect of flinging mud all over the interior was not high on my priority list. But of course, I was a dumb 21-year-old, so I went for it. I never entered the pit with enough speed and backed off the throttle when things began to bog down. After making it to almost the exact halfway point, I was properly stuck.
From Bad to Worse
Those watching had a tow rope ready as people quite often get stuck. A guy with a lifted pickup truck gave a sly grin and said he would tow me out. We attached the tow rope to the Jeeps recovery hook on the back. My cousin, older and wiser, bailed out of the Jeep at that moment and trudged through knee deep mud back to dry land. My other two passengers followed.
Why? Because we all knew what was about to happen. To display how macho the driver of the truck was, he didn’t simply pull me out of the mud, he slammed the truck in drive and floored it. Mud sprayed everywhere, coating the seat backs, inside of the windshield, and the dashboard.
Not content with just spraying this noob’s Wrangler with mud, the truck continued to pull me backwards long after I was clear of the sloppy pond. I was finally able to stop our momentum just as the Jeep was entering a thick patch of brush. Although I had been liberated from the mud, there were much better ways of doing it.
Still, I thanked him, and he told me “Look, this is how you do it. I’ll drive through the mud backwards and not get stuck”. He immediately got stuck. After offering to pull him out, he said its ok and we left the scene of the crime, tails tucked firmly between our legs.
The Sun Did Come Out Tomorrow
We arrived at our campsite and I fretted for the next hour or two about what had happened to the Jeep. The exterior was caked in mud and the interior had its fair share as well. The brush had put some light scratches on one side of the Wrangler as well. After some exasperation, my dad finally suggested I drive into town and give the vehicle a car wash and maybe buy some cleaning supplies.
We reattached the top and I headed out. I spent the next several hours detailing the Jeep inside and out. I must have spent $40 at a coin-op power wash and dropped 50 lbs. of mud on the floor. I vacuumed, scrubbed, and polished the heck out of the interior. I even bought some swirl and scratch remover that took care of the fine scuffs from the branches. My momentary panic subsided, and I began to enjoy the Jeep again.
I really enjoyed it. After the races were over, we headed north to my parent’s cottage. My bother-in-law and I took the top off and had a blast driving Bobcaygeon like a couple of rugged off-roaders (we weren’t, clearly, I just explained how bad I was at driving in the mud).
Even the long drive back home was far more enjoyable than what I had experienced the week prior. In the end I was incredibly lucky things didn’t go much worse for me, or more importantly, for the Jeep. I will always fondly remember that brown Sahara, and unfortunately, I’ll always remember how I got it stuck.