By Diva Heather Boa
Dressed in a strappy, fitted rose-coloured gown, I could have been going to a formal party. Except for the brilliant magenta rubber boots.
Although I’d picked up a formal dress at a thrift shop to wear just for fun on this mud bogging adventure, the boots reflected my practical side. After all, it’d be tough sloughing in heels if the car stalled in a massive mud puddle during Walton Raceway’s mud bogging event.
Of course, I could have followed driver Derek Tout’s lead and abandoned shoes for bare feet. And he wore a 10-gallon hat. A hat would have been a good idea too. But then, Derek’s been mud bogging for a decade and this was my first time. I’m usually more at home with a good book and a glass of wine.
Derek finds me a plastic lawn chair to help in the climb up to the passenger seat of Knight Rider, his custom built ’84 Racaro package Trans Am set on a ’72 bus frame with ’94 Chevy half-ton axles. The interior is riddled with dried mud from previous rides, the seatbelt and harness ready to put on.
We line up to take our turn on the course, engines revving around us, the smell of gasoline hanging in the air. There are ATVs, side-by-sides, jacked trucks, off-road trucks, farm trucks and even family vehicles. From here, I can see people of all ages, children and dogs, gathered at the fenceline to watch. Atop a cattle trailer, four men in jeans sit on a couch, getting a clear view of the pit. There are rows of trucks, a scattering of tents and campfires. There is a record crowd of nearly 3,000 on the grounds, and 316 trucks and ATVs registered. Many have stayed overnight, camping in the campground set further afield. Walton Raceway is also home to the annual Parts Canada TransCan National Championship that draws thousands from across North America to watch and compete in motocross competition every August.
Our windows are down and the view out the sides are clear, unlike the front windshield, which still had a sheen of mud from previous mud bogging adventures. Derek expects he will make about 10 trips through the course today, running through a small pond of mud, through a tight track in the trees, and along a hilly path that runs the length of the spectator area. In this first run, he will take it slow because his car has been acting up. I don’t know if that’s a polite way of saying he’s going slow because of his inexperienced passenger.
He taps the emergency brake (I think) and tells me the handle will be my best friend. I hang on to it and to the door handle.
We tip over a hill and ease into what looks like a small lake of mud. The tires grab hold of the muddy bottom and propel us forward, the murky water swallowing the tires. We stall. A few pumps of the red button on the dash and we sluggishly move forward again, water rippling around us. So far, we’re dry and mud free, settled firmly in our seats.
I relax, release my hands from their death grip around the holds. I don’t know whether to talk to Derek or leave him alone to concentrate on his car, so I say nothing. It’s almost like we’re in a paddle boat, gently propelled forward. Not at all what I expected. In my mind, I had envisioned a bumpy ride where I’d be grateful for the harness and handholds, and worried the car would tip on its side.
We make it through the massive mud puddle, unlike many who need to be pulled from the heavy mud through the day, then the tires gain traction at the exit on the far side. The engine revs, the tires spin, and mud flies. It lands like a bunch of dead bugs on my dress, my hair, my lips. I eat gritty mud that reminds me of the dregs from campfire coffee – just not as tasty. Even with sunglasses on, the mud sticks to my eyelashes.
Then we fly through the bush, between trees and over small knolls. Contrary to what I thought beforehand, I’m not scared at all. How can I be? Between a muddy windshield, muddy sunglasses and mud in my eyes, I can’t see anything anyway. As we come out of the bush, Derek barrels down on a patch of mud. Thick globs of mud fly around us, and there’s a sound kind of like a metal snap from the underbelly of the car.
“That doesn’t sound good,” he says, as he casually removes a hunk of mud the size of a small rock from between his shoulder blades. He hops out of the car and checks its underside, and determines the noise wasn’t what he thought it might be. But the ride is cut short anyway.
I slide out of the car, a bit disappointed we’re done but grateful to Derek and Walton Raceway for making the mud bogging experience happen.
Next time, I want to go faster.
Below, you’ll find some photos from today’s event. Just click on any of them to view in a larger size.