If you haven’t noticed yet, the MHCC crew is always looking for an excuse to go on an automotive adventure. When we see one we jump on it. Now, admittedly, I like a good road trip as much as anyone here, but I ‘m not sure I could handle an epic like Adam and Josh’s 3,200 Mazda Rotary Pickup winter road trip. Fortunately the trip I had planned with Adam was just a day trip.
Our adventure started with a car, but it was not our car. Rather, it was a car we were scouting for the MHCC fleet. Whereas most of the cars we want to buy are hundreds if not thousands of miles away, this particular car was just a couple hours northwest in Alexandria, Minnesota. Needless to say a plan was hatched quickly to go see the car in person, a truly novel idea given most of our fleet has been purchased online, sight unseen and with a leap of faith. (Spoiler alert – upon seeing the car it was everything we hoped it would be, but we’ll save that story for another day.) This story is about Adam and I bouncing around for 250 miles one chilly afternoon in the MHCC Land Rover Defender.
There’s a certain allure to the Land Rover Defender. It’s big, tough looking and conveys more than a bit of that rugged adventurism you’d associate with a trip through the English countryside. Or at least a hipster Instagram post. Joking aside, it’s perfectly suited for bouncing around rugged terrain, tackling steep inclines and rocky trails. But how would it handle a trip up Interstate 94 on a chilly, gray Minnesota day? That’s what we set out to find out.
Adam and I hopped in the Defender Tuesday morning aimed for Alexandria, Minnesota. Adam took on driving duties and I would help navigate. I likened us to Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz from American Pickers. The key difference being that our adventure was not scripted and we were on a classic car pick. Naturally Adam was “Mike” and I was “Frank.” I was hoping that I’d see Adam’s negotiating in action. Would he try the classic American Pickers “bundle” move to break the ice?
According to Google Maps the leg up was roughly 120 miles and should take us, you guessed it, two hours. Google Maps of course doesn’t take the vehicle driven into consideration – we quickly found that hitting the 70mph speed limit was harder than you’d expect in the Defender. Shortly into the ride I asked Adam if he’d rather take the Defender on this trip or the Mazda mini-truck? He admitted he’d rather be in the mini-truck. I took that statement as a testament to the admiration he had for the mini-truck, and at least a little bit to the lumber wagon nature of the Defender.
On this windy day the Defender was getting blown all over, certainly not helped by the massive rack atop its roof, and with every gust we’d get a bit of draft in the cab. Don’t take this as a jab against the Defender – it simply wasn’t built for highway commutes. Eventually the suburbs disappeared into the rearview mirror and we entered the country where a keen eye can spot the hidden gems in passing farm fields. What followed was our version of countryside car pickers “I Spy.” One minute it would be “whoa, check out that Jeep Wagoneer,” the next minute it would be “did you see that derelict hot rod turned garden shed?” Arguably the tops of the roadside picks was an eighties vintage Cadillac limousine parked vertically in the dirt as if it launched off of one of dare devil Evil Knievel’s jumps.
Besides the many roadside “attractions” I always find myself marveling at the garages and various outbuildings rural dwellers have amassed. I jokingly told Adam that you haven’t made it in the country until you have at least three outbuildings. At one point we convinced ourselves that we were in really wealthy rural area because everyone over indexed on outbuildings, with at least 3.5 per house in that area.
Within about 15 minutes of our destination we were running low on fuel — the truck was running on fumes and our stomachs were growling. We decided to stop in Osakis. After a pass down Main Street we knew there was only once place we should eat lunch, AJ’s Restaurant. If you can picture a quintessential, hometown restaurant where you know you can count on a tasty scratch made meal AJ’s is just that place. For a mere $7 Adam and I both thoroughly enjoyed the Bacon Cheeseburger Basket. I’m a strong advocate for enjoying homemade dessert at home style restaurants (my physique will confirm this) and convinced Adam to get the triple chocolate brownie to-go. It was only $1 after all and of course it was delicious.
After a quick photo op at the local distillery and a top off at the Osakis gas station we were back on the road. A short time later we reached our destination, Jim’s house in Alexandria. As we rolled up we learned that Jim had three out buildings and an attached garage. By our previously declared country standards, Jim had clearly made it. Going into the trip we knew Jim was a big fan of the GM LS series engines. I bet Adam that upon arrival Jim would suggest that we should put a LS engine in the Land Rover. Sure enough, just a few minutes after arrival he did just that.
Jim couldn’t have been a nicer guy. He willingly showed us all of his projects, and each was really nicely executed. Of course he also showed us the car we came to look at. It was just as nice as we hoped it to be. Perhaps even a bit better as a result of Jim’s expertise, thoughtful design and attention to detail. No doubt, Jim builds nice cars as evidenced in person and the 8+ magazine features on his various builds. So what was the car and did we buy it? Well that’s a story for another time, but rest assured we’ll put together a thorough post recounting Jim’s place and cars in the coming weeks.
After a short stint at Jim’s place we hopped back in the Defender and headed home. It got us there and back safely and looking back we have a fun story to tell about it. It was a great complement to our countryside car pickers adventure. Mission accomplished.