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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


2011 Mudfest (2): Come mud or high water

If there was any question as to just how muddy this year’s Mudfest might actually be, our band of Northwest auto journalists was forced to navigate a confusing detour on the way to Dirtfish Rally School when the Snoqualmie River flooded from extreme amounts of rain. The small-town setting and natural disaster made the prospect of journeying to Dirtfish impossible to discern from the hit disaster movie, Dante’s Peak.

I flipped the switch of my 1998 Subaru wagon’s snorkel to the ‘on’ position, fired up the heated seats and growled a Pierce Brosnan quote from the river forging scene:

“This rig can take it.”

Fully aware of Google maps’ poisonous silver tongue, I took the added precaution of stopping at a gas station to confirm the alternate route with a local attendant so as to avoid using my Subaru’s imaginary snorkel. She corrected several turns on the print-out for me. With her caring hometown touch, I arrived fifteen minutes later at the closed bridge of the flooded river.

Thanks Cindy. I stole your pen. 

Thirty-five minutes later I was at Dirtfish Rally School, nestled in the soaking rural bosom of Snoqualmie on abandoned warehouse grounds much like those where Ken Block shoots his Gymkhana videos. The scene was terrifying. 

Already working on a tight schedule, the time lost to the flood detour had whipped our auto journalists into paranoid caffeine frenzy; there were nearly two-dozen SUV’s to test both on and off-road. No one was sure if they would have enough time to make it behind the wheel of every vehicle, or if they’d be caught in the Mini Countryman when Cindy’s gas station rode into the basin of the lot on the back of the raging Snoqualmie River. 

A gigantic Mercedes van-truck shuttled me down to the scene as small arms fire ricocheted off the fenders and spongy notepads splattered the windshield like wet locusts. 
Out in the biting wind and rain, we arrived in front of a thirty-foot tall barn of sorts that housed the new model-year competitors:

-Jeep Compass
-Kia Sportage 
-Mini Countryman 
-Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
-Suzuki SX4

-Kia Sorento 
-Dodge Journey 
-Ford Explorer 
-GMC Acadia Denali 
-Honda Pilot
-Hyundai Santa Fe 
-Mazda CX-7
-Subaru Outback

-Infiniti QX56
-Mercedes-Benz R350 Blue TEC 4Matic 
-Land Rover Ranger Rover Sport 
-Volvo XC90

-Jeep Grand Cherokee 
-Land Rover LR4
-Toyota FJ Cruiser Trail Edition

By the end of the day most people had lost their minds. The off-road courses became so rutted and goopy the “easy” trail was shut down when I nearly made a Kia disappear in a mud bog. Land Rover refused to let their LR4 on the hard course, and Jeep refused to stay off it, determined to prove the new Grand Cherokee’s hardcore 4x4 credentials were more than an “Imported from Detroit” iron-balled marketing scheme. 

Stay tuned for these exciting stories, dangerous video footage and announcements of the winners selected by the Northwest Auto Press Association. 



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