Off-Road Adventures

After I got my new Niva up and running good, I couldn't wait to try it off-road. Afterall, that's what Nivas are meant for. Living in Illinois, there's not too many option for off-roading since I can't just go into a forest preserve and drive wherever I please - that's asking for lots of trouble.

However, there are a few off-road parks around the Midwest, the closest one to Chicago being "Badlands Off-Road Park" in Attica, Indiana. It's a 700 acre privately owned park open to all kinds of off-road vehicles, from dirt bikes to monster trucks. I've made two trips to the Badlands with my Niva so far.

On the first trip in April the fun lasted about 3 hours, then I ripped apart the front diff mount, and bent the lower A-arm about 2 inches. Was able to crawl back to the parking lot and load the Niva onto the trailer. It took me awhile to get the Niva fixed, but thanks to the parts I took off the green Niva, I got it back up and running. Now, I was ready for the second trip.

A friend of mine (he has a 2001 Isuzu Rodeo) and I set out to Indiana early on Saturday June 3. Trip there was pretty uneventful, and we were soon in the parking lot unloading the Niva from the trailer.

Lada Niva on a trailer

Soon after we were hitting the trails - everything from sandy wooded ATV trails (just wide enough for a Niva) to sand dunes to steep hills to some major mud. Here are some photos we took while riding:

Lada Niva OffroadLada Niva OffroadLada Niva OffroadLada Niva Offroad
Lada Niva OffroadLada Niva OffroadLada Niva Offroad
Lada Niva OffroadLada Niva OffroadLada Niva Offroad

And here are a couple short video clips my friend took with his digital camera - they are pretty bad quality, but fun nonetheless.

Lada Niva OffroadLada Niva Offroad

While playing in the mud, the Niva was thrown against a tree, and I broke a turn light, dented a fender, and ripped the plastic end off the bumper (you can see it in the last picture above). Oh, well - that's something to be expected when you're off-roading. Niva was excellent off-road, however, we had a couple scary situations.

The first one came when we were about 2 hours into the action, and we were driving through wooded hills with some serious inclines. Going up a slope, I misjudged where I had to go, and almost rolled the Niva down the hill. Here are the pictures:

Lada Niva OffroadLada Niva OffroadLada Niva Offroad
Lada Niva OffroadLada Niva Offroad

In the first picture, the Niva is at the top of the hill, where we paused to take photos - check out the new exhaust and the Rancho shocks. The second and third pictures show me hanging off the side of the hill after an unsuccessful attempt to point the Niva in the right direction. Note the cable and a strap attached to the Niva in the third picture. We used a 2500 pounds hand winch to pull the Niva up. Thankfully there was a nice tree there we could anchor to. The last two pictures show the Niva pointing in the right direction before the descent back to the ground. Whew... That was pretty scary. Here's a short video of what happened atop that hill:

Lada Niva Offroad

The second close call happened when we were trying to find our way out of the forest after playing in the mud for a while - it was beginning to rain, and it was pretty dark. We found a trail leading out of the forest, the promlem is that it was a steep sandhill, and the Niva stalled before reaching the top. Did I mention that Nivas are not very good in deep sand? Anyhow, we slid down with the rear bumper against the tree, and deep sand ahead - I had only about 5 feet to go forward before deep sand would stop me, so I kept going back and forth until I could back up between the trees.... It only sound easy, but remember that Nivas don't come with power steering, and it's really hard to turn the wheels in deep sand. Took us about half hour to get out of that trap, and about 10 seconds after we got out of the forest, the hell broke loose... I have not seen rain like that before - it was like a car wash. In fact, it washed most mud off the Niva.

Then we got back to the parking lot and decided to take my friend's Isuzu Rodeo for a spin. We only had about 1.5 hours before the park closing time, so we couldn't do anything crazy, and just wheeled around sand dunes and such. While driving around, we spotted a couple Jeeps that got themselves into trouble. Here are the photos:

Isuzu OffroadJeep Wrangler stuckJeep Wrangler stuckJeep Wrangler stuck

Second and third pictures show a stock Jeep Wrangler that got stuck while going through a sand pit. It was in a classic off-camber situation, with the front right and rear left wheel spinning helplessly in the air. It took a few good yanks by that other Jeep in the picture (notice nice big Mickey Thompson tires on it) to get it free. The last picture shows a modified Jeep stuck deep in the mud... It took them a while to get it out, and we later saw it being towed to the parking lot... And as a grand finale, my friend decided to drive through a small pond... Or large puddle... whatever you want to call it. After driving close to the shore and not finding much water, he decided to cross it right in the middle. The sight of water cresting over the hood scared the shit out of me (and him too, as he admitted later), but his Isuzu made it through without any hesitation. Unfortunately, we didn't take any pictures of that, and he wouldn't risk going through again.

So that was the end of off-road adventures for the day. We loaded the Niva on the trailer and drove home tired but wanting to come back again.