Photos By: Jason Stilgebouer
Story By: Jason Stilgebouer
What would you do first after building a brand-new Polaris RZR Turbo S 4 for pre-running Baja? Most people would just take it out to the desert for a shakedown day, and enjoy it.
But if you are Polaris-supported Baja racer Adrian Orellana, he would tell you that you should ship it out to Arkansas to drive it through mud holes. In fact, he did exactly that.
Because the High Lifter Mud Nationals five-day event at Hillarosa ATV Park is just good fun. For over 15 years, the event has brought tens of thousands of people for a week-long event in the mud. From racing to poker runs, bounty holes and live concerts, Mud Nationals is the premier mud festival.
Adrian has grown up racing anything with wheels. From dirt bikes to Baja Bugs with his family, he has spent the last decade racing Polaris RZRs. It is no secret he has experience driving in the off-road. Just last November, he raced the Baja 1000 solo. After 26 hours in the UTV, he finished 2nd in his class and 3rd overall. Adrian is more than a racer though. He is someone that lives the UTV lifestyle, from rock crawling in Utah to blasting through the dunes in Glamis. Adrian has driven everywhere except the mud, so that’s why he knew he had to go give it a try.
“Mud Nationals sounded like a whole lot of fun, and I wanted to be a well-rounded driver, and mud is something I have never experienced,” said Adrian. “So why not go!”
Our thoughts exactly. Why not?
Once Adrian was set on going out to Arkansas, he had to figure out which car he would drive. Teaming up with his sponsor, Fuel Off-Road, they shipped out his brand new built 2021 Polaris RZR Turbo S 4 to play in the mud. With 12 miles on the odometer, they quickly realized the 33-inch desert tires weren’t going to cut it. A change was made to 20″ Fuel Reaction wheels and 35″ EFX Motohavok to help gain a bit more traction in the slop.
With his racer mindset, Adrian saw the terrain and started analyzing it like he would in the desert. But analyzing only goes so far. Arriving at his first mud hole, Adrian misjudged it and completely buried the car up to the headlights. Thick, heavy, peanut butter mud swallowed the car just 30 minutes after unloading it from the trailer. It was stuck and wasn’t going anywhere. Everything he had thought about mud up onto this point was completely wrong.
“I tried to adapt my driving experience from the desert to the mud, and it took about 20 minutes to completely fail,” said Adrian. “I learned it is not the same.”
Alone and stuck in the mud may seem like it could be a bad time. In the desert, you could be stuck for hours until someone drives by and offers help. This is where Adrian was introduced to Southern Hospitality. A couple saw Adrian stuck in the tree line about a mile away and went to investigate. They pulled him out with their winch, getting him unstuck in no time. As Adrian put it, “they were some of the friendliest people I had met all week.”
He continued; “the culture in Arkansas is incredible. It was refreshing to leave California, and being surrounded by Southern Hospitality was just amazing. It reminds me of being in Glamis with good friends. No competition, just fun.”
Getting stuck at Mud Nationals is just a part of the experience. No one will pick the best line going into the mud every time. You go in throttle down and hope you make it to the other side. But, if you don’t, then you may meet some incredible people along the way to help you out. Mud Nationals isn’t a race. There is no driving all out. Mud Nationals is just good fun with friends and family.
“I was so impressed with how the Turbo S handled in the mud,” said Adrian. “It had so much power we were able to just blast through mud holes at 50 mph. Driving through mud is a testament to the build quality of these UTVs; I had the motor completely submerged in water, and it just kept running.”
Adrian would spend the rest of the week experiencing the drag races, concerts and meeting up with friends, who like him, was their first time out in the mud, so he wasn’t alone in the experience. However, he had the only RZR around with window nets on and a roof rack as if he was going on a five-day overlanding trip across Mexico. His set up resulted in many weird looks from people, but the window nets actually came in handy keeping giant pieces of mud from entering the RZR.
“Yes, I will be back next year,” Adrian exclaimed. “It was so much fun.”
Adrian is someone who lives the UTV lifestyle. It doesn’t matter if it is driving 30 mph through a mud hole or racing in Baja. New experiences and driving are what attract him to the lifestyle. High Lifter events are for those that want to come out and enjoy the mud with friends and family. Mud Nationals attracted more than Adrian, but he was just someone from a whole different side of the industry to experience something new. Hopefully, in the future, we can have more of that. Collaboration is what we need, it is one of the many ways we will build a better UTV industry.