Karla Wall Friday, May 7, 2021 Comments Off on STOMPIN’ A MUDHOLE

Megan Rion of Moss Bluff is a Mud Buggy Racing Phenom

By Karla Wall

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Local photographer and Moss Bluff resident Megan Rion is making a name for herself in a competitive arena that doesn’t see a lot of women — mud (AKA swamp) buggy racing. 

On many weekends, Rion can be found guiding her highly modified four-wheel vehicle, which she named Stripper Glitter, through a punishing obstacle course of mudholes, deep puddles, sharp turns with seemingly impossible angles, log jams, boulders and hills — all connected by a pathway of deep, loose mud.

Adrenaline Rush

It takes a tremendous amount of focus to complete a course, but that’s what Rion says she enjoys about it. 

“When you’re in the driver’s seat, and you’re looking down into that ‘bounty hole,’ that mudhole you can’t see the bottom of, everything else goes out the window,” she says.  “You’re focused just on that. It’s all about getting your buggy to the finish line in one piece and beating everyone else’s time.”

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It’s that focus and adrenaline rush that first drew Rion to the sport several years ago, when she began attending events as a spectator.

“We had friends who were involved,” she explains.

While sitting on the sidelines along the course and cheering the vehicles on was a lot of fun, and though she’d noticed there were no women drivers in the races she’d attended, she was eager to give it a try when a friend urged her to participate. 

And, despite a busy and successful career as a photographer and owner of Imagine That Photography, she’s never looked back. It’s become a way of life for her, her children and her fiancé, Derek Peloquin.

“We just submerged ourselves into this and we found out how much we love this hobby and this lifestyle,” Rion says.

The Swamp Buggies

Rion has owned two “swamp buggies” in her short career. The first, built on the frame of a Polaris RZR 800, was followed by an upgrade to a Polaris RZR XP 1000.

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As you might imagine, it takes a special vehicle to navigate a mud racing course. These buggies aren’t mass produced, Rion says, but built almost from the ground up. Buggies are built using regular ATV or UTV frames. Everything is replaced and rebuilt to withstand the punishment doled out by the race courses.

“We strip the vehicles down to the frame,” Rion explains. “We take everything stock out and replace it with much sturdier parts. We pretty much replace everything but the motor and frame.” 

It takes about seven weeks for a complete rebuild, says Rion, “But it never really stops.”

After each race, even one in which all goes well and the course is successfully completed, the vehicles need major repair and restoration, says Rion.

“You upgrade parts, repair the weak links and repair damage,” she explains.

But it doesn’t always go well. In January, Rion competed in a race at the end of which most of the vehicles — including hers — had to be picked up by an excavator and lifted off the course.

 Rion recalls one race in particular. She’d told her fiancé that she’d be careful, as she always does. But, as always, that promise was forgotten as soon as the green light appeared to start the run.

“I hit the first jump and my rear tires came off the ground,” Rion recalls. “I went up a concrete boulder and turned to go toward a log incline. I looked up at my fiancé and he said ‘get it.’ Well, I got it. I didn’t make it the first time. When I came down, one of the logs hit my tire. It broke everything — from the axle to the rim.”

That’s a situation in which a complete overhaul is needed. In fact, when she was interviewed for this story, Rion was preparing for a race in Arkansas, and said her buggy was currently “in pieces waiting to be put back together.”

That’s where Peloquin, a professional welder, comes in. He handles all of the heavy-duty rebuilding, says Rion, providing she purchases the parts. “I do the light stuff — loosening bolts, taking off tires, stuff like that.”

But Rion is, after all, a girl, and as a girl wants her buggy to be, well, girly. Her current ride is pink, as was her first buggy. It’s decorated with a big diamond shape on the front grill to indicate her racing team, Diamond Dust. 

A Family Affair (Kids Ride, Too)

It didn’t take long for Rion’s two children, both age 7, to be bitten by the swamp buggy bug. Both love driving their Ace 325 and Grizzly 450 ATVs — and like their mom, they aren’t content to ride around in the back yard.

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“They absolutely love racing,” she says. “They love riding and hitting every mudhole they see. They get super jealous when we get to race and they can’t,” Rion says. 

So Rion decided to do something to allow them to race more. She’s organized a series of races for kids, the Teach ‘Em Young Bounty Hole Series.  Paired with the Battle of the Builds powered by Highlifter (a race for the adults), the course features kid-friendly holes, inclines and turns. The first race in the series was held in Jackson, Miss., in February. The next races will be held May 14-16 in Leakesville, Mo.

“Kids just love the excitement, and they get such a sense of accomplishment in finishing a course,” Rion says. “You can just see it on their faces — they’re super stoked.”

Rion and her family travel to races in a motor home, she says, and make a family mini-vacation of it. 

“We have to get others to help pull our buggies because all four won’t fit on one trailer behind the motor home,” she says. “There’s a lot of planning that goes into this.”

Imagine That

All of this activity is, of course,  in addition to Rion’s photography career. Rion’s been taking photos since she bought her first camera in 2005. In 2008, she began photographing high school seniors, newborns and families. Her Imagine That studio specializes in newborn, maternity, children and boudoir photography. While she operated the studio from home during the pandemic lockdown, plans are for a new studio building on her property in Moss Bluff. 

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