Wednesday, August 03, 2005

American Love Affair

Photo: Land Rovers in LA, California (Click on the photo to increase its size)

Driving on the right (to us wrong) side of the road was the start of an affair. There we were in old, slow, quaint, non-American vehicles, usually motoring sedately along around 45 - 50 m.p.h ( 70 - 80 km). Before we began the expedition, I wondered what the Americans would think of the Land Rovers.

From the moment we hit the freeway north out of Seattle the people loved them. Friendly toots and waves, cameras clicking with everyone smiling and grinning. Kids were agog. They would peer out their back windows, mouths open and keep on waving until the vehicles they were in were too far out of sight in front.

When we stopped it was like being minor rock stars. During our morning "cuppas" in roadside rest areas people would cluster around. They loved our accents. They loved our matching "sweaters" and most of all they loved our "awesome trucks".

TH and I were working as a photojournalism team and so, despite the historic look of the Land Rovers, we were equipped with the latest technology. At that stage (1998) digital cameras were quite rare. They also looked quite odd compared with traditional cameras.

Many people regretted they didn’t have their cameras with them, when they met up with us. TH would whip out the digital camera and photograph them standing them in front of the Land Rover. They often didn’t recognise it was a camera and frequently they looked stunned in the photos. I called this the "I’ve been captured by aliens" look.

TH would download the image into our laptop (far less common then, too), hook it up to the portable printer, and crank out a photo right before their eyes. People would be incredulous. They couldn’t accept the incongruity of modern technology, and an "antique jeep", all at the same time. They would stare with astonishment at the photo in their hands, then up at the Land Rover, and then back down to the photo again. Sometimes they’d turn the photo over and look at the back. I wondered if they were expecting to see photo of themselves with an alien, as well.

After awhile they would recover their manners, thank us very much and wander away scratching their heads. We’d sometimes hear them muttering things to themselves like "dang" and "wait until I show honey and the kids."

Most people waited until we had stopped by the side of the road to talk to us. However, in California we were almost run off the road by a very excited driver in a huge "yank tank". He was "parping" his horn and vigorously signalling us to pull over. I thought that one of our wheels was about to fall off, or he was going to shoot us.

However, he had seen the "Lucas" logos on the side of the Land Rovers. His name was Lucas and he thought he had found some long lost cousins from "Noo Zeeeee-land".

(Note: although the expedition was sponsored by Repco New Zealand, they had chosen their global brand name of "Lucas" to name the expedition in all countries (except in NZ and Australia, where Repco was better known))

We never quite got used to all the attention on American roads, which was only matched later on by the people in India. But, it was a wonderful beginning to our expedition in USA.

© Eventful Woman, 2005

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