Monday, December 05, 2005

Special people and a special day

Photo: Eventful Woman making lunch, using
the Land Rover's foldway table, at
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, USA

Back at the Land Rover, TH had spread out our picnic lunch of bread rolls, cheese and meat on the foldaway table on the back of our Series IIA. As I approached, I noted the scene was a classic snapshot of most of our tea or lunch breaks.

A number of friendly people and families had clustered around, with TH happily demonstrating some of the unique modifications we had made to the Land Rover for our journey, and what was in our storage drawers. I noticed F1 and F2 standing to one side. With my heightened sensitivity around F2’s recent behaviour, I wasn’t sure if they were simply lacking in confidence to join in, or whether they were being deliberately aloof. Either way, they didn’t look very friendly or approachable.

People were fascinated with how we managed living and cooking for 12 months in our short wheel base Series 2A. We had built a series of custom made compartments into the back of the Land Rover for camping equipment, food, clothes, tools and parts. Wood was the main building material, as it was easy to work with, durable, cheaper and lighter than metal. The joints were glued and screwed, and the corners were finished in vintage coach-building style, with metal gussets.

With lunch done, and the crumbs flicked away, we hit the road again. The road snaked downwards, and gradually the countryside flattened to snowy paddocks. Patches of grass broke through and stretched out like islands in a sea of white. Eventually the islands became continents, which outgrew all of the snow.

Our destination was the town of Klamath Falls, at the southern edge of Oregon State. TH had "talked" with a couple called Anne & Mark on "Rovernet" (email chat site for Rover and Land Rover owners) and, sight unseen, they had kindly offered to host us for a couple of nights.

I had been expecting a couple in their sixties. Mark had his head under a car bonnet when we pulled into his driveway. Even from that angle I knew he has much younger – closer to thirty. He was tallish, while Anne was tiny (less than 5ft) and the welcome they gave us was big hearted and very warm. What a thrill to be staying in a home, and with two such lovely people.

The next morning, I wriggled out of my sleeping bag to another blue skies and sunshiny day. Although a rest day meant there would be some chores - Land Rover maintenance, diary notes, washing – there would be respite from packing up, navigating, deciding when and where to stop, and finding somewhere to kip at the end of the day. I was surprised that I took the most pleasure in already knowing where my bed was going to be that night. Such a simple thing, but it meant a lot to me.

Anne and Mark, cooked up a huge plate of pancakes. They were stacked in glorious dappled brown layers, on a large platter in the centre of the big rectangular dining table. I snuffled up a great, sensuous waft as I took my place and rolled the first warm forkful straight into my mouth, without syrup or topping. It was a taste redolent of home, of long slow comfortable Sunday mornings. We all dived in, as if starved of such comforts for a whole year instead of just a couple of weeks. Anne kept pace, as she flipped more and more onto the platter. Finally we were all satisfied and we lay back in our chairs with contented sighs.

The men whiled away the rest of the morning in the garage, crawling in and under the Land Rovers. Washing and other chores done, F2 picked up her embroidery, which she always kept close at hand. She was working on a Disneyland type underwater scene, with cheerful cartoon dolphins and brightly coloured, striped fish darting through bobbing seaweed. She was happy to stay at the kitchen table where she could spread out a number of silken threads, in order to make the best colour selection.

Anne and I settled in the cosy lounge for a long chat. Most of all on this trip, I wanted to talk with people and learn about their lives. Inevitably there would be comparisons and contrasts with my own. I envied Mark and Anne’s decision to leave their bigger city hometowns and choose the lifestyle of Klamath Falls, which had a population of only 40,000. I had made the jump in reverse from small-town New Plymouth to Auckland, but had always remained ambivalent about living in New Zealand’s largest city.

Until now I had thought that the job opportunities had outweighed the downsides of living in an overgrown metropolis. But, as Ann and I talked, I became less sure. The sun glowed in large window shaped panes on the wooden floors and on Anne’s head as she chatted about the great outdoors, their trips to Yosemite National Park and their four-wheel-drive adventures in their own Oregon State area. The day lengthened and the sun’s rays slid up the walls to highlight the black and white Ansell Adams Yosemite prints hanging there.

It was a perfect rest day. Quite seductive, in fact. I knew I’d treasure the experience, and the thought of Mark and Anne’s lifestyle choice, for a long time.

© Eventful Woman, 2005

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