Saturday, June 23, 2007

Range Rover Experience

Perhaps this is the “full of myself” weekend. Ok, month. Because I forgot to post (or was I just busy and/or lazy) what we did last weekend.

Lyle and I were VIP drivers at a Range Rover event.

Lyle owns a Range Rover. Not a Discovery. Not a Land Rover Sport. A Range Rover. I only pre-correct you because it is what he would do if you were here in person.

This is our second Range Rover. Lyle justified the cost of gas by the savings on the purchase price of a “pre-owned” Rover vs a brand new “any other SUV.” He was also obsessed with the Rover, so I gave in. He claims just driving it home from work makes having to go to work more bearable.

Because we are Range Rover owners, we are on their list. It’s a very good list. On the one year anniversary of our purchase, Range Rover sent a nice piece of carry-on luggage with their logo and a thank you note for owning one of their cars. In contrast, on the one year anniversary of owning a Volvo C70 convertible I was still arguing with the service department about the damage the melting rear-view mirror did to the interior of my car. Both owned by Ford. Obviously not managed by the same team.

Here’s a quick aside. All the money companies pay out in advertising to attract new customers, then once they have you they do NOTHING to keep you. If banks reversed an overdraft and refunded you that fee (because the computer program cost so much to run) wouldn’t you feel a little more loyalty? If Volvo had just fixed the car right the first time and not cut corners would I be more prone to buy another? Would I perhaps stop telling people I would never buy another when the talk to me at stop lights? (when you have a convertible, people feel free to invade your space like that). Anyway, just a thought, spend only half of your current ad budget and give the other half of the money back to your customers in services (like live people to talk to!). Let your customers give you good word of mouth. This is the beginning of the revolution.

Back to last weekend. We were invited to a VIP experience in the Malibu Hills to test drive a Range Rover off-road. Also there would be a gourmet cooking seminar by a top LA chef presented by Gourmet Magazine, a Republic of Tea demonstration on the history of Tea and gracious catered food. Hmmmmm.... free food?

We signed up.

It was a gorgeous day and since we can be a little snotty, we took the Volvo convertible. (and that is how I got my farmer’s tan line on my arm and neck)

The location was a gracious estate that was beautifully built with no thought of actual people living there. All this amazing Italian tile in every bathroom, no toilet paper holders. The roll just sat on the back of the toilet. Also no pretty garbage bins. Range Rover had to put cardboard boxes in with garbage bag liners.

The food was great. I ate a lot. We got there about half an hour early and before you knew it, it was our turn to drive. Again, no Sport, no LR4, full on Range Rover only. We were given a professional off-road instructor to ride along with us.

Lyle got in front and I got in back. I like to test drive back seats to see how my peeps will feel when we go places. That’s me, always thinking of others. The instructor gave Lyle all sorts of information, “Blah, blah, gear down. Blah, blah, overdrive. Blah, blah, double shift, tap back, cappuccino maker...” did he just say cappuccino maker? no.

We headed to the off-road course. I nattered away in the back seat asking questions. I hate quiet time.

The course had been built by Land Rover for today. It is steep up, deep alternating ruts on each side, loose gravel high banked turn then steep down and very dusty. Well that explains why the car was so dirty. Yes, I judged them already. Lyle did very well in his driving and paying attention to the instructor. He shifted over, he double tapped, I think he made me a cappuccino. I kept the conversation flowing.

Then our driver started asking us about politics. Does that seem odd to anyone else? He wasn’t very direct, but I got the definite vibe that he may be conservative. You’ve seen photos of us here. Do we look like the poster children for a G.O.P rally? I was in neon citrus orange LaCoste Polo with seersucker shorts. I mean, COME ON!?
Jim showcases the gracious estate!

So with my good old fashioned "Bambi and Thumper" inspired values I went with “If you haven’t got something nice to say, don’t’ say anything at all” modus operandi. Finally I was quiet. Then after going on about how he felt the United States should be Teddy Roosevelt country once again where we have a mighty military that just intercedes in clear cases of wrong doing (because all the world is so black and white with no gray areas) and that other countries should be very afraid of the US military might.
Then there was a pause.

“Kinda’ quiet in the back seat. What do you think?”

Well, he asked. So I told him. I had seen an interview with a documentary filmmaker on television (admit it, the Daily Show) and in this film he explores the Military Machine that exists in the US*. The filmmaker referenced President Eisenhower’s farewell speech when he left office in the 60’s (1961), he warned of the “military-industrial complex” and its influence over U.S. policy making. The idea that if you put all your energy into building a military at the expense of other possibilities that when questions and crisis arise, you only have one answer, the answer you’ve built for. (It's very much the school of Oprah and The Secret. What you focus your energy on will expand. If an entire country is focused on military solutions, then military solutions will expand. To be fair to myself, I left the Oprah speak in my head.) I did tell him I felt we could do a lot more with diplomacy and foreign aid and raising standards of living for the population of our own country instead of tearing down other countries. That there is no simple solution and I don’t think I could ever vote for a candidate that didn’t’ get that the world is complex and you can’t fix things going forward without looking back to see how it all broke. (I also believe this about immigration policies in the US.) And then I quietly sat back in my seat.

He asked Lyle what he thought. “I could never vote for someone like the current president we have.”

To which I added, “that’s because your Canadian, you can’t vote anyway.”

And then it was my turn to drive.

So I hop into the driver’s seat, tell the instructor that I didn’t pay any attention when he told Lyle how the car worked and asked if they ever rolled these puppies. He told me no problem he could walk me through it all again and that no, he had never rolled a Range Rover. I put into gear looked back at Lyle and said, “Well, let’s see if we can change that today!”
The way I saw it, it was $100,000 car with 648 miles on it and I wasn’t responsible for the insurance on it. What better time to test all our limits?

As we climb the first hill with deep ruts alternating and the car pitching steeply back and forth, Lyle asks if it seemed this steep when he was driving. The instructor offered that I seemed to be driving a little further towards the edge. And that I could come back to center.

I asked about the noise coming from under the car. Did the tires move separately or all together?

“Well, right now you’ve just got the front tire on the right and the back tire on the left getting traction. That sound is the other two tires trying to grasp something.” You mean, like air?

We cornered at the top and again, I was a little to the edge. Yeah, I know. I really wanna see how this machine can handle.

As we descend, Lyle admits he is getting nervous as we skid ever so slightly and the car pulls us down towards the bottom. “Speed is not your friend here," the instructor tells me, “you can take your foot off the gas.” The car is in it’s lowest gear setting and it feels like a theme park ride as it holds itself from lurching down the path. Chug. Step. Chug. Step. Slowly. Slowly. Creeping. BORING.

I don’t get the idea of off-roading. If you love the outdoors and nature so much, get out of the car and go hiking. Why try to steam roller over it in your $100,000 machine? If you love your car so much, take it the car wash, then the autobahn and really show it off.

But then again, my theory on the outdoors is that it is a place located between the Valet and the Mall and I hope it’s not raining when I have to cross it.

We return to the estate. They take our photo next to a clean version of the car we just drove. We look at the other cars available. They all seem so small compared to the wildebeest that is the Range Rover. We go back into the house and they check in staff jokingly ask if I broke anything. Just a few hearts,” I say as I make a heart shape over my chest with two hands and then break it in two. I love it when the staff is all flirty gay boys.

I keep asking the beverage server where the mimosa are. Everyone laughs. Cocktails at a driving seminar. No, seriously, I’m not driving home and I love free booze more than free food. We skip the Tea experience, we watch the cooking demo from a far. Then it’s time to go home.

As our car is retrieved from valet (oh yes, valet! Are we near the mall?) Keith introduces himself and gives us his card and lets us know that when (not if) we are ready to make our next purchase he would appreciate begin able to coordinate everything for us to complete our VIP experience. They want to make certain that everything about our next purchase would make us happy and go smoothly. (Taking notes Volvo?) We are then each given our parting gift bag with a leather photo box containing our picture taken next to the clean Range Rover, a travel tin of tea from the Republic of Tea, a Gourmet Magazine (current issue) and a parcel of Range Rover reading materiel.

Lyle took the Range Rover brochures to bed with him that night and is still dreaming about his new future precious angel baby car. I put sun soother on my neck and arms.

“Why We Fight,” conceived and directed by Eugene Jarecki is available from Amazon. I am still waiting to see it. I only like happy movies and this one concerns me.


Rachel said...

Did you ever talk to Range Rover about the obviously conservative test driver put in the same car as the obviously liberal future owners of the precious angel baby car?

jay said...

LOL. Sounds like fun. I'm glad you stood up and said something btw!

Jim said...

You know I think I made my point. I didn't feel compelled to make a point to the instructor, but like the question, "are you gay?" I do feel the need to be honest when asked.

I love being a bleeding heart liberal. Though I regret the lose of blood.