I have the most amazing view as I write my blog this evening. The sun highlighting the valley between two green mountains, red and pink geraniums on the balcony framing the picture.
About this time of year, way back in 1999, we had decided that two tickets for the Greyhound bus to see as much of Canada and the USA was far too extortionate for two backpackers on a budget. So we decided to buy a car! (only a Mortimer could come up with this logic!) We were over 4 months in to our world trip and had almost 2 to go. Despite our 10p a night budget in Thailand, the prices had gone up considerably in the first world.
So the Big Man was in his element searching for a car. He loves the search.. the research to be fair. Finding the best value for money for the job at hand. We had a big distance to explore, around the Rockies, down to LA to meet my parents and across the middle of America before we flew home to start jobs from Toronto. While I had my head in a book (paperback – it was pre kindle, pre audiobook), he scoured the local newspapers and magazines (yep – there was no google, no autotrader, no gumtree – barely had email, even hotmail was blue screen only).
For the grand total of 3000 Canadian Dollars (about £1000, which was far less than the Greyhound tickets, and gave us way more flexibility – Mortimer fact based logic again), we were the new proud owners of a 1972 convertible Beetle.
I am reminded today of this memory as we arrived in Italy and picked up our hire car for the weekend. The Big Man had chosen a 2016 convertible Beetle.
The convertible bit is about the only similarity… other than the shouting at me for the incorrect or late route navigation.
The 1972 version was bright orange. With furry cow hide seats. (It was super special). The 2016 version is jet black. With shiny bits of chrome. (It is super smart).
The 1972 version had no facility to play music, so I balanced a mini disc player (launched just before the ipod, making them wholly redundant), with naff speakers on the dashboard or on my legs. Or I read Harry Potter out loud. The 2016 connected via Bluetooth to a wealth of music streamed from any app I chose from my phone, plus gave us directions (wrong ones… but still directions rather than from a paper map).
The 1972 version was a rust bucket. If we had just peeled back the carpet, we would have seen a hole the size of a dinner plate under the accelerator pedal and we would have never sat on the seats… how we didn’t drop out of the bottom of the car, to this day, I never know! The 2016 version is sleek and pretty much brand new. It even has air bags, rather than hot air blowing from every rusting hole!
In the 1972 version, we drove through incredible landscapes, colossal mountain ranges of British Columbia, past the aquamarine lakes of Alberta… Down the spectacular coastal path of Route 1 (the best bit is not the obvious LA to San Fran), across route 66 with the only tumbleweed to meet us on the road (except in Las Vegas) and finally to Niagara. In the 2016 version, while less dramatic, the sights have been beautiful. There is nothing more picturesque than Italy, with the stripes of the mountainside terraces and pretty pale yellow houses with orange roofs, nestling together around a tall, proud church steeple.
The 1972 version couldn’t go up big hills and broke down in clouds of heat and smoke. I remember one time vividly sitting at the top of one valley, with baited breath as we revved and then let go to whizz down a hill as fast as possible to get up the side of the other. Sometimes it didn’t work, and we would drift slowly backwards down the way we came (seriously). We broke down in some eerie places. One time outside this big barn shop, with vudu dolls and no one in sight. Totally freaked out, we free wheeled for a while and ended up totally broken down outside Big Mick’s house…. A giant of a man both in height and girth, tattoos, piercings. Frightening to look at, but a big softie who fed us melon while he looked for his tow ropes. The 2016 convertible is pretty nippy, slick round the corners; the Big Man driving it like a race car, frightening me to death on the hair pin mountain roads.
So here we are. 17 years on. A lovely trip down memory lane, while making new memories with friends in their beautiful mountain side village as we celebrate a new life, a new goddaughter for the Big Man and friendship for life.