Teeter-tottering on a boulder, I was encased in $80,000 worth of shiny new Land Rover and sweating. I hadn’t been behind the wheel of a vehicle for around 10 years and I sure didn’t want to flip this baby.
I put my foot on the brakes. Did that scraping rock-against-metal sound mean the underbelly of the truck was being ripped out? Simon, my rosy-cheeked instructor in the Land Rover Experience course was standing in front of the vehicle and was still smiling, so probably not.
He motioned me to come forward. Two of my wheels were in the air, one in front, and the opposite one in the back. I must have looked like a giant insect on a pin. The front wheel slipped down the side of the rock and slowly, and ever so gently, I stepped on the gas. The vehicle lumbered off the rocky pinnacle and I was safe, sitting on hard-packed sand a few feet away.
The Land Rover Experience is an all terrain driving course that I signed up for during a stay at Chateau Montebello, a five-star log palace 75 miles west of Montreal. They have similar schools at Eastnor Castle in England, the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina and Quail Lodge in Carmel, California.
“That was great, you’re pretty good,” Simon said enthusiastically. I don’t own a car and hardly ever drive because the public transit is great in my hometown, but Simon wasn’t fazed when I told him. “I find women are the best drivers because they listen,” he said. Not only did I learn how to handle large chunks of granite, I found myself tilting over at 30 degrees, climbing up treacherous inclines, bumping through a wet sand pit and switching from automatic to standard.
With Simon’s careful instructions, it all went as smoothly as newly paved black top. Returning to the hotel, I felt a rush of confidence. Should I ever buy a car again, I’m ready to roll.
Lessons start at $200 per hour and group packages are available.