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Dave and Jan's travels:
Our car

So, back in the 'lower 48', we decided to buy a car for the next stage of the journey. Much debate about this, before we eventually decided on a 4-wheel drive 'truck' (to use the local vernacular). The advantages of this are that it will be able to negotiate the crummy roads that we might encounter in Central America, it will make short work of any dirt roads in the nether regions of the US national parks, it (hopefully) will be especially reliable, and finally should be relatively quick to resell. The disadvantages are that it's a little more expensive, and it's bleeding enormous. 

By UK standards this is hardly a normal person's vehicle at all. It has a V8, 5 litre engine. It weighs half a ton, and (reputedly) can carry three! Driving it is extremely alarming at first, as it feels like it's quite a little wider than the average lane. Still, it's certainly different, and we now spend time poring over maps trying to find unnecessarily off-beat routes so that we can "try it out". Mind you, out in the spacious parts of the US this is regarded as a fairly small and unostentatious vehicle. Quite alarming really. One surprise is that we get 25 mpg. 

For more details about this car and some insight into the car's place in US mythology, click here.

One thing that we're gradually coming to terms with is the style of engineering that this car seems to represent. Basically, there are two different ways of getting something to work. One is to build with great precision. In this approach, every component is built to fine tolerances, and as long as every other component is working perfectly, the vehicle runs smoothly and efficiently. A good non-car example of this approach is Swiss watches. Most European cars are built like this.

The Ford Bronco, on the other hand, is built on the basis that if you make it big enough and strong enough, then you can get away with a few small inaccuracies. So, as the owner of such a car, you shouldn't worry about small squeaks and rattles. In a European car these would be a harbinger of doom: in a Ford Bronco you really shouldn't worry until the squeak drowns out the engine. Warning lights should be ignored until they've been on for at least an hour or so: and occasional engine noises are perfectly OK.  It takes a while to learn this though, and in the mean time be prepared for a daily episode of 'Q:so why is that light on now? A: no-one knows but it has gone off now' or 'Q: How come the back window no longer closes?  A: It is fine now the car is parked on the flat.'

One nice thing about all this is that the car can take it. Our Coloclaun adventure would have been the signal for a major collapse in a European vehicle, but to the Bronco it's water off a duck's back. You do pay a price in terms of sheer bulk and limited performance for this resilience, but that's the nature of the beast.

Finally, we've decided to call the car "Beluga" because it is white and whale-like. 


   (click thumbnails for a larger picture)

Jan and car...

David and car