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City Gal, Country Gal

My friends and I arrived in our city car, tattooed with bumper stickers but otherwise shiny clean

By Novella Carpenter

As you might know, I'm a city gal. As you don't know, I just got back from a long weekend in the boonies, and boy did I notice some differences between country life and city living. My friends and I arrived in our city car, tattooed with bumper stickers but otherwise shiny clean. The country folk were mostly driving trucks covered in mud. There were some good bumper stickers on these rigs. My favorite was "Save a Cow, Eat a Vegetarian."

The drive--one hour of traffic (what we were thinking driving anywhere on Memorial Day weekend?), then two hours of rolling hills and breathtaking vistas--made me wish I could always enjoy such beauty. The road became a two-lane blacktop with a river running alongside, so we stopped to dive off of boulders into aqua-colored clear water. Country driving really beats looking at billboard ads and merging traffic with nothing up the road but more of the same.

During the traffic jam in the city, I did manage to get out of the car, however, walk along (yes, I could walk faster) and find various items along the road. The best find was a soft poly baseball cap with a dumb saying. I slapped it on my head and immediately felt prepared for any rural area. Another not quite so picturesque difference became apparent when we attempted our friend Antonia's "driveway." I use quotes because it's a steep climb on loose gravel with tons of hairpin turns and goes on for about 15 miles. Our city car skidded around, and there was generally lots of yelling about driving slower but also driving faster so the car could make it up the hill. Later when we piled into Antonia's 4x4 truck to do the same route, the difference in traction and power made the city folk wish we had occasion to use such superior technology (but we don't).

Antonia does a lot of projects, as she's totally off the grid--she built her own house, she makes sun-dried tomatoes and she put in her own solar-powered water pump. Similarly, she's got some projects in the works for her vehicles. One scheme is to get an off-road motorcycle for her trips into town (population: 2,000). A few companies make extraordinary two-wheel-drive offroad motorcycles; Yamaha offers the best-known 2WD. They work using a two-track, self-regulating hydraulic system. That is, the hydraulic pressure transmitted to the front wheel is proportional to the speed of the rear wheel--as the rear wheel loses traction, the hydraulic system increases the traction power to the front wheel. The front wheel can never turn quicker than the rear wheel, and the power to the front wheel is never higher than that used for the rear. See what a rural life can inspire?

Another country thing I had never heard of is a snorkel for a truck. Antonia has to ford a river in order to get to her property. The snorkel (Safari is a popular brand) comes as a kit with a periscope-looking ram that's attached to the engine's air intake. The point is to get fresher air into the engine and avoid flooding the engine when crossing bodies of water. When mounted, it looks like a perky periscope running up near the driver's side door. The kit costs around $300, and it works on most trucks, like Toyota, Jeep, Ford and Nissan. You can mount the snorkel yourself, but it's highly recommended that you have it professionally fitted. I have a feeling Antonia will do it herself. Snorkels? Two-wheel drive motorcycles? The country can get pretty high tech!

Driving back to the city at night to avoid traffic, we felt relaxed and happy. We all got too much sun and probably had poison oak, but we had been on a cultural exchange and gained a deeper understanding of our country cousins. The moon rose over the freeway onramp, and the skyscrapers twinkled.

Additional differences between city and the country: Movie prices--$9.75 in the city; $6.75 in the country. Biggest worries--getting mugged in the city; getting ticks in the country. Entertainment--staying up all night at the city dance club; waking up in the middle of the night to watch the moon set in the country.

Novella enjoys both ends of the spectrum; email her at [email protected].

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From the June 9-16, 2004 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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