A funny thing happened to me on the way to Solihull recently.
Well, to be more precise, on the way to finding out about Solihull. I was searching for relevant references on my computer when I realised that it seems to be the only place in the world with this name. The only place on Google or Wikipedia anyway.
I had envisaged a whole network of Solihulls spawned by emigrating Silhillian pioneers, but I guess they were all content to stay at home.
They just sent out Land-Rovers instead.
This realisation spurred me on to scour the virtual world for Solihulls, but without success. Australia? No! New Zealand? No!
Canada? Well, a Canadian plays for the Solihull Barons ice hockey team but that’s an import not an export.
I was about to give up my search when the funny thing happened. I stumbled upon the Solihull Society.
“At last,” I thought, “some people abroad who are interested in the culture and history of this ancient settlement!”
But I was wrong.
Hands up all those of you who have heard of the Solihull Society.
Just as I thought!
But that’s because you are not off-road enthusiasts from the good old U.S. of A!
The Solihull Society is nothing to do with a clone-town of that name but a rootin’ tootin’ big boys’ club for Land-Rover enthusiasts based in Colorado.
As their website proclaims: “... it aims to bring together adventure loving people who share the common interest of Land Rovers and active four-wheeling”.
I wonder if they know their club is named after a li’l ol’ town in Middle England?
Although nowhere near anywhere called Solihull, they sure do visit some cutely named places of their own: the annual ‘Land Rover National Rally’, which they organise, has been held in such evocative locations as Crested Butte, Leadville, Moab and Steamboat Springs.
And how about the Halloween Run in Slaughterhouse Gulch, during which “decorations and costumes will be judged for prizes”?
We are told that this “drive through the woods ... using only our lights ... is a great trail if you’re looking for a lot of flex”, and “a frightful roller coaster of fun” with “a nice uphill whoopdidoo section that you can bypass or play around in.”
I challenge you to find that in Solihull!
The Society website lists a number of official events, but please phone before turning up, because, as Jim Foo and Rhino warn: “online calendars do strange things with time zones” (they don’t tell us what!).
Trails are rated for difficulty: Green is (comparatively) easy; Yellow is moderate, although “ ... water crossings may exceed hub depth with strong currents.” and “ ... sliders, skid plates, and steel bumpers” are recommended accessories.
Red denotes “extreme 4-wheeling”, with 25 degree uphill grades and 30 degree side grades to be expected. An exhortation to fit “Armor, winch and good recovery points” is issued to all Red Graders, who, I am sure, take the cryptic comment “body damage possible” in their stride.
There’s an accompanying picture of a Land Rover up to its headlights in what looks like the sea.
Fun obviously doesn’t come without dedication.
And why not check out the special online forum for unscheduled events and ad hoc trail runs, described as “highly encouraged but unofficial club gatherings”?
Here we find Boxer Boy 2 is merely “looking for something to do this weekend”, while Canigou wonders if anyone else plans to “drive to the Rallye” via Mosquito Pass.
The accompanying call for rough-stuff addicts to rendezvous at Spring Creek shows an endless video loop of a Range Rover trying to get out of an uncomfortably rocky dry watercourse - did it eventually make it, I wonder? - and is accompanied by the admonishment that “You can always record the football game.”
Clearly, full commitment to the cause is expected.
There is also a “Happy Hour” section, for you to “invite your Rover buddies to meet you at your favorite food and watering hole”, and another for “Land Use issues”, where you can volunteer to train for the Colorado Trail Patrol, or lobby Barack Obama against the Canyonlands National Monument proposal.
There is even a motorcycle option, with a picture of a vintage steed, and a “Fat Tire” mountainbike club, but without much activity in either, presumably because Land Rover examples of these vehicles are sadly non-existent.
The good news is that annual membership will cost outsiders just $30, whereas residents of Colorado State pay $50.
Of course if you “happen to be in town”, as they put it, at the time of the “Summer BBQ”, that would require an extra fee of $10 plus $20 for “Holiday Luncheon”, when local members get these free.
But if you inadvertently pick up some of that “possible body damage”, then rest easy in the knowledge that you can still claim your membership discounts at various Colorado dealerships.
Which leads me to wonder if anyone actually living in Solihull is a member?
Or if anybody from Solihull has ever turned up at the Society’s rallies?
Now that really would be a funny thing, wouldn’t it?