In downtown Manchester driving can seem a little overwhelming, but it pales in comparison to this. Manchester is home to one of Land Rover's four North American driving schools; an 80-acre off-road paradise where log crossings, rock crawls and hills are mundane hazards... nothing more than potholes in the road.
"This is pretty minor that we have out here," instructor Josh Williams says.
However some of the school's students might disagree.
Tara Grover would be among the first to tell you this is a far cry from a trip down the highway in her Oldsmobile.
"This is a little scary," Grover says.
Williams tells his students the most important thing is to remember to breathe.
"Drivers will feed off my energy," Williams explains. "So if I'm really weirded out and sort of nervous, that intensifies what they're feeling, and they shut off their hearing and go into defensive mode."
About 1,000 people attended the Vermont driving school last year. Almost 20 percent of them were Land Rover owners. The 3-ton vehicle costs $86,000-- and a lot of drivers are reluctant to put their toys to the test without knowing what they can and cannot do.
"It was probably a little more adventurous than I thought. The times when you're sort of leaning almost totally over. That feels different," Grover says.
Grover passed her lesson with flying colors.
And now it was my turn.
Damaging the Land Rover was far from my biggest worry... I was just hoping I didn't kill everyone.
Fortunately the vehicles do a lot of the work. In fact, once in the right terrain setting you rarely have to hit the accelerator or the brakes. Good news-- since I was having enough trouble negotiating the steep hills and side tilts that had my passengers clinging to anything they could get their hands on.
"It feels like you're on your side in the vehicle, because you're looking down at the ground," Williams explains.
Everyone survived this trip, just as they always have.
Knock on wood-- there have been no accidents on this Land Rover course.
It's an experience that's bound to make you a better driver-- off-road driving at its best in Manchester, Vt.
And if you think you're up for the challenge, a one-hour Land Rover lesson costs $225 per vehicle, which means you and a couple friends can split the cost. A two-hour lesson costs $325.
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