US Road Trip Epilog: 4th August 2005

First stop in the morning is to see George Hussey at Automobile Atlanta. In case you were wondering how I knew to use Marietta Radiator and Auto Cool to get the car sorted, it was on George's advice. That's where he's taken his own Riviera, and I need to say thanks. George is as busy as ever but does find some time for a chat and to have a look over the car.

Today's drive will be only a hundred miles or so, half of it on the lovely Interstates to get to the other side of Atlanta and the other half on Highway 23 south.

More miles of trees in Georgia
More miles of trees in Georgia.

Simple truth is that I'm not feeling 100% today. I think I may have walked around in the sun for a bit too long yesterday. I was originally thinking about going a bit further, but the sensible thing to do is to cut my losses at a Comfort Inn on the outskirts of Macon. When you know you're not concentrating properly it's just too risky to be on the roads.

The Comfort Inn promised wireless internet access on the big sign outside but, where my room is concerned, they're lying. As far as I can make out they have one wireless router down in the lobby and that's it. As my room is at the far end of one wing I'm not surprised it doesn't work. Given the culture of litigation in the US, I'm surprised that these motels who promise something they can't deliver don't get sued.

You may be wondering why internet access is so important to me. Apart from being able to catch up on emails and the (global) news, it's proved to be a real bonus in navigating my way around this road trip. Before I left the UK I'd try to buy route-finding software to help me but Amazon and the like wouldn't ship it from the US, for supposed security reasons. From what I can make out that was a blessing in disguise, as you can get just about everything you need online, and for free, anyway.

Anyway, this is how planning for the next few days on the road trip is done:

  1. The first call, especially if running across different states, is to use the big fold-out Michelin maps of large sections of the US. The secret weapon here is the long side of a cigarette packet, which is as near as makes no difference 200 miles on the map (i.e. enough miles for one day). What I'll also be looking for is a Highway that takes me vaguely near where I want to go whilst avoiding Interstates.

  2. The Michelin maps don't include all Highways, however, so the next call is the Rand McNally road atlas. Often I've found great roads on here that I would've missed otherwise. The problem with the Rand McNally is that the scale of the map changes from one state to another, but the cigarette packet can still be used to estimate distances - when traveling within a state - once the scale is adjusted.

  3. Now it's time to make sure I haven't got things completely wrong. MapQuest will not only give directions but also the mileage from one place to another. The directions are of little use as they'll always prefer the Interstate but having looked at the maps I can see whether my preferred route is significantly shorter or longer.

  4. Having determined the destination for the next day, the next thing to do is to find a motel. The problem, especially with big cities, is that there's no way of telling how far they really are from the centre. What I've started using quite recently is Google, entering a search as follows:
    <town or city> <state> <'motels'>
    So, for instance:
    waycross georgia motels
    Google then offers you a 'local results' page including a map of the place and the location of the motels. It isn't great - there's a warning somewhere that this is still in Beta - but it's a damn site better than anything else I've found. Then it's just a question of paging through the results a bit and working-out which motels aren't likely to be exorbitantly priced (Hiltons, Marriotts, Hamptons) but are within walking distance of the centre.

  5. Having selected a few motels to have a look at, it's then time to go to their websites and see what the rates are (I've tried a few of the 'price comparison' websites, but I've always found it cheaper to go to the source). The trick with the motel websites is to know what rate to choose from the little drop down box after you've entered the destination and date information. For instance, I've found that with Super 8 and Days Inn 'Best Rates' actually does what it says, with Choice Hotels (Comfort, Sleep & Quality Inns) the 'Internet User's Rate' is the cheapest, with Best Western the 'Race Car Fan' one works and with the Holiday Inn group the 'AAA Member' option offers significant discounts.

  6. Most motel websites have directions, but in case they're a bit unclear I may go make to MapQuest for a bit of clarification. Having a vague idea of where you're heading can also help if you miss a turning and get a bit lost.

Having said all that, on other days I'll just get in the car in the morning and drive til I get tired before pulling in at the first motel I see.

US Road Trip Epilog: 5th August 2005 >