US Road Trip Epilog: 25th August 2005

A few miles back up the Interstate to Gateway Classic Cars. I've decided to store the Riviera here on a rolling month-by-month basis. The added advantage of using Gateway is that if I decide to sell the car or to ship it back to the UK then they can handle either of those for me as well. $75 a month isn't as cheap as that parking place I used before in Springfield but the difference here is that the car will be indoors with people around to keep an eye on it the whole time. That kind of reassurance makes it seem good value in my books.

Final mileage of 93,439
Final mileage of 93,439. When I bought the car it was showing 73,694 miles.

A whisker under 20,000 miles, then, since I bought the car back in February. I've eulogised about the car before, in Driving the Riviera, and all I can really add to that is to say that in all those miles I've never once had to call the AAA or have the car towed anywhere. Yes, there have been problems along the way but nothing you wouldn't expect from taking a 42-year old car with an unknown history on such a journey. I'm just that glad that Rivieras of this vintage are currently chronically undervalued and I could afford to buy one to use for the road trip.

Leaving Loretta at Gateway Classic Cars
Leaving Loretta at Gateway Classic Cars.

As it's currently raining outside, Charlie asks me to park the car up somewhere he can give it a wipe-off before parking it. Once the paperwork is completed for the storage, and I've spent some dollars on a few examples from their great selection of die-cast models, he then gives me a lift back to the MetroLink station near to the Casino Queen. I've been consistently impressed with the level of service I've received at Gateway Classic Cars and can see nothing to change my mind today.

There is a moment of embarrassment on my part, though, when Charlie asks me for my home phone number back in the UK. I can't remember it. Not at all. I know my US cell phone, I know the plate on the car, I know many other numbers, but not that one. Eventually it comes to me, I think, but I'll need to send him an email when I can confirm it back in the UK. On the road too long, then, or just long enough?

Next is a 45-minute journey on the MetroLink out to the airport to collect my rental car. When I first came over I used Alamo for a car and this time around, when I booked it online the other night, they were still the cheapest for one-way rental.

When I go to collect the car the girl at the desk - who's more interested in complaining about her sinuses than she is about customer service - tells me she can't accept my Lloyds TSB cashpoint (ATM) / debit / credit card because it says 'Debit Card' on it. I try to explain to her that it's a debit card only in the UK and a credit card in the US but she's not interested. Despite the Visa symbol on it. This is the first time I've had this problem using it in 3 months. Luckily I've got an 'emergency use only' credit card on me (a leftover from when I actually worked for the bank) which, reluctantly, she has to accept.

The Chevrolet Cavalier 'compact' car I hired when I first came over was a piece of junk. When you put your foot down it would downshift, make a lot more noise, and not actually go any faster. This time I've decided to go for a 'mid-size' car. Unfortunately for Alamo they've run-out of mid-size cars so, still complaining and sulking, she tells me to take one of the 'full-size' cars in the lot. Like it makes any difference to her. Some people just shouldn't be in customer-facing jobs.

In the full-size lot the only option is a Chevrolet Malibu, so I take the one in silver rather the white or blue ones also available. Once inside the car, the first thing I'm struck with is that it's quite claustrophobic. Everything seems much too close, and I'm sitting quite high up. This feels more like a super-sized Ford Focus than a proper big American car (like the cabs I rode in back in Memphis).

On the Interstate back to the Casino Queen I'm more impressed. As well as modern conveniences such as intermittent wipe - it's still raining - and a CD player, when you plant your foot to the floor it actually gathers pace quite well. Flat to the floor is, of course, the only way to drive a rental car. In the words of the great P.J. O'Rourke:

You have to get a car that handles really well. This is extremely important, and there's a lot of debate on this subject --- about what kind of car handles best. Some say a front-engined car; some say a rear-engined car. I say a rented car. Nothing handles better than a rented car. You can go faster, turn corners sharper, and put the transmission into reverse while going forward at a higher rate of speed in a rented car than in any other kind. You can also park without looking, and can use the trunk as an ice chest. Another thing about a rented car is that it's an all-terrain vehicle. Mud, snow, water, woods --- you can take a rented car anywhere. True, you can't always get it back, but that's not your problem, is it?

Taken from How to drive fast on drugs while getting your wing-wang squeezed and not spill your drink, well worth a read but it's definitely not for minors (or those easily offended) and I wouldn't recommend following all of his advice ...

US Road Trip Epilog: 26th August 2005 >