US Road Trip Epilog: 26th August 2005

Time to get out of the Casino Queen Hotel and back on the road again. First stop is my mailbox address in Decatur, which means using the Interstates to head east before taking Highway 51 north.

I must admit that I'm warming to my Chevrolet Malibu Maxx LS (to give it its full title) rental car. On the Interstates it's fairly quiet and well-mannered and on Highway 51 it's actually quite a laugh. Unfortunately the power of the high-revving 3.5 litre 200 hp V6 is delivered to the wrong set of wheels - the front ones - but it can be quite good fun wrestling it through the corners, especially with the traction control switched off. What I still can't get used to is the brutal kickdown and jerks as it shifts up - the Dynaflow in the Riviera really is a class act compared to all other transmissions.

My Chevy Malibu Maxx LS rental car
My Chevy Malibu Maxx LS rental car.

The reason the Chevy Malibu seems so European is that it's built on the same platform used for the Vauxhall Signum (also an Opel), Vectra and Saab 9-3. By way of comparison, a standard Malibu lists at $18,000 here in the US - though current 'employee pricing' radio and TV adverts will sell you one for $16,000. $18,000 = under £10,000. The list price of a bog-basic Vauxhall Signum in the UK is £18,000. That's over $32,000, a $14,000 (£7,700) gap. Someone is getting a bad deal, and I don't think it's the Americans.

Of course, you'd never buy a Malibu and ship it to the UK, because the steering wheel is on the wrong side. But if I were living on the Continent I would certainly consider it, especially if you could find a model that used the same sheet metal and engines (the ones in the Malibu are bigger as standard than the Signum, though I think the 2.2 litre engine used in both may be the same). New car prices are lower in France or Spain than the UK, but not by much, and you'd probably also get a higher-specification car as standard from the US. Insurance and some parts may be more expensive, but almost £8000 - even when you take into account the shipping costs - goes a long way.

Anyway, my mailbox in Decatur holds little of interest so it's time to head back west to my adopted home town, Springfield, and the Quality Inn State House. I still really like (dig?) the 60's time warp feel of the place with added modern amenities, like working internet access for example. It seems that this won't be a Quality Inn for long - it's moving up the Choice Hotels food chain to be badged a Clarion Collection one. I expect the motel will stay almost the same but the room rates will rise. Shame.

It's also laundry day. This may seem a little odd, since I'm flying home in a few days, but when you need some clean clothes then you may as well do two loads as one. I've used the laundry facilities here before and know that they do the job - some clothes driers take a dollar every 15 minutes, here you get almost an hour for the same amount. And it'll also make a nice change to arrive home from abroad with no laundry to do for a while, especially as I haven't actually got a clothes drier back at home.

Whilst waiting for my laundry there's a NASCAR Busch Series race from Bristol, Tennessee on TV. It's rain-delayed half-way through, for a few hours, so I can also get my Law & Order fix during the interval.

US Road Trip Epilog: 27th August 2005 >