US Road Trip Travelog: 10th February 2005

Another morning with an (unwanted) early start. This time the culprit is a pickup owner who, wanting to defrost his noisy old truck, starts it up outside my window then leaves it idling for 40 minutes. At 6 a.m. After half an hour I know I'm not going to get any more sleep so may as well get up.

The snow has stopped and the sun is out but it's really cold in Springfield this morning - around 20°F (no idea what that is in French, sorry). As I've got some time to kill I decide to have a walk around downtown. Springfield is a proper town with history and has some lovely older buildings, which look great in the early morning sunshine. I didn't take my camera with me, so this'll have to a do:

Hopper - Early Sunday Morning
Some culture for you vultures - Hopper's Early Sunday Morning. I know nothing else about any other artist, so this is will be a one-off diversion into the art world.

Despite being very pretty, it's also too bloody cold to be wandering around for too long without serious winter clothing. Back in the car, then, and off to Hollis Neff & Bomke Insurance (still love that name) to meet Lynn Jr. He's as helpful and easy to get on with as he was on the phone, but the final figure still hurts: $1800 for 6 months fully-comprehensive agreed value. That's almost £1000 in real money. There are alternatives to bring the cost down slightly but I'm of the opinion that if you're going to do it then it has to be done properly, especially in the litigious US. I don't want to be forever in hock to Alabamy Tammy because I had a crash with Dwayne after he'd a few too many brewskis and decided that, goddammit, he was going to drive the truck home.

Ok, that's a bit over-the-top but peace of mind makes the cost worthwhile. Like everyone else I've spoken to, Lynn is really interested in what I'm planning to do. I'm becoming increasingly aware, as well, that for many people I'm meeting I may well be the first person from England - certainly outside flying visits to London - that they've met. I wouldn't go as far as 'ambassador for your country' status (I haven't got the fancy chocolates for that), but there is a bit of something similar going on. Better get my act together then. I think tweeds and a deerstalker. Wonder where I can find a valet?

Insurance sorted, and credit card bruised and battered after the last few days, off to find the AAA office in Springfield to arrange breakdown cover (second item in my personal toolkit, after the mobile phone). When I eventually find the office, Kat - and she actually looked a bit like one - sorts out their highest rate cover for $81 a year. Which seems a bit of a bargain to me when you think that the AA in the UK charges the same in £ for a country a fraction of the size.

Then it's back down my favourite Interstate, I55, and across to St Louis Airport. I'm going to stay here overnight, drop the hire car off a few days early and catch a Metrolink - some kind of train service - back over the border into Illinois, where Charlie or Sal will pick me up and deliver me to the Riviera. As I'm staying near the airport, and have a bit of time, I can find a hotel with wireless internet access in the rooms (the previous place I got connected, in Waterloo, only had wireless access in the lobby). What a luxury - I can catch up on email, investigate a few things I wanted to check out and even update this website. Whilst watching the Speed channel on cable TV.

Before leaving the UK I'd joined the Riviera Owners Association and, now that I'm an owner, it seems like a good time to get back in touch. I've exchanged a few phone calls and emails with Sean, the guy who runs the ROA, in the past and this time I'm after a bit of advice. Specifically, can he recommend somewhere on or near to my proposed route where I can get an expert to have a look over the car? He promises to get back to me - having a mobile phone could be a real bonus here - if he can find someone who can help.

St Louis motel room
A motel room in St Louis, very recently.

And now, a maths lesson:

  1. A gallon of gas in the US costs $1.80 to $2, depending on grade

  2. A US gallon is smaller than a UK gallon, so that means that the highest-price grade is $2.40 per UK gallon

  3. Which is equal to $0.53 per litre

  4. Or, in English, 28p per litre, using the current exchange rate.

There's something to think about next time you're filling up the car. And you wonder why Americans don't care too much about fuel economy?

My motel rooms have, so far, cost between $40 and $60 per night. The one I'm in tonight, as shown above, with two double beds, desk, power shower and wireless internet is at the top of the price range. Or £32 in English. I could go on, so I will. A pint - yes, they seem to serve pints around these parts - is $2.50 (£1.34), a packet of cigarettes is $2.40 (£1.28) and my Bar-B-Q pork and beef dinner, with potato salad and green beans, was $9 (£4.80). And that was easily the most expensive meal I've had so far, as well as being far too much food for one person.

So traveling around the US is, with the current exchange rate, a seriously cheap proposition. Unless, of course, you need to buy car insurance ...

US Road Trip Travelog: 11th February 2005 >