Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Edvin's West Coast road trip wrap-up

- Never expected the food to be this good. Sure, it was greasier and saltier than what we're used to and there was a lot more of it, but almost every single meal was really, really good. I think I ate three or four of best burgers I've ever had. Umami burger deserves a special mention. Loved the Texan BBQ too.

- Expected to be drinking a lot of beer-flavored water like BudweiserMiller and Coors. Boy was I wrong... We made a huge mistake right in the beginning by buying a case of Bud light(with the only discernible taste being the aluminum in the can it came in) and in Portland of all the places... Still, we had a quite a few excellent IPA's, amber ales etc along the way. My personal favorite being a large Sierra Nevada Pale Ale served in a chilled schooner right after walking around Yosemite for the whole day.

- I was equally surprised by all the the animals we saw. The list includes big birds like eagles and pelicans, several seals, two snakes, several kinds of deer, a bear cub, a few lizards, two coyotes and a lot more. Wanted to see a mountain lion and a rattlesnake in the wild. No such luck though (they probably saw/smelled us first).

- We were expecting to see some amazing vistas and we sure weren't disappointed. Counting from the beginning to the end we saw the impressive Columbia river gorge, huge rolling fields and deserted pastures in Oregon, the gigantic redwoods, breathtaking cliffs and beaches along the shoreline as the sun was setting into the Pacific, huge mountains and waterfalls in Yosemite, the unforgiving desert and paralyzing heat in Death Valley and the Mojave. My favorite was the coastline of NorCal.

- Being a Subaru dealer must be a good business in Oregon and NorCal. I think the amount of Outbacks we saw must be in the hundreds. The same thing goes for the Prius in and around Beverly Hills.

- Cars I've developed a craving for during the trip: The newest Mustang GT (they're everywhere!), the new Challenger, Toyota FJ Cruiser with some offroading kit added, the 2002-2005 Thunderbird.

- San Francisco was one of the nicer cities on the trip, it would be the city of my choice. It felt more pedestrian-friendly than the other places. A good workout climbing all those hills too!

- Las Vegas was something else. We went there on a Monday night so the nightlife wasn't as busy as it could've been, but then again that allowed us to stay in a suite in Luxor. It was a bit of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me, so I'm glad we took it. Walking a few miles along the strip at 3 AM on a Monday night revealed the less glamorous side of Vegas.

- Mixed feelings about Los Angeles. The traffic was hell. The city felt a bit scattered because you had to queue on the freeway if you wanted to go somewhere and camera-wielding tourists like us were advised to stay out of certain areas. We did the obligatory touristy stuff in Hollywood and also visited the Petersen automotive museum (seeing the Batmobile from 1989 and some of Foose's creations IRL was great). Stayed right by the beach in Santa Monica for a few days. Should have had a bit more time (and heat) to enjoy the beach.

- The heat in the Mojave Desert felt ruthless. The highest temperature the Crown Vic reported to us was 104 degrees. That's the hottest I've ever been in. It's a good thing the humidity is low. The nice lady at the post office in Amboy along Route 66 told us it sometimes gets to 120 degrees and then the electricity cuts out disabling AC and the water pump. Can't imagine what that's like...

- You guys can't make toilet paper, or maybe all the motels just buy the thinnest paper ever conceived. Impossible to tear a whole piece off the roll. You just end up with a handful of shredded paper. Also, you guys need to standardize showers. The nozzles are installed way too low and the faucets are all wonky.

- Listening to the radio was fun. It seemed like the stations played better music than ours. Most of our stations just play the newest pop/rock music nonstop so your ears bleed. Some of the AM channels were really bizarre and entertaining.

- Your HDTV just looks so much more HD. No comments on the content of said TV...

- I was expecting to fall in love with the Crown Victoria, but that didn't really happen even though I like the concept on paper. I still think it was the right car for us out of what we had to choose from. You could easily imagine that it's the same car as back in the seventies and that it's just had a few additions along the years. The problem was that it was pretending to be a 2012 car and just felt too outdated. It would've been a different story had it been a genuine 70's land yacht. There was a number of small annoyances that haven't been present in modern cars for ages. For instance there's no check link/limiting strap in the doors, so if you open the door when it's windy outside it'll slam the door violently into the neighbors car. Then you need to remember to leave a lot of space for the trunk hinges if you don't want them to crush whatever is in their way. Also I guess the rear overhang is too long and the suspension is too soft because the tip of the exhaust kept hitting the road when entering a road from a driveway or yard. Never imagined a 4.6L V8 with 225hp could be so gutless. Still, it wasn't all bad. It never missed a beat and got us through some pretty hairy terrain ("high ground clearance only"-roads). When I jumped back in my VW Polo I was convinced there's something wrong with my steering because I couldn't turn the wheel with my pinky finger. I also tried shifting gears with the wiper stalk many times.


F1Outsider said...

Great write up! You visited some amazing places.

I had to laugh at the toilet paper observation. Americans do love their TP soft and cuddly...

No matter what you may read on Jalopnik, the Crown Vic doesn't have much going for it other than old-fashioned reliability.

I can relate to your observation regarding the lightness of the steering. After spending 10 days on the rental Mustang, getting back to my Mazda was like driving a tractor in comparison (in a good way).

Maxichamp said...

@F1O: I agree with your assessment regarding the Crown Vic. It is the last big American RWD V8, but we rented one in Detroit a couple of weeks ago because I had to ferry around my very tall in-laws. It had zero rear legroom and the seats were not very comfortable. We had to trade "up" for a Ford Escape.

But I think for Edvin's adventure, it was perfect.

Lukas said...

Great writeup, thanks for sharing. Edvin: come to Aus - we have great toilet paper.

Re car changes, when I get into my car after driving a truck, it feels like my butt is scraping along the ground. The steering is still heavier though.....

Edvin said...

Thanks guys! It was easily one of the best trips I've ever made. Maybe the east coast next time. Or coast to coast. Or Alaska and Canada. Maybe that Ozzie road trip. Hmm...

On the plane I read about an adventure in the Australian outback from the newest Octane magazine. It sounded like a hellish journey, but still seemed like fun. They drove brand new MB G-wagens (with AMG suspension for some unfathomable reason?!) on really rough terrain which caused the rear shocks to fail on most of the cars. They had to airlift new shocks in from the nearest town, which they claimed ended up costing £20k. One of the cars was a military-spec G-wagen, which had no problems whatsoever. I have no idea why they all didn't use them.

Edvin said...

I just found some videos on the Ozzie stuff.


Lukas said...

There was a bit of consternation about that. MB were positioning it as a reliability test, and apparently were the first maker to try something like it. They claimed success.

People on web said it was a failure, because of the shock failures, and who on earth can afford to airlift in replacement shocks, this is why you should buy a LandCruiser instead, etc.

They are also just now delivering a heap of G-wagens to the Australian Army, replacing Land Rovers. Very few sold domestically though - hugely expensive compared even to the other already expensive options like the 'Cruiser.