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Back again

I am back home but stunningly jetlagged, so I won't be posting anything substantial for the next day or so. Many thanks to Karl Schroeder and John Meaney for covering for me while I've been on the road!

If you want to read more of their writing, they have blogs: Karl's is here and here's John's.

Last Wednesday I did a keynote speech at USENIX Security; I'll blog the original text in a day or two. My wife and I needed to be in Portland by Friday evening, and due to a scheduling cock-up I left it too late to book a sleeper berth on the train: so we hired a car and drove. Note: this was the first time in 18 years that I'd attempted to drive on the wrong side of the road.

Things I learned:

1) California State Route 1 is a scenic route, for values of "best enjoyed from a helicopter or light plane". I would, however, characterise it as somewhat more exciting than one wants if the objective is to get from SF to Portland within a fixed time frame. It reminded me of the Italian alps in the 1970s, only with added landslides, holes in the crash barriers on cliff-edge hairpin bends, and lots of detours around trees. For added fun, try driving it in a vehicle about the size of a Ford Transit (the European variety) while sitting on the wrong side, so that you keep instinctively steering towards the cliff edge.

2) A Lincoln Town Car is not the right vehicle in which to enjoy Highway One. Next time, I'm going to turn down the free rental upgrade. (In my defense, we don't have Lincoln Town Cars in the UK. In fact, my knowledge of US automobiles is so totally lacking that all I can tell them apart by is their general category. And I wasn't expecting quite such an exciting drive.)

3) The combination of charming cliffside switchbacks and a five litre V8 results in gas mileage such that it's a good thing for my wallet that fuel is so cheap in California. About the rural gas station where they only take cash and amuse themselves with a banjo between customers we'll say no more.

4) Dear brown black bear, please learn to look both ways before bounding across the road twenty metres in front of a wheeled avatar of Father Darwin. This will enhance your life expectancy, not to mention that of the folks in the car. (I left skidmarks. Where, I'm not saying. At least the anti-lock brakes worked. On the other hand, the sudden appearance of Mr Bear put a damper on our ideas about a pleasant lunchtime walk among the redwoods ... where we come from, the wildlife is somewhat less alarming.)

5) Highways 101 and 199 were better than Highway 1, and still scenic (for values of "where did that three metre wide tree jump out from?") but had rather fewer 15mph sudden-death hairpins with crash barriers missing in action due to landslides.

6) A Lincoln Town Car is the right vehicle for pounding up the interstate we eventually decided to divert onto. Still, no love — as I discovered after I accidentally did 450 miles on the second day then nearly collapsed.

In the 750 miles we drove I just about doubled my cumulative lifetime miles of driving on the wrong side of the road. Be afraid; be very afraid — next time I'm going to try and rent a Hummer. (Those crazy cheap Californian gas prices are too low to resist.)



For reference, if Americans describe a vehicle as a "town car", "suburban (sprawl)", or include the name of a place in the full name, they are indicating the approximate size of the vehicle! ;-)


Driving on the wrong side is fine, until you are tired and go on "automatic".


or come to a roundabout. not likely in the US but a nightmare in nighttime Calais.


I'm not sure that a Lincoln Town Car is the right vehicle for anything, except possibly Blues Brothers Cosplay.


'Town car': n. A car for driving in a town.


Actually, it's a borked translation of "Sedan de Ville" (presumably because the target market demographic can't cope with French).

A better name might have been "Lard-ass Land Barge".


When I drove up Highway 1 on my vacation a couple years ago (I live in San Diego) I saw I don't know how many rental Ford Mustang convertibles. Now there's a car for PCH! I was in my '09 Honda Civic and got about 38mpg.

Also, cheap is relative as far as gas prices are concerned. I'm sure they were jaw-droppingly cheap compared to what you're used to.

Longest drive I ever did was 550 miles from Oklahoma City to Albuquerque back when gas was well under $2.


Oh. A sedan chair with wheels?

(It is probably an inevitable rule that, given a form of transport, it will eventually be raced if at all possible. In the case of the Sedan Chair, this occurred in Royston somewhere in the early 17th Century, roughly outside what is now the chippie.)


Last time I was in the USA they did not have the compact rental I ordered, and asked whether I would accept a free upgrade to a shiny red Mustang. Er...


If you didn't like the Pacific Coast Highway, I strongly suggest you never try driving in New Zealand, since most of their coastal highways are like that except narrower, twistier, and with much higher cliffs.

I actually got to rather enjoy it after 3 weeks driving all over North and South islands, and lost all terror of driving near cliff edges. NZ drivers are incredibly polite and well-tempered as well.


The whole west coast has nice scenic drives. The ones south of San Fran are however more sedate. And probably less scenic; but the whole cliffside coast drive from SF to LA is still very nice.


The trick with that road is to drive it alone, because then you won't be distracted by your passenger's yelps of delight at the view, and you won't drive off the road and into the hungry sea below.


Only if it has "cop engine, cop tyres, cop suspension..." ;-)


Glad you made it safely!

I-5 is not as pretty as the coastal route, but is a lot faster and easier (640 miles SF to Portland, 11 hours, almost entirely divided highway). Lincoln Town Cars are decent for long road trips, with their floaty suspensions and casual steering, but that's not a plus on hairpin turns. A Hummer would be even worse, but if you want to glory in lower gas prices (while they last) rent a stretch limo Hummer.

I hope you had the chance to try some of Portland's food carts while you were there. Very tasty.


In NZ they drive on the right side of the road, which is to say, the left. Right? And they have real cars, rather than jelly molds on wheels. I can cope!


I was in Portland for less than 24 hours, but I am familiar with the food carts from previous visits.


I had let them talk me into upgrading to an Audi A6. Nice car, nice engine, nice feeling for the road, but the windshield does not extend high enough to see where you are going on an incline, except with much head-twisting. Which made Highway 1 a very intersting drive...


Could you not lower the seat enough? Or is it a case you have such long legs that you get a restricted view because of the distance back from the windscreen?

(Back when I had an A4 - not, I concede, the A6 - I once drove it on a violently up-and-down road, and did not have this problem myself. On the other hand, the Bavarian couple in the back seat were a little more nervous when the road just disappeared in front of me.)


I did that route on a bicycle Charlie. Character forming.

The "Free" rental upgrade makes sense when you realize gas tank refilling is a major profit source for rental companies. Nothing free about it, then want you to have a very big tank. You were taken (same thing happened to me at a wedding recently, which is how I figured this out. Alas, didn't get a chance to post on gordon's notes about it.


I think Cadillac had the 'Sedan de Ville'...thus Lincoln couldn't use the name.

Or something.

Both were big 'land yacht' cars in the luxury category.


Hmm, I didn't mention the unicyclist we passed on highway 101, did I?

(It was on a 35mph stretch running through a small town. But still. A unicyclist! On an interstate!)

I know about the gas tank charges and picked the option to pay for a full tank (at Californian prices) rather than the option to have them refill from whatever level we left them (at double the price per gallon). Then handed it in nearly dry.


One of the amusing things I've discovered as a recently transplanted more-or-less-Londoner to more-or-less-New York City (for values of living in the 'burbs and commuting in) is that the nearest equivalent of a minicab in New York City is the livery cab, almost all of which are Lincoln Town Cars, to the extend that New Yorkers talk of getting a town car to mean hiring a livery cab. Quite a step up from the UK equivalent.


Attempts to translate "Lincoln Town Car" into Australian

Eventually gives up and goes to the Wikipedia page

Oh, right! It's a Fairlane Land Yacht. On steroids. And growth hormone.


I was under the impression that Highway 101 was not an interstate. Mind you, about the only Interstate I've driven is the chunk that runs from Atlanta airport into town and out the far side.

(Yes, I'm missing the whole point abut the lunacy of a unicyclist on the road at all.)


Video & mp3 of Charlie's USENIX keynote are here.


You did Hwy 1 and not a quick run up I5? When you go the scenic route...that is a journey you want to take over a couple of days, at least. IIRC, one year a car with older folks ended up driving off the road and ended up [upside down?] near the edge of a cliff. They had to be helicoptered out.

Why you even thought it might be a good idea to drive such a huge boat of a car, escapes me. You wouldn't do that for say, the Scottish Highlands, would you?

Lessons learned indeed.


You're right that 101 is not an interstate. Still, it's a little big for anything without a motor...


101 is not an interstate. It's a California state highway. Still functions pretty much like an interstate though, but state highways generally are less well repaired.

You can tell the interstate's as they have a blue background on the highway sign

And yeah, when people talk about "scenic highway 1" they generally mean southbound from SF through Big Sur.

Though I love the northern route, could not imagine doing it driving on the wrong side of the road.

I have several friends that live up in Marin and bike that road to and from work most days. Crazy ass bastards (-:

Bears are new though, where did you see it Charlie? How far north were you?


Brown bear at 20 meters!

That's pretty surprising.

Biggest animal I ever saw while driving was a Black Bear at about a quarter-mile. (400 meters, more or less.)


I've heard there have been a lot of bears in new areas though

Here is charlie only his car was probably bigger...


Because, Alex, I didn't know the car was going to be a boat. See my note (2). Maybe next time you visit the UK and the car hire guy offers to upgrade you from a SEAT Ibiza to a Nissan Qashqai you'll be able to make an informed decision off the top of your head, but I'm not a petrol-head who tracks models that aren't sold in his country.

Again, we'd been told that Hwy 1 was a nice scenic route, not that it was a cross-country rally route and/or cattle track, by folks who assured us that it would be a leisurely two day drive from SF to PDX.

Please read for context.


I feel your pain Charlie. I drove an "upgrade" land-battleship (campercar/winnebago) around the medieval roads of France a few months ago.

Ancient villages threaded with narrow roads, minatures canyons curbed by buildings, yet somehow semi-trailers (lorries, trucks whatever) are supposed to use them... especially the blind corners that juxtapositionally embrace two-way and one-lane.

The wife screaming at me "look out for the bollards!" (the French love their bollardary) as I'm closing my eyes and hisssing "truck! truck! truck!" as it shaves a coat of paint off the land-whale.

Ah... holidays. Fun times.


We ran into nearly ran into the bear around 150-180 miles out of San Francisco, up either Hwy 1 or Hwy 101 on one of the single lane stretches through heavy redwood forest, slightly inland and with thick undergrowth to either side. Bloody thing just bounded out into the road and dashed across on all fours, scaring the living crap out of me. I did not stop to make notes, I was too busy trying not to take a Ford F-150 up the rear bumper. (He'd been driving a bit too close for comfort. After the emergency stop he began keeping his distance :)


"Bloody thing just bounded out into the road and dashed across on all fours, scaring the living crap out of me"

Ahh so you were pretty far north. Yeah it's pretty much total wilderness up their interspersed with paratroopers. Sometimes they drop the 82nd airborne out there for a couple of weeks to see if they can kill bears with their teeth. Bear was probably running from one...

Here is Charlie and his traveling companion posing with their battlewagon before leaving for his trip


I'm going to be a pedant. Though the bear might have been brown, It's species would be black bear, ursus americana, rather than ursus arctos, the brown bear. For better or worse we've killed all the brown bears in California.

I enjoyed seeing you at Borderland Books. My six year old liked your beaded Cthulu.


California has some fun roads. There's a charming one called the "Crest Highway" - it runs all along the mountains north of Los Angeles. It's like 101 without the coast views, but many more horrendous 200 meter cliffs and sudden landslides. There are some turns that you might not have been able to make in that Town Car...


I love the "stunningly cheap" gas price comment. I've been saying for years that the US needs to get wise to the fact that $3, $4, or even $5 per gallon gas is nothing compared to many other developed countries. Nice to see it confirmed.


Actually, I believe 101 is a US highway ... white shield with black lettering. I drove it a couple of times in the distant past; it's very nice, but can be a bit unsettling if you're not familiar with the area. (My brother lives in CA and I'd flown out to visit him. I only had to remember a couple of exits, so it wasn't too bad for me.)

There are a number of roundabouts in the Indianapolis area, mostly in Carmel, but that's pretty unusual for the US, as I understand it. I could see an unexpected roundabout prompting a reversion to old habits ... especially if a local in front of you turns the wrong way first.


Glad you enjoyed your trip! Can't wait for the USENIX transcript...

On the subject of inappropriate rental cars - was Bob's autobahn & smart car hell in The Jennifer Morgue based on personal experience?


Have the rental agencies stopped giving you the pretty pictures to show you what the car looks like?

I did drive the 1980's version when I was on a visit to the States in 1985. It was a huge, overly soft suspension, sloppy steering wheeled, velour boat. Unsuited for anything other than driving slowly or on a freeway. The thought of driving even the new versions on Hwy1 makes me shudder. The only good point was that each of the 4 corners was clearly visible.

On my last trip to the UK, the rental car was tiny, not so great for the M6, but perfect for pootling around the Lake District and navigating crowded city centers. I even remembered how to drive on the left and use a stick shift.

That intertubes thingy is very useful when you are making a reservation. You should try it... ;)


"US Hwy" vs. "State Route" can be confusing. There's not much in the way of functional difference.

(What is worse, is that each State has its own emblem for its State-Route/State-Highway system.)

I've seen a few roundabouts in my area, but they are by far the exception.


Sounds like a fine piece of'll be the life of parties for years on the other side of the pond.


If you think gas in California is cheap, wait till you get to Texas someday. ;)


I agree with Maria. If you had seen a Brown Bear instead of a brown-colored bear, you would likely never visit America again. They are about 9 feet tall and weigh 600 of your kilograms.

They're so big Alaskan exurbanites had to invent a whole new gun just so they can go out to the garage without getting snacked on.


Lincoln Town Car = Ford Crown Victoria = Police Interceptor*. Huge wallowy hovercraft. 6 inch give on the wheel before anything happens. Like driving a blancmange. Put the brakes on and the rear end rises until the car's at about 30 degrees.

I was offered an upgrade to a red Mustang too. In Las Vegas, when I got married. We turned it down because we needed the extra seats and the luggage space chiz.

Welcome home Charlie! I saw you in SF at Borderlands.

  • yes they really call it that. The only thing it's going to intercept is Dunkin Donuts amirite?!

Ah yes, the American barge of a car. Happy happy joy joy.

Our last trip we ended up getting an "upgrade" to a Buick Grande Marquis (essentially the same vehicle as the Lincoln, as they're all Crown Victoria cop cars/taxis underneath), as they were all out of compacts and intermediates. It wasn't so bad as Mary had hurt her back, and the barge was comfortable enough for the run down south to Orange County and back.

I'm used enough to driving that side of the pond that I don't mind the shift in mindset - the only tricky bit was taking the infamous Nasciamento-Ferguson Road over the coast range from Paso Robles to the 1 south of Big Sur. Now that's a narrow windy road if there ever was one, and it was made all the trickier by folk who'd been heading down the 1 and hit it as a diversion around a major landslip to the south. I was happy enough as I knew what I was getting in for. They weren't...

And I really really hate steering wheel gear selectors.

Ah well. I have to go to Seattle twice in the next couple of months, so will be driving SF to SEA at least one way I suspect...


Again, we'd been told that Hwy 1 was a nice scenic route, not that it was a cross-country rally route and/or cattle track,

Language barrier. The above terms tend to be synonymous with each other when describing roads in the US.

As to your car. Yes, in the future ask to see the car. I rent cars almost any time I drive more than a few hours away. Cheaper than putting miles on our personal cars. And I like scenic routes. But I tend to stay in the "mid sized" range unless hauling lots of bodies or stuff.

If you're ever in the area again go inland from Portland and drive south via the Oregon desert. Most of Oregon doesn't match what people think they know of the geography.


We ran into nearly ran into the bear around 150-180 miles out of San Francisco, up either ... Bloody thing just bounded out into the road and dashed across on all fours, scaring the living crap out of me.

I don't know how common deer are on the west coast but east of the Mississippi river they can be a major traffic issue in the spring and fall. And yes they just bound out. Local streets and 8 land interstates. Hitting a bear will ruin your day. Hitting a deer and not killing it and having it come through the front window and share the front seat will ruin your month or longer.

Insurance stats show over 1 million deer hits a year.


Thanks for teh link.

Charlie, I liked the talk, especially the last 1/3. You should expand on it.


Nope, Bob's experience in JENNIFER MORGUE was based on an description of a trip a boss of mine made (complete with inappropriate hire car).


Have the rental agencies stopped giving you the pretty pictures to show you what the car looks like?


Or rather, you get a pretty picture™ on their website when you make a reservation, which then turns out to be a vehicle "in the same class" (i.e. you order a Lambourghini and they give you a Kettenkraftrad). When you actually get to the desk and they offer you a free upgrade? No pretty pictures.

(NB: I was lucky that California drivers, even in downtown SF, are sufficiently laid back and/or slow-witted that even a Charlie in full-on automotive melt-down is able to make headway reasonably promptly. Back home, I'd have been slaughtered for hesitation.)


FYI: While gas in the USA is in general way cheaper than other developed countries, California in fact has some of the highest prices in the nation due to just about the highest state taxes. :) Pictorially, see


Wow. Next time ask us for advice. Why do you bother carrying all those fancy mobile devices around if you're not going to use them? I've been up Highway 1 many times, and wouldn't even think of driving it. It's great on a motorcycle, though.


I started giggling when I heard that you'd been told that Highway 1 is scenic.

Oh yeah. It's scenic all right. I love that highway, but it's not what I would choose to go up to Portland, for all of the reasons you mentioned (101 or 5, and take some time to stop at the parks on the way). It's not what I call fast, and it's not necessarily that fun for whoever is in the passenger seat.

Glad you survived.

Trick to remember brown vs. black bear. It's the shoulder hump and size on the Grizzly bear (aka a brown bear), and oh yeah, California is the only state to have killed off its official state animal (the golden bear, an alleged grizzly subspecies, although brown bear diversity is seriously confused at the moment). Yes, it's the bear on the California flag, and yes, there's a stuffed on at UC Berkeley in the student union. Go figure.


Ursine paratroopers have been around for a while.

(That was a blatant plug for a bit of amateur fiction.)

The British equivalent is cows.

(That was real news.)


I've got a Crown Victoria myself, although retired from police service and so with some features not likely found on the rental model. It is indeed a land barge, and fine for taking on long road trips on certain kinds of roads. It wouldn't be my first choice for wandering around the rural UK...

Before that I had a VW Beetle, so in addition to being gigantic, I get used to this acceleration thing that happens when you step on the gas.


Makes me glad I'm sticking to my Land-Rover.. Let's see if I can get this to work properly this time, my HTML is none too hot .... Does that work?

Not too well .. There must be a way of posting a LINK, as there is for a text or a page. Um.


Again, we'd been told that Hwy 1 was a nice scenic route, not that it was a cross-country rally route and/or cattle track, by folks who assured us that it would be a leisurely two day drive from SF to PDX.

Should have asked your forum of devoted fans first...Hwy 1 north of San Francisco negates any need for caffeine when driving because the pure terror of that drive will shoot your body's adrenaline output well past what is considered "normal".

(Bay Area California resident 20+ years)


Around here the Lincoln Town Car is usually for octogenarians(for some weird reason I haven't been able to fathom yet), but I wouldn't call it a land-yacht. We had a "Show and Shine" and there were a lot of 60's cars there and those were Land Yachts.

P.S. seeing some-one calling Californian gas cheap made me smile, because Californians usually bitch on about how expensive it is.


I refused to drive during my trip to Scotland a few years ago, and left it to my brother who'd been there/done that. My father decided to give it a go*. Within in 10 minutes he'd hit the curbkerb and bent the front left rim, so we got to find the local garage and wait around an hour, or so, while that got straightened out. He did fine after that, though there was one incident entering onto a, seemingly enormous, highway roundabout, where we were nearly flattened by a semi coming at us.

Locally, it's become the fashion to put in roundabouts in new shopping centers and on the military bases. The military ones are better and more clearly marked. The civilian ones tend to have signage with curvy lines going every which way that just confuses a lot of drivers. I think they're rather fun driving the MINI around.

Also once rode in the back seat of a friends Hummer from CO Springs to Boulder, roundtrip. Was like riding on a big sofa--couldn't feel the road at all. They didn't have it long, at the time it was $60 to fill the tank (at 11mpg), probably at least twice that now.

*Before I was born he'd  driven his MGBs on the amateur race/rally circuit, but he still drives like a maniac (imo). A few years ago I rode with him in his minivan going 110mph across north Florida at 5am (very dark) with some idiot in a sports car tailgating.

Charlie @21;Then handed it in nearly dry. I've never heard of a rental agency that didn't insist on filling before turning in. Or did you drop and run?

Sorry this is so long, wrote it offline, and tried to cram a bunch in.


That's a change: mostly we just get told how awful NZ drivers are. I now wonder how much of that perception is due to driving culture differences.

I don't know how common deer are on the west coast

They're quite common, though not quite the road vermin they are in some parts of New York and Connecticut these days. I've had a few interesting encounters with them on the road, and even come across a family of four wandering around the Nike corporate campus one evening.

Yes, Highway 1 is great fun if you've got time and don't mind an occasional scream of terror. I took it from San Clemente up to San Francisco when I moved to California many years ago. Luckily there wasn't much traffic then.


IME "scenic route" is evidence that the American sense of humour is a lot more nuanced than we Brits like to give them credit for. A good translation of "scenic route" would be "road locals would't be seen dead on because they know they'd stand a very good chance of being seen dead on it.". And if you do survive it'll have taken 2-3 times as long as the regular highway.

And by "locals" I mean /locals/, not just Americans. Last time we ventured onto a "scenic route" it was with a couple of OH's friends, so it's not like three out of the four of us weren't Americans who should've known better. The Shenandoah National Park Skyline Drive it was. Very scenic indeed, well that bits that didn't have ground-hugging clouds that you'd drive round a corner into so you wouldn't have a clue how close to the cliff-edge you were.


Why do you bother carrying all those fancy mobile devices around if you're not going to use them?

They lose 80 points off their IQ when you travel outside your own country. International roaming data at US $5/Mb ramps up fast if you hit on Google Maps. On the other hand, they're still phones.

(Working out the implications of the corollary -- that you can't buy a pre-paid micro SIM with data in the US -- is left as an exercise for the reader.)


The acceleration was a sore point.

The Lincoln Town Car is the first US rental car I've ever seen that actually had any acceleration. Alas, it also had the slushbox from hell. I drive stick shift all the time, have never owned an automatic, and therefore am not au fait with how to use the manual override to get best performance out of one. What I did note was that the Lincoln only seemed to have three gears, and delivered pathetic performance -- losing speed on a gentle uphill slope -- until it decided to drop a gear and blast that big V8 up to full RPM. Which felt like the afterburners kicking in at random, usually with a hairpin bend looming in the windscreen.

I could not get that fucking slushbox figured out. In the end, once we hit I-5, I just stuck it on cruise control and told it what speed I wanted from it. Which worked most of the time, but only when there was no call for abrupt manoeuvring.


Pictorially, see

Wow. Obviously I'm not clueless enough to have been unaware that petrol is significantly cheaper in the US than the rest of the developed world, but the extent of the difference wasn't clear to me. The highest category on that map is like stepping back in time about 20 years.


I'm in the middle of re-reading the Jennifer Morgue (having finally given up on my brother's ever finding the copy I loaned him and returning it to me, so I bought a new one; he's asked if he can borrow this one...). When I read this blog post, I immediately thought of that section of JM! (I rather enjoyed the vivid imagery of people behind him using a cannon to fire Mercedes at him.)

Charlie is clearly good at visualizing the concept of driving the wrong car for a given road....

PS. Charlie, what part of "American car" gave you the impression that it WOULDN'T be a boat? By your standards, of course. I'm sure I would have found it unacceptably tiny, and the gas prices would have been outrageous.


Charlie @21;Then handed it in nearly dry. I've never heard of a rental agency that didn't insist on filling before turning in. Or did you drop and run?

Avis have two options: a "cheap" one where you start with a full tank and you're supposed to hand it in full, but they charge about $8/gallon if they have to top it up ... and an "expensive" option where you buy the full tank of gas when you start, at a price about 10% above retail. I am not innumerate -- went for the latter, handed it back with under 20% remaining. (Yes, that means they got about five gallons back for free. On the other hand, I didn't have to (a) find a gas station in downtown Portland, or (b) pay $9/gallon for that final top-up in a land barge.)


Yikes! Add some weight, trim the hair, and that could be my father. He's talked about getting a Land Rover.


NB: I have a car. It's a Volvo 850 Estate (US: station wagon). The engine is half the size of the Lincoln's, the body's about a foot narrower, and it's somewhat shorter (probably a foot off both the nose and tail). Oh, and it's a stick shift.

I think I'd have enjoyed Highway One if I'd had my own car ... narrow enough to fit between the lines on the road, and vastly more controllable on the gradients and curves (I tend to work the gears and clutch hard). The Lincoln Town Car makes a Volvo 850 estate feel like a sports coupe.


Greg, I have seen roads like that. Bet you're smug you've got a landie, hmm?

(I'm thinking about replacing the 850. Almost certainly with a V70 -- newer version of same: possibly with a 4WD version if I can find one, rather than the somewhat bloated XC70 Volvo created by raising the suspension and slapping huge plastic excrescences on the V70. Just for the odd trip up into the highlands. Alas, the V70 AWD is a relatively rare beast ...)


I see. My brother's the car renter, not I.

Stephen @67: I once loaned a book to someone, which they lost, six months later they bought a new copy for me, then conveniently found mine--rather mangled. Guess which I got back. A used book store in my area has a hardcover copy of "The Jennifer Morgue", I don't need another copy, but it's tempting.


Last time I drove through the highlands was in a classic Mercedes (free upgrade anyone?) and I remember there were three kinds of roads

A - almost a road B - barely a road C- can't find the road, but there seems to be a sheep path


I have just been mooching around wikipedia, various gearhead fora, and ebay. Alas, it turns out that the high performance R badged Volvos went away in 2006, replaced by high trim level ... and in any case, they were almost all automatics. Similarly, the AWD models almost all seem to be autos. Do not want!

On the other hand, there are some tasty 5 year old low mileage manual diesels within my budget. And the tank is coming up on its fifteenth birthday any month now.


Charlie@64: (Working out the implications of the corollary -- that you can't buy a pre-paid micro SIM with data in the US -- is left as an exercise for the reader.)

Actually you can, for iPhones at least, if you don't mind a bit of hackery. I brought over a factoryunlocked iPhone 4 when I moved here. Getting an AT&T GoPhone SIM was the easy bit, and cutting it to size with a micro-SIM cutter wasn't too difficult either. You then need to use the iPhone Configuration Tool to set up a profile with the relevant APN details (see Google passim) and buy a data bundle ($25 per 500MB which isn't /too/ gouging). Job done.

Of course, it means you're on AT&T which in urban areas like, um midtown Manhattan, makes O2 look like God's Own Network, but on the train home to the 'burbs works tolerably well. Prolly once the iPhone 5 comes out and I feel comfortable I have a good enough credit history here to get a contract I'll switch to PAYM.


If you're not moving when the light has gone from red to yellow, you are annoying a lot of people in London. Including me, if I'm behind you.


I'm sorry that you had such a difficult time on Highway 1 in California, Charlie. If I may say so, however, you did it wrong. I've only driven it (technically, been driven along it) twice; in a convertible Thunderbird (old one) with a beautiful blond driving. She was a California native, I'd just flown in (in the middle of a Midwest winter, too!) She took me to dinner, and then home again on a lovely golden California afternoon and evening. One of my happiest memories. You ought to try it that way some time!



Maybe Charlie could ask the regulars to post a (small) photo of themselves?


Thinking back to your post on what driving will look like in the future and about the new millage standards for US cars in 15 years, I suspect that manual transmissions will become fairly rare in the US. And likely much of the developed world. (define developed as you wish)

Basically auto tranny tech is getting so good with continuously variable drive and 6 or more gears they will soon get much better millage than anyone can get with a manual.

Says he with 2 or the 4 cars in the family be manuals. And who first experience driving a gas powered something was a lawn mower BUILT by my father and uncle. The drive train was a 3 speed motorcycle trany ahead of a 3 speed Crosley car trany. Engine and clutch were off a hay baler. Clutch was a mostly binary lever. Built in the late 50s. Fun toy for an 8 year old.


Don't know quite how big a car you need, but a 2.0L VW Diesel Golf is a brilliant car. Drive carefully and you can get better than 60mpg. Also a reasonable amount of acceleration if you shift down and floor it.


For reference on hypothetical future trips to the USA: I have had good luck extracting small cars from US auto rental franchises by saying things like "I need to park this in [insert name of nearest very large city]" and "I expect to be driving this on back roads". Sometimes "I prefer small cars" works too, but sometimes they just assure you that the barge they're offering is so nice, you'll like it, honest. Don't allow the conversation to become about money.

I've never tried to rent a stick shift, but similar tactics might be effective (or they might honestly not have one -- I do sometimes wonder why automatics are ubiquitous here and nearly unheard of in Europe...) I should think that Volvo can design an auto that is less annoying than the one you had -- which is not to say it wouldn't be annoying at all for someone accustomed to a manual, of course.


Horses are for courses. Were you drive makes the best car. Coast to Coast or west out of Kansas City, you want a Caddy, a Lincoln or the like. Or you could use a Murk for a lot more money. Sit in it. Push the cruise control. Then go to bed in about 5 or 6 hundred miles. You gatta be nuts to want to do that in a buzz box. I have. Back in the day you would see very old beaters along the side of the road. And new VWs in pools of oil and anything Brit with lots of steam.
Eating in Western parks can get hairy. Bears know were food is. Now they rip off car doors to see if there is any inside.
101 was a lot better before the tax cuts.


Sorry about the tough drive, but:

  • The Town Car can be amusing on the twisties once you get used to the automatic transition (agreed, much inferior to a manual on roads like that for the reasons cited...) Just remember that its a rental and rubbing the occasional guard rail isn't the end of the world.

  • Oh, and driving a rental means it's not the end of the world if you hit a brown^H^H^H^H^Hblack bear. You don't want to go aiming for them, but heck, he really should have been in a crosswalk, shouldn't he?

  • And as for returning the Town Car dry...what is it, a 16 gallon tank...times $8 a know, it's probably cheaper to just park it with the keys at your destination and just report it stolen. Rental companies and their perverse incentives. It's like they want you to do that.

Anyways, glad to hear you had a safe^H^H^H^Hsurvivable trip!


That matches what I've been seeing -- manual transmissions won't really be gone, but most cars will use an automatic, and the high-performance ones will use a sequential manual gearbox. Manual, but without a clutch pedal.

(Currently, one some Audi models, your options are a traditional manual, or a double-clutch SMG generally described as an automatic transmission. It's not, for technical reasons most people don't care about, but it gets the job done.)


Diesel Golf? On the PCH? No, no, that won't do. Plenty of torque, but this is a driver's road. Get a GTI.

But alas, Hertz, Alamo, Enterprise, etc. don't rent German hot hatches or econo-hatches.

Next time you fly into San Fran or LA, and have a road trip, take a cab to the car rental (CA airport rentals gauge like nobodies' business) and get a convertable Mustang faux-pony V6, and take the top down, and watch out for the RVs, wildlife, and retirees. You'll see them in spades, and if you'll look closely, everyone will have a smile on their face.

If you do it right, you'll never want to drive on the left again.

As for Lincolns, what do you expect, it's a Lincoln, (Ford:Lincoln::GM:Cadillac.) Don't drive a rental Lincoln unless you are going to Boca Raton.


Don't know quite how big a car you need

I live in Edinburgh, a city where parts of town date to the middle ages and the "New" town to the 1760s. Driving about town is a non-starter, so the car is mostly used for large scale shopping expeditions and hauling 2-3 adults plus luggage up and down motorways on long trips.

A V70 is about the right size. Otherwise I'd be looking at an (ack, spit) SUV or enviously sizing up a Jaguar Estate. Put it another way, a Volvo V70 estate is too small.


The acceleration was a sore point.

Yeah, mine does that not-much-then-woosh thing, too. The Police Interceptor configuration adds to the fun; the car really wants to chase something. It took a month or so to get used to it, and it's not for everybody. (For one thing, the first owners left their back seat in my car; the rear is not a place for one's friends.) Great cargo room, though.


I love how you think our gas is so cheap in California! We pay more out here than many other states. I would definitely recommend a smaller, sportier car for our twisty roads.


@ 69 & 70 The photo was taken at Fords of Tefi Approx grid-reference: SN 805 677 Some considerable way from tarmacdam....

The V70 AWD Volvo is a capable machine - not quite as all-round as an L-R, but really good, just the same.

@ 78 Really good idea.... IF we can get the HTML sorted out! I was trying for a link - and got half the picture! There's a lot more Land-rover and Land-scape in the original!

SEF @ 84 That's called a "Pre-selector gearbox" And was used on (Brit) Daimlers and Lanchesters, and a LOT of Buses. The classic London RT and RM model buses use(d) pre-selectors.

Charlie @ 86 If you're looking for haulage volume, then check-out L-R either 90 or 110 "County" model s/h prices. But remember, depreciation is VERY SLOW on good L-R's, which cuts both ways.


Dear me, I did that road many years ago in a rented Nissan Sentra and was very glad I wasn't in anything larger. By NZ (South Island) standards thats a very winding road, I remember thinking it felt like a rural road that they had just sealed without realigning any of the corners. Its a pity you didn't feel able to go for a walk in the redwoods, its quite an experience - a Forest of Unusual Size. What really got to me was that I spent most of the day doing that and saw not a soul, just a deer. No, uh, bears...


A Diesel Golf, 1.9 GT TDI (150ps) 5d will do 0-60mph in 8.3 seconds and still average better than 50mpg


Being lazy, here's my flickr link (BTW, how does that sound in German?). Anyway, me and Fiona with mostly pagan stuff and some pics of Japan in 1985:


If I was going for a walk in the woods that had bears I would want to take a Big Gun. Preferably semi-auto in 7.62x51 NATO.


Last time I was on north Hwy 1, I drove a Prius and had fun.

Too bad renting one was so expensive, but it was quite a comfortable car for a week-long road trip.


Price of petrol right now in rural Victoria (southern Australia) - $1,39 / litre, which comes to about $5.30 per gallon. Now, convert from AUD to USD...

I remember the screams when we broke the (purely psychological) $1 / L barrier :)


here's me in Charlies home town


North American "black" bears are not dangerous enough to warrant carrying automatic weapons. They don't see humans as prey, and mostly try to avoid people. They will try to steal food if they can, and non-food items that smell strongly (such as soap and candles), so hikers are advised to carry their food in bear-proof sealed containers, but you have to actively piss one off to be attacked. (They can and will rip your guts out if you do get them angry, though. And that's what I'd expect to happen to anyone who tried to scare one off with a weapon designed to kill humans.) See e.g. this sheet of bear safety tips.

Grizzly bears are somewhat more dangerous, but there aren't any of those in California or Oregon anymore, and they mostly want to be left alone, too.


The Sedan de Ville was a different, albeit similarly sized, model made by GM. I'd guess the target demographic can cope with French--although I have my doubts from the few Town Car drivers I know--but the advertising laws, not so much.


Went Land Rover shopping with my dad - he's always wanted one, but has a very specific model in mind, one he hasn't seen since the early 60's (the one he learned to drive as a cadet, a Series IIa). We found a place in the Midlands that has hundreds if not thousands of them and spent all day wandering past rows of them as Dad rejected various candidates for increasingly frivolous reasons. I mean, I can understand not wanting one with a schnorkel, but it all got too much when he said "That one would be perfect, except it's too laddery".

"Too laddery" has become a family phrase now.

We decided in the future he could find his own cars. Not sure how he expected to drive one anyway, he's only driven automatics for the past 25 years.


My first time driving on the other side of the road (left, in this case) was in the Highlands. After dark, no less (unintentionally -- my passengers were slow getting organised). Still not sure how I'm around today. Though the road was relatively normal compared to those later in the trip, and included no cows, sheep, or deer (that I could see).

At least you don't have moose, either in the Highlands or in California.

(I'm thinking about replacing the 850. Almost certainly with a V70 -- newer version of same: possibly with a 4WD version if I can find one, rather than the somewhat bloated XC70 Volvo created by raising the suspension and slapping huge plastic excrescences on the V70. Just for the odd trip up into the highlands. Alas, the V70 AWD is a relatively rare beast ...)

A couple of years ago a moron decided to tailgate me just when I hit the brakes on my 1992 Volvo 740 station wagon (estate) to avoid hitting an animal that ran across the road. My car was 15 years old at that point, so the insurance company declared it a total loss and I went looking for another. I found a 2004 XC70 (I couldn't find a 4WD V70 I could afford) that has worked out reasonably well. I would have preferred a stick but that wasn't on offer either, but I've gotten good service out of the manual control; I use that every day because I live in the hills west of Portland, and drive to to the top of Council Crest (about 1100 feet altitude, roughly 700 feet above my house) every morning, and then back down, on a two lane road with almost no shoulder and considerable bicycle and pedestrian traffic. Down-gearing is a necessary part of the drive.

The week after I bought the XC70, we had the worst snow storm to hit Portland in decades, and I had a chance to try out the car on both snow and ice, and without traction devices, since I hadn't had a chance to buy chains to fit the new car. Turns out it handles really nicely even without chains; I was able to get out of my steep driveway when covered with several inches of snow over a thin layer of ice, with no problems, and had no trouble on the roads even before they were plowed.

So it might be worth your time to test drive an XC70 to see if it will work the way you want it to.


Oh dear, dear, dear. It is very possible to bash across backroads in a Lincoln Town Car, or Crown Vic, or Cadillac if you are a backwoods hippie redneck kid who grew up driving tractors and the ilk. And I'm not talking mellow highways like the 1. I'm uh, talking Forest Service roads (single lane gravel). But again, that's a different ilk of experience. Doable, but not recommended for a coastal highway due to hideous summer tourist traffic.

You would have definitely liked the drive in your regular car, Charlie. Preferable.

We have certain airports (Denver!) that always want to stick us with minivans, then SUVs when they hear where we're going (generally National Parks, and yeah, probably off road but we ain't tellin' rental folks 'cause that might make them a wee bit nervous....generally because they're not keen on towing from the backwoods, but we're not that kind of driver). DH has been known to look at the rental we've been given, turn around and walk back in to ask for something different. Even if it's smaller. That's how we usually manage to avoid getting the boats from rental agencies.

"Compact" or "Full size" usually gets what we want, though how "Minivan" or "SUV" gets translated into those categories is beyond me.

Now "Compact SUV" can sometimes mean "Subaru" which, if it's not the minivan, can be right nice. But we haven't lucked out like that for a while.


I found driving in the US only made sense once you realise their driving isn't the same as our driving.

Our driving you sit IN the car, become part of the car and use the full sensory equipment to control it. Our driving involves situation awareness, road feel and an almost automatic desire to "kiss the apex".

Their driving you sit ON the car, like a stagecoach, and crack the occasional whip or pull on the reins in order to affect some measure of control. While in theory you are in charge of the vehicle, in reality its more offering suggestions. This means you are not going to be performing any swift action, but also that you get more of your attention given to the scenery, other passengers, etc. It's also why you see so many single vehicle, unforced accidents by the side of the straight, flat, roads.

If you want our driving, you really need to get a european vehicle for the rental. They (US) seem incapable of really delivering a driving car, no matter how much is claimed in improvements.


Price of petrol in my home town right now is around £1.39/litre, or roughly USD $2.24/litre, or $8.45 per US gallon.


Or, with Charlie in mind, a Skoda Octavia II vRS Estate TDi has 170bhp, enough torque to make your eyeballs roll, manual box, better than 50mpg, and a boot suitable for holding a dance in!

Ref photos - It's years old, but I'm the guy on the right in the last picture . It's the only digital photo of me that I know of.

@UnholyGuy @73 - I live up there, and habitually do 60[cough] mph on those roads. Not joking or trolling.


I would actually be going for the 1.9tdi Octavia. Granted you don't have the oomph of the VRS but 2 million cab drivers are not wrong. You can literally run the car for a million miles.

Plus the Octavia estate boot is massive even compared to a V70.


Did some digging -- colour me surprised! The Octavia estate has pretty much the same load capacity as a Volvo V70. Only a four star NCAP rating, though, and it doesn't appear to have the same emphasis on safety features as the Volvo.

(Despite no more than scuffed bumpers over the past eight or nine years, I am a paranoid driver.)

108: 106 and 107 - I actually have an Octavia 1 TDi110 (for 5 years now); I know that you could drive it to the Moon and back if it could go straight up! Even though it's 9 years old next month, about the only safety features it's missing are ESP (IMO, if you need that, you drive too fast anyway) and curtain bags. The ABS is capable of backing off braking on a single wheel.

I picked out the vRS TDi because it's about as quick (practical driving, like 30 to 90 through the gears, not academic stuff like Vmax) as a Volvo 850 T5-R, which I've a memory of Charlie saying he might fancy as a replacement for his present car, and the 50-odd mpg economy.


Isn't there something in The Constitution of the U.S of A about " The Right to Arm Bears ? " I always wondered about this but now realise that the N.R.A would surely wish to assist native Americans of The Bear population of the USA to defend themselves against people armed with, " ... semi-auto in 7.62x51 NATO. "


I would post a picture of myself here, but for the many expeditions I took as a child to certain ruins in the foothills of the Berkshires. Ever since then, gazing at photo renditions of my person have caused a certain etiolation of the soul for even the most casual of onlooker.

Said expeditions were mostly on foot, but were usually facilitated by a small turquoise Datsun. Been all over Skyline Drive in a Crown Vic, as well as a Windstar and a Saturn. It's lovely.


You want an estate with a 5-star NCAP rating? You are picky - you may have to look at the Skoda Superb then.

And 633 litres rather than 580 ...

(It came top at this comparative review.)


"They can and will rip your guts out if you do get them angry, though. And that's what I'd expect to happen to anyone who tried to scare one off with a weapon designed to kill humans."

A 7.62mm NATO round could kill a T-Rex. Given the American familiarity with guns of all types it always surprises me when I see Hollywood's idea of a gunfight. All sparky bullets and ricochets, and the occasional neat hole in someone. A 7.62 could go through both doors of a car, through a double brick wall and still kill you. On its way through you it will destroy an amount of tissue about the size of a baseball.


ah, Volvos are great (though I don't like the siting of the rear lights on the estate), but but really, a BRDM-2 is the way to go in the country. Or if that's too large, maybe a Wiesel?

I've no experience with bears, but I take the view that when you're in bear country, you're a guest, and it's bad manners shooting them. Would riot gas make them run off, or would it annoy them?

On another website we had a very long discussion about what it'd take to kill a T-Rex, the majority were unconvinced that anything short of a heavy weapon wouldn't do the trick fast enough. (a website where most posters were serving US military). 7.62 would probably kill a bear, according to the somewhat scarey folk at the Firing Line forums, who don't recommend .223. To be sure though, use a claymore on a broom handle.


mangled double negatives in previous post. I meant you'd need something heavy for a T Rex.

Volvos are great (though I don't like the siting of the rear lights on the estate), but but really, a BRDM-2 is the way to go in the country

Yes, but the Volvo is more convenient in town. And as you ought to have noticed, the bit of Scotland Charlie inhabits is a city.


Bellinghman: I have long legs, but... going over the Alps in an A4, that was not an issue. So, partially me, partially the car, I guess.

What I'd want on the Highway 1 is a small BMW with a stick shift and sports suspension, but I don't think they'll offer me an upgrade to that, ever.


Bears, thats nothing. Try 160 kph on the (till recently unlimited speed) Stuart Highway north of Alice Springs in Northern Territory, Australia in the dark, no other vehicles for probably 100 km and suddenly there are a herd of feral camels running diagonally across the road!

Talk about skid marks :)


yes. That's why I recommend the Wiesel for urban driving. And the BRDM for running over bears.


I was assuming you'd shoot a T-Rex in the head. A body kill shot would be unlikely, as penetration depth is about 60cm Apart from that, most modern soldiers are not too familiar with the 7.62 round


Fair enough: different cars fit different people.

I'd quite happily have taken my old A4 over the Alps - it was really quite nice and nippy, though the 2.6 litre V6 was a bit thirsty.

And manual shift, yes. I want to be the one to tell the engine it needs to shift now because we're going to start coming out of that bend in half a second's time.

(Pace Ian Smith @103)


You might hit the head, but will you hit the brain? that's the tricky part.

7.62 is still a very common NATO round. Clue: GPMG, M60, G3, M24, L96A1, PSG-1...

A recent survey showed that about 80% of casualties shot by UK troops were hit by GPMG fire. It's still the the standard lump of metal flying over a battlefield.


True, but almost all individual weapons are 5.56 now. How many modern soldiers have actually felt the recoil of a 7.62 round fired from something like an SLR, G3 or M14?


7.62 obsolete?

Oh my god, now I feel old. I learnt on .303


I'd guess quite a few. Certainly the British Army are teaching locals how to use the G3 in Guyana, Malaysia, probably in other countries - it's fairly common in Africa, Asia and Central/South America.

The Afghan Army use quite a lot of the Soviet 7.62 AK variants alongside the more modern 5.56 ones.


I almost hit one of those camels east of Alice Springs once. The Red Kangaroos are no joke either, those suckers are big.

"Bears, thats nothing. Try 160 kph on the (till recently unlimited speed) Stuart Highway north of Alice Springs in Northern Territory, Australia "


Their driving you sit ON the car, like a stagecoach, and crack the occasional whip or pull on the reins in order to affect some measure of control. While in theory you are in charge of the vehicle, in reality its more offering suggestions....

Me thinks thou doth generalize way too much.


Given the American familiarity with guns of all types it always surprises me when I see Hollywood's idea of a gunfight.

Such knowledge is not distributed evenly.

For a look at a group of Americans experimenting with pistol/rifle/shotgun and various targets, google the phrase "box of truth". You should find a site full of in-the-field experiments with guns and targets. Sadly, that team couldn't find a Tyrannosaur for testing purposes.

This knowledge is interesting, but isn't evenly distributed among gun owners in America. Not to mention that most Hollywood/TV types are not gun-knowledgeable. (Notable exceptions that I am aware of: the late Charleton Heston, and Tom Selleck. But they are actors, not writers or SFX guys.)

I've even laughed occasionally at news/entertainment people from NYC who blithely assume that every gun in America has an attached registry/permit. The State of NY requires owners to register. But not all States do.

Anyway, for hiking in woods with bears nearby...the link given by Zach (@97) contains lots of good info.

I did hiking (and a little dear-hunting) in wooded country that had black-bear, wolf, and coyote about 5 years ago. The experienced hands showed me how to avoid trouble, and noted that in America, most wolves and bear tend to avoid people.


Oh, 8.3 seconds to 60 is fine, and I'm sure the TDI has a nice suspension set-up. That is a worthy whip for the interstate here in the states or your interesting configuration of M-roads and the butter-roads.

But the PCH is a driver's road. It needs a 2.0T, at the very least.


Charlie: Lincoln Town Car and Exciting Drive are not phrases I thought I would ever see in such close proximity... Maybe you could be a Spokesman for Ford!


Many years ago I drove that route in a rented Ford Thunderbird (the '78 boat, not the later coupe). It appears things haven't changed much in that time. White knuckles, bear adventures et al. One day I will go back and do it all again in a real car.


Absolutely agree on hiking and working around threatening animals. In general, I treat them like NRA members--treat them with respect, let them have their space, and only escalate if they're obviously going prepared to do so. Oh, and never get between a momma bear and her cubs. Grizzlies are a slightly different matter, but so are great white sharks.

In general, you've got a much higher chance of dying in a car wreck or from exposure (e.g. stupidity in some form), than from an unprovoked mauling by anything larger than a disease-carrying mosquito. Paying attention is much better than being paranoid in any case.

As for killing a T-Rex, I haven't read the transcript, but they had really vulnerable legs, and they had very sensitive noses. It might be that something as simple as a clove oil bomb or a tear gas sprayer might drive one off (since birds don't taste capsicum, I'm not sure a pepper spray or pepper ball would work). If you could get some sort of armor-piercing round into a leg or hip bone, that would probably end whatever threat it posed to you. The problem with being a massive biped is that you don't get a spare leg to limp with. Actually killing one would, of course, be harder.


Re: Killing T-Rex with an AK, African poachers mow down elephants all the time with AKs.

Re: Best weapon for bear defense: If you can carry a handgun while in the wilderness(around here only trappers and surveyors can do so) a .44 Magnum revolver(think Dirty Harry) is the best combination of punch and portability. If you can't, most people take a shotgun loaded with solid slugs. It's short range, but will stop anything.


Blakes 7: Oh my, this is extremely OT but... That site has taken me back. I guess my claim to fame is that I used to deliver milk to Gareth Thomas (Blake) in my days helping on a Unigate van in Brentford (aged about 13 as I remember). This was also the heyday of the Vic-20 and other Commodore notables, and there was a computer shop next to the BBC Rehearsal Rooms in North Acton - outside which I bumped into Michael Keating (Vila) and Paul Darrow (Avon) on more than one occasion. As my son says: 'Geek and Proud!'


Since the USMC spends a lot of time swapping lead with Afghanis armed with .303 rifles (at THRICE the range of .223), they've reintroduced 7.62x51 NATO at the squad level in the form of M-14s issued to "Designated Marksmen."

For the record, New York State requires all handguns to be licensed. Long guns are unregistered, except for New York CITY where all firearms need a permit (that is very hard to get).

Color me shocked that Charlie's visit to the US has evolved into a discussion of driving fast cars and shootin' big animals with big guns.


"Color me shocked that Charlie's visit to the US--2" But I still will add to it.
Black bears do rip open tents and drag kids and others into the bush sometimes. In parks there are no guns around and usually nobody to stop them. There is a pepper bear spray. But it really POs them, up close. Grizzly bears are dangerous as hell as were Golden bears.
Thanks to Global Warming there is less food in the deep wild. Heck, nowadays cougars hunt,and eat live hikers and runners on trail very near cities now. Bambi my left butt. Food is what they do not fear and some are not that afraid of humans now.
David Drake did some stories on hunting T-Rex. He used a WW-2 30-06 with old time bronze rounds that would penetrate to the small brain.
1930 CORDS had Pre-selector gearboxes. Euros have always hated Americans use of automatic gearboxes as wastefully of fuel. I've been on your street corners and heard you cars scream their guts out so the driver will not have to shift. Your gas prices are taxes. There is lots of oil and gas, but the market is rigged.


Wife Unit and I drove that route a few years back. So many twists and turns that she pulled some muscles that resulted in chest pains several days later. We went to the emergency room in case it was a heart attack. And this was with power steering!

It wasn't, but it sure was nice to say the words "chest pains" and get bumped up ahead of all those nose-dribblin' arm breakers. W.U. revealed to the doc that she is a half-marathon runner. Doc said "no way this is a heart attack, but we'll hook you up to the machines anyway". It wasn't a heart attack.


In Virginia, there are so many deer that some folks get a ticket to shoot one with an arrow. Some keep the meat and put it up into the freezer and others give it to charities. The new buildings are taking up too much room and the deer don't stop having more deer.


Bears are making a big comeback in the US, why you see so any of them, ever since they went protected and people stopped shooting them

I usually bring my .357 with me when i go camping in the sierras, they do occasionally get quite aggressive.

God help me if I ever have to use it though, suckers are big


David Drake did some stories on hunting T-Rex.

As did L. Sprague de Camp, most notably his short story 'A Gun For Dinosaur'. He wrote a series of 'time-travel dinosaur safari' short stories that were collected in the anthology Rivers of Time.


Greg, here's the link for your picture.

The reason the right side is cut off is because that's where this column ends on that side -- all the text wraps there, too.

(Ha! Great Green Beast!)


This is where I'm the oldest I have online -- 1980 on a cruise in Alaska's Inside Passage. There are more of me more recently, but they're all from other people at Minicon. The icon I use for LJ almost all the time is one.


I stand corrected -- I know next to nothing about guns, so I assumed that NATO-standard rifle bullets were probably not effective for killing anything bigger or with tougher hide than an infantryman. I suppose heavier loads also make sense if you're up against infantry with modern body armor.


I always thought the best dino killers would be either a 40mm rotary grenade launcher or some flavor of .50 caliber sniper rifle.

I also thought Jurassic Park got it right, it isn't the big noisy ones like T-Rex to be scared of, it's the smart, fast ones...


Of course, Bradbury's "A Sound of Thunder" was a little earlier.


Most dinosaurs could probably be taken with rifles designed for African big game. For the big ones, you'd want something like the Barrett Light Fifty, mainly because it'll let you be far away if you only wound it. If you were really nervous, you'd likely want one of the exotic anti-vehicle sniper rifles. The Finns built a rifle that used a 20mm armor-piercing round in case they needed to shoot at tanks. The French have this thing that shoots a foot-long titanium dart.


Cougars and bears were hunted with hounds and treed. They were not always killed and back then they feared humans. They are still killed in places. Where they are not they don't fear us. Maybe they should still be treed if they hang around humans, but not killed. Paint ball guns with real guns as backup?
The 7.62 NATO is a short 30-06. I think it started as a black powder round with lots of space for powder. What's needed is something that will not make the shooter jerk and miss. And still penetrate, like a bronze round. The old time white hunters used them instead of the lead of the time.
The only reason America is short of gas is that big oil companies have been buying smaller companies and ripping out their refineries. And all storage tank farms. You get both gasoline and fuel oil when oil is refined. Once the extra was saved in tank farms. Now there are no storage tanks so they don't. It's exported. And prices go up when they cut supply from refineries, like now even when there is lots of oil.


Marilee ... WHat did you do? I can "see" the link in Photobucket: - indeed I have 4 options, but I presume that you must "wrap" the direct link in something. I didn't want to post the long-link. I wanted to do what you've done, as one does with a "normal" hyperlink to a page. Or is that it?

Did you put: Left angle-bracket / a / href / equals / quote / link / right angle-bracket / title / end-job?

Please do tell!


We've had V70s for a while now (strictly speaking; I drive a V50, the boss drives a V70).

After the last two winters, where neither of us got stuck in the snow (although it's amusing to see the rear-wheel-drive BMWs completely failing to cope, ultimate driving machine my **) she-who-must-be-obeyed decided that she fancied four wheel drive; her sister has been ill, and lives in the Welsh countryside.

After talking to our rather friendly Volvo dealer, we now have an ex-demonstrator XC70, in an inoffensive colour, with the big oil-burning engine (225bhp turbodiesel for y'all) and an automatic gearbox (which annoyed the wife at the time). Irritatingly, her 2.5l diesel monster still gets better miles-per-gallon than my 1.8l petrol engine, and she's dragging half a ton more metal around...

The V70 automatic becomes addictive - it's not the rubbish 3-speed system from your US experience, it's a 6-gear automatic that has a manual override. Even my beloved petrolhead wife has swung into its favour. What will freak you out is the semiautomatic handbrake they started fitting on the most recent version of the V70 (they made it an S80 estate, not an S60 estate).


A 7.62 could go through both doors of a car, through a double brick wall and still kill you

Actually, no (strictly, it would depend on both the type of 7.62NATO and the wall).

Bullets are different; the original soft lead became "soft lead covered in copper to protect it and keep its shape" (hence "Full Metal Jacket"). The newer, lighter 5.56NATO bullet (designed by the Belgians, and not the same thing as the 5.56 round used by the US in Vietnam; search "SS109") introduced in the 1980s was designed to cope with a "protected man" (i.e. helmet and possibly body armour - search "CRISAT") so it contains a steel core, and might be described as semi-armour-piercing. As a result, the old 7.62NATO "soft lead covered in copper" bullet does worse than 5.56NATO "steel core wrapped in lead and covered in copper" when it comes to certain penetration tests.

Another note to any Americans - 5.56 NATO is the same size and footprint as .223 Remington, but it isn't the same at all - there's a lot more powder in there (SAAMI warnings apply). Much like 9mm NATO is in no way the same as the weedy stuff flogged by american manufacturers.

Where 7.62NATO have the advantage over 5.56NATO weapons is when dealing with windy conditions; the same crosswind will push it roughly half as far off target, and it has the oomph to deliver a lethal level of force at a longer range. This is why you'll see British soldiers in Afghanistan carrying a new 7.62NATO "designated marksman" rifle within the rifle sections - typical engagement ranges are greater.

Where 5.56NATO has the advantage is in weight - it's only half as heavy, and that can really make a difference when you're trying to run around with 40kg on your back...


Such knowledge is not distributed evenly

There is a British ex-special-forces type who went into business as a "gunfight choreographer" for Hollywood.

His most notable effort was in Michael Mann's "Heat". Classic stuff - notably "pistol/shotgun-armed policemen encounter military small-arms" which spawned a copycat robbery a few years later, but also for persuading the lead actors to learn firearms handling skills...


Yup, Octavia Diesel estates appear to be essentially unkillable. Ours is 10 years old & shows no sign of stopping.

The only downside I can think of is that the road noise at motorway speeds isn't up to (say) Lexus / modern Merc standards. As the man said, a million taxi drivers can't be wrong...

Safety standards are pretty good for a car that's 10 years old: I'm pretty sure side airbags were standard. If you're buying a 1999-2004ish model you want the "Elegance" rather than the bottom spec; disc brakes on the rear instead of drums & a bit more power in the engine which can easily be chipped for more power if that's your thing. Oh & those engines will happily run on chip fat (well, nearly), unlike the later PD versions.


Yes, but the 7.62mm round used by the AK series is a reduced-power round. The cartridge case is some 15mm shorter than the Russian equivalent of the 7.52mm NATO. It's using the same principles as the German 7.92mm round developed during the war (which itself is more than just a lighter bullet and shortened case, the taper is different to give more reliable extraction with a steel case).

That would be about 2/3 of the momentum. The 5.56mm NATO round has about 2/3 of the momentum of the 7.62x39mm.

The Ishapore factory in India made Enfield-type rifles in 7.62mm NATO (Checks: looks like an SMLE with a longer, squarer, magazine). It's only about 700g heavier than an M16. (Only? Yeah...)

When you get down to it, in debates about which weapon is best, the man behind the gun can matter more than the engineering details.


I had a few B7 fanfics published, on paper.

I also heard one or two horror stories about fans who confused actor and character.

Back in those days, somebody had to pay good money to produce a fanzine. These days, web space is so cheap, there's often no filtering at all on fanfics.

It shows...


OK, this should work to show the HTML:

<a href="">Link to photobucket</a>

(It uses some trickery to show the characters which would otherwise be hidden by your browser.)

This is how that string is interpreted by a browser.

Link to photobucket

The bit between the quote-marks is the URL, which you can get in several ways. There's usually a Copy option if you right-click on a link in a web page.



(I've been doing a little figuring for an AH idea, SMLE chambered for 6.5x55mm, modified in similar fashion to the No. 5 rifle, and fitted with something like the SUSAT sight. All seems possible, though feel free to ask why on earth anyone would do that.)


Just to clarify for those of us who don't know much about firearms - the police lose badly, and the actors find that military grade firearms are heavier and harder to use properly?


In the film "Heat", the police killed half of the robbery team. In the real-life incident, both robbers died.

You'll find the robbery scene from "Heat" on YouTube - I daresay the extras on the DVD will mention the training that the actors did...


The HK416 and 417 are probably the best military rifles currently available


The best military rifle is the one you are carrying, and are trained to use. The one you think is best is the one that is shooting at you.


There is a British ex-special-forces type who went into business as a "gunfight choreographer" for Hollywood.

And he writes books too, doesn't he? (Although you can never tell for sure.)

Totally agree with what you say about "Heat". Along with Miami Vice, the hand-to-hand stuff is good too - entirely consisting of pre-emptive strikes, which is the only (almost) guaranteed way of a clean put-down instead of messy chaos. The diametric opposite of wire-fu, which I personally dislike (except for the Matrix, where the whole point was that they're in VR).


"They don't see humans as prey, and mostly try to avoid people."

It's a little dangerous to generalize over every member of any species of bear. Black bears have a) stalked people for hours, killed and eaten them; and b) shown up in camps and mauled multiple people for no apparent reason (some bears are just assholes, evidently -- perhaps particularly old, male bears).

That said, black bears will almost always flee humans when they encounter them.

The one you think is best is the one that is shooting at you.

Especially when you're carrying a standard issue M-14 rifle, and the other bloke is firing mortar rounds at you from a klick away. But I got my revenge when the C-130 with the miniguns showed up. Note to self: never carry a mortar into an air-support fight.

One thing I learned quickly is that the shiny new equipment they show in the news footage and the movies isn't necessarily what the grunt on the ground gets to use. I spent a year in Vietnam and got to hold and fire an M-16 exactly once: to qualify to use one when I first came in country. Then I was issued an M-14 (with copper-jacketed "armor-piercing" rounds). As a demonstration, someone fired one of those rounds into the aluminum side of an M-113 Armored Personnel Carrier, resulting in a loud thud and a ding in the armor, but no hole. Somewhat later a guy I knew got bored on guard duty at the main gate of the compound we were at and fired a round from his .50 cal machine gun into the side of an APC. It made a hole, which answered the question he was asking. It also scared the crap out of everybody in the APC, and got him an article 15 nonjudicial punishment from the battalion commander (who didn't want a court-martial to interrupt his cozy black market operation).


The scary part is, that "Town Car" is fairly svelte compared to to the barges Lincoln sold 35 years ago, with 7.5 liter engines, single digit in town mileage and little power.


I think I have a WW2-plausible idea for an anti-aircraft mortar round.

Have one of these infernal devices given its initial launch impulse from a mortar, with enough delay on motor ignition that nobody on the ground gets flash-fried.

I doubt it would work. The projectile weight 35 pounds, and the recoil and chamber pressure would wreck the mortar.


Are all the gun nuts and day dreamers here Yanks. OK OK.
Full metal jackets are a Rule of War. Soft lead was killing too many of the Dukes and Princes war toys. They just drill in and out and don't cut off arms. They do a lot less harm so more of the lower classes live and breed back in time for the next war.
M-14s had .308s. M-16s have 223. Special types like to have someone with a M-14 with them. They hit farther and harder. But you can carry a lot more M-16 rounds, they just don't kill as well. In the real world I know you can see the dust popping off them from M-16 hits. They jump away and jump back still firing or running at you. I hear that one hit with a M-14 .308 they want to sit and lay down.
The powder the army used in the M-16 was the opposite of what it was made for. So it killed lots of GIs by jamming. They did some other things too. The M-16 was and maybe is a dangerous joke.


apparently roundabouts are increasingly common in the states. Meantime I was wondering which roundabout in Calais at night time... Btw if your in Calais their is a fantastic patisserie in a little square/parking area just buy the local railway station, if you find your by a park or opposite the town hall your on the wrong side of the railway bridge

168: 133 - When we were shooting that, I had a 6 word conversation with Judith Procter:-

J "What's going on?" Me "WobbleVision." J "Ah. Right."

151 - Agreed about the Elegance, or if you can live with the "plastics wrapped in dead cows' hides" interior, an L&K, which may have the 130 + 6 speed rather than the 110 + 5 as standard. Not the place to discuss tuning, but I know how to get an extra 30 to 50 brake out of either engine. 165 - I think something like this was actually trialed (on the Italian air force, who over-flew the test site at 2_000 feet in daylight, got "all kinds of everything" as a result, and took something like 60% losses). It may have involved shells trailing cables rather than HE charges though.

Ahem: two points. Firstly, military side-arms these days are largely self-defense weapons -- real casualties are inflicted by crew-served stuff. At least, in the kind of war NATO forces were mostly expected to fight. (Exception granted for current fucked-up situations in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and for special forces.)

Secondly ... thinking at a strategic level, you don't want a battle rifle that kills, you want one that maims. If you shoot and kill an enemy soldier, the net cost to the enemy is one (1) replacement soldier, and two hours' time for a burial party. If you shoot and injure an enemy soldier, the net cost to the enemy is one (1) replacement soldier, and a metric fuck-ton of medevac, hospital, rehab, and rear echelon expense that vastly exceeds the cost of a burial party by many (3-6) orders of magnitude.


FMJ are required on high velocity ammunition because otherwise the rifling strips the lead and fouls the barrel almost instantly. Nothing to do with rules of war. Maybe you are thinking of dumdum bullets?


thinking at a strategic level, you don't want a battle rifle that kills, you want one that maims

It depends on the time period - the wounded soldier returned to service is somewhat cheaper than a new trainee, and may contribute to 30+ years' further contribution to the enemy GDP.

The claim that "5.56 was designed to wound" is a frequently-uttered urban myth. There are too many dead people who will testify to it. Meanwhile, war as a whole is hideously expensive (although not as expensive as coming second), and cost is less of an issue than manpower. The number of UK service personnel killed in Afghanistan makes the news; the number of seriously wounded does not.

Dirk@170 - possibly the Hague Conventions (Declaration IV) "The Contracting Parties agree to abstain from the use of bullets which expand or flatten easily in the human body, such as bullets with a hard envelope which does not entirely cover the core, or is pierced with incisions."


I think this description should cover it :-)


sigh HTML fail :-( Let's see if this works:

Ah, I didn't need to try to HTMLise it :-)


That's why you should use the preview option any time you think there might be a possible glitch. People are always typing things like <a=href"http://..."> when they meant <a href="http://...">


WashPost reviewer (and SFF fan) Mike Dirda reviewed a history of Bradbury's early work today.


That's very close. What I added is in bold:

Left angle-bracket / a / space / href / equals / quote / link / quote / right angle-bracket / title / left angle-bracket / slash / a / right angle-bracket

I would probably change "title" to "text" -- I said "link" up there and I frequently put more text in, like the post I put in before this one.


No, I just think it's more elegant if it's in html.


The trouble with kangaroos (and, I'm lead to believe, camels as well), is that if you hit them with anything smaller than a truck (and by truck here I mean Optimus Prime with TWO trailers :) then two things will happen:

1 - your vehicle will be pretty much destroyed; certainly the engine compartment will, and you'll be lucky not to have angry roo through the windscreen; not a nice prospect when some distance from, well, anywhere.

2 - the bloody animal will, 50% of the time, bounce merrily off on its way, seemingly unharmed.

Yes it's true, everything here tries to kill you, and some of it likes to show off while doing it.

The good part is that they aren't too common - despite living in a region where we know they are about, I've only once seen one near the road while driving (just last weekend, as it happens, on a stretch of road I grew up travelling on).


That reminds me of a story I heard once about a moose. I can't say whether it actually happened as described or even whether it happened at all, but:

There's this rock'n'roll band on tour. They've got two busloads of people and three semi-trailers of equipment and they're convoying it across the Canadian wilderness in the middle of the night, hours from anywhere, and the lead truck driver sees a moose standing in the middle of the road. He has plenty of time to stop, which is fortunate, because the moose doesn't seem interested in getting out of the way.

They wait half an hour. Moose doesn't budge. The driver says to the guy riding shotgun: "I'm going to honk at the moose."

Shotgun says "No, that's a terrible idea. Absolutely do not honk at the moose."

They wait another half hour. Moose still isn't going anywhere.

"I'm going to honk at the moose."

"I'm telling you that's a really bad idea..."

The driver honks at the moose.

The moose charges at the truck. Now, we're talking a full-size tractor trailer here, they're not small, but the moose nonetheless manages to leap onto the hood (crushing various essential hoses and fiddly bits in the engine compartment), smash the windshield, and get about two-thirds of the way into the crew space before the broken glass cuts something critical open and it bleeds to death.

Driver and shotgun manage to duck into their seat wells just barely in time not to be impaled on the moose's antlers, but they're now trapped underneath a dead moose, the truck is inoperable, and no one else is going anywhere either, because this road's only got one lane each way and it's not quite wide enough for anyone to pass the lead truck.

Fortunately, the bus in the very back was small enough to turn around and go for help ... several hours back the way they'd come.


Thanks, read it this morning. I often read his reviews. I've been reading the Post's BookWorld 25+ years, off & on. Regularly since it's been online. Even as a kid I was a book junky.


and by truck here I mean Optimus Prime with TWO trailers

I think you mean one of these: Road Trains.


"I accidentally did 450 miles" Bad American car, BAD CAR!
I have never had a rental car that was any good. In fact a Car Magazine did road tests of rented cars and could not believe how bad they were next to the same cars they tested. Maybe the wheel alignment gets knocked out and the gas is bad.
Having said that I am a little tried of this bashing of American iron. They were made to run on long good roads with loads of people and their bags, not rallies. For not much money. They were and are good for that. In fact a Euro writer drove a big American car here back in the late 70s and said it was a good as any car for the road. There is now a Caddie that's races faster than Mercs and is very close to the best BMWs.
The only people I have seen with Lincoln Town Cars are very old,and well to do. They want a car that's smother than a Merc. Lincoln Town Cars EPA rating is 16 city/24 hwy. mpg. A gas 2012 Volvo S60 is18 cty/26 hwy. EPA.. BFD
In fact do you remember those dumb movies about Coast to Coast car races? Well there were some. The first on was won by Grand Prix racer Dan Gurney in a a big Ferrari in a not much over 40 hours. New York to Long Beach. He said they did not go faster than 140 much. Number two was a drive away big 70s Caddie. I think it lost by less two hours. That's over better than 1400 miles. The Jag did not finish, did not go far at all in fact.


Okay, it's official, Europeans, especially Brits, are wussies when it comes to driving. You nearly collapsed after 450 miles on the interstate in a Town Car (BTW, the de Ville name was taken for another brand)? Yeesh, I gave you guys some leeway when you whined about long drives on the basis that most of your roads suck (or so I have been told).

But I've done 1000 miles on interstate in one shot. Recently, in a piece of crap rental truck pulling a trailer (so 60+ feet of rolling stock). Admittedly, that was rough. 450 in a touring car with powered seats and a suspension that literally floats on air? That's not even worth noticing.



by truck here I mean Optimus_Prime with Range 2 .. 5 Step 1 trailers shirley? I've seen some of the Western Australian mine roadtrains!


Glad to hear you survived Yet Another Sojourn to my state of birth. Here's hoping you will return again soon! (Bears will only be included at your option.)

Re wrong-sided driving experience: May one inquire whether your eyesight has any significant affect on ability to drive on the right vs. left side?


As Charlie mentioned this was not an interstate but a twisty State highway with lots of tight bends and fast-slow driving, chosen in part because it was the "scenic route". He also has limited to zero night vision and California is so close to the equator the hours of daylight even in July and August are somewhat limited.


SURE, SURE. It's a joke boy. Yall get it, a joke.
"big 70s Caddie. Better than 1400 miles. Less than 50 hours.


No Dave, I nearly collapsed because I'm half blind in one eye and have a muscle weakness in the other that gives me a six degree squint -- if I focus on infinity for more than a couple of hours I get double vision or blinding headaches. And please to be noting that as a foreigner with a marked aversion to interacting with your glorious republic's law enforcement officers I tend to keep within a whisker of the speed limit, which maxed out at 65 of your quaint miles in each hour of travel and was frequently lower during those 450 miles.

Do the math.


a marked aversion to interacting with your glorious republic's law enforcement officers

I doubt the FBI would care much about your speeding. Over here we have many multiple layers of law enforcement.

Federal = FBI, US Marshals, Secret Service, ATF, etc... State = Highway patrols and maybe a few others depending on the state. NC has SBI and Highway patrol plus some others. Cities and towns usually have a force. Counties also have a sheriff plus deputies but this can vary by state. And big government institutions can have their own force. Universities, seats of government, etc...

It can get real confusing at times as to who is in charge.

If you do something really bad on the edge of a federal and state property you can have all kinds of uniforms show up.

My understanding is in the UK things are simpler.


I've heard that our cops think International drivers licences are a hoot. And they like to jaw with Brits and tell them to be careful. Jeez, this is not the Deep South in the 40s. Mello man, mello.


See, I was about to say that I have a little experience. (A one-way trip of 550 miles of highway approximately 4 times a year, during grad school...)

But even that required a good night's rest.

There was the time that the last 75 miles (with the most curves in the road) came seasoned with early-winter snowstorm and less-than-200m visibility.

THAT was tiring and stressful.

But I don't have eye troubles (or used-to-driving-on-the-left habits).

Good news to hear you survived.


The worst I've done is London to Skye


Yeah, I've been reading The Post for 44 years, with three years cut out in the middle. Mike usually comes to Capclave (hmmm, Scalzi & Mamatas are the GoHs for next year) and he's a nice guy.


Congratulations on your great health! I can't drive farther than 200 miles a day now, and that requires immediate rest.


65mph. Man some places they will tell you to stop holding up traffic no matter what the signs say.


In my farming days, I was used to spending all day driving (and then some). Sustained concentration while in charge of a moving vehicle, anyway. So I was rather more relaxed about driving a long distance.

One thing and another, I'm out of the habit. And I don't think, after my car crash, I'm ever going to be quite as relaxed again. A hundred miles after dark? Er, no.


I try not to hold up fast traffic; if it's a choice between mixing with trucks at 60mph and cars at 70mph in a 65mph limit, I'll pick one or the other and stick with it.

But in general I am not enthusiastic about attracting the attention of any law enforcement officer. If you want to know what my nightmare scenario looks like, it would be something like this. (NOTE: I know Peter, I am familiar with the circumstances of his prosecution, and anyone who takes this as an excuse to start sniping or attempting to justify what happened to him is going to receive an immediate ban.)


Our farm is now in the city (a small one) and we are over run with Bambi. There were not any deer here before, They were eaten, fast. If you think that's funny they have killed the trees we farmed and lived on. And look up Deer Tick fever, it probity killed my Dad and my Mom had it for sure. I have hit five deer. They really mess up your car even if you almost miss. One ran into the side of the truck when I was still in the drive.
The Bambi lovers feed them. When it was nesassary to thin down a park, they yelled like mad and wanted birth control. I can just see them running in the woods with little bitty rubbers. I hate Bambi!


For what its worth that kind of "failure to comply" is new and made to control people. Mainly around Republican pols. Some cops are badge happy. Tests have shown that almost anybody will be a asshole if they can. The feds have been putting on lots of new cops. The terror of terror is letting things like that happen all over the US.
If asked the ACLU did sue over things like that. If nothing else to make them remember what they should do.


"IF THIS GOES ON" today. Christian Dominionists and this election! On Google' And now I will set very still.

It can get real confusing at times as to who is in charge

Whatever makes you think anyone is in charge? They all just go their own separate ways, occasionally working together or arresting each other as circumstances require. Case in point: the Feds are trying to pursue the War On Some Drugs in towns where the local police are trying to uphold medical marijuana laws. All just good clean fun.


If it helps any, the alternative to 101-199 would have been I-80 (probably) to 505 to I-5 and that's no fun---80 is crowded and crazy and potholed, and 505 and I-5 up through the central valley of California are miles of straight, flat land and very tedious and hot (2 lanes each direction, limit 70mph, lots of trucks). That's the 10-hour, one-day route.

I hope you caught the elk herd by the little red schoolhouse on 101, a bit south of the Oregon border before you would have gotten on 199. That's always fun.


Me and the wife did that drive ... hired a convertible in SF, hooned up to Portland on the i5 ... over night in Portland then coast road all the way back over 3 days. Lovely. Handed the car back ... night in a hotel near the pier before failing to fly to JFK because that was when the Twin Towers were hit. Had an extra week in SF. All in all, if you have to be stuck somewhere, SF is a pretty good place to be marooned! I wandered down to the front desk and asked if it was possible for us to stay on and the guy said he'd had a number of cancellations and that we could stay. He also halved the room rate! He HALVED the room rate!


Halved the room rate?

That's a sign you were being overcharged beforehand.

Actually, in this case I suspect not. I suspect a combination of the room was otherwise going to be empty, and some recognition of extraordinary circumstances.

An empty hotel room is not earning anything, but has pretty low overheads (no chambermaids required, no hot water, etc., etc.). Putting someone into that room if they're paying more than it then costs for the laundry, bed-change labour and so on, is a profit. But the hotel must charge more than that as a regular price, as otherwise the other costs aren't covered, the ones that are still there even if nobody checks in at all.

Room prices also vary considerably. There are some times when I'm booking a hotel room that a day may be quoted at well more than twice the cost of an adjacent day. On occasion, I've even taken one of those, if the cost of the room over the whole set of days I want is still decent.


'Link Wheel' @206 smells like spam.



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