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21 April 201504:08PMusa-2015travel

The Rental

Renting a car is way too easy. We spent about five minutes at a computer kiosk, and then a nice young man invited us to take our pick of Kia Rio Or Similars. We picked a brand new, fresh-from-the-lot, only-done-16-miles bright red Chevrolet Sonic. Because when you're in America, you gotta drive American.

honest abe

The Drive

Needless to say, neither of us had ever driven on the right hand side of the road before. Grace was up first. Grace, what did you think of driving on the wrong side of the road?

"Oh god. Oh god. Oh god. Oh... actually once you get the hang of this it isn't so- WHAT DO YOU MEAN THERE'S A LEFT TURN COMING UP?"

Yeah, the left turns are tricky. Because you have to pretend that they're right turns and give way, but then also remember to end up in the other lane once you've crossed traffic. Driving on the interstates was much easier.

I'm not sure what the history of cruise control is, but I'm pretty sure it must've been invented for the Interstate system. These are huge, very straight, very flat, very fast, very long, very boring stretches of road, with no cross traffic, no lights, no roundabouts, and barring traffic jams, really no reason to stop at all. Once I figured out the nuances of it, I think I just about spent my entire time in the driver's seat under cruise control, although I think I would've felt a little better about it if anyone else on the road was actually following the speed limit.

Anyway. It's a wonderful, yet uniquely American invention, and now I kinda wish my 1999 Civic had it.

The Chevy Sonic, by the way, is actually a pretty wonderful car to drive. Handles nicely, very comfortable, and apparently one of the safer cars in its class. We named ours "Abe", because it was a glorious Republican Red, but a pretty cool guy nonetheless.

(This concludes my entire career in car reviewing. I promise.)

The Country

one of these is actually pennysylvania

Our drive took us through five states and one whatever-the-heck-DC-is, and it was really interesting to watch the scenery change. From still-pretty-bare deciduous trees near Massechusetts, to clearly-the-inspiration-for-Central-Park of upstate New York, to the spring-has-definitely-sprung greenery near DC. This country is not just big, it's diverse. It's not just thousands of kilometres of pretty similar desert. It's hundreds of beautifully gradiated yet distinct biomes. And we've just seen one tiny corner of it.

I think this is where that myth of the Great American Road Trip comes from. This country would be awesome to just explore by car, and the changing scenery would actually give you the impression of going somewhere.

The Stopover

The original plan was to stop in a seedy motel somewhere on the Interstate, just for the experience, but between that plan and actually leaving we both sort of got a little bit into The Office. It turns out that, about exactly where we were planning on stopping anyway, there was a little town called Scranton, Pennsylvania. So we stopped there instead. We stayed at the Radisson, and checked out the Mall at Steamtown, and generally giggled at how weird small towns in America are.

The Destination

So eventually we got into Washington DC. It took about an hour of being stuck in traffic, and several tense moments of yelling at Siri, but we got here. We found our way to Ronald Reagan airport, and bid farewell to Abe. We took an alarmingly dystopian subway to an alarmingly pleasant ho[s]tel, and took a long shower to try and get the stench of the Taco Bell from back on the highway out of our skin. Then, we-

Huh? Hold on. Let me try that again.

Then we-

Why is that coming up blank?

Could it be?

Am I actually finally up to date?

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