I may not have reached Denver when I’d hoped but I got to L.A. on schedule Sunday evening – the downside being that I was driving due west into a setting sun low enough in the sky that I couldn’t read the North Hollywood street signs.
And, after performing faultlessly until the last 10 klicks of a 5,000-plus kilometre (so far) trip, my GPS couldn’t find my friend Jim’s street. Maybe the green rubber band holding it on to the windshield was too tight. Anyway, I got on my cell phone and Jim talked me in. After my glowing review, he’s looking forward to his first ride in the Accent.
It was a mixed day’s driving. This was after Saturday night when Mark Richardson, his flat tire mended, finally made it to Moab, Utah, and we traded yarns over a buncha beer.
I told him my little ghost story; something that happened as I was coming past Denver. I saw what looked like a mint condition 1929 Packard coming down an on-ramp to get on to the highway. I glanced in my mirror, signaled and pulled into the outside lane to give the guy room. But when I glanced back, there was nothing there. And nowhere it could have gone. A trick of the light, I guess, but I definitely saw. . . something.
I may have overstated things a little – Who? ME? – when I called the route I took from Toronto to L.A. unbeguiling. Interstate 70 from Denver pretty much all the way to where it meets I-15 in Utah has to be a contender for the best highway drive on the continent. For much of the way, it’s more like being on a serpentine back road than a major artery. Often you can’t even see the traffic going the other way. It’s just two lanes, both of them yours. And one gorgeous scenic vista after another.
What a contrast to I-15 past Las Vegas and on into California – jammed on a Sunday afternoon with gamblers heading home. This is where I’ve seen the worst driving of the trip so far. Too fast, overly aggressive, altogether nerve-racking.
Signs seen along the way: “The Outlets at Zion:” “Rebel Bail Bonds: Born to be Wild. Get out of jail;” “Drowsy drivers take next exit.”
I made my last gas stop in Baker, “Gateway to Death Valley” and home of the world’s largest thermometer. It didn’t need any kind of thermometer to tell you it was hotter than Hades. Or certainly as hot. Forty in the shade, if you could find any shade.
The Accent, of course, coped admirably, just as it seems to cope with everything. Nothing fazes this little car – though, as I’ve said, I no longer think of it as little. I don’t even notice the resonance at highway speeds any more. Maybe my head’s started vibrating at the same pitch.
Gas mileage stayed at around 7.5 to 8 litres per 100 kilometres. Not bad, given that the air conditioning was on all day and I was pushing a little harder, running at up to 140 km/h. And there were a lot of steep grades.
We’ll see now how it likes driving around L.A. Though, in stop-and-go traffic between Baker and Barstow – thanks to an agricultural inspection station that wasn’t actually inspecting anyone, just slowing everyone down – I was reminded why an automatic transmission can be a boon.
Not that I’m complaining. . . .