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Old 05-05-2004, 10:00 PM   #41
MikeO OP
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Joined: Jul 2002
Location: Scarning, Norfolk, today...
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American Grafitti

Americana – Mailboxes

Postal deliveries in the USA are different from those in the UK. We’re quite used to having letters delivered to our door, but in the US, the United States Postal Service uses one of these



(which, unusually, are right hand drive) to allow the driver to more easily deliver your mail to one of these



located at the end of your drive. The little flag at the side tells you whether mail has been put in today or not.

These mailboxes are something of am American icon. In some areas, your mailbox may be located, along with those for other houses in your side road, at the junction with a major road…



They come in various guises, from the very basic standard item…



to the more, ahem, exotic…



They often have a spare receptacle for a newspaper…



The Post Office takes its job very seriously. All postal employees I’ve met during this trip are, well, sort of, a bit, odd, really… it’s difficult to define – they’re always very helpful, but you feel that they crave order in the world - you just wouldn’t want to be trapped in a lift with one…:P
The modern mail box (the one I’m sure the Post Office would want you to have ) is a soul-less plastic affair.



But there’s still plenty of scope for a bit of originality…



Recreational Vehicles (RVs)

RVs in the USA are big business – I stopped at an RV dealer in Baton Rouge this morning and met Nick...



...who sells them for a living. He reckons there’s a market of seven million RV owners in the USA :eek: … The RVs themselves vary from something akin to a VW camper-van (rare) to behemoths built on the chassis of a Greyhound bus. Nick showed me around a couple he had on site. The first (called an Allegro, if I remember correctly ), is at the top end of the range that Nick sells, but is by no means large, in the American scale of things :P.



It retails at about the $250,000 mark, although the big, Greyhound Bus style RVs can top a million dollars…

The interior is lavish, to say the least, with a fully fitted kitchen…



…double bed with built in TV & video unit…



…bathroom, including bath & shower…



…luxury cockpit area, with swivel chairs for both driver & passenger (as well as a large screen TV over the windscreen…)



…plus a recliner positioned so that your mother-in-law can criticise your driving :P



On the subject of driving, you can drive one of these on your normal car licence. The engine on this one develops about 400 bhp and does about 10 miles to the gallon (of diesel).

You often see these RVs on the Interstates with a car or pick-up being towed behind on an A frame, a kind of reversal of towing a caravan with a car. This allows you to drive into an RV park (sites are everywhere), plug into all your services (some include cable TV, as well as the electricity, water, sewage, phone etc that you might expect), then drive off downtown to get a steak…

Alternatively, you could go for what they refer to as a ‘fifth wheel’…



It’s basically an articulated semi-trailer, attached to a special clamp mounted in the rear bed of a pick-up truck by a pivot similar to that used to attach an articulated lorry’s semi-trailer…



…this pivot is known as a ‘fifth wheel’. The interior of the trailer is every bit as luxurious as its motorised counterpart…



…but at a considerably reduced price – this one was some $55,000…



…although you’d need to spend another $40,000 or so to come up with a pick-up truck that would do the job properly.

Nick tells me that his customers vary from youngish entrepreneurs, to older couples who are retiring. Sometimes the retired couples will sell their houses to buy the RV, storing some of their gear in a lock-up somewhere, renting or buying a permanent RV stand somewhere, and then taking off whenever they get the urge…

RVs are not a good investment, apparently, and suffer from worse depreciation from new than a car. I can’t help but feel that they are really an American phenomenon – trying to negotiate even fairly good class A roads in the UK with something this wide and long would be a nightmare.

I get back on to my bike, which feels tiny, for the first time this trip :P, and ride back to the hotel…

20th March

Another foggy morning, but I pack the bike and I’m on the road for 0945. I head off into Baton Rouge at first, to Louisiana Farm Machinery – they are Caterpillar dealers, and I pick up an O ring from them. This fits over the bar-end weight on the right handlebar. When rolled over the throttle, this provides just enough friction to allow me to remove my hand from the twistgrip whilst riding. It’s a very basic (and cheap) form of cruise control – an idea that Jeff gave me when I was in Daytona…



I then go for a random ride, ending up in the very pleasant town of False River…



…the name False River comes from the lake that the town is built on the shores of. It is a long crescent shaped lake, which could easily be mistaken for a river – in point of fact (remembering my O level Geography) , the lake (called , if I remember correctly, an Oxbow Lake), used to be part of the Mississippi, which meanders down to the sea nearby. As a result of silt build up over many years, the loop that is now the lake, eventually sealed itself off. Enough revision .

A little further down the road, in the town of New Roads, they’re having a Classic Car Show… I park the bike and walk through the exhibits. It’s very warm (84º F) and humid. The cars are a varied collection of classics, from this 1954 Hudson Hornet…



…to this 1966 Ford Thunderbird…



My favourites are the collection of older Thunderbirds – this one from 1959…



…with a colour-coordinated interior…



…this one from 1956…



…with ‘vanity tag’…



…and subtle upholstery…



…but my favourite,



is this particular 1956 T’bird, which is identical to the one which the ‘mystery blonde’ drove in American Graffiti



All ‘juke-box’ chromed out, I take a leisurely ride North East towards Alexandria, Louisiana, where I’ve decided to stop for the day. I pause for lunch at another bit of chrome nostalgia – another diner. This one differs from the last one I went into (in North Carolina) – in as much as the service is appalling.



On the plus side, Penny (whose diner it is), overcomes the ineptitude of her waitress by producing quite the best cheeseburger I’ve ever eaten - for $6

I ride on, feeling a little lethargic after a large lunch, and arrive in Alexandria in mid afternoon. I check into my room, turn the air conditioning up to maximum, and settle in for the evening…

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MikeO screwed with this post 02-13-2006 at 11:14 AM
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