Arriving in Los Angeles

January 7, 2014 · 1 comment

Alas, It’s been a while since I properly travelled and had something to write about (did the seemingly endless amount of guest posts give that away?) But that has changed, at least for 11 days when I travelled to the USA for my honeymoon (I may have forgotten to mention that I got married on this website before). With years of lightweight backpacking experience, and a wife who doesn’t understand the meaning of travelling light, this was going to be an interesting experience at the very least. Our first stop? Los Angeles, The City of Angels. What could possibly go wrong?

Flying out was uneventful, although discovering my wife’s (here after referred to as Harue as that is her name) lifetime gold star alliance membership meant that I got my first taste of an airport lounge, which in the ANA Narita airport lounge, is sushi, chicken nuggets and beer mostly, with a small selection of sake too.

I’ve always been one to save as much as possible, so airport lounges were always off my radar, but some allow access for a small fee (18 euros in the prime class lounge in Ataturk airport, Turkey for example, but that’s another blog post) which if you hang around for a while and pay typical airport prices for a lunch and a coffee, pays itself back rather quickly, especially in a comfy seat with WiFi included.

Anyway, I digress. We arrived in LAX to face President Obama. Not in person, but a photo of him anyway. A strange additional check on exit (and 50+ people queue) seemed unnecessary and unlike any other airport I’ve been too (this is not customs or immigration, just some random extra security who asked what we were doing in the USA). Something else I discovered the answer ‘honeymoon’ can get you places and through security rather quickly here. I suspect I’m going to use the term ‘we’re on our honeymoon’ a lot in the future, and not just on this trip.

Obama LAX

Welcome to America pal

Finally out, the next challenge arrived. How to get to my car rental. Yes. Another unusual expense for a backpacker, but honestly, after travelling a little in LA later too, I think this is one city that absolutely justifies renting a car, as the public transport is way behind most other countries I’ve visited with the exception of short haul flights.

We went with Fox-rent-a-car, which is one of the cheapest and not even based in the airport, we had to get a (free) shuttle to them which was a 20 minute wait alone. There was no checks in the shuttle, just a verbal confirmation that we wanted Fox-rent-a-car, in case we were confused by the giant writing on the front of the shuttle and thought it said ‘Thrifty’ or ‘Enterprise’. A side note on that: Thrifty are next door to Fox, so if they get to LAX before Fox, just jump on their shuttle and walk next door after.

So we walk inside and Harue took a seat after seeing the queue, which I stood in, paperwork in hand. Things seemed rather simple, although I noticed every customer was being up-sold to all sorts of extras and having flown for over 12 hours, I wasn’t in the best position to argue against some master salesman.

After another 15 minutes of waiting (did I really arrive in Los Angeles almost 2 hours ago?) I finally got my time to argue with some man in a purple shirt.

“So you ordered the sports special for 2 days?” the goatee wielding overweight man with ‘Sanchez’ for a name asked me.

“Yes” I said. Pleased that my order was there, and eyeing up the paperwork which advertised a Dodge Challenger (my first preference), a Chevrolet Camaro (2nd) and a Ford Mustang Fastback (3rd). All the modern versions rather than the 60s classics of course.

“OK, do you want the insurance?” He asked, without stating a price or what it actually was.

“No” I answered, starting the flirting process, and see if I can get him to roll his eyes at me being a stupid customer.

“Well, if you damage it, you need to pay $100,000 or maybe more” he said. Or something like that. My memory fails me.

“OK” I said. Holding back the American saying “so sue me” as they seem to love doing in their country.

“We have 2 insurance options” He began with his sales pitch completely ignoring my answer of No. “The $30,000 cover and $1 million cover” I figured the first covered damaging the car, and the second for damaging an American with the car.

A little more flirting ensued and of course I broke down and took the $30k option because quite frankly the $30 or so (per day) it was for it, was not worth spending another hour arguing with this guy who hated his job (and life probably). He then continued to try and sell me GPS ($10 a day). I downloaded my own offline map software to my phone so avoided that one, and then the pre-paid fuel, which is apparently cheaper than buying it from a gas station.

I took the fuel as I knew it would be another 3 hour sales pitch otherwise, plus I wouldn’t have to go through the hassle of filling it up later and trying to find a gas station last minute before returning a car (something he didn’t even think to mention in his sales pitch). That was $63 for the tank or there about.

Plus a refundable $150 deposit (which I got back without hassle thankfully) and the total came to $400. Not exactly close to the $40 a day I booked it for, but that’s car rental in the USA I guess.

After handing over my credit card (they don’t accept debit cards!) he told me to go round the back and collect a Camaro. At least it wasn’t a Ford.

So we walk round the back and there are 3 Camaro’s parked closely. A get a little excited for the first time. The dream of driving a muscle car in America is starting to become real. Speaking to the later and showing her my bit of paper, she said my car is ready and to go take it.

“But there are 3 cars there?” I said

“Yes, they all have keys in, take the one you want” She replied. Finally something that was going to be a fast process.

After a little debating me and Harue choose the red one. After all, I’m unlikely to buy a red car in the future so why not rent one, despite the dirty water marks on the outside.

So we put our luggage in the back, sat inside and inhaled the aroma of vomit and I mentioned to Harue that maybe we should give the others a smell inside before we take this one away.

The black one was scent free, but the grey one had that wonderful new car smell of plastic and glue. So I decided on the dark grey one. It of course didn’t have the key in though despite them all apparently having a key inside, so I had to ask the lady for it, who didn’t have it, and then another guy had to get it, blah blah, more waiting, etc.

Fox rent a car Camaro

Chevrolet Camaro

Anyway, finally we set off after 2 hours, V8 muscle car with new car smell and 16,000 miles on the clock, already with too much luggage, smiling wife, and the Los Angeles locals to greet us shortly after.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Al January 7, 2014 at 11:45 AM

Awesome car man, sounds like a good start to a great trip!

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