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Thursday, August 27, 2015 : Departure

 

It's now well over a year we have been preparing this trip. It's high time we leave.

 

Unfortunately for us, our flight takes off from Paris - Charles-de-Gaulle Airport, northeast of Paris, the exact opposite of where we live. We have to do with this. A former co-worker has kindly accepted to take us to the local RER train station. Let us express our warm gratitude.

 

Our flight is nonstop to Dallas. We pass a few dozen miles off the southern tip of Greenland, which we can see quite clearly in the distance. Later on, we pass over the coast of Labrador and, later still, Lake Michigan and Chicago.

 

The Midwest is blanketed by a thick heat mist that we can't peer thru. Too bad, we would have enjoyed to see the region from up above.

 

We then land at Dallas-Fort WorthTexas is still as big.

 

Dallas-Fort Worth, first contact with the Camaro

Dallas-Fort Worth, first contact with the Camaro

 

The airport is so large that car rental counters have been regrouped in a remote building, about as large as a suburban shopping mall, with a shuttle ride taking about 15 minutes to get there. After the usual ID checking and contract signing, we make our first contact with our car. Surprise, it's not a Ford Mustang, but a Chevrolet Camaro. No big deal, they're both in the same category.

 

The car overflows with equipment, and it will take us a while to get it all. Let's begin with the basics :

 

  • 3.6 L V6 engine, 326 HP, largely enough, and way more fuel efficient than I feared,
  • 6-speed automatic transmission (this is the USA !), with a manual mode I will use mostly on mountain roads,
  • Onboard computer with so many features I would spend hours to list them,
  • Very user-friendly and reliable (it will make one only mistake ...) GPS navigation system, much better than the TomTom we had brought along,
  • Sirius XM satellite radio, with about 50 different channels, including  one dedicated to Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band,
  • And it's a convertible. That's what we wanted most eagerly.

 

We leave the airport roughly at evening rush hour, and we pass around Fort Worth in heavy traffic. We are soon well versed in the subtleties of local highways : fast lanes are toll and have fluid traffic, standard highways are free and packed. Since we are not staying in Dallas, I did not have our toll tag activated, and we have to suffer thru the traffic.

 

Once outside Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, traffic quickly becomes fluid again, and we soon make it to Mineral Wells, about 70 miles from the airport. It was our choice to leave Dallas-Fort Worth as soon as possible, keeping visits for the end of the trip.

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Our Camaro with the top opened

Our Camaro with the top opened

 

The main drawback with a convertible is that, once open, the top takes half the space in the trunk, leaving little room for luggage. We soon give up driving long stretches of road with the top opened. Not only do we have to keep one of the large bags on the back seat, but we can hear neither the radio nor our own conversation. We will open the top only for short trips, or when we stay two nights at the same place and do not have the luggage with us.

 

Another characteristic of this car is its very narrow trunk door. Loading our bags will require some squeezing and twisting but, with a little training, we will cope beautifully.

 

We are not complaining. We absolutely wanted to drive our way across the Southwest in a convertible.

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Best Western hotel, Mineral Wells, TX

Best Western hotel, Mineral Wells, TX

 

The Best Western hotel in Mineral Wells is, like almost always with major hotel chains, clean, comfortable, well tended and predictable. During this trip, we had very few surprises, either nice or nasty. Everywhere, we had free parking, flatscreen TV, free breakfast, AC, and so on. Differences were more about the speed and stability of internet access, which we used extensively, to backup our pictures and chat on Skype with the family back in France.

 

Retrospectively, I think of my earliest road trips in the States, in the late 70s, with no GPS, no mobile phone and no internet access. Now, that was prehistory !

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101°F at dinner time !

101°F at dinner time !

 

Neither are we surprised by the weather. It was 96°F when we landed in Dallas, it is 101°F in Mineral Wells, and the sky is hardly misty. We are going to feel warm almost everywhere. Good thing, for it's exactly what we wanted.

 

Our dinner for this first day is very basic : we walk to the nearest fast-food joint, less than a block away.

 

Of course, we are not getting away with jet-lag. Though we are trying to delay it as much as we can, we end up in bed quite early.

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