The alarms clocks ring. Both of them. Just in case I get any funny ideas.
I go through the semi-conscious motions. Clothes… suitcase… glasses… coffee… breakfast. By 4:15 a.m, I’m out the door and driving to the airport in a 21-year-old Geo Prizm. I figured that a 5-speed and a stark lack of noise insulation will keep me alert. Thanks to Atlanta’s penchant for using steel plates to cover up every possible pothole on the road, I am not disappointed.
Traveling by bus is the preferred mode for the growing middle class throughout Latin America. White collar workers, government employees, and students take long-distance buses for many reasons. First, it is much less expensive than flying. Second, buses reach a lot more destinations than planes. Finally, even those who own cars prefer to let a professional do the driving, thus minimizing wear and tear to their own cars and the stress of dodging out-of-control big rigs and stray animals for hundreds of miles.
The stereotype, of course, is that all buses South of the Border are chicken buses– second-hand American school buses with psychedelic paint schemes, tinted windows, and chrome galore. In fact, luxury buses– built in Brazil and Europe– are very common and often have more amenities than commercial airliners. Make the jump to learn more about them. (Read More…)
2014 has been a good year for the rental car industry. A recovering economy has meant more car rentals and more miles traveled by consumers. Volume alone isn’t responsible for the rental companies’ recent success, though. Each of the big three rental chains has been able to raise prices, thanks to the consolidation of an industry that they now collectively control 98% of.
There are four of us. Myself, my wife, a teen and a tween. The wife and kids are thin and I’m about average sized.
Why do I mention this?
We are looking at getting a normal-sized vehicle that can potentially sleep four. A minivan, crossover, or even a large SUV would be perfectly fine for us. We think that there will be times when we can’t use a tent, and I would rather get away from the overpriced state parks if it’s at all possible.
Our budget is $10,000. We don’t want anything funky to maintain. For us that means no VW vans. We will consider most anything else. All domestics and imports are on the radar so long as they allow us reasonable sleeping quarters for our family.
A thick book. A banana. Two year old sneakers. A backpack.
Then there is an oversized laptop that has to be wrapped around the zipper line of the backpack in order to fit.
I’m headed for the Hartsfield International Airport in Clayton County, Georgia. The most visited airport in the United States, and a second home for me way back in my traveling days.
10 years ago I traveled over 200 times a year to various auto auctions throughout the country. My job was to inpsect, appraise and liquidate over 10,000 vehicles a year for an auto finance company. Travel was almost instinctual back then. I could sort out all my personal belongings for the road ahead without any wasted space or thought.
The familiar wail of a police siren cuts through the chilly early winter morning air rudely snapping me out of a cold-induced slumber. Our minibus slows to a crawl as our minder winds down the window to wave his papers at a bunch of stern-faced traffic policemen.
The officer that checked the papers gave the 17 university students on the bus a once-over before waving to his partner to turn off the siren. It seems that a Toyota Coaster minibus filled with students is a rare sight in this part of the world.
Then I caught sight of a little round badge bearing the smiling face of the “Eternal President” Kim Il-Sung on the officer’s coat.
“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore,” the voice in my head whispered.