He didn't get where he is today by stealing somebody else's catchphrase.


Having returned this morning, I feel fully US'ed out. I've drunk enough coffee to fuel a small republic for a year, eaten burgers, climbed mountains, watched trashy television, sat-out tornado warnings, been burnt by the sun and had a drenching from thunderstorms. It's been a pretty immersive experience and fully worthwhile - but more importantly, I've driven about 2000 miles from Washington D.C. to Fort Worth, Texas, a drive that's been pretty insightful.

As I said before I left, I had preconceptions about the United States and it's people. I didn't elaborate much at the time, but if I'm honest about it, most of my preconceptions weren't good ones. I'm not sure why that was. Perhaps it's my experiences of those I've met when I've travelled in the past, perhaps it's the media, perhaps it's international opinion - I don't know‚ but a preconception is a preconception and the whole point of this visit was to challenge it. The drive allowed me to take in the scenery, talk to people, film a snippet or two and manage those preconceptions - and I'll say it now, the drive was quite enjoyable.

To have an enjoyable drive, you need the right car. This pretty much fitted the bill.

What you see above is my vehicle of choice for the fortnight, a Chrysler Crossfire. I wanted to travel the US in a convertible vehicle - many a traveller will tell you that it's the only way to do it - and they're right. The additional expense over a regular vehicle was worth it. In fact, the car became an ice-breaker for many a conversation. With a stunning degree of regularity, strangers would refer to the "cute car" I was driving - and the conversation would start. That said, the British and American versions of cute are a whole spectrum apart. Using the average American mindset, a 3.2 litre sports-car car is indeed cute - but in Britain, one would be typecast as some sort of daisy-trampling eco-hater. I guess all things are relative when fuel is only £1.75 a gallon and you're using to driving five-litre trucks. Luckily, change appears to be on the horizon and fuel economy is actually starting to be discussed. Perhaps the infamous "credit-crunch" has the odd positive effect.

Over the course of my next few articles, I'll use the challenges I was set to elaborate on the experience further. They're a pretty mixed bunch and hopefully I've caught enough media along the way to give you an idea of what I'm on about. I'm not going to give away as to whether my original opinion was the right one or not, because if I did that it would defeat the object - and I'm hoping that you'll keep reading to the end.

The first part (of five) to follow shortly.
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