Feb 8, 2010

Buffalo to Youngstown

Car hire can be disappointing.

A Chevy Cobalt was not what I was expecting. If I wanted to drive an uninspiring little suburban car I could have stayed in the UK.

However disappointment can be overturned. At a price. For about $10 a day the car hire company said we could upgrade to anything. This included a whale called a Lincoln Town Car and a super "bitching" Camaro but with thousands of miles of winter driving ahead of us we went for a GMC Terrain. I don't know much about cars (next to nothing really) but I know what I like. And I like a lot about this car - from its heated leather seats to its parking camera which displays who you are about to back over as soon as you slip into reverse. The last car I owned was a Skoda Fabia, which didn't even have a CD player. Well I've leapfrogged that old technology and I now have a car with a USB port so I can play me some MP3s. And as soon as I find where it is I plan to use it. There have been some teething problems. It did take me about 25 minutes and two stops in a strip mall before we made it on to a highway. But that's partly to do with being a GPS virgin and I am sure that I will be feeling like Jay-Z soon. However the main reason for loving this car... is SNOW.

The plan today was to make it to Youngstown Ohio. A classic example of a once mighty industrial steel town which fell hard and fast in the 1970s. It's also the subject of a Springsteen song of the same name. Bruce (I'm sure he won't mind me calling him Bruce) weaves the growth and demise of the town into a history of conflict, from the Civil War to Korea. He links the loss of young men in combat to the loss of a generation in a town with no jobs, no hope, no future. It's a classic example of an an American place song. And as I prefer the Boss when he's not in full on E-Street band mode, it's a tune I can return to again and again. So I was pretty excited to be checking into a Days Inn just 4 miles away from the city. We'd had a beautiful drive through the frozen vineyards of Western New York. Lake Erie was frozen like a giant frosted donut and the setting sunlight on the snow was picture postcard perfect. But just one mile off I-80, as we drove through a place called Girard (one of those places that calls itself a city even though it only has 50 miles of road) we hit sludgy, days-old, uncleared snow. And moving down the edges of the grey snow banks... pedestrians. According to the city's website "The splendor of our four seasons keeps the street department busy year-round. With a staff of nine, the department provides snow removal, street sweeping and street repair services." Busy? Seriously? My hunch is that at least half of that ( men team are known to Tony Soprano. Buffalo did such a great job of clearing much heavier snow so I was in no frame of mind to try out my untested snow driving skills. I felt really glad to have spent the extra dollars on that fat ass American SUV. I only hope my former colleagues at Greenpeace in Amsterdam can forgive me. (Though in my admittedly weak defence the GMC Terrain has way better fuel economy than other vehicles in its class. Ting!)

So in full on American mode we went to Walmart, Taco Bell and then back to the hotel to watch the Weather Channel. It's not looking good. I had hoped to try and push on to Youngstown tomorrow morning before going to Sandusky. But there's a massive snow storm on its way. Plans may change.

Frigid Bones Diary: It was about 28°F most of the day, then fell to 18°F by the end of the day. For British readers... thats -2°C and -8°C.


  1. Did you take note of Ashtabula as you went by?

  2. We didn't but I'll be sure to include it in the next lyrics quiz.