Andrew Pollack's Blog

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Las Vegas - Perfect weather, a good flight, a car "upgrade".

By Andrew Pollack on 04/09/2006 at 12:31 PM EDT

Yesterday I got up at 3am and drove to Portsmouth, New Hampshire for my 5 1/2 hour flight to Las Vegas on Southwest Airlines. I like southwest for short flights, but longer flights I really prefer the traditional carriers. Unfortunately, I don't prefer the pricing of those traditional carriers so there I was sitting on the floor of the terminal two hours before my flight -- camped out in the "A" line for my flight so I could get the seat I wanted. Sure, it worked. I got the isle seat in the emergency exit row and that means all the legroom you could want -- but was it worth 2 hours on the floor and less sleep? I'm not sure.

The weather this time is stunning. Its 76 degrees (farenheit), dry, and cloudless. That beats the last time I was hear and it was 122. I don't like being in heat above 90 degrees unless I'm breathing air through a SCOTT air mask and wearing a whole lot of gnomex and carbon fiber.

Hertz decided to "Upgrade" me. Since I'm a Hertz Gold member from the days when I used to travel every week, I just get off the bus and find my name associated with a parking space to get my car. If I like the car, I just drive off -- showin my license to the guard on the way out. Changing cars means a line and paperwork so generally I take whatever they put there. They always put something in at least in the class I've reserved, and sometimes they upgrade me. Unfortunately their idea of an upgrade and mine don't always agree. One year they gave me a convertable Seabring -- a terrible Chrysler ragtop built on the otherwise find Cirrus/Stratus chassis. It was noisy from the poor seals and I had a long drive through the desert planned so I turned around and switched it out. This time, they upgraded me to an Audi A4 Quato Turbo. It is admitedly a nice car. Its leather seats are great, and the Sirius Satellite radio lets me listen to BBC News and NPR which I like. In fact, if I were driving to Phoenix this time around I cannot imagine a car I'd enjoy more fo this trip within the range I'd be willing to pay. The problem is, I'm in Vegas and mostly will be driving short distances in traffic. A turbo in traffic is not only no fun, but its actually a pain the ass. For those who don't know, what a turbo charger does is take unburned fuel and gasses in the exhaust and use them with to push more fuel/air mixture into the intake than normally would be there through engine vacume. Its a delayed response boost, though. You accellerate and then as you do there are more excess fuel vapors and presure in the exhaust which feeds back into more power in. In a small engine like this A4 has with a turbo charger, you're underpowered off the line and then suddenly build up to very powerful as the engine hits a few thousand RPM's. In highway driving, this is great fun. Its like having a deep pool of power to dip into whenever you want it. In highway driving. In the city, you touch the accellerator and start forward slowly, then just as the turbo is kicking you in the ass you have to go for the brake at the next stop. The whole thing works against you. Now, I have to decide if I want to go for a nice long drive just to enjoy the car, or call it a waste of a fine automobile when this week, a Taurus would have been just as useful.

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