Day 36

Today was going to be a Bucket List kind of day, especially for my wife. She’s a Stephen King nutter, I mean a Stephen King fan, and has been since she was 13 years-old. He was the reason that she started writing, so when she heard about the ‘SK Tour’ in Bangor, it was added to our Must-Do list.

We got picked up at the hotel in a smallish tour bus (petrol V8-powered, of course), and headed off to pick up other passengers. On the way, our tour driver, Stu, kept pointing out old cars he was spotting at the side of the road, or on the back of a truck. Turns out he’s a bit of a car-guy too, and has a Bricklin SV at home (! Rare!) and his neighbour owns a De Lorean, that was given to her by her late father – who owned it from new. He’s also got a Citroen 2CV, just to add a bit of flavour into the mix, as well as two Rolls Royces. I wish we could have gone to look at his Bricklin, but maybe another time.

You’ll float too…

Bangor isn’t a big town – only 30,000 people – but Stephen King is definitely their Golden Child. Understandably so, since he’s donated so much to the town, and even to the entire state of Maine, which apparently receives around US$5M a year from the Kings.

They’ve donated a swimming pool, baseball grounds and a huge extension to the library. None of it is named in any way after Stephen King or his wife, and only the local radio station has his name on their sign – although he owns all three stations listed.

The King’s house

The tour ended up with a visit to Stephen King’s house (and the one next door that he bought, too), but he wasn’t home. We didn’t knock on the door or anything, but we were told he was away. Apparently sometimes he does come out to talk to fans when the bus turns up, but not today. While we were there, a steady stream of cars came and went, all admiring the house and the awesome gates he has surrounding it.

All in all, it was a great tour and if you are a fan of the man, this has to be on your Bucket List.

Once back at our car, we hit the road and drove until we couldn’t be bothered anymore. In the end we stayed at Tewkbury, Connecticut, for the night.

A stand pipe in Bangor, near where Stephen King would sit and write long hand

Day 37

Well this is it – our last ‘real’ driving day. We’ve only got around 250 miles to drive today, to make it to Poughkeepsie, in New York state. Why Poughkeepsie? In my second novel, the main character gets driven in an autonomous cab to Poughkeepsie and the Palace Diner.

We got to Poughkeepsie mid-afternoon, and headed straight to the Palace Diner. The building looks like an old 1950s diner, and I love it. I had banana pecan pancakes, because that’s what the cop in my novel had, and they were as good as I hoped.

It’s a sad day today, after 37 days we’re going to drop the car off tomorrow in New Jersey, for shipping home.

Stunning autumn colours everywhere, all day long

Day 38

It was a quick drive down to New Jersey, although there was a long, hairy moment when the car’s fuel gauge went down to one bar of fuel left, we were on the interstate and had to get to the shipping yard by 5pm – and it was 4.45. Then, the single bar went to no bar, and we’d never seen it that low. Using all skills possible to save fuel, we gave up trying to get to the shipping yard and took the next off-ramp, and crawled to a red light – hoping like hell that we wouldn’t run out of gas at the red light, in the centre lane and at rush hour.

The light went green, traffic moved and we managed to edge over to the right-hand lane, and like a beacon in the night, I saw a Mobil sign. We got there more on luck than fuel, and slammed some petrol in the car as quick as we could, and got back out on the road. Instead of heading back on to the interstate, we just stayed on the road we were on until we got to the shipping yard – at 4.59.

New England in the Fall…can’t beat it

And then, the rain came, and it came hard. I got drenched just trying to find the office door, which was a temporary one and hidden behind some bushes. The guy who needed to do the check of the car was still there, and he went over it as best he could, looking for existing scratches to mark down on his sheet.

Within 5 minutes, we had it sorted and were waiting for an Uber – thanks to Kiwi Shipping, it couldn’t have been a less stressful experience, unless we had of arrived earlier of course.

So that’s it – the car is parked and in the trusty hands of Kiwi Shipping, ready to go into a container to be shipped to Auckland. No doubt, like our Dodge Challenger in 2016, the Corvette will end up going around the world, and that’s ok to us – we’re in no huge rush to get the car.

Almost The End

I thought originally we’d do 10,000km in the car in our six weeks, with five weeks of those actually driving on our road trip. In the end, we did 11,000km. Before we left, I’d read a number of blogs and watched many Youtube videos that said, ‘don’t do long distance in a Corvette, especially a C4’. They’re too cramped, too hard riding and so hard to get into and out of. Yes, to all; storage was at a premium at all times, with very little in the front, but we made do. Getting in and out of the car is an art, and is never really easy. It’s a great ab workout.

Hard riding? Oh yeah. The car smashes over potholes, and of those there were so many. Would I do it again in a Corvette? Totally – but maybe not a C4. The C5 and later models ride a whole lot better, and unless someone actually does something serious with America’s interstates and highways, I’d not do it in a C4 again. I’m pretty sure my wife would agree on the ride, and definitely on the storage, since she couldn’t buy too much ‘stuff’…but then, maybe that was part of my plan all along. I can neither confirm nor deny this.

Packed!

$$$

I’ve had people asking me, how much did this whole trip cost?  You already know the car cost US$7,500. In LA, we spent US$1,100 on new tyres, a service, a wheel alignment and a smog test. In Virginia, we spent another US$812 on installing new shocks, new brake discs up front and an oil/filter change. Add onto that US$127 for four new gas shocks, for a total of US$2,039. That makes the car total US$9,539 but remember that includes tyres which will last for years, for the use the car will get in New Zealand, and this total amount is for a 29-year-old car that’s done (now) just 34,000 miles.

While talking to some ‘car people’ in the US, the view was that the C4 Corvette is the one to get right now. The prices are amazingly cheap for what you get, and they can only go up in value from this point on. People are starting to click on to the fact that the C4 Corvette is a bloody good sports car, and has been underrated for a lot of years.

Our fuel total was US$983 and we averaged a pretty bad 11.7L/100km. Not as good as I thought it would be, but then I did notice that our fuel consumption went up and up as we added more ‘stuff’ to the boot of the Corvette. To give you an idea of how much stuff, there were 60 books my wife had bought in there, along with everything else. It was packed to the point where I was having to push the hatch down hard to make it close. We were hauling a lot of weight across the USA, and we paid for it in fuel consumption. Your mileage may vary.

Your Turn

So my question to you: What’s stopping you from doing the same thing? As you can see, you don’t need to spend US$50K, US$30K or even US$20K on a car to take you across the USA. We did over 10,000km – that’s nearly the average distance a New Zealand drives in an entire year, and we did it in style. And the kicker is that the car will soon be heading our way, and will end up in my garage, where I can take it on Sunday drives and the like. Driving it again over here will just add to the memories we’ve already got from driving it across the USA, and across a total of 23 states.

While in Arizona, we met up with a friend who had a rental Camaro. His rental cost almost $4K for a month. Sure, we spent double that on our car and its servicing etc, but here’s the thing: it’s our car. We own it, and we didn’t have to give it back at the end of the trip. That’s priceless.

If you want to do what we did, grab a copy of USA2NZ: Buy It, Drive It, Ship It, and get in touch with Kiwi Shipping. Use their pre-purchasing service to find your ideal car, and drive it across the USA. Don’t be boring and just get it shipped back to New Zealand. Driving your muscle/classic/sports car across the USA (or even only doing Route 66) is the stuff life memories are made of, as you pass all those rental Mustangs (and you will see plenty) in your own V8.

To quote a certain company, Just Do It.

Last Instalment

As I said, the car is now in Kiwi Shipping’s hands. Once it arrives here, I’ll take it through the whole compliance process, and hopefully get it legal for New Zealand roads. I’ll list everything out in that final article, including all the port and shipping costs, so you can see how much it’s roughly going to cost you to do the same thing.

Stay tuned!

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How on earth to start this? I've been car/bike/truck crazy since I was a teen. Like John, I had the obligatory Countach poster on the wall. I guess I'm more officially into classic and muscle cars than anything else - I currently have a '65 Sunbeam Tiger that left the factory the same day as I left the hospital as a newborn with my mother. How could I not buy that car? In 2016 my wife and I drove across the USA in a brand-new Dodge Challenger, and then shipped it home. You can read more on www.usa2nz.co.nz. We did this again in 2019 in a 1990 Chev Corvette - you can read about that trip on DriveLife. I'm also an Observer for the Institute of Advanced Motorists - trying to do my bit to make our roads safer.

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