Communications

How to stay in touch?
First, Skype. Paid £10 for one month of unlimited landline calls to the UK, plus unlimited call to landlines and mobiles in the USA.

Second, a PAYG phone. Easy to sort out. Went to an AT&T shop and got a $10 handset and $25 of credit. $2 a day for unlimited national and mobile calls. I was not comfortable doing the drive without a phone. Coverage will be very patchy in places, but I feel happier with it, and knowing that I can be contacted in emergencies: 001 845 915 0150

Third, 3G on my ipad2. This was not at all easy. The way I did it was to get a iPad sim (no charge) from AT&T, the buy a Visa debit gift card, then pretend I lived at the hotel, and that the gift card was my credit card. The gift card has no registered name and address but does have a 3 digit security code and an expiry date so any should work. I got 2G of data for 30 days.

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Navigation

Arrived at JFK at around 1.30pm. Bio-scanned at passport control, waved through by customs. Now, finally, I was on my own and the next two hours were going to be a challenge. First task: find my way to the car hire pickups which are a free train ride away on the Air Train. First error got on the wrong train. There are two tracks. One track cycles through the terminals, but I needed the other track that goes to Federal Circle.

Second task: pick up hire car. The Hertz car rental pick up was dingy, and after a short wait in the queue I was handed some paperwork and told my car was in bay 66. I loaded up, started the car, immediately turned the aircon on full blast, and pulled the car out from the covered garage area. Third task: drive 40 miles across the heart of Manhattan to Palisades. I could not have left the car park without a GPS, and My GPS was my iPad, and a big Fuck Off GPS it makes:

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I downloaded CoPilot HD USA for I think £10 – a bargain. My second error was not anticipating how confused the iPad would get after the GPS receiver woke up thousands of miles away. I was not sure how to reset the receiver, but some how I managed it.

The journey was an adrenalin high. 1st time driving in the USA. Wrong side of the road, wrong side of the car and traffic moving every where other than where your instincts tell you it should be.
The only way I was able to do the drive was to talk out aloud giving myself the instructions a driving instructor would have given me if I was learning to drive. I needed to stop driving by instinct and start driving by conscious action.

I made a couple of minor wrong turns and one major blunder that took me back the way I had come over a toll bridge. I drove up Queen’s Boulevard crossed into Manhattan on Queensboro Bridge and crossed into NJ on the George Washington Bridge. Traffic was as bad as London. Driving standards very poor, with a complete lack of lane discipline. Some right turns can be done on a red stop light. Speed limits keep changing, all traffic exceeds speed limit most of the time. Biggest danger for a UK driver? Driving too far over to the right of your lane. Now there is a car, not door, width over your right shoulder. Forget this and you are in deep dodo.

My course is at Dolce Palisades NY 10964 and is an old IBM training centre. Oh and here is the rental a Toyota Camry:

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Outward Journey

Well travelling Virgin upper class really is the only way to travel. No need to get to the airport 3 hours before departure and stand in line with the common people. Limo arrives at 8am and enters airport by via special access point. Met by gay-boy air steward (not clear if he was tanned, false tanned, or had layered the foundation on) who handed checkin luggage onto another minion and then directed me to security and the “lounge” for complimentary breakfast, and many other (legal) freebees.

On the plane at 10.15 to locate my “pod”:

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Relaxing flight. Top class service, decent nosh, watched Battle for LA and The Kings Speech, read the paper and snoozed.

Arrived 1.30 local time to 90 degree heat and humidity.