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I’m in Michigan. I don’t have any excuse for it, but here I am. I’ve been at work for half a day here and so far my overwhelming impression is that it’s exactly the same as St Louis, Missouri. Given that Missouri is about 500 miles from here, that’s a rather depressing thing.

In the 12 hours that I’ve been here, I’ve been exposed to some radical new experiences, as well as being reminded of things that I find annoying about the US. Things that I like include hotel receptionists who are chirpy at 1am, hotel rooms the size of France, hotel beds that are amazingly comfortable, hotel TVs that are the size of fields, and hotel showers that actually work. Given the vast number of bad hotels I’ve stayed in, these aren’t things that you get everywhere - it seems you have to spend a lot of money per night to get this stuff. But when you get it, it’s wonderful. It helps if someone else is paying.

Talking of new experiences, I did have a wonderful time trying to get from the airport to the hotel though, mainly because it involved a concept that I’ve never had to encounter before: car rentals. For some unknown reason, the wonderful rental company have put me in charge of a Kia Optima LX for a week. I think maybe it was one of those cars they couldn’t get anyone else to rent, so gave to the poor British guy who looked tired. Saying “It’s horrible” doesn’t even get close to how I feel about it. My initial drive to the hotel was numbed by the fact that I was desperately tired and that I completely forgot to set up the mirrors properly. So there I was, driving through a nonsensical road system with my mirrors pointing at the sky, looking for an unmarked hotel in the middle of nowhere with the help of a satnav that was merrily denying the existence of various key roads and a large chunk of my head that was demanding to know why I wasn’t asleep yet. Fun times.

And here’s why I don’t like automatics. On a manual car, you pick a gear and drive in it for a bit. Then you pick another gear and drive in that for a bit. Simple. In an automatic, you decide in your mind that you want to change speed and twitch your foot ever so slightly. The car then panics and starts to pick random gears in the hope that one of them might be good. About 5 seconds later, it calms down a bit before finally giving you the wrong gear. It could be that I’ve just got a bad automatic (It is a Kia), but this doesn’t bode well for a future of nice automated motorway driving.

In a week’s time, I’m giving the car back, and going to DC. I hope in that time that I get to see some bits of this state that are interesting. Maybe some bits of Detroit (if I don’t get shot), or even Canada. I’m not particularly optimistic that I’m going to have a fun weekend though.