By then we were well into the Midwest and after a couple of nights camping a few yards off the side of the I90 Interstate route (the only state park near Chicago), we headed south along the mighty Mississippi River to take in St Louis and then New Orleans. Hitting Louisiana’s famous Bourbon Quarter was memorable, but sadly for the wrong reasons: despite forking out $12 to leave the van in a secure car park, we came back in the early hours to find one of the Dodge’s quarter lights smashed and the van cleared out. Despite losing our belongings and air tickets, the most devastating news was the loss of our tickets for Pink Floyd’s Division Bell concert at the Superdome the following night.
After several hours at a police station, we had a case number to enable us to obtain replacement items so we (and 80 000 other fans) could hear David Gilmour strum up for ‘Comfortably Numb’. But only after confirming that South Africa wasn’t in the continental United States to the officer transcribing our details at the New Orleans Police Department – a reminder of how unworldly some parts of the US are, despite the severity of some of the other cases being reported that night (I’d argue criminal activity on the streets of New Orleans on a Friday night will rival anything our most overworked SAPS station can throw up).
A fortnight on we were back in dialogue with the long arm of the law, only this time after a break-in in broad daylight in downtown Philadelphia. And we were on the other side of the fence, so to speak, after one of my mates punched the perpetrator – who we’d found rifling through our stuff a few blocks away – and the guy (a wasted druggie) flagged down a police cruiser. Thankfully the police came to their senses once they clocked the situation and lost interest. And we lost no time in getting the hell out of town before they changed their minds!
Next stop was Boston where we skipped sightseeing to trawl a few scrapyards in search of a replacement quarter light. We came right but, as ever in the automotive trade, the stop delivered some amusement when I admired the yard owner’s 250 GTO replica. Only it wasn’t a replica, according to him, but an official ‘re-creation’. One endorsed by the Ferrari factory, no less. No doubt a few casual admirers had bought that line in the past but they possibly weren’t familiar with the shape of the doors of the donor Datsun 240Z the GTO rep was based on…