There are three primary things you encounter when you drive an exotic car through the middle of nowhere. One is open-mouthed stares from people who live in the middle of nowhere. Another is strange things being driven down the highway. Finally, there are bugs. Lots and lots of bugs.
My whole life, I’ve wondered what it would be like to drive an exotic car through the smallest towns in the middle of the Great Plains, and over the last few days — driving from Toledo, Ohio, to Denver, Colorado, in my Aston Martin — I’ve finally found out. Here’s what I discovered. See the 2007 Aston Martin V8 Vantage models for sale near you
A lot of city people with lots of exotic-car-viewing experience would look at my V8 Vantage and assert that it’s "only" an Aston Martin and not a Ferrari, that it’s "only" a 2007 and not brand-new, that it’s "only" a V8 and not a V12, and that it’s "only" silver and not some flashy color such as orange. And I wouldn’t argue with any of these assessments.
But when people live in the middle of nowhere, these aren’t the kinds of things they think. They think, "Oh my God, that Bentley is worth a million dollars."
I’m dead serious. I got off the interstate on Sunday to drive for 5 hours directly through tiny towns in rural Nebraska and eastern Colorado, and I received an enormous amount of attention in every single one of them. Kids point. Adults crank their heads in awe. A sheriff’s deputy in a marked Dodge Charger literally gave me an open-mouthed stare in Wray, Colorado — population 2,000. And so far I haven’t been able to get through one single fuel stop without a well-intentioned, polite Midwesterner walking up and asking, "What kind of car is that?!"
Not one person who lives in the middle of nowhere has yet guessed it’s an Aston Martin. You want to know why? Because not one person who lives in the middle of nowhere has ever seen an Aston Martin.
This is a huge contrast to Philadelphia, where I live. Although I complained 3 years ago that my Ferrari drew far too much attention whenever I would drive it, the Aston Martin generally flies under the radar on the East Coast. But this isn’t the case on the Great Plains, where my Aston Martin is often the only foreign car in the entire town, maybe the entire county.
In some small towns, I’ll see a guy driving a C5 Corvette. He must be the mayor.
Not surprisingly, the infrastructure in rural America isn’t exactly Aston Martin-friendly. There are potholes in rural areas of Nebraska that could double as orchestra pits.
As I write this, I’m only 1,800 miles into the trip, and I’ve already taken a rock chip to the windshield. I’ve also scraped the plastic panel below my Aston Martin’s front bumper by simply driving down city streets in small towns, where the drainage gutters are sometimes located in depressions — this is completely true — an entire foot below the road surface. Of course, most middle-of-nowhere residents don’t worry about this, because most middle-of-nowhere residents are driving pickup trucks the size of a thunderstorm.
And then there’s the fuel. A few days ago, I visited a gas station in Cambridge, Nebraska — population 1,000 — that had two types of fuel: regular and super. Both were 87-octane.
What I’ve learned about the fuel situation is that you cannot count on finding premium gas anywhere once you leave the interstate. Since my route took me on some serious back-road U.S. highways, I drove through entire towns that had no gas station and other towns where the sole gas station only offered regular fuel. Only in the big cities — such as McCook, Nebraska (population 7,698) — did the fuel stations claim to have premium.
There are currently bugs the size of wombats attached to the front of my car.
I did not know there were bugs this big.
If you live in the Great Plains, I have only this advice: Run for cover. And get bug spray.
Despite the rough roads, the long distances, the dubious fuel and the giant distances between Aston Martin dealers, my V8 Vantage hasn’t had a single problem so far. Admittedly, as I write this I’m only 1,800 miles into the trip — with 4,400 miles and 13 states left to go — but the car has been completely rock-solid. No check-engine lights, no strange noises, no unusually high engine temperatures.
I’ve been tracking my fuel economy, and I’ll give you an overall number (and an accompanying spreadsheet for you Doug-style data geeks) when my trip is complete.
As many of you know, I plan to meet up with readers on the second half of my trip when I drive home from California to Philadelphia. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any responses from readers in Bismarck, North Dakota, asking to meet up, so — by the popular demand of all three of my readers who live in North Dakota — I added a quick stop in Fargo. Unfortunately, it’s in the middle of a weekday, but I’d still love to see you if you can make it. For the rest of the cities, here are all the meet-up locations. I hope to see you there! Find a 2007 Aston Martin V8 Vantage for sale
Boise (Saturday, September 17, 7:30 p.m.): Julia Davis Park (next to the Rose Garden)
Billings (Monday, September 19, 7:30 p.m.): City Brew/Walmart (2425 King Avenue West)
Fargo (Wednesday, September 21, ~2:30 p.m.): FargoDome
Minneapolis (Wednesday, September 21, 7 p.m.): Mount Normandale Lake Park in Bloomington; parking lot off Chalet Road
Chicago (Thursday, September 22, 7 p.m.): Community Park West in Glenview; parking lot off Zenith Drive (large office parking lot if needed)
Cleveland (Friday, September 23, 7 p.m.): Severance Town Center in Cleveland Heights (by the old movie theater)