Letter from America

Saturday 16th October 2010

Hi Guys and Gals,

Not a lot to report this week as it was all happening last weekend and with all the news currently about the mid-term elections due on November 2nd there is very little of common interest. The other event that was taking place last weekend was the Annual Lake County Folk Festival which took place in downtown Eustis where we live. It featured a variety of music from bluegrass to blues to gospel in Alexander Park and throughout historic downtown. This in addition to all the workshops, food stalls etc. As we had visited this in years past and we still had a number of chores to do we gave it a miss this time.

On Thursday the Biketoberfest started at Daytona and continues until Sunday. This is the smaller of the two motorcycle events that take place at Daytona. The motorcyclists are mainly from the Mid West and is there last hurrah before they are forced to store their motorcycles for the winter. Unfortunately the event inevitably leads to some tragic accidents. So far come Friday night there had been three accidents but no fatalities. However there was one fatality in 2009, three in 2008 and one in 2007. The only way it affects us are the number of Harley Davidsons’ on “our roads” but they are not much bother except for the noise of their exhausts.

Motoring wise here the current price of gas, otherwise known as petrol to us, is $2.73 per US gallon which equates to 72cents per litre or in GBP at current exchange rates to 46pence per litre! However car insurance is much more expensive than the UK as we are paying over four times as much per annum compared with what we pay for a similar car back in the UK. Also our US driving licences cost a small fortune. Uncle Sam in its wisdom will no longer allow us to hold a driving licence for five years as in the past. We are now only allowed to hold a licence for six months the length of our stay in the USofA. The charge for this is $48.00 plus what they now call a “delinquent fee” of $15.00 as we are unable to renew within 30 days of expiry, this obviously being impossible. Last year it was called a “late fee” and on production of our English licences the fee was reduced to $1 each but this concession has now been revoked. Total for Pam and my driving licence is now $126.00 each year we come to Florida!

Car adverts are outrageous. For example a dealer’s advertisement for a 2005 Jeep V6 auto looked good at $5,432 that is until you read the small print. It then transpires that in addition to this sum you have to pay a dealer’s fee of $899.45, tax which at 7% equates to $380, title although I do not know how much this would be, tag fees which are about $50 plus $2,000 cash or trade equity. Total $8,711 plus the title cost whatever that is! No “on the road pricing” here and I am told that most Americans just look at the monthly price they have to pay buying on credit. Not surprising when the cash price is so difficult to arrive at!

Weather here is marvellous, just what we came for. It has been in the mid to high 80’s since we arrived, not one drop of rain since the September. The bad news is that a cold front came through on Friday morning reducing temperatures to the low 80’s! Trust Balcombe was open on the Thursday ride as I missed out on the last two occasions we were due there. Best wishes to you all for now.

Bryan Staples

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