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Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

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The Dodge Stratus is, quite possibly, the worst car I’ve driven in recent years. Here are a few of its flaws:

  • Rear view mirror too large, blocks peripheral view of road ahead.
  • Side view mirrors impossible to adjust; the controls bind up and when they release, they send the mirror from extreme to extreme.
  • It’s horn is anemic. “What’s that honey, did you hear something?” It sounds like it’s moaning “I suck, don’t look at me.”
  • It’s not a small car, yet I found myself staring at the roof at a stop light, unable to see the lights without crouching down. That’s ridiculous.
  • The engine, transmission, and fuel pump are quite noisy, especially under heavy acceleration … but for all the huffing, whining, and puffing, the car doesn’t pick up and actually go anywhere or do anything.
  • Mushy inconsistent brakes.
  • Tires squeal and grip starts to falter doing 30 in a 25 mph onramp.
  • The cruise control had a 10 mph variance on I94 in Michigan. On a straight road with only the most moderate elevation variations.
  • UI design all around is terrible; locks, stereo, window controls, etc.
  • Stereo sounds like shit.
  • Horrid transmission; caused abrupt uncomfortable shifts and downshifts, and was rough during initial gear engagements.

I cannot find a single redeeming factor for this car. It’s not even attractive. 0/10. Any Honda Civic born in the last two decades is far superior.

The Chevy HHR is an improvement over this (it was Sarah’s rental from Detroit), but not a great car. Exterior styling is funky, retro, and clean all at the same time. The best of a Durango and a PT Cruiser, without the visual suck factor. I approve, I think. It looks low to the ground, but on the inside, you’re sitting up way too high … gives you that uncomfortable “dear god, I’m in a mini-van” feeling. Handles ok, about what you’d expect for a jeep or small MPV. UI design is brilliant in some cases, and completely retarded in others (the stereo was almost impossible to deciper without experimentation, as were the combination cruise control/tripometer buttons). Lots of room in the boot, but they made the rear seats cramped. I don’t get it. The fatal flaw is that for myself, sitting in the driver’s seat, most of my of the front of the vehicle and road near the car was blocked by the dashboard, and the rest of my vision was blocked by the sloping hood in front of me, leaving a small slit through which I could see the road. I had to crane my neck to see lights at all, and the only thing that saved me was that the funeral procession does not require one to stop at lights. It was like driving a tank with prisms. This is a vehicle for short people only, and its low-rider looks do not influence the interior design. Interesting rental, wouldn’t want to own one, definitely gets points for style. Everybody wanted to know what it was, what was under the hood, and whether they could borrow the keys. 5/10.

The Holiday Inn Express in Kalamazoo is, like the Dodge Stratus, a steaming pile of horse shit, but with some flowers to cover it up. Good water pressure and heat, mediocre continental breakfast (can’t hope for better than that), and free Pizza Hut Monday through Wednesday. My room, though non-smoking, smelled of smoke. Hair in the bed, hair in the shower, relatively clean otherwise. I put the sheet-change placard out, but also carefully folded the sheet to indicate whether it was replaced. It was not. Wireless internet just plain didn’t work. When I could get a connection to the network, I was lucky if one in every six events made it through. The wired network was a little better, but was less responsive than a 56k modem; latency was far too high for terminal connections or anything like Warcraft. SSH connections dropped every few minutes (again, on a wired network). I don’t get it. My cable connection at home with a bandwidth balancing software router would do a better job of providing usable service than this. Maybe they’re backwoods and have something shameful like a 64K ISDN line for the entire hotel. I mean, what the fuck is this?

Ping statistics for
Packets: Sent = 25, Received = 23, Lost = 2 (8% loss),
Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
Minimum = 384ms, Maximum = 863ms, Average = 643ms

In general, lots of little details weren’t taken care of — the stainless steel of the elevator was covered with weeks of fingerprints, there were exposed 2×4 beams under the counter visible in the bathroom without searching, and the air conditioner had visible piles of dust settled in it. Overall, it was a thoroughly disappointing $90/night stay that evidenced little attention to detail from the management. I’ve had all-around better experiences at the Baymonts and other discount overnighters. I didn’t complain to the manager, as I can’t decide if I’ve just set my standards too high, or if the various exhaustion/emotional impacts are causing me to be overly sensitive to this sort of thing. I don’t get it. 3/10.