Airbnb has replaced hotels

airbnb

After staying in several Airbnb locations across many countries, I can safely say that Airbnb has replaced hotels for us.

Everything the hotel does, Airbnb does better

That’s a bold statement, but let’s take a closer look.  If you don’t know what Airbnb is, it’s a system that let’s people rent out rooms/apartments/homes to guests seeking accommodations.  It can be anything from a studio to a full home, with other guests or completely private.  Go onto Airbnb and play around with some ideas for your next trip. You might like what you see!  If you want to try your hand at hosting, you can do that too!  (Using the links gets you $25 off your next stay, FYI)

airbnb-many-locations
Whatever part of town you want to stay, there’s sure to be a lot of options.

 

Location – Hotels are limited to certain areas and districts and are often clumped together in a few sections of town.  People rent out their apartments and homes all over the city.  If you want to find another place one block over, you can.  If you want to find a place in the trendy section, you can.  Fine tuning your location with Airbnb is extremely easy.  Advantage: Airbnb

This was our view of Sydney from Ollie's apartment.  We watched fireworks through the full-length windows while laying in bed!
This was our view of Sydney from Ollie’s apartment. We watched fireworks through the floor to ceiling windows while laying in bed!

Rooms – Just like hotels, Airbnb rooms will differ greatly in the size and offerings.  Airbnb will tend to have higher highs and lower lows.  On average they will be equivalent.  There is something to be said for a hotel where you know exactly what you are getting.  However, no hotel is able to replicate some of the experiences we’ve gotten with Airbnb.  Some places we show up and find out we have the entire home to ourselves.  Advantage: Even.  While some Airbnb hosts really suck, others make up for it by being spectacular.

Concierge services – Sometimes as travelers, we need a little help from the locals.  Hotels have front desk people called concierges who can make appointments for you if you can’t speak the local language or just need a hand.  But your hosts for Airbnb will help you out too!  They’ll give you a local opinion of what to do and where to go, and sometimes will help you out with booking.  However, they are not professionals at this and some hosts are more helpful than others.  Advantage: Hotels, but it’s close

joes-place-cairns
Joe’s place in Cairns saved us $200 over all other options, and we got an entire apartment to ourselves.

Cost – Airbnb blows away hotels in terms of cost.  If you’re looking to stay somewhere cheaply, hostels and Airbnb will be the low cost options.  We don’t like hostels because it’s typically community rooms and community bathrooms.  These are deal breakers for us.  Who doesn’t prefer their own room?  Advantage: Airbnb.  Cheap as a hostel, accommodations like a hotel

Website – Unless you’re booking through Expedia/Orbitz/Kayak/Agoda/etc, hotel websites are some of the worst in the world.  They are generally very hard to book through, have outdated information, and broken payment processors.  Since the hotel website is often in another country, your credit card often gets locked for potential fraud.  The Airbnb interface is slick and problem free.  Advantage: Airbnb, and it’s not even close

Responsiveness – Hotels will often contact you through the phone number provided, leave a message if they can’t get in contact with you, and then stop trying.  There are times where we’ve missed that phone call and showed up to a place only to find out there wasn’t a room available.  So in the middle of the night in an unknown city (Chiang Mai, Thailand), we had to walk door to door to try and find a hotel.  Ugh.  Airbnb hosts can reach you through email, text, phone, and the Airbnb website.  When you contact them through email or the website, Airbnb sends notifications to their phone that you need something.  Airbnb even measures the response times of the hosts, and you can make sure to pick one that is quick to answer your questions.  Advantage: Airbnb

Breakfast – Not all Airbnb locations or hotels offer included breakfast.  Similarly, the breakfast can be anything from continental to a fully cooked meal.  Advantage: Even

Internet – Hotels generally have professional grade internet while individual homeowners do not.  However, hotels also have to accommodate many more people.  A few bandwidth hogs can bring the entire system down.  In the end, I think it’s a tie.  We’ve had good and bad in both, and there doesn’t seem to be a pattern.  Advantage: Even

Checking in, Checking out – You just got off the plane.  It’s hot, you’re tired, and you just need to fall onto a bed and pass out for a few hours.  Nope!  It’s time to wait at the front desk for 30+ minutes while some guest has a temper tantrum that they have to deal with.  When you’re finally at the front desk, it somehow takes another 20 minutes.  They need your credit card because you booked through Orbitz, they need your address and copies of your passport, then the WiFi password, then make the digital keycard, and finally you can go to your room.  With Airbnb, the host will give you the key and you can go right to napping.  Advantage: Airbnb

Picking a good one – Finding a place to stay that meets your needs is sometimes difficult.  Who do you trust?  While reviews abound for both Airbnb hosts and hotels alike, you can sometimes end up in a bad situation even when you did your research.  We have the same rate of poor experiences with both Airbnb and hotels.  Advantage: Even

What to expect – Here is where hotels win out over Airbnb hosts: hotels are going to be more predictable on average.  Maybe the internet doesn’t work or the breakfast isn’t to your liking, but the hotel is a known quantity.  They’ve been around forever and almost all of them operate in exactly the same way.  Airbnb is quite new, and the hosts are often completely new at hosting guests.  If dislike change and/or greatly prefer absolute solitude, hotels are probably going to be best for you.  Advantage: Hotels

joy-and-daves-place
If you’re in New Zealand down by Hamilton, do stay with Joy and David. Some of our fondest memories of our trip were made with them.

Meeting People – Finally, getting a chance to meet wonderful people in the world is something that hotels just can’t offer.  Sure the staff at a hotel can be friendly, but the Airbnb hosts take you into their home and make you feel welcome.  It has added to our experiences in ways that hotels never could.  Advantage: Airbnb by a mile

The next time you travel, try out Airbnb

Go sign up on Airbnb and have a great time meeting people while saving money on your travels.  The link gives you $25 just for signing up.  You won’t regret it!

Cusco Cooking Class

Cusco Peruvian Cooking Class

Once upon a time, Cusco used to be the capital of the Incan civilization.  Now it’s primarily a rest stop on the way to Macchu Pichu.  But with that much history behind it, there’s certainly some fun things to see and do here.  When we travel, we like to experience the local culture.  Something different from the typical tourist experience and not just attractions.  There are many ways to do this, but we have some favorites.

Cusco Peruvian Cooking ClassFirst, cooking classes give some insight in how the culture has used what was available to them.  For example, in Peru there is a dish that is popular called “ceviche”.  This is fish that is left sitting in citrus, which “cooks” it without the necessity to heat it.  Both fish and limes are prevalent in the country and it’s an interesting dish that is best tried in Lima or another coastal city.  Another case is the local liquor: Pisco.  Pisco is a hard liquor made from grapes, which also grow in country, which is roughly a brandy.  It originated when the early European immigrants wanted to send wine back to Europe.  To make sure the wine didn’t spoil en route, they added alcohol and sugar to it for the voyage.  At some point they preferred the liquor that way and have been making it ever since.  It’s neat stories like these add flavor, history, and background to the country.  All while eating great food!

Fredy, Peruvian Cooking Classes Chef
Fredy, Chef at  Peruvian Cooking Classes in Cusco

The cooking class in Cusco was run at a little place off of the plaza.  We opted for one that was run by locals rather than a full featured production in a manufactured kitchen straight out of Pottery Barn.  Our class was lead by Freddy, a former English/French teacher turned chef.  He got out of teaching and into cooking just because he loves it.  And he has to love it, because he works from 8 AM to 10 PM 6 days a week.  He makes me feel bad about myself with how hard he works and I’m typing this at 10 AM barely ready to face the day.

Another thing we love about cooking classes is trips to the market.  When we went to Thailand and took a cooking class, we were absolutely amazed.  There were things that we didn’t even know existed!  The markets in Peru were no different.  We actually went to two different ones, a market in Cusco and one that is real local outside of town.

san-pedro-market-cusco

san-pedro-market-cusco-inside

Now, there’s some things you should know about these markets.  First, the levels of sanitation and refrigeration aren’t exactly top notch.  All manners of raw meat sits out in the open air on the dirty tables allllll day.

cuy-cusco-marketDon’t quite like the conditions?  No problem, Peru offers something I hadn’t seen yet: live animals you can buy and take home with you.  Can’t get any fresher than that.  Oh right, that’s a guinea pig.  Remember when I said cultures use what they have?  Well, the guinea pig is a local delicacy.  They call them “cuy” (pronounced “qwEE”) for the sound they make.  Typically the cuy just run around the kitchen until they are cooked: the little guys don’t run away.

chicken-multiple-eggs

Interesting sight: this chicken was cut open and inside was un-laid eggs.  I’m not sure why they kept it around.  They probably thought it was interesting too.  I asked our guide if there was any special dish that was made with this, and she said No.  It was just something unusual they couldn’t sell.

Back to the cooking class. The menu for the cooking class included an entree/starter, a main dish, dessert and a traditional Peruvian cocktail.

We made Aji de Gallina with rice for the main dish. It is kind of like a Peruvian hotdish but with more flavor.  There’s potatoes on the bottom with yellow chili pepper sauce and Andean cheese over pulled chicken.  It’s a nice bit of comfort food that I didn’t expect.  While we went to Peru initially for Macchu Pichu, we were surprised that the cuisine is excellent across the country.  Bonus!

aji de gallina

purple corn puddingFor dessert we made purple corn pudding.  There are multiple types of corn here, and most of them seem very unlike the type of corn back in the ‘States.  One type of corn is “choclo”, which is white corn with kernels as wide as your thumb.  The type of corn we are using for the pudding is “morada”.  It’s purple and somewhat sweet.  This type of corn makes “chica”, which can be a type of soft drink or wine depending on what region you’re in.  I can’t tell if they like chica or not.  “Chica” is also a synonym for “cheap”, local variations are everywhere, but I never actually see people drinking it.  Anyway, back to the pudding.  This purple goo tastes exactly like the insides of a Hostess fruit pie.  Exactly.

The entree we made was a soup called Crema de Moraya. Moraya are freeze dried potatoes that are easily found in any Cusco market. Similar to corn, there are endless types of potatoes found in the markets here. We used a mortar and pestle to prepare the moraya for use in the soup. The soup also contained diced beef, egg, onion, garlic, cumin, and cilantro. Alicia enjoyed the soup but it was not my favorite dish.

And what Peruvian meal would be complete without Pisco Sours?  Pisco is a type of brandy that originated in Peru (or Chile, depending on if you’re talking to a Peruvian or Chilean), and a Pisco Sour is a sweet and frothy drink that is served all throughout South America.  It’s a solid end to a great class.

pisco sour and souppisco-sour-cooking-class

 

 

Stuck in the past: Peru

john-alicia-peru-mountains

We went on a “day in the life tour” of a native Peruvian.  There were some downsides to the tour which I already detailed, so we’ll concentrate on the good parts. The theme of their lives seems to be that they acknowledged the outside world had moved on, and that was OK with them.  I asked our guide if there was any “keeping up with the Joneses'”, and she assured us there was not (more on this in a second).  She went on to describe it as difficult to keep native Peruvians employed, because there were very few worldly possessions they wanted.  If they wanted to make money to afford a radio, they’d work for a month and then stop showing up.  Since many of them had a plot of land on the family farm, what need was there to earn more money?  They already had shelter, food, and community.  Truthfully, it’s very authentic living.

inca-ruins-peru
Peru’s economy is mainly based on tourism, from ruins made hundreds of years ago.

Back to the part where our guide said competition with your neighbor wasn’t a big thing here… Our guide later contradicted herself.  While she was driving in Cusco, she mentioned that even being able to drive a car was a status symbol among the people.  Having a car was seen as affluent.  Since we’re on the topic of driving, riding as a passenger in other countries is terrifying.  In Jamaica, our cabbie was tail-gaiting a cop car (literally a few feet from his bumper) and honking the horn until the cop pulled over so we could pass.  I’m sitting there thinking to myself, We totally have weed in this car because the driver just offered it to us minutes ago, and the cop is going to be super pissed and pull us over and find it and hold us hostage…  Only that didn’t happen, because there are weird traffic customs in other countries.  In Jamaica, you can tail-gate cops.  Good to know?  Anyway, in Peru they honk their horns as a signal that they are going to do something stupid pass/merge, and God help the person who gets in their way.  Seriously, once that horn sounds, all bets are off: the aggressor is assuming that the car in front of him heard his horn from 100m away and will do everything in their power to get out of the way.  Alicia didn’t think anything of the driving as she usually got stuck where she couldn’t see anything.  I soon made it a point to sit as far back as possible.

making-shingles-peru
Making clay shingles by hand.  Notice that the “bucket” to the left is a construction hard hat.  They use what they have.

Overall, native Peruvian lives are astonishingly old fashioned.  Clay shingles are still in use all around the country and made exactly the same way they were made hundreds of years ago.  There’s a mud brick oven that burns bamboo to bake the clay shingles.  The mud for the shingles is cut out of the hill where they operate, stomped and broken up by hand and foot, and then water is added to make the clay.  The shingles are made in a mold and laid out to dry.  It’s hot labor and for every 5,000 shingles bought they receive roughly $140 USD.  It takes about two weeks to make the shingles, and they still have to pay for the delivered bamboo that fires the oven.  They make around 40-50,000 shingles per year.

adobe-home-satillite-peru
A very common sight in Peru: mud brick home with a satellite dish

And it’s time to rant.

I appreciate keeping heritage and culture preserved, but there has to be a better way to do it.  Generations grinding away in back-breaking labor just seems like a waste.  Peruvians are still doing things the same way the Inca did hundreds of years ago!  They are still using Ox and wooden yokes to plow their fields, ancient Inca aqueducts for irrigation, shucking corn by hand, and making their homes from mud and straw.  Now, I don’t expect them to hop on Amazon and purchase the tools that could drastically speed up the process and make their lives easier.  Aside: I did hop on Amazon and find simple and cheap tools they could afford that would greatly reduce their workload.  However, I do expect that somewhere between Incan civilization and Amazon Prime that there would have been ONE improvement along the way.  One!  These people are the extreme version of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

animal-rights-peru
Mini-rant in picture form. These animals are tied up.  Often with very little rope to the point where they can barely move. Cages where the animal can’t even move at all are certainly more cruel, but let’s not pretend that other societies treat animals a whole lot better. We saw plenty of livestock that were simply stuck in place.

We head up into the hills to meet a local Peruvian family that has their own farm.  Again, they are in the hills because the Inca’s were pretty good at primitive irrigation.  The water that comes off of the mountains is channeled through rock gutters.  This water flows through houses like ancient plumbing and can be steered through fields with little concrete gates.  Sometimes the channels get a face lift through concrete, other times they look as old as they are.  It’s shocking how many of them are still working with ancient stone.  Because I’m a moron, I actually drink from one of the springs that feeds these aqueducts.  Thankfully, I didn’t get sick even though I drank 2 liters of it.

john-cuy

There are a few things wrong with the above picture.  First, that’s a guinea pig that is desperately trying to escape.  One problem is that they don’t really go anywhere: they are so domesticated as animals that they just cower in the corner of the dirt floor kitchen squealing even though the door is wide open to run away.  The second thing is that we are about to eat food from a mud oven, yes the oven is literally made of hardened dirt, and the kitchen is dirt-floor to go with the mud walls.  (Counterpoint: Alicia can testify that while it’s entirely dirt and mud, it’s still cleaner than any kitchen after I’ve cleaned it.  It’s a good point.)  The final problem is that I’m allergic to nothing more on the planet than guinea pigs, and start sneezing my head off after this.  The last time I’ve actually encountered one was a decade ago, and I had completely forgotten!  Where did I run into one?  My sisters had one, called “Snowflake”.  They were quite appalled at what was to come next.

alicia-cuy

Yep, that’s “cuy” on the right (at least his lower half).  It’s considered to be a delicacy.  The green-speckled thing is fried egg and spinach(?), and the other two are some huge potatoes.  Guinea pig tastes kind of like dark meat chicken.  That is, when you can actually get to the meat of it.  It’s pretty hard to eat because the little buggers don’t have a ton of meat on them to begin with, and you’re cleaning it as you eat it.

john-donkey-peru
Stupid gringos.

And here’s where I feel like a stupid tourist that is insensitive of other cultures.  We can’t eat this.  Sure, we try to get through the cuy, but it’s not going to happen.  It’s just too far out there for us, so we have to give it away to the other guests.  Second, there’s no way Alicia or I can go through 2 whole potatoes and that huge omelette-like thing.  So we have to pitch a fair amount of it, which feels especially bad considering our tiny hosts (4’10”) plow through even more than is given to us.

We leave with a wide-eyed impression of what they go through.  I’m not sure we fully understand their lifestyle, but they seem very content with it.  It reminds me of the story of the American businessman who vacations in Mexico.  The businessman happens upon a Mexican fisherman and asks the man his story.  “Senor, I fish a little each day, take a siesta with my wife, and spend my evenings playing guitar and playing with my children.”  The businessman claims that the Mexican can greatly improve his fishing business by putting in 10 years of hard work, and then retire wealthy.  “But what next, Senor?” asks the Mexican.  “Well then”, said the businessman, “you could take siestas with your wife, and spend the evenings playing guitar and playing with your children…”

Smashed my PT Cruiser with a Tank

pt-cruiser-vs-tank

We all make mistakes.  In 2003, I purchased a PT Cruiser.  It is completely reasonable for you to ask: “John, you don’t look mentally ill… why would you do this?!”.  The best case I can come up with is that I wanted a stick shift (pop quiz, hotshot, how many Lamborghini’s today are made stick?  Zero), I wanted something a little “different”, and I wanted it not to suck gas (remember this is in 2003, when average MPG was going down for the first time in 20 years).  But seriously, I have no defense.  The only thing working in my favor is that I corrected the mistake… a decade later.  I’m a slow learner.

THE PT CRUISER IS A MOVING PILE OF GARBAGE

pt-cruiser-natural-state
The PT Cruiser in its’ natural state: with tires deflated.

No one know the issues with this car better than I.  Here is the list of what I had to put up with since buying it:

  • Tire deflation – the tires wouldn’t hold to the rims due to the type of metal, so they kept deflating.  Eventually, I had an air compressor that I plugged into the car to blow up the tires before going anywhere.  Before I got that air compressor, the tires would all be of a different pressure and the car would be quite skittish (the back end would “swim” down the highway, or strongly pull to one side).  Sometimes the tires would just pop because they were never at the pressure they were designed for.
  • No air conditioning – The compressor went out around 30K miles, and ever since I’ve spent the summer months sweating away.
  • Electrical problems – The engineers knew that they underside of the car would be vulnerable to the salt us northerners have to put on the roads in the winter.  I knew they were planning for this because they encased some things in rubber.  What they didn’t put in rubber: the connection from the battery to the alternator.  So the car would randomly die because the battery wasn’t getting charged.
  • Spare tire cage noise – The spare tire housing underneath the car was also housed in rubber, but the bolt holding it on was not rust-proof.  It snapped like a twig one day around 50K miles when I needed the spare, and the cage rattled around for another 50K miles until the good guys at Midas offered to just take the useless thing off for me.  Why didn’t I get it fixed?  Chrysler wouldn’t sell me the $10 bolt I needed.  They wanted $350 to replace the entire case (plus labor, of course).
  • Road noise – Talking on the phone while in the PT was impossible as the cabin noise was ungodly.
  • Wouldn’t start in sub-zero weather without a jump – This is a mild problem because I live in Minnesota.  The car was nearly unusable for several months out of the year, right from the start.  Yes I had synthetic oil.
  • Cost – I spent roughly $10K in maintenance from the time I bought the car until its’ demise at 107K miles.  The car had 8 sets of tires because they kept popping and going flat.  Now you can see why I didn’t just get the AC fixed: I wasn’t really optimistic the problem would stay fixed.
engine-light-pt
Both the engine and oil light have been on since 10K miles. I think they mean: Yes, you have an engine and oil. Thanks PT!

I’ve been stranded a dozen times by this car, and I wanted nothing more in the world than to send it to hell.  The most memorable time I’ve been screwed by the PT was driving back from the family cabin, a 4 hour drive from northern Wisconsin to west Minneapolis.  It was a Sunday, July 4th, and the tire blew out when I was miles from nowhere.  To make matters worse, I somehow manage to lock myself out of the car.  When it rains, it pours.  Or in this case, I’m sweating balls as I trek for miles to the nearest town.  I find a guy hanging around a marina who is a “locksmith”, which basically means he has a hangar he can bend in funny ways.  To his credit, my amazement, and another knock against Chryslers’ ability to provide theft-proof machines, he’s able to get the door open with his “tools”.  I give him $50 and he’s overjoyed.  Hey man, without you I’d still be trekking across the land of beer and cheese.

ESSENTIAL TOOLS FOR OWNING A PT CRUISER

essential-tools-pt-cruiser

  • Air compressor (that plugs into the car) – The tires will go flat, constantly.  Keeping the pressure roughly correct reduces blowouts.
  • Jumper Cables – The electrical system is trash, and the battery is strained from pumping up the tires.  Or maybe it’s just too cold and the car refuses to start.  There’s a ton of reasons you need these.
  • Spare Tire – I’ve put more than 1K miles on my spare tire, when they are supposed to be used for less than 100 miles.  Very little tread left by the time I destroyed the PT.

THE EMBARRASSMENT OF OWNING A PT CRUISER

Actual quote from my wife while we were dating:

Let’s take my car.  I’d like to find you sexually attractive.

Her car was a Jetta.  Yes, my car was less manly than a Jetta, the quintessential aught’s girl conveyance.  We’ve been married for 5 years and together for 7, and she’s been in that car less than 10 times.  She wasn’t even in it when we drove it down to destroy it.  And she wasn’t the first woman to suggest driving her car, either.

Over the years, I’ve been laughed at while driving the car.  Literally, a car of women next to me at a stoplight would start laughing hysterically and pointing at me, just like in a movie.  I had a woman who was interested in me do a double-take upon seeing the car and had a very pointed question: “Are you gay?”.  Again, I have no defense.

FAST FORWARD TO THE SOLUTION

I enjoyed a game at the time called World of Tanks, and did a Google search on if I could drive an actual real life WWII tank.  Turns out that there was a place just an hour south of me that did just that!  Plus, they had a package where you could smash cars with a tank.  What if I supplied the car?  Would that be possible?  Turns out that it was possible!

Before we continue, I did have a good experience sending this car to hell.  However, if you think that I’m pimping the place I did it with, let me tell you that they are woefully incompetent.  I spent 3 months emailing and on the phone with them, and each and every time I talked to someone new who had no clue what it was I wanted.  Even the day I showed up to deliver the car so they could prepare it for smashing, the guy I left the car with had no idea what was going on.

The day before we were going to smash it, they told me other legal things they needed that they couldn’t remember to tell me in the previous 3 months of emails and phone calls.  Seriously, they are morons and it’s miraculous that this thing got done.  Correction, they are morons with heavy weaponry.  Severely terrifying.  If you are going to do an event with them, use small words, write in crayon, and confirm everything 10 times over.

As part of the package, I got to drive other tanks as well and even shoot a couple of guns.  It’s a real redneck operation they have here.  And I mean that in a good way.

john-shooting-m4
Shooting a fully automatic M4. God bless America.

DRIVING OTHER TANKS

First we spend an hour listening to the tank company complain about how people come into their operation and claim they know everything about tanks because they’ve played Battlefield 1942 or World of Tanks.  Seriously, I agree with these guys: how they hell people claim they know about WWII equipment from video games is mind-boggling, and I enjoy every second of their griping.  It gets me a lot less upset over their incompetence to know they have to suffer armchair generals every day.

FV433 Abbott SPG

I am driving three vehicles today:

  • FV433 Abbott SPG (above)
  • FV432 APC (below)
  • Chieftain for the car crush

FV 432 APC

These are all British vehicles.  Why no American tanks?  Because the US chooses not to sell their military equipment to other countries/civilians.  It’s incredibly hard to get parts for American equipment because it’s so rare.  For example, to drive an M4 Sherman for 10 minutes will run you $3,500!  Tanks were actually meant to be disposable.  The average lifespan of a tank in combat in WWII was 42 minutes.  They were never meant to travel more than 400 miles in their life, and the odometer on some of these tanks is over 1,000 miles.  Just keeping them running is a big expense.

IT’S NOT ABOUT THE MONEY, IT’S ABOUT SENDING A MESSAGE

But I can’t really complain about how much it costs.  The tank package along with destroying a “working” vehicle will total more than a few thousand dollars out of my pocket.  Why didn’t I donate the car instead?  Simple: it’s garbage and on the verge of collapse.  It would take a few thousand dollars just to keep running.  I drove it once a week and my wife would make sure she was awake until I got home in case it stranded me yet again.  If I donated it, there’s a large chance they would have just sold it for scrap.  Might as well junk it myself.  It was a great catharsis.

This is actually one of the things that I didn’t expect: no one really understands why I did it.  Sure, some kids at the tank place [immediately upon seeing the PT sitting outside] exclaimed: “I want to crush the PT Cruiser with a tank!”.  So, I mean, the kids understood.  Everyone over the age of 12 seems to give me a confused look when I show them this.  The truth is that I just wanted to do something fun and unique.  It’s been a great story to tell and I’ve never once regretted doing it.

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE A TANK?

First, these vehicles were made with a shorter person in mind.  All of them expect a 5’8″ guy rather than someone over 6 foot.  So everything is a bit cramped.  I can’t imagine sitting in one for hours on end.  Second, they are HOT and LOUD.  You’re sitting right next to the engine.  It’s kind of like riding a motorcycle, where it’s possible to touch your leg on a piece of metal that will burn you.

Driving a tank is just like driving a forklift/skid-loader.  There are two levers: pushing the left one forward will turn the tank to the right, pushing the right one forward turns to the left, pushing both forward makes the tank go forward, etc.  All of the tanks are pretty responsive in their controls.

APC-driver-viewport
This is how you’d drive in combat. There’s 15 tons of tank on your left, it’s a million degrees in there, and you have to drive 30 MPH over rugged terrain while bouncing like ball and looking through a tiny window. Good luck with that!

The visibility while driving “buttoned-up” is terrible.  There’s no peripheral vision and the driver is sitting off to one side of the tank, so much of it is educated guesswork.  The tank bounces up and down like a spastic child, and “comfort” is just not a word that comes to mind while driving any of these things.

THE MAIN EVENT

Driving a tank is fun, but destroying a soul-killing, money-draining, cock-blocking conveyance is the real goal of this day.

Our tool for this task is the British-made Chieftain.  Clocking in at 62 tons, 35 feet long, and 12 feet wide, it seems capable for this job.  The tank is a decade newer than the previous versions I’ve driven, but the inside feels exactly the same.  It drives the same as well.

My instructions on how to do this are clear, and take all of a few seconds to be explained to me:

  • Don’t turn at all – the tank and car are perfectly lined up as-is.  Just go forward.
  • Don’t stop on the way up
  • Pause on the way down when told for photos

It might seem less than exciting after driving tanks off-road that there isn’t much interaction with the machine.  However, there are good reasons why they do it this way that will become clear shortly.

forklift-pt-setup
Delivering the PT to where it’ll meet its’ maker…

You may have figured it out already, but in case you haven’t: I’m not good with money.  What’s even more ridiculous than smashing a car with a tank?  Filming it from the air with a drone!

drove-above-tank

My brother-in-law Kelvin is at the controls of the drone.  If we were thinking, we’d have handed off our phones to someone to get the side-view footage as well.  Hey, back off!  This was my first time doing this!

tank-driving-over-car

Take a look at the GIF to to see it in action (video coming soon, promise).  Also in the video is another car crush with both the aerial and side views.

What was it like in the tank?  It seems stupid to say, but wasn’t completely obvious to me beforehand, but a 60 ton war machine doesn’t really give a fuck that the PT Cruiser is in the way.  While the tank pitches up a bit in the video, it was actually really hard to tell when I had actually driven over it.  Couldn’t feel a thing.

THE AFTERMATH

What happened next was very fitting for a car that would never work properly yet refused to outright die: it was caught in the treads of the tank and took 15 minutes for a forklift to pry it off.

forklift-prying-carcass

 

This happened with the other car as well, and is the reason why there are very strict driving instructions.  Traveling on rough terrain is one thing, and going over metal that wraps around into the tracks is a very different problem.  Eventually they manage to get the ugly carcass of the fail-machine off of the tank.

After the crush and random pictures of the wreckage, we’re pretty wiped out.  It has been a long and hot day.  The ride home in my wife’s BMW x5 is everything the PT was not: quiet, smooth, cool, and comfortable.  And the best part is that no one laughed at me or made judgments on my sexuality on the ride home.  Not owning a PT Cruiser is great.

cheesy-photo-aftermath
Typical cheesy photo-op material. Eh, why not.
rest-in-pieces
John’s PT Cruiser: 2003 – 2014. Rest in pieces.