I was at Ferrari & Maserati of San Antonio at 0800 today and was back on the road, minus my rattle, by 1000. Jim, the technician there, rapidly identified the source of the noise I had noticed as a loose and broken aerodynamic fin on the rear flat underfloor. It was interesting to see beneath Speranza for the first time. Ferrari and Maserati take pride in their cars being finished as neatly beneath as above.
I think I know when the damage was done. I unknowingly drove over an abandoned life jacket in the port city of Duluth, MN some weeks ago. I discovered it trailing behind Speranza when next I stopped for gas. I removed it at the time but a piece of its webbing was still lodged in the broken fin. Before I detected and removed it, it must have done some damage.
On decent roads, the aerodynamic properties of the fin kept it aligned and quiet. On the heat-cracked roads of Nevada and Arizona, I heard it rattle for the first time. Jim removed the broken part and I have emailed the relevant number to my guys in London so that it can be refitted there. Speranza will be basis points less aerodynamic until it's done, which at ordinary road speeds will make no difference at all.
I was happy to note that the second fatality of the trip (an armadillo who made a sickening crunch as I ran over him accidentally yesterday) had made no lasting impression on Speranza's underside.
I was impressed by the friendly and helpful service this morning. Jim instantly inspired confidence. He clearly knew what he was about. He incidentally identified another aspect of the "engine management" fault to be fixed under warranty back in London and I emailed on his comments about that too. Robert, the after-sales service manager and Jenny who took care of the money side of the business were welcoming and enthusiastic about my mad expedition. I was made thoroughly at home and taken care of with coffee and cookies while the work was done.
The time passed quickly as I chatted happily to a retired local gent from Fredericksburg who is as well-travelled in Britain as I now am in America. A former risk manager for a Texas utilities company he became friends with the Lloyd's broker who took care of his company's business in London. They and their wives have toured my home islands extensively together and I was touched when he told me he feels homesick for Britain now.
We talked about my journeys and his and he told me a little about his family's history in Texas in return for perhaps rather too much of my family's history in Britain. He also explained a little about the Lone Star State's sense of difference from the other forty-nine. He also gave an interesting account of Commanche pow-wows held in his home town, where the treaty negotiated between the tribe and the local German-Texan settlers is, he claims, the only one never to be dishonoured. The story made me want to return to attend the next one.
Duly reassured by Jim and his colleagues' quiet Texan efficiency, I hit the road and drove just over three hundred miles to Beaumont,TX where I will spend the night. On the way I stopped at Columbus, TX at a tex-mex restaurant found in my satnav's database. I have been getting Facebook advice from Texan friends as to places to eat and drink. Sadly, I move faster than they write. I will have to save their recommendations for future trips. However my lunch-time quesadillas were great - and enough food for the whole day, which saves a chore tonight.
I am a little tired after a couple of big driving days. The I-10 from San Antonio to Beaumont via Houston was busier and consequently less fun than from Fort Stockton to San Antonio. There were a few slow-moving vehicles en route driven by inconsiderate hoggers of the outside lane. Another thing Texans and I seem to have in common is that we don't do patience very well. I mostly restrained my own impatience, guest as I am in this great state, but those around me didn't. I spent a lot of time staying out of the way of massive, Texan-flagged pick-up trucks engaged in rapid lane-changing and passing on both sides, while trying not to look so much of a wuss as to be unworthy of my car.
I am planning another ambitious sprint from here to Biloxi, MS tomorrow, crossing Louisiana at its widest point in a single day. So my only plan for this evening is to take a relaxing bath and get a lot of sleep!