Arrival in the USA
Surprisingly quickly, the day came for us to fly out to Orlando. We touched down mid-afternoon and went to collect our rental car. Fellow Brits might be tempted to try and collect a “hire” car; don’t do this. The Americans will hear it as “higher”, and give you an SUV instead! As it happened, the rental location were all out of the “super-cheap economy” class of car that we had reserved, and asked if we’d mind taking a plush mid-size SUV instead at the same price. We were happy to oblige, and set off for Sarasota in Percy the big black Saturn. By shopping around online, you can get some excellent deals on car rental. Despite the fact that I was only 23 years old, and hence would normally attract an “Under 25s” surcharge, Hannah managed to arrange three weeks of car rental for only $12 per day. Unless you’re visiting a big city and nowhere else, you can forget trying to spend time in the USA without a car.
Our three weeks in Sarasota were to pass remarkably quickly. As well as relaxing and enjoying the local attractions, there was a lot still to get done before setting out on our trip. Hannah had located a fantastic outdoor pursuits shop near our local supermarket, and we made many visits there to amass our supplies. We eventually came away with a Mountain Hardware 2-man tent, sleeping bags by the same manufacturer, and a stove and cooking gear; not to mention an assortment of other odds and ends like a snake-bite kit and pocket knife. Another regular destination was the pilot shop at the local airport, where I obtained our first set of charts, and a handheld GPS (the Garmin GPSMAP 296) and radio.
Having completed the first part of the “Foreign Licence Verification”, it was time for the second part; the interview. We made our way to the nearest FSDO, in Tampa, where an extremely friendly FAA official inspected my logbook, and then handed me my temporary licence; the original would arrive in the mail. The total cost for all this, from the FAA? $0. Europe has a lot to learn about running an accessible aviation system.
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