I’ve just arrived in the USA for Infiniti’s launch of the new JX35, and so far things haven’t exactly gone to plan.
Having never flown transatlantic before, I’m unfamiliar with the time required to pass through check-in: what I at first believed to be ample time upon arriving at Dubai International Airport turned out to be anything but. It is only after a 45-minute wait at the check-in desk, for instance, that I learn I need a Visa for my three-day jaunt. “There’s an application form online sir. Shouldn’t take you more than ten minutes. By the way, the desk closes in twenty”.
My trusty laptop of course cannot find the airport’s wi-fi connection, despite several “would you mind awfully”s from myself. But one panic-stricken phone call to our Infiniti representative for the weekend – the delightful Francesca – and I’m back on-track. Sort of. Queues are their customary length at security, and there’s a further two checkpoints – “please remove shoes, belts, loose change, anything metal” – before I’m finally at the gate, breathless, red-faced, mumbling obscenities under my breath, and generally making a rather foolish spectacle of myself.
Thirteen hours and a ‘brief’ stop-over in Washington later, we land in South Carolina. And I’m a wreck. I’ve not slept, my back is stiff, I’ve misplaced my apartment keys, an OJ spill now adorns my shirt collar, and I’ve no idea what time it is. One thing I am certainly not ready to do is jump behind the wheel of a car.
Happily however our US Infiniti representatives are on hand to welcome our little Middle East media group. Truth be told we’re all pretty knackered, and cheery conversation with our Infiniti hosts offers a much-appreciated arm around the shoulder.
Twenty minutes later we’re checked into the hotel, and though the temptation to collapse onto the mattress is enormous, it’s recommended by those frequent flyers in the group who’ve been there, done that, that a bracing stroll and some fresh air will be much better in the long term. Since the JX35-business side of things is not due to kick off for a good few hours, we set off into Charleston for a bit of US culture.
And are quickly enamoured with the place. The frequent perception of the US of A being big, brash and ‘in yer face’ is quickly sheathed, Charleston instead presenting a quaint vibe of old town America. Several “y’all”s in quick succession, for example, get us all relaxed quickly.
A couple of hours and an ice cream cone or two later, we’ve made our way down across the main drag, through the town market – the building of which used to be a prominent holding cell used by slave traders – and are wandering along the bank of the Cooper River.
In the distance, the New Cooper Bridge – or the Arthur Ravenel Jr for the purists amongst you – hoves into our respective eye lines. The starting point for our near-300km route the following day, the bridge is also a key landmark used during the annual Cooper River Bridge Run from Charleston to Mt. Pleasant.
Since we’re all feeling a bit adventurous, we take a water taxi across to the SS Yorktown, an enormous aircraft carrier that remained in service during the latter stages of the Second World War but which was decommissioned in 1947. Travellers and military enthusiasts alike continue to flock to the flight decks with each passing summer, and after a few moments wandering the myriad of tight corridors below deck, it’s not hard to see why. It’s an unquestionably humbling experience.
I ponder rather absent-mindedly during a staring match with an F/A-18A Hornet what amenities the JX35 may have to offer: air-to-air missiles, ejector seats and after-burners? Possibly not. Cruise control, leather seats and cup holders? Getting warmer.
Soon though we’re making our way back to Infiniti’s temporary GHQ in the centre of town for the evening’s press conference. Pencils and biros scribble furiously on Infiniti-brand notepads as we note the features to keep an eye on – Back-Up Collision Intervention, a 3.5l V6, and ‘emotive styling’ – during our interstate tour across South Carolina. But we’ll have to wait until tomorrow for that.