Go to Homepage
The only difference between first class travellers and first class idiots is the price they pay.

Highway to the heavens

Space travellers and SpaceShipOne get ready to blast off as Toyota enters the fray with some really mean machines.

Vijay Verghese/ Editor

Change font size Smaller font Larger font

Print This ArticleE-mail This Page

VijayHEAD out on the highway, looking for adventure. That’s me. Born to be wild. The Steppenwolf 1968 open-road classic rings in my ears as I press the pedal to the metal. I drive perhaps one of the fastest and meanest cars ever devised to torment and titillate men of a certain age who appreciate screaming wheels and quiet women. Jaws drop as I sail by. No matter the traffic is piled four lanes deep or the lights are resolutely red.

I drive a Lexus. This comes from Toyota, the company that makes cars without brakes. It also features a Velcro accelerator that speeds things up to ensure that when the going gets tough, the tough get going – really fast. This demands driving skills of the highest calibre. Forget Paris airport snafus, BA cabin crew bluster and Bangkok airport sieges. These cars can cross continents in a blur. CRASH. Crrrrunch. That’s the sweet sound of a Toyota parking.

Send us your Feedback / Letter to the Editor  Share Share This Page

Toyota has had to pull 8.5 million vehicles from the roads because American driving standards – and speed limits – simply aren’t high enough. Alarmed by TV reports featuring crusty congressmen trying to figure out why the Toyota CEO is called Toyoda and whether Godzilla has anything to do with all this, friends refuse to ride with me. They are not reassured by footage of wrecked Japanese cars, which is a lot less disturbing than America’s Funniest Home Videos. Well, friends and Ferraris are for wimps.

Toyota has pulled 8.5 million vehicles off the roads because US driving standards – and speed limits – aren't high enough

I will fess up my car certainly has its quirks. My wireless key doesn’t work half the time leaving me locked out. There’s too much carbon brake dust on the tyre rims, the handbrake has become a diabolical footbrake and the trunk can barely hold a circus midget, leave alone my folding bicycle. There are far more serious problems with my Lexus though. I still haven’t got a decent date Saturday nights, my bathroom shower drips, and every stock I own is down. Speed demon Toyota is not interested in my complaints.

But if you still think cars are not the safest way to travel, check out YouTube videos of scary Kai Tak landings of yore in Hong Kong, wing strikes, crosswind approaches and wind shear drama as aircraft twist, whine, climb and drop inexplicably. As I watched horrified, an artfully placed Google ad popped on the screen offering cut-price HK$4,480 tickets from Hong Kong to London from British Airways. But surely you need cabin staff to operate a flight?

Masterfully, Google also runs advertisements on crash videos relating to fear of flying. It’s called content-matched placement. This generates instant, measurable user response. Say you’re watching an aircraft ditching at sea when an ad pops up selling the dreamy Maldives at half price. At this point viewers run screaming to the nearest high-floor window and leap out thus proving that gravity is an unstoppable force. I should post videos of how I park my car. “Look ma no brakes.” These would be far more riveting and attract a better class of advertise, like Dior.

Iran recently sent up two turtles in a rocket, deeply alarming the West, which described this as a "provocative act"

Forget roads. Space is not safe either. Iran recently sent up two turtles in a powerful rocket, deeply alarming the West, which was quick to call this a “provocative act”. That’s right. What if these are Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Future NASA moon missions are in doubt as funding dries up and turtles start orbiting the earth. Meanwhile India and China are setting their sights on lunar adventures and could have astronauts up there by 2020 talking détente and curry recipes on their iPhones in perfect SMS text speak. “*$?” “10q g2g plant flag.” And Hamas and Hezbolah forge on with their rocket programmes to get a tin cylinder over the Israel boundary wall.

With the foundation so well laid, the privatisation of space travel is inevitable and companies everywhere are gearing up to take tourists, cargo, scientists, and unrepentant mothers-in-law into the starry black yonder. Virgin Galactic’s (www.virgingalactic.com/) eight-passenger SpaceShipTwo proves that nothing is impossible especially when it comes to stringing together composite words. Its tickets cost US$200,000 and commercial launches could commence in 2011.

SpaceShipOne’s groundbreaking flight was on 21 June 2004. VirginPilotAstronaut Mike Melvill went on to perform some amazing scientific experiments that included tossing up M&M chocolates and watching them float. It is at moments like this that we are proud to belong to the human race, unless you prefer dark chocolate. Space Adventures (www.spaceadventures.com) will rustle up everything from a zero gravity experience (a lot cheaper at US$4,950 per person), sub-orbital flights and even lunar missions. Blue Origin (www.blueorigin.com) from Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos wants to put space travellers in suborbital flights by 2012 and Spacex (www.spacex.com) from PayPal cofounder Elon Musk will build rockets to restock the Space Station.

But right now it’s Toyota in the lead. Find a slope, point the car upwards towards Ursa Major, hit the pedal and…

Send us your Feedback / Letter to the Editor

Previous Columns
Note: Telephone and fax numbers, e-mails, website addresses, rates and other details may change or get dated. Please check with your dealer/agent/service-provider or directly with the parties concerned. SmartTravel Asia accepts no responsibility for any inadvertent inaccuracies in this article. Links to websites are provided for the viewer's convenience. SmartTravel Asia accepts no responsibility for content on linked websites or any viruses or malicious programs that may reside therein. Linked website content is neither vetted nor endorsed by SmartTravelAsia. Please read our Terms & Conditions.