NASCAR: the Game – Paris Version

Normandy

Normandy

Why Perk and I decided to rent a car in Paris to drive to Normandy with our Colorado family was a flash of foolishness at best. We could have rented from Hertz somewhere on the Peripherique, the beltway of Paris. Instead we found ourselves in a real-life video game with heart-stopping action!  As in an arcade, NASCAR: the game – Perkins Paris Version begins simply, then escalates with challenges…

Level 1: Searching for Dante.  Push your way through the crowds at Gare du Nord to find the Hertz office (along with other rental agencies) in a subterranean catacomb. Take an elevator further down; descend a flight of stairs to find your car wedged in a stall with 2 inches to spare on either side. The lighting is dim, the cavern walls damp. Crawl across the gear shift to the driver’s side, wriggle the car out of the space, trying not to ride the clutch. You have completed the novice qualifying round!

Offer the keys to your son-in-law who has spent the last week driving a stick-shift through the Spanish Pyrenees and has a fearless attitude. He accepts the challenge and agrees to complete the course.

Earn 500 points

Level 2: The Corkscrew. Follow the exit signs to a circular ramp with such an incredibly tight screw that, for five levels, walls on both sides are scarred by the paint of past vehicles trying to escape: black, gray, blue and blood red scrapes reflect the screaming curses of previous drivers.  You creep out unscathed amid cheers and adulation from the passengers in the back seat!

Earn 1000 points

Cumulative Total: 1500 points

Street Market

Street Market

Level 3: The Street Market.  Debouche (we’re practicing French!) into a traffic jam; make a wrong turn and end up in the middle of a market.  The sliver of street has parked cars on one side; stalls of fruits and vegetables, handbags and scarves on the other. Vendors hawk their wares in strident pleas.  An elderly woman, back bent into a question mark and wearing a frayed pink cardigan staggers in front of your car while pulling her trolley of groceries home.  You do not hit her!

Earn 500 points

Cumulative Total: 2000 points

Cars, bicyclists and motor scooters clog the road. You try shortcuts, have no clue where you’re going. Your co-pilot pulls out the GPS.

Rose at the Roadside Rest

Rose at the Roadside Rest

Level 4: The Peripherique and the By-ways.  Take advantage of the straight-away and catch your breath.  Six lanes of organized traffic bring your heart beat back to normal. You stop for lunch and to smell the roses at a roadside rest. You dawdle through beautiful small towns in Normandy. It’s easy driving. Where’s the NASCAR challenge?

Lose 500 points

Cumulative Total: 1500 points

Level 5: Pick Up Speed. Resume the challenge when you return to Paris on the Peripherique. You need to buy gas or pay a $225 fee to Hertz.  Catch a glimpse of a gas pump icon on an exit to Place de la Porte Maillot– zoom across five lanes of traffic and swerve on to a city street. Brake quickly as you find yourself in the Bois de Boulogne, traffic inching along in stodgy lanes. Old men sit on benches; children squeal in the playground.  It is rush hour, but no one is rushing in the Bois. No gas station is to be seen.  You do not lose your temper!

Earn 500 points

Cumulative Total: 2000 points

Level 6: Pit Stop.  Circle back to the Place. Ask a gendarme for directions to the gas station. He says to go straight on and then descend into an underground parking area that also vends gasoline.  Miss the turn, circle back … plunge down the chute to the unvented parking garage filled with gas fumes. Fill the tank, then realize that the exit is a 45 degree uphill plane. Slam the car into gear, flatten the gas pedal and pray. You spurt out into the oncoming traffic that miraculously swerves around you!

Earn 1000 points

Cumulative Total: 3000 points

Level 7: Final Triumph.  Shoot along the Avenue de la Grande Armee. Undisciplined traffic bucks and plunges alongside the rental car as you circle the Arch of Triumph, holding the inside like a good racehorse. A bicyclist looks scornfully at your hand-held GPS as he dares you to hit him. Dodging scooters and delivery trucks, you dare a purple Mini Cooper to challenge your progress; she backs down with a look of dismay at being bested by a tourist.

Arch of Triumph

Arch of Triumph

Your breath becomes quick and shallow; you focus on speed, crevices in the traffic, and screech out of the circle – the exit to Avenue de Friedland, the final straight-away to Gare du Nord and the Hertz return.  You cruise through the last stretch. After a quick left and then an immediate right into the station, the checkered flag is waved!

Earn 2000 points

Cumulative total: 5000 points!

The Winner and CHAMPION with no scrapes, no dents, no penalties, no deaths!

(Next time we’ll go by train!)

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