Last weekend, the crew at Avis took on it’s second gruelling test of endurance within a month, this time competing in the Ride24 challenge. The challenge takes place in the form of a Le Mans style race with teams of 4 taking it in turns to cycle round the Dunsfold Park Track in Surrey (aka the Top Gear test track) over a period of 24 hours. Effectively, whoever completes the most laps over that period wins. Of course people like me don’t just enter things like this for the fun of it and it was all for a good cause, raising money for Action Medical Research.

We weren’t exactly the most prepared outfit competing, most evident when team member Gavin Ross declared that he was not going to the practice run last Tuesday night because “he hadn’t done any practice so far so why start now?”. But we managed to overcome our lack of preparation by putting in some respectable scores. Of the 3 teams we entered Avis Team 3 (the team I was in) finished 19th despite Steve Liberda and Duncan Hall riding the slower hybrids and myself and my colleague, Simon Wickson, sharing a bike. Avis Nightriders (who should have been Avis Team 1 but refused to stick to the naming convention) finished 15th while Avis Team 2 finished in 2nd place, which was an unbelievable achievement.

I have to say that Action Medical Research did a great job of hosting the event. But we’ve still got a little way to go to reach our fundraising target so if you are interested in sponsoring us, please click here.

Below is a full list of the team who competed on the day:

Avis Nightriders
Gavin Ross, Jack Macaree, Chris Keogh, Tim Maw

Avis Team 2
Jim Cox, Simon Carter, Gavin Spires, Thomas Sugden

Avis Team 3
Steve Liberda, Duncan Hall, Simon Wickson, Rob White

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The final part of my road trip around Utah and Arizona carries on from Bryce Canyon…

Day 9 – Bryce Canyon National Park to Las Vegas
Today will mark your final leg of the road trip as you venture into Zion National Park. The drive down Highways 89 and 9 to reach Zion the provides the kind of red-rock views that have become increasingly familiar but never less interesting.

Zion itself is very different to any national park you’ve visited so far. Most have been typically vast in scale, the star features generously spaced out with fairly barren areas in between. Zion packs a lot more in a smaller area. But that does not mean that the towering red and white rock peaks are any less spectacular. It just means that you have to be ready for a constant feast for the eyes. And Zion has a colourful charm that really makes it stand out from the rest of the parks. The red rock is redder than anywhere you’ve been so far while the layers of white rock add variation to the colour. And when you drive down Zion Canyon you’ll find trees and even grass lining the Virgin river that flows through the canyon’s centre.

If you’re short on time then the drive through Zion Canyon is the way to go. Along the way there are some good short walks with plenty of interesting things to discover including the Weeping Rock and Emerald Pools. But if you’re up for taking on a bit more of a challenge then the Angels Landing trail is definitely the way to go. I met some people who said this was their favourite hike of all the parks they’ve visited. But it is not for the faint hearted. At times the trail narrows to just 5ft, 1,500ft above the canyon floor, while the final ascent to the top is an energy sapping struggle. But the view at the top is unbelievable and well worth the struggles.

Something else I wanted to mention about Zion is the Zion-Mount Carmel tunnel. The tunnel is an engineering feat: a 9ft wide, 5,600ft long tunnel cut through the sandstone of Zion, 225ft in the year. This follows through to 3 and a half miles worth of switchbacks and, while the queue of cars caused by the tunnel traffic lights will prevent you from tackling the switchbacks on your own, they’re still great fun to drive.

From Zion head on the freeway (15) back to Vegas.

Day 10 – Las Vegas
This is your final full day in the States and Vegas is a great place to finish off the road trip. Partly, because it provides fantastic contrast to all of the things you’ve seen so far: epic natural beauty versus excessive human indulgence. But secondly because Vegas is a great place to just unwind. Spas, bars, good food, great entertainment, it’s a great place to kick back, relax and allow your brain to recover from all of the overhwhelming things you’ve seen. So indulge. Catch a show, go shopping or even ride a roller coaster more than 1,000ft above the strip. Either way, like everywhere else you’ve been, Vegas is an unforgettable place.

Day 11 – Las Vegas
Today is the day of departure. Use the chance for a bit of last minute shopping or go hunting for souvenirs. As your flight takes off from Vegas look out for the rigid boundaries of a city famous for finding humanity at it’s most excessive and then let your eyes gaze to the vast, spectacular wilderness beyond. The contrast is extraordinary and it provides a fitting ending to an awesome trip.

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I’ve just been advised by my colleague in the Avis Prestige team that they have recently introduced the Jaguar XKR to their fleet (available as a 5.0 coupe and a 5.0 cabriolet). While I have never had the chance to drive one myself, there is no doubting that it is a gorgeous car to look at. And the overwhelmingly positive reviews I’ve read about it is testament to the success the product development team at Jaguar have enjoyed over the past few years. I’ve posted some snippets of these reviews below. As always let us know what you think about the Jaguar XKR and feel free to post your ideas about what you would like to see on the Avis Prestige fleet!

“The XKR is furiously fast, fun to drive, yet still comfortable and sumptuous when you just want to cruise.”
Channel4 – 4Car

“Even from the passenger seat, it’s clear Jaguar has created a special machine. Not only is it quick in a straight line, but it handles as well as any of its rivals. In Mike Cross’s hands, the pace is truly spectacular. And while we can’t wait until our own test drive, one thing is already very clear – the XKR might be yellow, but it’s far from mellow.”
Auto Express

“You’ll be reading a lot about this new XKR over the next few weeks so you’d better get used to “best Jag since the E-type” headlines. This doesn’t interest me at all. What does excite me is that within 10 miles at the wheel I suspected this Jaguar was not simply more charming than its rivals from BMW and Mercedes, it was plain better, too. Now, several hundred miles down the road, I’ m convinced. And that is a story worth telling”
The Sunday Times

“…the XKR can stand toe-to-toe with the best GTs at any price. Fast, refined, beautiful, high-tech…”
Car Magazine

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Part 4 of my awesome road trip around Utah and Arizona carries on from Torrey…

Day 7 – Capitol Reef National Park/Torrey to Bryce Canyon National Park
While most days have been dominanted by the hiking, today is definitely about the driving. Kick off the day by driving the Capitol Reef National Park’s Scenic Drive (if you stayed in nearby Torrey it is only a 10 minute drive away). You won’t need to waste time on your morning coffee because this trip will definitely liven the senses. The tour will take you through more grand sandstone rock formations, finishing at the narrow Capitol Gorge.

After navigating your way through one national park, it’s time to head off to another, taking Highway 12 to Bryce Canyon. Now, while Bryce Canyon will reveal itself to be a truly amazing place, right now it’s about the journey, not the destination. Highway 12 is a stunning drive: an ever-changing landscape that will take you through snow-covered alpine forest (snow-covered if you’re there in the winter), desert, gaping canyons and dramatic rock monuments. Allow extra time for the drive because you’ll be stopping off at the many conveniently placed scenic viewpoints to capture the amazing landscapes on film.

You should reach Bryce Canyon with time to spare. Set up camp, get some dinner and perhaps use the opportunity to watch the sun set over the canyon. I didn’t get the chance to do this myself but I can assume that Sunrise Point is a good spot to watch it from!

Day 8 – Bryce Canyon National Park
Just when you think you’ve seen everything, you arrive at Bryce Canyon. I know I’m starting to say this about almost every place I recommend on this road trip but Bryce Canyon is definitely a contender for top stop in the spectacular stakes. I absolutely loved Bryce Canyon.

Again the canyon is dominated by the vibrant, orange/red sandstone which is stunning but not especially different from anything else you’ve seen so far. But then there is more to this magical national park. The dabs of greens and browns of the high apine trees and the splashes of pure white snow (you’ll find snow here for much of the year) add beautiful colour that contrast with the rock’s reds and oranges. And then there are the hoodoos: thousands of pointed sandstone spires that blanket the canyon. The first time they reveal themselves as you approach the rim of the amphitheatre is definitely a “wow” moment.

The other great thing about Bryce Canyon is that it all feels very accessible. I’d recommend driving the park rim’s Scenic Drive, stopping at every viewpoint to take in the stunning panoramic views. Many of viewpoints also provide the starting points for most the hiking trails, many of which take you right among the hoodoos within a short walk. It’s difficult to pick any one trail to recommend but I particularly enjoyed the Navajo Loop trail that takes you through Wall Street – a narrow canyon where the sandstone glows inexplicably bright despite the limited light.

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Today I’ll continue from Day 5 of my awesome road trip around Utah and Arizona…

Day 5 – Bluff to Moab
The drive from Bluff is similar to the other drives you would’ve experienced so far. Pretty darn awesome. Your drive starts at the San Juan river which cuts through the red rock monuments that have become so familiar.

From here you should head to the Needles District on the southern point of the Canyonlands National Park. The Canyonlands, incidentally, is Utah’s least visited national park. But don’t let that detract from what is a truly fabulous national park. What strikes me is the variety of the landscape. You’ll find all kinds of interesting rock formations, some sharp and jutting, others are more rounded, almost mushroom-like. But it’s not just nature’s influence that makes this park interesting. Hike around the Cave Spring trail and you’ll find an abandoned cowboy camp as well as spooky, painted handprints left by Native Americans. They are more than a little haunting. And if you head there in early March, like I did, you’ll find the park practically empty – no where else will you find such solitude in such a spectacular setting.

Of course, the real star of the show are the Needles: rock spires that, from many points in the park, you’ll find dominate the distance. To get close up to the needles you’ll need to head along the 11-mile Chesler Park Loop.

From the Needles District head back out on to highway 191, driving north towards Moab. Moab is in a truly spectacular setting, not least because overlooking the town is the Arches National Park. If you happened to skip a few of the hikes you might have time to check out one of the many outdoor activities that Moab has to offer. In town you’ll the opportunity to go mountain biking, white-water rafting, hiking, rock climbing, canyoneering or horseback riding. Phew!

Day 6 – Moab to Capitol Reef National Park/Torrey
Today will be an absolutely incredible day because you’ll be touring the Arches National Park. As I’ve said so many times before in this series, you’ll be constantly challenging yourself on what park is the most spectacular and the Arches is definitely a park that throws it’s weight in this debate.

The park is very accessible by car and driving is the best option to navigate your way round. Again the landscape is largely characterised by the bright reddish/orange sandstone that rises out of the Utah desert. And, again, there are plenty of unusual rock formations that will keep you snappy-happy. Not least of these is the Balanced Rock, which literally is a 3577-ton boulder resting delicately above a very weak looking pedestal. But the Arches real selling point is, of course, the arches.

The first of these is accessible when taking the turn off just past the Balanced Rock. At the end of this road is a short trail to the North and South Windows – two very impressive and comparatively solid looking arches. There are plenty of arches around the park (unsurprisingly the park has the biggest concentration of arches found anywhere in the world) but the most famous and iconic of them is the Delicate Arch – which, incidentally, you’ll find on the licence plate of every Utah vehicle. Accessing the Delicate Arch is a 3-mile hike (round trip) and when the arch finally reveals itself, it truly is a marvellous sight. Glorious yet delicate, solitary yet dominant, you’ll feel very aware that you’re standing at the feet of a state celebrity. But it is a celebrity that is worthy of it’s status.

There are plenty of other arches to hike to and once you’ve had you’re fill, head west towards Dead Horse Point and the Island in the Sky district of the Canyonlands National Park. Both offer unbelievable views. While the Arches feels accessible and gives you very specific icons to focus on, these two parks are vast and epic, offering views that stretch down canyons for what seems forever. You might be familiar with Dead Horse Point: it provided the setting for the final scene of Thelma and Louise. If you’ve got time, you can hike some of the trails around Island in the Sky, which are generally short.

Otherwise, head off west on highway 50, turning off at 24 towards Torrey. If you’re up for a spot of camping then why not stay on a campsite in the Capitol Reef National Park? Otherwise, Torrey has plenty of accommodation options on offer.

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I never really thought of the UK as a hotspot for marine life spotting but a report on BBC news this morning has led me to reconsider my assessment. If you are planning to a trip to Cornwall any time soon then you may have the opportunity to see the elusive basking shark. Coming in at a length that averages between 6m to 8m (making it the second largest shark in the world), the basking shark is a truly magnificient creature. So it is a privilege that so many make it the west coast of the UK around this time of the year as part of their annual migration. In fact, they are now coming to the UK in their hundreds.

But basking sharks are not all you might find in Cornwall. Local operators such as Marine Discovery Penzance and Orca Sea Safaris offer the opportunity to spot dolphins, seals, jellyfish and exotic fish.

So if you want to see some incredible marine life then head down to Cornwall. Now is your opportunity. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this footage of basking sharks filmed off the coast of Cornwall:

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At midnight Friday night, 21 intrepid walkers from Avis Europe and Avis UK embarked on a 40 mile walk across the South Downs Way trail to raise money for Action Medical Research. As you might expect from any endurance test, it was a gruelling affair with participants fighting a battle against weary minds in addition to weary legs (and blistered feet).

For myself the battle was made harder still by the militant Josi Kytle (my boss), Chris Keogh and Jack MacAree, who instead of slowing down the further they walked (like most ‘normal’ people would), they actually increased their pace. So much so in fact that, by the time we hit the rolling coastline of the Seven Sisters, they were actually running, finishing with a sprint over the finish line.

My efforts to keep up ended at the half-way stage where myself and Sharon Lee decided to pace ourselves and “enjoy the scenery”. Of course, it had nothing to do with the fact that I was seriously flagging by then although, when Team 2 (led by Steve Liberda) caught up with us, I was more than grateful for the cocktail of pills that Josie Ryan gave me. I’m not sure how I would of faired without that welcome pick-me-up.

Fast forward to the finishing line and I’m delighted and proud to say that all 21 members from across our 3 Avis teams made it across the finish line. A massive thank you must go to the fantastic support team who trailed us from check-point to check-point, providing us with valuable supplies. I should also say well done to Steve Liberda who co-ordinated the Avis effort and so far we are well on our way to reaching our target of £7,000 (and we have another 24hr Cycling Relay event to go).

Action Medical Research is a charity dedicated to improving the health of babies and children. If you are interested in supporting the team help raise money for this great cause then this please click here to access our sponsorship page.

Below is the full list of the Avis team and some pictures from the day:

Team 1
Claire Lambert, Lisa Benton, Anne-Marie Early, Mark Kightley, Jorge Da Rocha, Claire Alvey, Jasvir Labana, Ronan Moriarty

Team 2
Steve Liberda, Michael Hennessey, Andrea Tallis, Rebecca Chivers, Josie Ryan, Penny Fox, Mark Cunningham

Team 3
Jack Macaree, Chris Keogh, George Downing, Rob White, Sharon Lee, Josi Kytle

Support Team
Paul Miller, Dawn Killington, Delia Nicholson, Gary-Gaughan-Smith, Jo Humphreys

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Last week a customer (Robert) asked if we could publish a
blog post that would essentially be used as a thread to feedback on
our UK fleet. It’s a great idea and I thought this blog post could be
used as that thread. When posting your comments just please bear in mind
that the market is very tough at the moment, which has affected the
available supply and pushed our costs up. So while your feedback is
important to us, we also need to be pragmatic about how much action we
can take from this.

And to give you something to feedback on, here is a list of the current
fleet (I’ve only included those that we have the most fleet of in each
category). I look forward to reading your comments!…

Standard fleet
Small
Ford Fiesta, Peugeot 207, Renault Clio, Chevrolet Matiz (recently launched due
to demand for a “Small – Mini” category)

Medium
Ford Focus, Peugeot 308, Nissan Note

Large
Ford Mondeo, VW Jetta, VW Passat, Vauxhall Vectra, Mercedes C-Class,
Mercedes E-Class

Estates
Peugeot 308 SW, Citreon C5, VW Passat SW

MPVs
Vauxhall Zafira, VW Sharan, Kia Sedona

Select Series
Fiat 500, VW Golf, Audi A4, Audi A4 Avant

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Please note:

The details of all blog posts are correct at the time of publication. Information and offers are subject to change without prior notice. Please check www.avis.co.uk for the most up-to-date information.

All comments will be moderated so there may be a delay in your comment going live. We will filter out anything that is confidential, inappropriate, abusive, defamatory, profane, or anything considered as spam or an advertising link. We promise not to cut something just because it's not favourable to Avis.

We ask that if your feedback is regarding a past rental, you include your reservation details (which will be removed from the live post). If your comment is a customer service issue, you can email customer.service@avis.co.uk .
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