Get a slice of Americana on an 840km road trip from LA to San Francisco in a Ford Escape SUV
Escape from LA On the road in the Escape (above). Finding a "pit stop" for food and drink between Los Angeles and San Francisco is no problem, but eating gas station sushi is probably not a good idea. US highways have wide lanes, are well maintained and, thanks to exc

According to the United States' Department of Transport, Americans drive about 3 trillion miles (4.8 trillion km) a year.

Compared to that, the 500-odd miles (840-plus km) I clocked on my California road trip was a drop in the ocean. But it was a nice "drop", with lovely views of the blue Pacific.

The ride I hit the road with was an Escape, Ford's compact SUV sold in Singapore as the Kuga. With just myself, my missus and our luggage, there was no need for Ford's Explorer or Expedition, the latter a 5.4-litre V8 monster possibly with its own postal code.

Petrol in the US (at around S$1.245 a litre when I was there) is cheaper than diesel fuel in Singapore, but driving a gas guzzler would make it a lot less "cheap".

In any case, the Escape was well equipped to help this explorer on the minor expedition - turbocharged 1.6- litre engine, convenient six-speed automatic, powered tailgate, cruise control and satellite navigation.

The sat-nav was a lifesaver, helping me to connect the dots (and motels booked through www.hotels.com) on my driveaway from the City of Angels to the City by the Bay. It was accurate and user-friendly. If you were to rent a car (Hertz, Avis and Alamo are popular choices in the US), make sure that it has navigation, either built-in or in the form of a portable device.

Also essential for US road trips is AAS (Automobile Association of Singapore) membership, which entitles you to basic emergency roadside assistance offered by its sister association in the US. Services include the changing of a flat tyre and jump-starting a flat battery.

Thankfully, there was no need to use my AAS card on this trip. It was a relaxed Friday-to-Monday drive in the Ford, covering a distance equivalent from Singapore to Hat Yai in Thailand.

But doing it in California was more interesting and also a lot less tiring.

America's freeways are wide and clearly signposted, traffic is fairly light (at least on weekends and on the Interstates where I drove), and American drivers are generally courteous and "chill" on the road. Therefore, being behind the wheel for two hours straight in the Escape was easy. The minutes and miles just zipped by, with plenty of stations to listen to on the car's Sirius satellite radio.

There was the occasional "background music" too - the rumble and burble of big-block American V8s alongside the little Ford, produced by Camaros and Colorados and assorted trucks in between.

Despite having half the number of cylinders and a fraction of the capacity, the Escape had enough torque and responsiveness to merge quickly with fast-moving traffic or to overtake slower vehicles promptly.

Not that I was in any rush to reach my destination. I was cruising at 60 to 70mph (96 to 112kmh) most of the time, with the cabin temperature set at 70 deg F (21.1 deg C), perfect for the Californian summer. This was a vacation, not a competition, and other drivers appeared to be in holiday mode too.

Going a little faster than them was no problem, especially when using the highway's carpool lane reserved for vehicles with at least two people onboard (my idea of a carpool is four people in one car). I noticed there were far fewer vehicles in the "quick" lane, suggesting that most cars and trucks had only the driver inside. I wonder if anyone ever tried to pass off a blow-up doll as a front passenge.

He would probably pull it off, because in my 10 hours of driving over three days, I saw fewer cops than on a single episode of CSI.

Reminding the motorist to stay on the right side of the law are various roadside signboards - "Slower Traffic Keep Right", "Report Drink Drivers Call 911", "Speed Limit Enforced By Radar" and even "Speed Limit Enforced By Aircraft". There are also signs to alert drivers to a sharpening curve in the road and to suggest a recommended speed to negotiate the bend safely. Helpful advice.

If only I had enforced a spending limit on the shopping done by my other half, who swept through Camarillo Premium Outlets like some tornado from Toa Payoh. The clothes, shoes and unnecessary accessories filled up the boot and backseat of the Escape rapidly.

The Ford was not the only thing filled to the brim - our tummies were kept full and happy by glorious and copious amounts of food. We enjoyed a tasty variety of meals in California, most of which were too generous for typical Asian appetites, but we soon got the hang of ordering "just nice" for the two of us - one starter plus one entree and two drinks. Any leftover can be doggy-bagged, which is a common practice in the US.

We also mastered the American art of tipping - 10 per cent gratuity if the service was so-so, 15 to 18 per cent if the service was good, or 20 per cent if the servers were exceptional and went the extra mile. Not enough greenbacks in your wallet? Just ask the cashier to include the tip in your credit card charge.

Our road trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco was an enjoyable experience, and the Ford Escape was an excellent companion, playing both "town car limo" and "shopping trolley". After dropping it off, we went to Fisherman's Wharf and tried a different kind of "escape" - from Alcatraz.