Sunday, April 28, 2013

R is for Roads - images of America

Talking about roads, of course I'm going to mention how terrifying it is being a front seat passenger sitting on the right hand side of the car when you're used to being on that side with a steering wheel in front of you. Used to being in control!

Flinching continually at the traffic is no fun, especially as it seems to be wandering all over the place following some unknown trajectory. Cars and trucks kept swooping in front of us at an extraordinary speed from unexpected and unfamiliar directions.

Why is that person speeding in from the right? He should be on the other side!

I suspect the drivers were, on the whole, safe, competent, law abiding citizens, it just didn't feel like it!

Four lanes of the wretched beasts - groan. Kerthunk, kerthunk, kerthunk went the tyres on the road. Whirrrrrring sounds like a helicopter low overhead were made by the tyres whizzing over the parallel lines in the road surface. Different, unexpected and all taking a bit of getting used to so you're not wondering if it's the car falling apart or some other dire event unfolding.

My sharply sucked in breaths didn't help the already stressful situation. When the GPS mentions turn right, does she mean now or metres ahead at the next sign???

And because you don't know the town or road names on the way to your destination, road signs aren't always particularly helpful. Joy, oh joy.

I suspect the tiny hire car may still show evidence of my fingernails in the seat, particularly from on the narrow, winding, steep roads with no shoulder and deep gutter, where locals naturally wanted to speed along on familiar terrain.

But even though we were hesitant, not one person raged, gave the finger or otherwise showed obvious signs of impatience. WOW!!

Thankfully, after some weeks, my nerves hit overload and subsided into a happy state of submission, or perhaps it was simply exhaustion. Enough in fact, for me to hesitantly suggest that I have a go behind the wheel. The hubster was extremely supportive - enthusiastic really, and made noises of encouragement as I zoomed off, sweat flying from my furrowed brow.

Roads disappearing into the distance with no cars take extra concentration so you don't stray onto the more familiar side!

We may have just been fortunate, but we found that the drivers were amazing courteous compared to many Aussie drivers who seem to consider any hesitation a personal affront. They regularly use the occasion to flex their finger and vocal muscles and test that the horn is still working ... for an extended period of time :(

You have to be a particular kind of person to hold the stop sign at roadworks near Death Valley. There's not a lot to distract or entertain you.
 A road disappearing into a lake. Will it go right or left over the crest?
In tones of wonder, we've been telling people "they made room for each other on the slip lanes", "they allowed other cars in", "no-one was deliberately obstructive", "when we walked across the roads, no one tried to run us over", "someone actually leaned out of the car and apologised that her car had crept forward".

Maybe we were just lucky - no doubt large cities have their own challenges and cranky people, but stressful driving was made significantly more pleasant by the attitude and courtesy of other road users. I wish that was more common here.

Driving in America is an experience I'll never forget, both for the courtesy of the other drivers and the heart stopping fear of everything being back to front!


Arlee Bird said...

Love this post. I've traveled many a road in the U.S. and never tire of driving them. I wonder why so much of the world drives on the wrong side of the road? :)

An A to Z Co-Host
Tossing It Out

Sue Travers said...

Hi Lee, it's lovely to have you drop by, thankyou, and I'm glad you enjoyed the post ... but surely it's you who drive on the 'wrong' side!