Posts Tagged ‘Driving’

Driving Scotland

June 15, 2008

First things first in Scotland… we needed a car to get around.


Now, I knew that folks drive on the left side of the road and knew that the driver’s wheel was on the right side of the car in Scotland.  Not deterred by that fact, I thought the best way to see Scotland was by driving wherever we wanted to go. 


Exhibiting a classically GnuKid lack of insight (and looking to save a few dollars), I had reserved a manual transmission car.  Climbing in the driver’s seat, my right hand immediately and instinctively went to the gear shift… “Where the hell is the gear shift?” said my right hand.  “Holy crap,” my eyes countered, “it’s over there on my left side.”* My left hand remained silent, clenched in raw fear of the task laying ahead for it.  My left hand is only used to doing non-complex, non-dexterous tasks like digging out a hunk of ear wax or scratching left side body parts or holding up the magazine while… ummm… never mind.  Despite practicing in the parking stall, I proceeded throughout the entire week to leave bits of clutch gearing littered across Scotland.


With the Daughter Person navigating, we were able to find all of our tourist sites.  And we only got lost two or three times a day doing so!  But we quickly learned that getting lost is an adventure in itself and Scotland is a lovely place to get lost in.  We actually found a tourist site or two that way as well.


There were questions, best untested, like “Since i can turn right on red in the US, can i turn left on red in Scotland?”  But we figured it out.


The road signs weren’t familiar and it took some time to figure them out.  Yeah, I hear you experienced travelers out there saying, “Damned fool went to another country without learning the traffic signs and laws.”  Guilty as charged (…and lesson learned – the internet is easy access to all that information).  But, I came to learn most of the signs and enjoy a few.**


This one should be posted every 50 yards on the back roads.  All but the main roads were narrow, curvy, and full of large trucks going much too fast and coming straight at you.   I learned quickly how to enhance our silver rental car with green shrub stains on the left side of the car, figuring this much better than enhancing it with paint and dents from those trucks on the right side of the car.


Roundabouts were always festive fun, being a way to direct traffic to various roads without the use of traffic lights.  I’ve had the pleasure of using them before, having once resided in the Boston area, where they were called Rotaries.  But I’ve never had to negotiate them driving on the left side of the road.  There were quite a few occasions of where I was the topic of vivid and animated swearing by drivers’ of cars I’d cut off.


This one always made me smile.  Now, it’s obviously a warning… but what kind?  Are there carnivorous badgers who attack?  Roving bands of badgers who steal hubcaps?  I like to think that it was merely a spontaneous declarative statement from a Tourette’s-challenged sign maker.


At the end of the trip, the car (less those clutch parts mentioned previously) was returned intact to the rental agency… no one was injured (other than my bruised ego from the occasional drive on the right side of the road)… I wasn’t arrested (though they have traffic cameras galore there…i’m anxiously watching my mail box)… and, best of all, it was a great way to see Scotland.



*Yeah, my body parts have particularly festive conversations amongst themselves. I try not to get involved.  Bad form and all, listening in on that stuff.

**Being the driver, i didn’t actually take pictures of these signs, but stole them liberally from the web or recreated it myself.  But they are replicas of real signs i ran into there.


The Morning Drive

May 5, 2008

Having inherited a convertible from my mother, I’ve enjoyed the occasional topless adventures (the car, folks…the car is topless) on my drive in to work. Coming outside this morning to achingly blue skies, I got just such an urge to drop the top and enjoy some fresh air.

Well, one small problem confronted me… a healthy pile of “Life Shrapnel” has made its home in the back seat. “Life Shrapnel” are the bits and pieces of things that accumulate over time – unread mail, empty water bottles, gas receipts, and so on. Left there with the top down, that shrapnel would quickly become random projectiles to trailing cars as the wind would whip the back seat into a flurry and whirlpool of air. A none too elegant process of dumping all the shrapnel into a box takes care of that detritus.

As is typical in the Wilds of Ohio, the weather tries to please everyone. Warmth one day gives way to chilly cold the next. Blue skies in the morning pause for afternoon storms, only to return in the evening. It’s something we live with, those of us roughing here on the Midwest Frontier.

What appeared to be a nice, spring May morning of enjoyable convertible riding turned quickly into the “Frigid Ride O’ Hypothermia”. Blue skies? Check. Wind chill factor? Double check. Even with the heater full blast, my eyes quickly glazed over with chill, the muscles ceasing voluntary movement. Other body parts either shriveling in despair or freezing in a happy salute to the cold. “Pull over and put the top up,” you say. A healthy dose of reptilian-brain ego prevented that. I must tell the world, “Yes, I made a stupid choice this morning, but I refuse to admit I made that mistake.” So, I rode on in glacial silence.

But, all in all? Great fun… and let’s do it again tomorrow!