YES, WELL…I DO LIKE DRIVING, EVEN IF IT IS on the “wrong” side of the road. some people feel it’s such a grind, taking away from the experience of their visit abroad. Whether on the right or wrong side, I really enjoy it. For me, it adds to the adventure. As I’ve mentioned before, if you’re an ‘automatic’ vs ‘manual’ driver, I’ve found that it’s easier with the automatic–no groping on the right side of the car for the shift nob. But if you are at ease driving either, then, by all means, go for a manual transmission. I do. It’s cheaper and by the end of the day, you’ll have the “groping” to a minimum.
As for staying on the correct side of the road? As one of the Hertz agents mentioned, keep the driver at the center line. That keeps you on the correct side of the road, whether you are driving a right- or left-side car. And my piece of advice for the UK and Ireland is the mantra I mentioned in a previous blog for turns: “left near, right far”. It works wonderfully.
Speed limits can be a bit confusing–many times you will not find them posted (especially the higher speeds). This is where a SatNav/GPS comes in handy. It will indicate the posted speed. Then all you have to do is watch your speedometer.
The SavNats built into the car–I liken them to having a local sitting in your car–are nice. One of the cars I acquired had the built-in SatNav so, combined with my little Gabby (yeah, I named my GPS…so what?) made things much easier. I used the SatNav for verbal directions–remember I mentioned it was like having a local give you directions? Well, there were several instances where Gabby wanted me to go one way and the SatNav, another. Each time, I saw that it cut time off my travel. I really don’t know if it would have been an easier route if I’d followed Gabby, but it certainly was a gloriously beautiful route when I followed SatNav–the route a local would show a tourist, to show off the lovely things about the area. The other reason I used them in tandem was the flat screen of the SatNav faced straight into the center of the car, making it hard to see without taking my eyes off the road–don’t like that, even when I’m driving in the States. So, Gabby was used for the map-reading. I’ve been able to mount her in the low part of the window so not to obscure the road, but so I can see her without my eyes leaving the road. I can see the map out of the corner of the eye, or a short movement of the eye to look at it straight on (and still be seeing the traffic ahead of you). The Sat/Nav actually required the head and eyes to turn to get a look at it, taking the road out of your sight…didn’t like that.
I know, all of this is quite boring…but if you are planning to travel and rent/hire a car, it’s all good information to know. Now, if you’ve managed to get this far, here comes the excitement (and I’m sorry…I’ll warn you right now–this is going to be a long post).
With all I’ve said above, watching the speed ‘limit’ is important, but you need to drive to your abilities, not drive the maximum speed. Just because it’s posted at 30, 40 or even 60mph…believe me, you really need to drive at a comfortable speed. I’ve autocrossed and have been on a race track, know how to take corners, etc…all under controlled conditions (even on the roads that I’m familiar with back home). Some of the back roads in the UK and Ireland are posted pretty fast, but only a fool would attempt to drive those speeds. Heed the corners recommended speeds (since many are blind corners, some with curves that get sharper as you go into them)–and if that’s too fast for you, slow down. If you have people piling up behind you, find a turn out, driveway or parking lot to pull into and let them pass (the rules are the same abroad as at home–you are supposed to yield to more than about three or four cars, but if you are going under the posted limit, be nice–let them by). Otherwise, ignore the few impatient drivers you might come across. Road safety is more important.
I guess I was feeling a bit too confident (with over three weeks under my belt) after leaving my friends in Colchester, just outside of London. I still drove well under the speed limit since there were roads I was distinctly unfamiliar with, but on one particular corner, I apparently took it wrong–too wide–(one of those that kept turning onto itself) and found myself on the wrong side of the road. Before me was a car coming around the corner from the other direction in his lane.We both made corrections to avoid each other, but it wasn’t enough. I ended up sideswiping his car from behind the driver’s wheel…with the front/driver’s side of my car, then bounced off slightly and the damaged front end pulled the car into the side of the road on the wrong side.
This really IS the WRONG side of the road to park a car…but it’s where I came to rest after the accident
It, in a way, was fortuitous. Where each car stopped, as traffic began the entry into the curve, they could see a disabled car from each direction, so it made directing traffic for us ‘civilians’ much easier. But I get ahead of myself. (also forgive me–some of you have already seen these photos…)
Upon impact, my airbags deployed. Yikes. I’ve only had it happen once before (in a rear-ender accident that ended the life of my Miata). The airbag burned my left forearm and I somehow managed to get a small cut on my right little finger (probably from plastic flying off the steering column when the airbags broke through), but otherwise, I was fine. Shaken, but fine…by the grace of God (my poor guardian angels sure work overtime, sometimes). After a few moments to gather my wits, and with some difficulty, I managed to get out of the car–the door was tweaked slightly, only allowing it to open about 1/2 way–and I immediately went to the driver (found out later his name was Paul) of the other car to see if he was okay.
My poor baby. I loved this car. The damage went all the way back to the back end of the front panel, making it hard to open the door.
Aside from being shaken (both of us visibly shaking from the incident), hitting the under-bits of the dash with his knee/shin, and the seat belt locking, causing some discomfort to his shoulder, he was fine too. Thank God.
Remember me mentioned how I’ve never run into anyone that didn’t make a positive impression on me on my trips, no matter what the circumstances? This incident continues to show that courtesy and goodwill in people is alive and well. I feel so blessed. Paul, whose car I hit, could have railed at me for inattentive or bad driving–or worse, and I would have accepted it. Instead, he was gracious, concerned and friendly. We helped each other and both of us were in good spirits. I think we set the mood for all that was to come.
We immediately went to each corner and started directing traffic to slow (or stop, as needed) as they came into the corner to allow safe passage through the area. Traffic where my car was needed to go into opposing traffic to go around the car…then around his car. Almost everyone paused to check and make sure we were okay. The first person that actually stopped was a motorcyclist. He was delightful–unfortunately, I didn’t catch his name. He lent his mobile (cell) for Paul to call his wife, then to call police to the scene. Then, being the stereotypical British citizen, he asked if either of us needed tea–he happened to have some on his bike. We both declined the offer, and laughed, helping to lighten the situation. Delightful. And so funny. I still chuckle when I think back to it.
Officer Carol arrived on the scene first, taking over the traffic control issues.
Next on the scene was a Community Officer (not sure if that’s her official title), Carol. We kept calling her the “police” and she kept correcting us, saying she wasn’t a policewoman–but in our eyes, she was. She asked if either vehicle was movable and if so, to move it to a safer location (mine was not–and in the worst of places to be but Paul’s was in good enough shape, so he moved it down the road to a safe spot and returned). She took over the traffic directing job (with only one of her, it made it far more more difficult), but she felt it was her job to keep us–and traffic–safe until the official police (officers Dan and Claire) arrived. After taking statements (a very informal affair compared to the red tape in the US) and deciding neither of us required a breathalyzer test, Paul was anxious to light a cigarette–he said it might mess up the breathalyzer, so he abstained until he was given the okay. (Hmm. You learn something new every day, don’t you?)
Once traffic was being directed by the police and Officer Carol had departed, leaving the situation is very capable hands, I called my friend and let her know about the accident. She was gracious enough to let me stay another night (later that night, her dad and I had a good laugh–upon my departure, he’s said to come back soon…I’m sure he didn’t mean quite this soon).
Then, the l-o-n-g wait began for Hertz to send a tow truck to pick up my car. In the still heat of the day on a blind corner…
The accident happened around 9:30-9:45am. I have no clue when Officer Carol or the others arrived. At some point (after they had all the info they needed), they allowed Paul to call his wife back to pick him up. He walked off to his car to wait for his wife.
The swarms of black flies (I meant to ask if they were midges and forgot) were drawn to the officers’ bright green vests, making directing traffic a royal pain (you try signalling traffic with your hands and wanting to wave off these nasty flies at the same time!). Poor guys. I think I managed two bites on my nose and maybe one on my shoulder. That’s all. I have no clue how many they received. They were so good about all of it: the flies, the standing for hours in the hot sun with all their official stuff (flack vest, heavy trousers, shirts and that blasted fly-trap green vest). With all of that misery, they kept lighthearted, cheerful and helpful. I felt so guilty keeping them out there…
I struck up a conversation with Officer Dan. A very amiable person, we chatted
Officer Dan, on the scene, directing traffic coming towards my car.
about many things. I talked about my trip, where I was going and my book and he talked about his kids and an app he’d just published for mobile phones. I love it! It’s an app for the deaf. It translates spoken (and written) word into sign language. It’s set up for both ASL and British Sign Language. He even showed me an example. So cool. It’s called Eye-Sign. I wish I’d gotten more information, since I’m not able to find it by Googling it (insert very sad face)–hopefully Officer Dan will see this and post a comment to help me find it (I’ll pass on the
information–I have a few friends that might be able to use it).
There were some hiccups with the tow truck.
Dave was my tow truck driver–great guy with a delightful sense of humour…but after my accident, a wee bit fast on the back roads…
Though I mentioned the car was not movable when I called Hertz, they had sent out a truck that was going to flat tow the car. When he called to let us know his arrival time, he asked if the car was movable. I said the front wheel would not allow movement. Scratch that truck. He called in for another to be sent out…a flat bed truck. And we had another hour or so to wait. Finally, around 1:00-or so, the truck was there and the officers could finally pack it up and go on their way. I thanked them both before hopping in the truck with driver, Dave–a very down to earth, chatty man. He drove me and my car back into Colchester and once we found the Hertz office (poor instructions on the part of Hertz delayed us slightly: the postal code given to him didn’t actually take him to the location he was to go to…how dumb is that).
By the time I got my new car and was on the road (back to my friend’s house for another night), it was past 2pm. I actually contemplated driving straight on to Cardiff, but I’m glad I decided against it. By the time I arrived at Natalie’s, I was getting a wee bit achy. I spent the rest of the day sorting out changes in my reservations: several rooms & ferry. My friend’s mum made a very simple meal of grilled cheese and ham (I wish I could remember what she called it). It was perfect.
By morning, the aches manifested into a very stiff neck, some soreness in my upper arms and for some reason, sore abdominal muscles, but I needed to move on (I certainly didn’t want to impose on them for another night, either). I think those were the longest four and a half hours I’ve driven, but by the next morning I was feeling much, much better. To be safe, when I checked in, I asked if I could set up an additional night…just in case. They cheerfully obliged. I graciously thanked them accepting my last minute changes (both the previous days changes and the current request). Though I arrived by 2pm, I was not up to trying to see the Dr. Who Experience–it will have to wait for my next trip to Cardiff. I’ll plan my trip around the visit this time. By the next morning, I was ready to make my five-hour trip to Holyhead. Thankfully, it was uneventful and easy, but I was glad to get settled into my B&B room at The Gables at the end.
Because I arrived before the prescribed 3pm check in time, I walked down to the Irish Sea and had a lovely, late lunch, chatting with a few locals as we ate. Then a nice walk and back to my room for the night so I could repack in preparation to the ferry ride the next morning. Oh. No, I did go back out to grab a yogurt for ‘dinner’ and decided to go for a walk out on the bluffs and took a few photos. Then I returned to my room…and collapse for the night.
So, now you have it up to my last day in the UK. Full of fun, adventures, changed plans and new experiences. Next week, I’m back in Ireland and nearing the end of my six-week trip. I have a plan in my head as to what I’ll be doing, but I know it will probably not happen that way. There’s so many things to do and so little time left. Dublin could be a trip all by itself, believe me!
I vacillate between be excited that I will soon be home, and wishing it could last longer. I often wonder if this will be my last trip abroad, especially after all that’s happened this time around. But I have a tendency to rebound well, so I’m thinking there will be at least one more trip. At least one more…(insert grin)…