TRAVEL with pat and lew

driving too fast on the wrong side of the road

Posted by Lew Weinstein on March 9, 2007


I don’t drive much at all any more, since we have no car. In fact, one of our important criteria in choosing to live in Key West and Collioure is that we don’t need a car in either place.

However, some of our retirement travel does require driving. Including a trip from Galway to Westport.

Unless you want to pay much more for an automatic drive, when you drive in Europe you’re going to be driving stick. Actually, this is fun for me, a throwback to “really driving.”

Pat, who never learned to shift gears, can’t share the driving, but we don’t take long trips anyway, so that doesn’t hinder us much. Maybe some day I’ll try to teach her, since it would be useful for her to know in case of an emergency.

In Ireland (and later in Australia), the stick is on the “wrong” side, so I’m shifting gears left handed. While also driving on the left side of the road. Fortunately, the pedals are the same as in America.

Every initial driving instinct is wrong, and I have to think constantly. It’s not relaxing in the least.

The hardest part for me is judging the space on the left side of the car. It’s even more frightening for the person sitting over there, since on the narrow Irish roads, there’s very little margin for error.

Pat has a tight stomach the entire way, urging me repeatedly to move away from the left edge of the road which is frequently a stone wall. But I can’t move, since there are only inches between the right side of the car and the center line of the two lane roads.

On top of that, Irish road signs share that “uncertain” characteristic of Irish oral directions, so there’s frequent uncertainty as to which road to take and when to turn.

Five minutes into our 2 ½ hour drive to Westport, we agree that we should have taken the train from Dublin to Westport and rented a car there, but it’s too late for that now. We have to tough it out.

Another problem is speed. Irish drivers go way too fast for the roads, often passing on narrow two lane roads, and a head-on collision frequently seems imminent. I’m tempted to look up accident statistics on the web, but I’m afraid it would be too terrifying.

I’m actually thrilled when I get behind a large, slow-moving truck or farm vehicle. Now I can drive more slowly and it’s not my fault.

We do get to Westport, and back, without incident. Except for the damage to our nerves and digestive systems.


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