Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A loov-ley holiday

No driving in London!

We had a "loov-ley" holiday in England. The only downside now is having to listen to Gary pepper his speech with "cheers" and "brilliant" and talk of his "mates."

Most exciting was driving the roads of England and Wales, particularly the narrow lanes of the countryside, lined with gray stone walls. How we returned the car without a huge gash on the passenger side is a miracle.

The BIG car and me in Dover
While Gary was quite happy to be upgraded to a midsize Volvo station wagon with all the latest whistles and bells, I kept thinking a nice mini Fiat might have been a better choice. But  automatic transmission, offered only in the midsize class, was a non-negotiable requirement. Bad enough that I had to scream our new mantra "left, left, left"  while Gary negotiated the numerous roundabouts than to even imagine him downshifting midcircle. The Volvo did have many features--so many that we didn't realize we had GPS until the second day. (Yes, next trip we may indeed be ready for a guided tour)

On the first very long day of driving we became well acquainted with three features of the Volvo: BLIS, DAC and  LDW. The BLIS button (which we both misread as BUS) caused a red light to appear on the side view mirror. Did it know when we passed a bus? Kind of spooky. And why would we care? No, it simply lit up every time there was any kind of vehicle in the Blind Spot. Our Blind Spot Information System was actually quite handy.

Yup--a 2 lane road!
But DAC and LDW with their blinking waning lights and musical DIT A DIT A DIT, sounding like an early game of Frogger, became our friends. DAC was the Driver Alert Control and LDW the Lane Departure Warning. No straying over white lines allowed.  At first it was as though Gary were playing his own video game, while I kept leaning to the right, willing the car away from curbs, bushes, stone fences, bollards, and parked cars who flaunted their side view mirrors. I started to keep score. Day one: curbs 4 , mirror whacks 3, bollards 1.

And what is a bollard you may well ask? Steel and concrete poles or barriers to block off a street. In Liverpool when Gary went to park the car, while I registered at the hotel, he took a long time finally showing up at the registration desk. Understandable, I thought, with all the narrow cobblestoned streets in this gentrified hipster warehouse district. Our loovley GPS lady had faltered for the first time, misguiding us to turn into a one way street, so I had hopped out to find the hotel. Gary had continued straight and progressed halfway down the plaza past the bollards, when it became obvious it was a pedestrian mall.

Gary did get better. Slowing down helped. "The right lane is the passing lane" I kept yelling.

HIM: "I hate to have a line of cars behind me."
ME: "Let them wait--Keep Calm and Mind the Speed Limits"
No one else did and Gary developed  a particular dislike for Audis, who always seemed to be the ones tailgating and aching to pass.

Those stone walls
We thought Kent had the narrowest roads until we drove through beautiful Snowdonia Park in Wales with roads carved out of the mountain sides, two lanes of traffic often unexpectedly funneling into one.

3 Million sheep go wherever they want
We googled the traffic fatalities for Wales and only 93 people were killed in 2012. Is that a lot for a country of 3 million people (and 3 million sheep)? There were 5,971 accidents with 8,565 casualties, and that's good news because the numbers have been declining. It seems hard to believe when you watch cars hurtling around blind curves and accelerating up wet, slick roads. Glad we weren't driving them in the 90's when the stats were much worse!
Be careful exiting the hotel's front door

We saw no troopers or highway patrols in England or Wales, but signs warned of surveillance cameras in use. By the second day we were running with the pack and I've been checking the mailbox for our list of tickets. Wonder how many pounds that will come to?
Who cares?  Relaxing at pub with mussels and a pint.