Oh, how I laugh (inside) when people complain about Chetco Avenue’s narrow lanes, the lack of parking in town, the difficulty getting around.
We rented — ahem, “hired” — a car for our recent trip to get off the highway — er, “motorway” — and toodle through back roads and villages.
And yes, we went into this adventure knowing they drive on the left side of the road from the wrong side of the car. It’s part of Irish humor!
But here’s what we learned:
•When you put the car in neutral and take your foot off the clutch, the car quits. Dead. But when you depress the clutch, car starts right up on its own! This was the fun part of driving abroad!
•Designated back-seat drivers: Embrace their “suggestions.” I was so grateful to have daughter Erin and her boyfriend Dane clinging to the ceiling of the car in fright. Dane navigated, and Erin let me know when I got too close to the left, threatening curbs, trash cans, buskers in the square or random sheep.
“MAMA! CURB!! SHEEP! Jees!”
•Roadways: They’re narrow. Really narrow. The signs indicate there are two lanes and a center turn lane, but in reality the entire roadway accommodates 1.35 vehicles — in the wide spots. Folklore has it that a true local is one who owns say, a blue car with a red side mirror. That’s Irish humor for you!
•Hug the right side of the lane. Unless you’re on the motorway; then the left lane is the slow lane. Hug the right side of the left lane. “Hug right, hug right,” I chanted for 1,440 miles — er, kilometers.
“CURB!” Erin yelled.
•Enter the motorway from the left. They give you 4 full meters (about 3.7 inches) to get up to 120 km/hour (2,538 mph). It would be drag racing at its finest, except Irish drivers are so polite, they let every vehicle merge, even if you’re still trying to figure out where second gear is. (Thanks Dane!)
•Tolls: By the time you figure out what 2.90 Euro looks like so you can throw it in the basket, you might as well just take the fine for flying through without paying. That’s permitted, but you have to pay the toll before 8 that night or the fine doubles. (My bill hasn’t yet arrived.)
•Getting around: Have I mentioned how tired I am of hearing the GPS say, “In 2 kilometers, enter the roundabout. Take the second exit”? No? Well. They have roundabouts that go into roundabouts that go into … yeah.
GPS: “In 2 kilometers, take the roundabout. Take the second exit. Take the next roundabout. Take the third exit. Take the next roundabout. You are driving in the wrong direction.”
I’d enter one and aim for the second exit, but I was so busy looking for merging traffic from the left, traffic IN the roundabout from my right, trying to shift into second gear — “That’s fourth, Jane!” — read the Gaelic road signs, all at the same time! I drove in circles. Often, I took the wrong exit and ended up in a farmer’s lane leading to a peat bog.
•And around: Sometimes, you can’t even tell you’re IN a roundabout. Once, I unknowingly entered one — in my defense, there was no “center” — and drove straight through to the other side. I didn’t even know I did it until my passengers later noted “I’d done it again.” Hey. At least I got out at the correct exit, right?
•Turning: Ohh, those right turns. You look right first to see if any traffic’s coming. Then you look left to see if you can cross the road. Then you look to the oncoming traffic in the wrong lane, to see if anyone’s coming. Then you do the hokey-pokey — wait. I sat at green lights until rush hour was over.
•Parking. When in Rome … Car Parks are expensive, so I advise you park on the sidewalk! This is apparently the status quo in Ireland, perhaps because there are no such things as “shoulders” along the roads, and if you park in the lane of traffic, someone will hit your side mirror.
•Parking in Parking Garages: No American should negotiate these. Under any circumstances. Park on the sidewalk.
Well, I’m home. The first thing I did leaving my brother’s house? Mowed over his trash can pulling away from the curb.
Irish eyes are laughing.