Driving in the country
I hinted at it in a previous mail, something about tricked out Landies and Finnish old ladies, but really I think I might have been exaggerating a bit there.
There is one pearl of truth about driving in the country though and that is, people in the country drive fast. There are of course exceptions but those exceptions are only placed there in order to form mobile chicanes, to be darted around at excessively high speed.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a pretty rapid driver, I’ve had a couple of sportycars that I’ve driven with some spirit and I know my pedals from one another. However years and years of zipping along nicely prepared and lit dual-carriageways didn’t prepare me for this.
I’ve driven bit in the countryside and I thought I was quite prepared for what I might experience, but my baptism of rush hour in the dark wasn’t one I was expecting. People drive very fast in the country and the difference between normal rush hour driving is that this driving isn’t conducted in a traffic jam, it’s not on manicured roads, it’s inky dark and everyone isn’t reasonably sane.
Basically what you have on my way home are a number of different country roads, one of them is a tidy single track A road (an opportunity to go very very fast) and the others are windy little roads with sheep on them. The problems are:
- It’s dark, I mean it’s Dicky dark with no streetlamps.
- There’s curves or corners in the road that seem to spring from nowhere but are etched in the memory of the other drivers.
- There’s stuff on the road, mud, horse poo, sheep, flattened rodents.
- Cars are zipping along in the opposite direction too, some with xenon ultra bright headlamps, 20% with the mandatory one headlamp on full beam to counter the oneness of their headlamp provision.
- Cars aren’t tricked out Landies, they’re usually ancient saloons, Ford Focus X reges, with a smattering of pick-ups for daredevil farm types. The vans move rapidly, the lorries move rapidly, everyone moves rapidly.
The big problem arises when you’re at the front of a line of traffic and you feel pressured to press on. Everyone else has this inherent local knowledge and you’re just guessing what might come up, in fog you have double the problem, everyone else still want to break a landspeed record and you just want to get home in one piece.
Months of now avoiding near death at every curve and dead rabbit and I’m beginning to get it, I’m beginning to get the lay of the land. The addition of a good set of wipers and some stronger headlamp bulbs helped too, but the message I have is don’t feel pressured. Just go at your own pace, if someone wants to get past they will, even if it means a 100 yard foray into the oncoming traffic on the opposite side of a central reservation traffic island, they will get past, just don’t sweat about it.
A good sat-nav too gives you an idea of what’s coming up and I’ve found now that despite decades of driving my abilities have improved radically. I now drive smoooother, I know that sounds a bit mad but you get to glide around bends, you use your gears better you think differently and you even learn to ignore oncoming lights and pick out details and clues in the road. It is quite strange but despite the baptism by fire I feel a much better driver for all the moments of horror I’ve had over the past couple of months and I now find myself in lines of traffic behind townie drivers, itching to get past.