I’ve now done over 3,000 miles, and that’s just in CO, UT, WY, MT and ID. But it’s only 3 inches on the map.
The time behind the wheel has allowed me to reflect on the driving experience in the US in contrast both to the UK and what I found 50 years ago:
- Cars – SUVs, pick-ups and RVs; saloon cars are the exception; and imports proliferate, with Subaru the car of choice in CO
- Electric – Outside of Denver, seen very few electric cars; not surprising as the distances long and power points short
- Radio – much greater selection of stations, but still the country music I love; and of course able to connect my own music from the iPhone
- Parking – don’t dare park against the traffic! But no problem buying an AR-15 off the shelf
- Roundabouts – a new venture for Americans, and seems they’re getting used to them; but some have right of way to those entering rather than on the roundabout, which further confuses
- Drive through – the options are manifold, from the obvious food outlets to pharmacy and banking
- Gas – diesel is the green pump, and regular is black; easy to confuse, especially as the colours seem to change from state to state and supplier to supplier! Price going down, but paid $4.84 which is the equivalent of $8.25 in the UK! And in Oregon it is a legal requirement to have attendants fill your tank
- Wildlife – the signs for deer and elk need to be taken seriously – these guys do not take hostages; and plenty of road kill, a wide variety
- Bugs – maybe I was used to the Midwest and all the bugs on the windscreen, but it’s not a problem out West; maybe it’s climate change???
- MOT – what is that??? Cars are held together with duct tape, even if there is a part to add. Bits of retread tire all over the roads are probably an indication of lack of regulation of semis. MOTs are, of course, all about over-regulation
- Centre ville – it’s downtown, not city centre
- Courtesy – the courtesy of flashing lights to let in is misunderstood, and you’re liable to give the wrong message, which could be taken as being aggressive
- Lane hogging – always been worse than the UK, with cars (and also trucks) camping in the outside lane, except in UT where signs tell you off (but that’s UT); I’ve driven many miles passing on the inside lane, as flashing to get them to move over is seen as aggressive
- Hitchhiking – only once saw folk asking for a ride, other than me at Glacier!
- Miles – none of this kilometre stuff
- Speed limit – around 70 on interstates, but up to 80 in UT; and MT helpfully has wee white crosses to highlight fatalities
- Traffic lights – a yellow light is a target to run rather than a warning to stop; my learning is to run it with other drivers rather than getting rear-ended due to a quick stop
- Road works – ubiquitous (which is why Biden is spending $550b on infrastructure) and always with a person manning the sign; always traffic lights in the UK
- Grass cutting – the verges of interstates are cut less, maybe environmental, maybe cost; in some places, like Nevada, the verges are stones to cut down water use
- Thanks – drivers don’t generally give waves of thanks
- Jaywalking – but if you walk through the red man, drivers will stop for you mid-traffic, very disconcerting
- Road rage – make sure you don’t indulge in this, as you’re likely to get a gun pulled on you
- Drunk drivers – there is a greater tendency in the US for driving after a session, so the road signs give a number for you to shop a drunk driver
- Memorials – aside from the road-side crosses, many highways are named for lost service personnel
- Automatic – I learned to drive on an automatic, and could get used to owning one again; so easy to operate, but can get lulled into a false sense of security when driving long distances on straight roads
- Radio – there are many more radio stations, with most (at least out West) seeming to be country and religious – a case could be made that they’re the same; I try to listen to NPR, but the frequency of those stations is near the others, so I’m getting a lot of religion, and opportunities to donate
- WiFi – very patchy out West, and almost came a cropper more than once when I lost signal and was trying to find a place; guess it comes with the territory
The point was made to me that the car is also an expression of male image and personality. This may explain some of masculine car models and driving habits, such as not letting in when signalling to change lanes. On the plus side, Americans are religious about stopping for emergency vehicles, and why the UK does not allow left turn on red is beyond me.
So driving on the right is only one of the challenges. The Lincoln hire has performed well, and my fear of leaving the keys in the car and getting locked out have so far come to nought.
Most of the driving so far has been both on the long, straight roads and the winding mountain ones, so yet to really experience the big cities, aside from Denver. And the sites are ones of sunsets, motels, historical features, small towns and the necessary gas stations!