Friday, October 19, 2007

The Left Side of a Road Trip

SHOES: Traveling shoes -- broken in tennis shoes or quasi-clompers.

Hello world!
My recent travels took me to the "wrong" side of the road, the left, in Ireland. Yes, it was weird to get into the car on the right side, put your hands on the steering wheel and repeat the mantra, "stay to the left." But I did it.

After SATW's annual convention in Manchester and a quick trip to London, my friend Gaylene Ore and I flew into Dublin, spent two days (more later), and then headed west to Galway on the train. (Don't you just love the train systems in Europe and U.K.???) Our final destination was the historic and luxurious Ashford Castle.

Once we stepped off the train, we hailed a taxi. The driver had just returned from the U.S., and we happened to comment on "it'll be weird to drive on the left side." He agreed, saying he felt at odds when driving in the U.S. Gaylene had already nominated me to the be the driver, and she'd be the navigator. I told the taxi driver that I'm going to give it a try (driving), and he replied, "All God wants you to do is try."

Flannery's Garage on Headford Road was a gas station, car wash, garage and car rental all rolled into one, not unlike the one-stop garages from my childhood in Iowa. There was a gaggle of four men in their 60's, sitting around the shop drinking coffee and chit-chatting. When we pulled up, all four stepped out to watch us unload our suitcases (two for me, one for Gaylene who is a much better packer) and directed me (the driver) into the inner office to sign a contract for the rental car. I arranged to leave the car near the train station on Monday with the keys under the seat.

With map in hand and directions to stay on Headford Road to Cross, turn left at the big church, I proceeded to fold myself into the small car on the right side. It was definitely weird. As I adjusted my seat and mirror, there was a tap on my window. The rental agent's parting words to me, "If you get a ticket, just stuff it under the seat with the keys."

We fixed our eyes toward Ashford Castle and I rolled out into Headford. Driving on the left side simply feels wrong, but we had no mishaps. The closest call we had was the tight squeeze on the narrow country road near Ashford. But no ticket and no missing rear view windows.