Give in to the GPS.
I’ve decided to call him George W. in honour of the state from which he hails.
Now, George W. and I have had a nervous few weeks since we first became fast friends and traveling companions. At first, every time we took to road together it was not, let’s say, easy.
Before we even set off, my blood pressure would inevitably sky-rocket. I braced myself for the trip, which would be filled with upside-down and strange procedures and a whole lot of new rules to remember.
George W., on the other hand, behaved impeccably every time we set out. Everything was as it should be for George W., while I was like a caveman at a physics lecture, totally clueless.
But off we went; slowly, very slowly, on the wrong side of the road, of course! Now, I had to remember that right had become left and I seemed to be missing a pedal where my left (or is it right, I was so confused I didn’t really know) foot rested idly on the floor.
After about an hour, I began to get used to the lanes and the signs. I hadn’t killed anyone or myself and felt I was mastering this ‘driving in America’ lark.
It was then that I decided to leave the empty parking lot at one of the big malls (that’s a shopping centre back home) and take to the open road.
And you know, it wasn’t that bad. Of course, I did have a very kind and generous friend in her car leading the way so I wouldn’t get lost. However, I knew that I couldn’t expect an escort all the way to Virginia or South Carolina.
If George W. and I were to master Interstate travel, something more than a map and a rough guide to where we were going was needed.
That’s when I discovered Walmart and all the treasures housed within.
Making my way past the huge motorized shopping carts and the rows upon rows of enormous flat-screen TVs, I saw what I was searching for, my ‘Holy Grail’ that would allow George W. and I to travel where we wanted when we wanted. That’s right, I bought a GPS.
Suddenly, the whole driving experience changed. Instead of journeys filled with fear, where the steering wheel was left with an imprint of my hands every time I peeled myself out of the car, with the GPS I began to relax as I knew I was heading in the right direction and, with a touch of the screen I could, no matter where I was, find my way back to State Street, Lancaster, PA.
It was time now to really take to the open road and my first longish journey on my own was to Gettysburg.
It is a pleasure driving in America and, thanks to the GPS, my trip went smoothly from start to finish.
The roads here are all very well sign-posted and the added verbal instruction from the GPS (with plenty of warning before I reach junctions or side roads) is like having another person in the car.
In fact, I find myself thanking the GPS.
‘Oh, I see it, thank you very much’, I’ve said on numerous occasions as the little black box advised me of a road to take or an approaching exit on the Interstate.
While I am confident now that I will in fact make it to Charleston, SC, and back again, there are a few more little things that I need to work on.
Firstly, I have arrived back to the car on several occasions only to get in and wonder where the steering wheel is. As I sit there in the passenger seat wondering what’s going on, I suddenly realize that I am in fact on the wrong side. I usually pretend that I am looking for something in the glove compartment before slowly getting out and making my way to the driver’s proper place.
Then there’s the seat belt. Every time, and I mean every time, I will try to unlock the belt from the wrong side. My right hand will reach across to my left side and fumble for the nonexistent release button, until it slowly dawns on me that the release is on the other side.
Or when I hear the car changing gears, my left foot automatically feels for the missing pedal while my right hand attempts to manually change gears.
It’s all very confusing.
Last Sunday, George W. and I prepared for our longest journey yet: from Lancaster to West Point, 197 miles across Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, over 6 hours round-trip.
And off we went. We saw signs for Allentown (thoughts of Billy Joel) and Newark and skirted around New York City and then, following the Hudson River, we arrived at the town of Highland Falls and the US Military Academy at West Point.
With George W. and the GPS working perfectly together, we’re off to Virginia next week. Before then, I have a meeting with a Springfield Rifle and some gun powder, but more about that later…