I headed out yesterday to visit a friend...who happened to live at what seemed to be the end of the world. After many hours of driving, I came back with a whole new respect for a skill I basically do on autopilot most of the time. Here's a few lessons on rural/backwoods driving:
- Make sure your car is in good working order. If my car breaks down in the city, I can call a friend, call a tow truck, or hop on mass transport to get home. If it breaks down in the middle of nowhere, I'm screwed. Of particular importance, especially on windy, gravely roads that are barely clinging to the side of the mountain, is how much you come to appreciate brakes that work flawlessly.
- Defensive driving is raised to a whole new level. Let's see...there were hairpin turns, logging trucks barreling down the middle of the almost two-lane road coming around the curve, animals big and small crossing the road, small wash outs, uneven road surfaces, nervous drivers huddled next to the center line, maniac locals who could successfully maneuver the tiny roads at double the posted limit, swift changes in weather, and extraordinary, driver-distracting views.
- Come prepared. Should a break down, accident, or other event occur, you need to be prepared. Of course I had my car BOB, food, water, first aid kit, firearm (generally I carry this should the need arise to ward off people however in this circumstance I figured it would be more useful for hunting down dinner should I get waylaid in the backwoods), and two cell phones (from two different companies--one always seems to have a signal when the other doesn't although neither worked for most of this trip).
- Travel will take longer than expected. Meeting another friend at what I figured was fairly close to my destination, I inquired how long it would take to reach X's house. "For me? About a half hour. For you? Better plan for closer to an hour since you don't know the roads." Then he chuckled. Amusing but true, if you don't know the roads or are unfamiliar with the driving conditions, the distance/time calculator on a map will be of little use.
- A plan. Depending on the circumstance, the spouse generally knows where I am going, approximately when I will return, and the route I am taking. This is just a basic security measure developed after living in a third would country where the family likes to know where to start looking for your body.
That's it basically. Of course the same friend always has much to say in the rare instances when he ventures out to the city--crazy drivers, exits heading off the freeway every which way, cars going 90+...you get the idea.