Part Two | Left of the Center Line

M. James Thompson

One Fine Adventure: Dublin & Galway, Ireland

This one is for Ursula.

During my first day of driving in Ireland I thought that I was in constant danger of slamming into oncoming cars. If you are fortunate enough to drive in this magical country you will have the same problem. I cannot stress this point enough, you are nowhere near the center line. You will not accept this fact until your second day on the road at the earliest, but I promise that you will be too scared to get anywhere close to that thing. You will be better off tucking in the left mirror so as to keep it off the walls that are, in fact, even closer than they will appear to be while you are scraping along them. Never mind that, your insurance will handle the spray job. It covers just about everything you could possibly destroy while failing at driving.

I am glad I brought up failure first as it is very important that you purchase insurance. Buy it. All of it. Every last bit. If your pockets are deep enough to skip using the perfectly good mass transit system in Ireland you have the extra scratch to cover yourself from destroying a perfectly nice Skoda Fabia. This is beyond important as you can be sued if you cause an accident. You can also be liable for any cost that will inevitably be incurred by stitching all of your pieces back together. Strewn about the streets of Ireland is a smorgasbord of random paintings, signs, arrows and 3D holograms. Fear not. I have compiled a list of necessary knowledge and helpful information.

I am still unsure of why the Irish transportation department felt it necessary to paint a hieroglyph on every square meter of road they could, but you need not bother trying to understand each and every paint smudge you come across. I will make this easy for you.

–  X’s in a square = don’t stop in traffic there. They’re entrances and turning lanes. These are places you would not stop unless you are from Indiana.

Arrows – Drive in that direction. Again, if you are from Indiana this could be confusing.
Numbers with a Circle – Speed limit in kilometers per hour. Chicago friends need not pay attention; assume the speed limit is 140 if it looks like the Ryan.
Dashed Lines on Local Roads – There’s a crosswalk coming up. There will be fifteen real signs informing you of this also. There are no signs to require you to mind the gingers so drive on despite them.

There are also some simple rules of the road that will help you look less like a tourist in a lime green Skoda Fabia.
– You will get stuck behind a large truck on a small road. Those drivers know it sucks for you. They will generally move as far to the left as possible and put their hazards on. When you pass flash your brights to say thank you.
– City drivers are city drivers no matter what city. Fuck them.
– Country drivers are country drivers no matter what country. They will either be on the World Rally Circuit or grandmas. Let them pass if they are passing and pass politely if they are slow.
– In Ireland a wave and a smile on the road will fix 98% of all problems. A V8 engine will fix the others.

The local roads within the civilized regions of Ireland are quite nice. Although they tend to be on the slimmer side. This just means that you will have to mind the location of your miniature car relative to the progressively slimming roads. Despite being nowhere near the center line there are still plenty of walls, trees, bushes and sheep wandering about. Keep a keen eye on your surroundings and slow down around blind curves. The roads are not king sized.

The driver of the truck barreling through the right lane, that will be the lane next to you, does not have a twisted desire to occupy the same space as you. No matter how big or close they look you are not going to run headlong into them. Do watch for errant cow herders on the way to the Cliffs of Moher. They are not interested in which side of the road you drive on and are under the influence that those roads were paved to ease the migration of their cattle. All of this to say that if you do want to go to the Cliffs of Moher you should have read this earlier and saved yourself a ton of hassle and gas money by just catching a bus.

The highways are remarkably well kept and the traffic is usually rather tame. Bring some change, in Euros, for the tolls and mind the M50 toll as you will have to pay that at local shops in Dublin before you return the car. If you get a fine for the M50 you either miscounted the number of tolls that you drove through or completely forgot to pay for the tolls. The fine is expensive.

There is an exceptional amount of highway in Ireland to transport under four and a half million people. Yes there are  under five million in the entire country plus the four-hundred Packers fans visiting the Blarney Stone. The majority of motorways run between Galway, Dublin and Belfast, but there are plenty of well-paved roads heading in other directions.

Accepting the keys to a European go-cart does not have to be a death wish. It is going to kill your wallet because whatever “Too good to be true,” number you saw on the rental companies website is only the beginning. The European terribly unsafe vehicles of the 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s are no more. Well, they’re still around, but the rentals are all fairly new and safe. Unless you end up in a crash with an older car that will crumple your paper mâché Erect-a-Set car like a boiled potato. Order is still kept on the highways and most local routes by police so you have nothing to fear.

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