Month: November 2014

On Driving…

One of our ‘simpler life’ tactics here is to not own a car, for now.

Forty years of freedom, having a car to jump in, any time, strap in on the comfy chair, turn the key, turn on heat or cold, turn on the music, and step on the pedal. Such a convenience.

Car payments, insurance, new tires, dents, dings, oil changes, rust, mud, snow, parallel parking, idiots. Such a pain in the ass.

With all we have going on right now, though, about every five weeks, we have justification to maximally utilize a rental vehicle. Like the big ass cargo van for fetching kitchen cabinets from Prague, which just barely makes the sharp 90 degree turns up the hill leaving our place. Or this week’s Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday rental of a cute little red stick shift underpowered Skoda, for another episode of ‘adventures with Brad & Jana’, where we cram too much to accomplish into too little time and too much stuff into our cute little rental car. But I digress.

The Czech countryside roads are charming, narrow, shoulderless and winding, connecting quaint villages with colorful buildings of interesting shapes; the highways are multi-lane and designed for safe and efficient and timely movement of large quantities of goods and folks. The road signs are different than in the states, and drivers are expected to know some general rules of the road, particularly the (non-posted) driving speed limits associated with the type of road and or the location, like 50 km/hr in town. Many of the country roads with no shoulders have very large wooden trees growing right next to the road, which for safety purposes have white painted rings around them; roads which are dotted with various shrines marking the locations at which folks traveling these charming winding roads in vehicles or on bicycles have ended their lives. Many of the country road trees are apple trees, providing healthy food for the journey I guess.

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Anyway, for us, driving is an occasional necessary evil, to accomplish tasks not reasonably performed via other means. And I’m a pretty good, respectful driver. The best rule they have here is zero tolerance for alcohol – zip, nada, lose your license for a bunch of months if you are pulled over by the policie and alcohol is detected on your breath. The next best rule is that you gotta be eighteen years old before becoming eligible to get behind the wheel. Maybe third is that folks here seem to be well-schooled on signaling their every turn intention, quite ahead of time.

Regarding road signs and getting pulled over. A sign that is a 2-foot diameter red outer ring with a white inner circle means don’t even think about going there. It was during our first cargo van ‘adventures with Brad and Jana’, back in August, within 15 minutes of renting, whilst my navigator’s attention was directed to her battery-dying device to access the bitch in the box, on a stretch of under-construction Ceske Budejovice city street, that the policie officer politely informed me that it was gonna cost me 200 koruna (ten bucks, but varies between 200 to 3000 koruna, based on violator behavior) because I had passed at least two of the ‘don’t go there’ signs to get to this point. Note that the officer and his partner were set up at this spot, with ticket book in hand, flagging over car after fool car, to collect the fee. It seems to me that the chances here, for a driver to come face to face with a cop who might detect that you had a beer (pivo) are greater than in the states.

Two more great reasons that I do not enjoy driving here. First is this intense neck stress pain associated with driving while holding the farthest reaches of a steering wheel., which I seem to find myself doing every so often. And then there’s the other guys on a mission whose accomplishment I impede – dickheads who perform with equal likelihood both on the winding peaceful country roads and in the left lane of a highway. Tho there are speed limits, the left-laners have the ability it seems to appear out of nowhere and to thrive on the aerodynamic advantage of positioning his front bumper within a foot of my rear bumper, or if they’re really have a lot of momentum, they flash their warning brights from a long distance that gets short in seconds. So this also causes moments of panic and stress to safely return to the right lane in a cute red under-powered Czech car or a visibility-obstructed large van.

 

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