Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Driving Blind

So here’s the thing about getting around on St. Croix. Very few of the roads have names, they mostly have numbers which seem to have been assigned randomly and mysteriously change from point to point. So that you’re driving on Road 69, and suddenly without any apparent transition, you’re on 705.

And if few of the roads have names, far fewer have signs. And the maps are sort of speculative. So, on my first full day on the island I had to drive to the airport to pick up Tori, Janet and Max, it was an adventure. I had been led to the house by the rental agent, driving in the dark trying desperately to find one or two landmarks. Not much to see.

I allowed myself an hour and a half for the 20 minute drive. As I approached what I knew should be a turn, I had no way of knowing if this was the right junction until I noticed the painting on the roadway. I had seen that last night! I made a left and yes! That was the right road!

I got myself lost once on the way, but not badly, in straightening out I managed to get back on the right road but going the wrong way, then got myself – not lost so much as challenged, but ended up in the right place – I’m not sure how. Made it to the airport with 50 minutes to spare, not bad.

Oh, I didn’t mention the other thing about driving here. We drive on the left, mon. American cars, with the steering wheel on the left, but everyone drives in the left lane, a holdover from almost a century ago when the islands were still owned by Denmark. Mostly that’s not a problem, although the first time cars approach and pass on the right you hold your breath in shock. And making right hand turns is just unnatural – as you cross the intersectio0n and turn, cars are turning INSIDE the radius of your turn. It’s very disconcerting, although you get used to it.

After picking up my family at the airport, we had to run into Christiansted (the main island) to get Tori on the rental car. Again, that wasn’t too bad. I’d been there the day before and it’s on one of the main roads, pretty much a straight shot across the island. Just get on 70 and stay there. But then leaving Christiansted to get back to Cane Bay, where our short-term rental is, was an adventure. Took a wrong turn and ended up in downtown Christiansted and fairly confused. Maybe it’s th whole “learning how to drive on the left side of the road” thing, but it just didn’t feel as if the water could possibly be on my left. But as I circled around, I could feel my inner compass shift, and suddenly it started making sense.

We got home, after an uneventful drive past some extraordinary coastline. I would hardly say I’m driving like a native, but I’m driving.

Ol’ Chumbucket

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