As Christmas approaches, it’s time for a long drive!
My family are all down south — some in Devon, about as far as it gets from Fife, and others in Oxfordshire. So family get-togethers and Christmases often involve a drive of at least 5 to 6 hours. And I have to say, I love it.
Sure, we’ve had some terrible journeys. We made the mistake of returning from Devon one Christmas on the 27th of December, a legendarily busy day. A journey that at best should take around 9 hours, was closer to 12.
But the journey down before that had been one of the best. 9 hours of quiet motorways. And the directions aren’t even difficult for us. We basically head towards Glasgow, turn left before, go straight on for about 450 miles then turn left for the last ten minutes to my parents’ house.
A quiet place
I fully understand people who find it a stressful experience, or a necessary evil. But I find it almost like meditation.
There’s something about moving that’s calming. Whether it’s running, cycling, riding a train, flying or driving.
There might be problems at home. There might be problems where you’re going. But for that stretch in between, it’s just you and the road (or trail/rails/sky). And maybe the radio — perhaps something great like Bob Harris. Or, if you’ve remembered to download it, our award-winning podcast!
I say all this because my wife, son and I are just over a couple of weeks away from a long drive down south. I can’t wait! Just watching the scenery fly by, switching on the cruise control and stretching my legs. The constant thrum of the engine is like white noise to me – always calming.
Doesn’t apply abroad
With the exception of one long drive to the Alps, this feeling doesn’t apply in other countries! That drive was great, although we had to stop every hour to clean the windshield of insects. I had a little device that stuck to the windscreen, allowing us to pass through the motorway tolls without stopping to pay. It was all totted up for a later bill.
The French motorways were fast and quiet, and I realised why when I got the bill!
I took a break and let my friend drive the last bit through the Alps. I was quite scared. He approached hairpin mountain bends with a bit more enthusiasm than I would’ve done.
Since then we’ve had a hairy time in a few other countries. The Corsican mountain roads were something to behold. Barely wide enough for two Robin Reliants to pass, French drivers would fly at you whilst we teetered close to canyon edges. The mountainous wee island often pops up on lists of dangerous places to drive.
When in Rome . . .
Well, Florence, anyway. I drove into the centre of the city once, and it wasn’t too bad. The Florentine approach to roundabouts was a bit spicy, though. All lanes disappeared and people lined up all over the place like it was the start of a fun run.
There have been a couple of other European countries, but none of them quite as stressful as the busy bits of Italy.
Alaska was a much easier proposition, even in a 33-ft Winnebago. Empty roads and courteous drivers all helped me calm down and concentrate on driving the behemoth I was in charge of.
Our drive in late December will be nowhere near the mileage we racked up on that trip. But I’m still looking forward to it. Leaving our potholed lanes behind and hitting the open motorway. The M6 might not be quite as glam as Route 66, but I’ll be happy to be there, all the same.
And, in favour of the M6, at least we’ve got Tebay Services . . .