I grew up driving on the left. In fact, I’m not even sure at what point I learned that there was an alternative. I also grew up on very narrow roads that were pockmarked with potholes and peppered with patches. And they were all twisty roads. My father used to joke that the road builders must have been paid by the corner. I am not sure at what point I came to know that these were not normal roads. I can remember being surprised and delighted at a long smooth stretch of road, and then promptly using it to pass everything that I could. So did everyone else, leading to a kind of crazy no man’s land in the middle of an already narrow road. Exciting times ensued, but as I recall, there was rarely an accident from this scenario. Accidents came from top speed trials and misjudging the limits around mountain roads with no guardrail, and from a general excess of testosterone over wisdom.
Fortunately for me, I had no access to speed, although I wanted it very badly. The 10 year old clapped out 175cc Honda trail bike, and the even older Land Rover that I learned to ride and drive on, were both philosophically and physically opposed to speed. Several of us tried to make them go fast, but all we could do was paint a racing stripe on the Honda’s tank, and get a running start downhill on the Land Rover. The Land Rover in particular was hilarious, as it was geared in a way that the top speed could only be reached downhill coasting with the clutch in! The Honda was just done at about 47mph. By experimentation, we discovered that both could “feel” fast by going across a bumpy field at anything over 40mph. Fast forward some decades, and the billiard smooth highways of the USA make speed a mundane necessity. Driving on the right is the norm, and speeds over 80mph are routine and uneventful. Of course, countries and cultures have changed, but there is still a desire for some excitement getting from A to B. Exceeding the limits of the roads and the machines in this environment is relatively hard to do. Little or no challenge, little or no fun.
A recent visit back to a place that drives on the left recently shook up the norms again however briefly. There were warnings for visitors who might normally drive on the right, but I was instantaneously back in my natural habitat and needed no signs. There were roundabouts again, and shifting with the left hand, and overtaking on narrow roads, and no guard rails on mountain roads, and no time (nor need) to glance at the dashboard, much less a mobile device. It rekindled that original need to pay full attention to the act of driving, and to be challenged to do it well in a somewhat unpredictable environment. And it rekindled that original fascination with probing the limits and trying to go fast. It was not about the absolute speed, it was all relative. Blind corners, and using your horn, and 1st gear hairpins, and maintaining momentum, all returned to center stage. Driving was brilliant fun, even in a small economical non-descript compact car, on the way to nowhere in particular. BMW often used the term Freude Am Fahren in marketing campaigns to invoke The Joy of Driving. Man and machine in perfect choreography. We have explored it here before (see One and Moonbathing), but it bears repeating….
Whatever it looks like for you, go drive on the left.