Driving is terrifying

One of the major cultural shifts we’ve had to press through: remembering about cars. The couple of times we’ve rented cars over the last few¬†years have been pretty scary, but some of that could be attributed to different driving rules (hello, Jamaica and Bahamas), along with reprehensible roads. Back in the US, things should be just as we remembered, right?

Hah.

Driving a car is straight-up terrifying. It took me the better part of a month to get behind the wheel of Iron Van–Michu’s been doing a hero’s work, schlepping us around the western US. Not only is the van big and unwieldy, I can’t adjust to the speed of travel. 80 miles an hour in Wyoming? That’s insane! My mind can’t bend around the impossibility of avoiding a crisis at that kind of speed if anything were to go wrong with the car, the road, or some unknown variable.

Yellowstone-specific variable: megafauna

Yellowstone-specific variable: megafauna

And so much could go wrong. Cars are complex machines, and so much of the mechanics are hidden. I could tell you a dozen different ways to slow down our sailboat, but with the van, our options are: brakes; downshifting. That’s it, and what’s really happening is going on out of sight, so we just have to hope that everything functions properly as we descend 3,000 feet down a mountain at 60 miles an hour.

Meanwhile, who knows what the other yahoos on the road are up to? On the boat, we assume that every other vessel is not paying attention; it’s a real possibility that another boat is just using autopilot and not keeping a close watch, or won’t spot us for some reason, and we keep our distance. If we really don’t understand another boat’s intentions, we call them up on the radio to clarify what’s going on, and make sure they see us; if they’re broadcasting on AIS, we can even give them a shout out by name. On the highway, we’re RIGHT NEXT TO PEOPLE, traveling at close to warp speed, and we have no way to talk to them. Chances are also pretty high that whoever’s driving next to us is under the influence of some kind of chemical–booze, opiates, you name it; overly tired and not making good decisions; or otherwise not on top of their game.

Sometimes, the good decision involves hitting a traffic cone at top speed. We lost a reflector, but you should see the other guy.

Sometimes, the good decision involves hitting a traffic cone at top speed. We lost a reflector, but you should see the other guy.

On the boat, we did all we could to ensure our safety–and that was a lot: Watching the weather; making sure the boat was maintained; keeping a close watch; changing the way we move through the water depending on conditions; traveling in safe, well-charted areas. Traveling by car, we try to apply the same principles, but so much is beyond our control; driving on a highway is largely a matter of faith.

Throughout this trip, people we love have worried for us. They worry about pirates; they watch hurricanes; they’re concerned about the boat sinking. Hands down, across the board, our chances of death or injury has always been highest in cars. This little jaunt home, across the US by interstate, is the most dangerous part of our trip.

Peak benefit: the van is a much safer place in a storm, particularly if you're not moving. Hail storm at Yellowstone.

Peak benefit: the van is a much safer place in a storm, particularly if you’re not moving. Hail storm at Yellowstone.

2 Comments on “Driving is terrifying

  1. Yes, you said it. Just terrifying. We are currently looking at buying a car again so we can drive all our boat stuff down to Mexico. I’m excited for the trip, but I can’t think about it too much or I will freak. And the traffic! Good lord. It’s crazy here. I feel much safer overall on the boat.

    • We’re looking at buying a car this week; hopefully, it’ll be less terrifying than the van, but I still can’t get over the speed of travel.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *