Today I got my first real taste of right hand drive. I picked up my rental near Victoria Station in south west London and drove out to Bath via Reading and Stonehenge. It was definitely an interesting experience.
Driving on the left side of the road from the right side of the car wasn't too hard to handle but it will take some time before it feels normal. I kept reaching for the gear shift with my right hand only to find the door there. I hardly used the rear view mirror above the windshield because I'm just not accustomed to looking to the left for that. The outside mirrors on the other hand where used frequently because there was no real difference to using them. I caught myself wanting to go into the right lane after a couple turns but quickly corrected my position. The thing that seemed the hardest was judging the distance to the left side of the car when passing through narrow areas. This may be due more to the new and unfamiliar car and not necessarily a result of the right hand drive. The car I'm driving is a bit bigger than my previous rentals and the hood and fenders are shaped such that it is hard to judge how far they stick out.
With all that said, the biggest challenge for today wasn't the right hand drive as much as it was navigating some of the more confusing turns. Roundabouts with many exits can get confusing even with the GPS device. Like during my previous rental experiences in France, I left a couple roundabouts (traffic circles) at the wrong place. The big challenge with the GPS device is that it is a bit slow to react sometimes and when you have tight roundabouts or cascading on/off ramps it sometimes is still showing you one turn by the time you passed the next. The only solution to this challenge is to preview the up coming turns so you know what's coming before you hit it and to manually force the GPS device to advance quicker - a little tough to do at times when you are busy driving.
Today I learnt a better way to scan through up coming and passed turns in the route on my GPS device. This definitely made things easier later in the day, but it still doesn't address the issue of errors in the GPS device's maps (eg turns or roundabouts in the road that don't show up on the GPS device). In that case all you can do is get familiar with the up coming route so that you can make quick decisions when that mysterious fork in the road appears before you at 70 miles per hour.
If all else fails and you do make a wrong turn the GPS device is quite good at getting you back on course. However, sometimes its a little too quick to calculate a new course, especially when you do a not so legal turn in the middle of a street to correct for a missed turn. That is, you turned around got back on course only to find the GPS device showing a different route. All you do at the point is to continue on to what you remember the route to be or if possible stop and wait for the GPS device to restore the original route.
I made two stops on my way to Bath. First I made brief stop in Reading near the city center. One of my friend's father is from Reading, so I thought it would be interesting to have a very quick look at the place.
From Reading I made my way to the world famous Stonehenge. My stop there was much longer as I did the full tour of the place with their hand held audio guide. It was cooking out there, something like 99 degrees Fahrenheit, so it was nice to get back into the air condition car afterwards.
According to the folks on the radio, it was the hottest day in July in London in over a hundred years. Also, for some reason there were plenty of traffic accidents around London today. Maybe some vehicles were over heating and when they pulled over they triggered some accidents. I didn't encountered anything major, but there were some big ones or at least ones that really messed up traffic in a big way. According to the folks on the radio, in one case traffic was back up so much that they used a helicopter to bring water to some of the folks stuck out on the highway in the intense heat.
Anyway, that's enough writing for today. Here's a few pictures.
My rental car.
Just kidding, the above photo was taken from my rental car below as I was leaving London. The picture below was taken in Reading in front of the Reading Abbey. Actually, it's the Gateway to the Abbey and one of the more intact pieces of the Abbey ruins.
Stonehenge from the south.
Stonehenge from the north.
Driving west of Stonehenge. There were a few military helicopters flying around this area and I passed signs warning of tank crossings, so the area must be a military training area kind of like Suffield in south eastern Alberta.
The Abbey in Bath.
An interesting waterfall on the river going through Bath. There's a nice walkway along the River, however a portion of it and a large garden area on one side is currently closed to the public due to permit issues of some sort.
The following is a photo of the shops on the bridge in the above picture. From this view you would never know its a bridge.
Tomorrow I will be spending the day site seeing in Bath.