A Long Way

It does seem that every year I end up driving all around the country and continent. This summer I drove to the Lake District for a few days of mountain walking. It is literally the other end of the country from me. If I travel about 50 miles from where I live I would be in France and my destination in the Lake District is about 25 miles from Scotland.

Then I drove to the middle of Germany. This means crossing the Channel, crossing France, Belgium, Netherlands and then half of Germany to pretty close to where the old border was with East Germany. This is about 400 miles as the crow flies. I have such a great time while there that the driving is perfectly worth it.

The only place not included this summer is a trip to Cornwall, another end of this country and maybe I need to correct that.

The total for these two trips, excluding driving around while there was 1658 miles or 2652km.

Travelling The South or Why Isn’t Anything Open?

After seeing Rogue One (again) Mr O and I decided to visit a military museum. Rather, what we did was use the POI thingy on the Sat Nav and it came up with the Military Museum in Aldershot. I’d never been to this garrison town before and it is something to behold! Plenty of red signs everywhere.

We journeyed from Guildford to Aldershot. The road was a curious one making its route atop a ridge.

Journey Part 1
Journey Part 1

After arriving at the museum we noticed the gates were locked shut. We weren’t that far from a set of armed guards securing the base itself so we tried a search for something else. This time we checked the website to make sure it was open. Off we set for Tangmere Museum. It would appear the Mr O misread the website as it clearly states it opens in February. But, we weren’t aware of that and so drove to Tangmere near Goodwood.

Journey Part 2
Journey Part 2

Along the way we saw many lovely countryside sites with layers of fog which, if we had a decent camera, would have been great photos. It was very picturesque. Except for one bit. We had seen a race course on the top of a hill and we were discussing whether it was Goodwood or not and BLAM. The sun was directly in our eyes along the line of the road. I came to a halt. I couldn’t see shit. The sun was literally in line with the road.

Blinded
Blinded (highlighted bit)

We had to try and drive for about 200m without being able to see. I found that if I moved my head so the door pillar blocked the sun I could just make out the left and right sides of the road. I still couldn’t see anything in front but we ambled along and hoped that someone else would stop if they were coming the other way. It was a curious experience and one I don’t really want again. We should have made a note of the time because there would be a decent set of mathematics to be done to check where the sun was and how much it aligned with the road. If I had the inclination we could probably work out where and what time just from the facts I have already said.

Tangmere
Tangmere

Another set of locked gates indicated closure. Bugger. All we wanted now was a cup of tea and some cake. We knew Goodwood circuit was nearby and so we drove to that. Everything there was also closed. The day had turned out to be a series of closed places that we wanted to visit. We had to drive back to (near) Reigate for a cuppa.

Journey Part 3
Journey Part 3

The journey itself was fun, interesting and a delight. It’s just a shame everything we were trying to see was closed.

New Driving Tricks

When I was in hospital waiting for my first son to be born I went to the book shop to see if there was anything decent to read. I was not really expecting much but I did come across a gem.

Sports Car and Competition Driving – Paul Frere

This book has lots of pictures and diagrams but more importantly it has force diagrams and mathematics to explain the behaviour characteristics of cars. I haven’t finished reading it but I do intend to. I essentially hope it will make me a better racer in Gran Turismo.

Anyway, one paragraph has particularly stuck in my mind:

There is a strong tendency among drivers to use the steering wheel as a brace against the centrifugal force on bends and corners – a habit which prohibits any sensitivity for the steering. Instead, the driver should sit well back, and if necessary actually dig himself into the seat-back by pushing his body into it with his left foot, so as to get firm lateral support without the aid of the wheel.

So, now I am trying to change my driving habits. When I think a number of gear changes are needed in succession I tend to hover my left foot over the clutch pedal. If I am not using my left foot then I rest in on the floor.

NO MORE

I am now trying to place my left foot on the “rest” bit to the left of the clutch pedal so that I can (even if rarely needed) push my body into the seat-back so I can resist the lateral forces without hampering my steering.

Why?

Because I want to try and see if I can improve my driving technique. That’s why.

 

Oh, by the way, I already heel-and-toe.

Headlights

I first drafted this communication after a couple of long drives around the country. I travelled to the Lake District for a fleeting visit and then to Cornwall for dinner! Give I live in Kent this was quite a way to go for food but the company made it worth it.

One day, whilst driving, the weather had turned from particularly sunny to showers and full on rain. I was curious to see the number of drivers who didn’t think it necessary to turn on headlights while driving in reduced light conditions. “Are they really all that stupid?” I asked myself. Then, of course, you remember that half the population is below average intelligence.

There were grey cars I could barely see without lights on. It wasn’t that dark but the fine rain and spray severely restricted visibility. I thought many people were being irresponsible on the roads with their inability to turn the lights on.

One excuse might be that some of the cars had automatic headlights. It possibly wasn’t dark enough for the computer to turn the lights on but the spray and rain made it a necessity. This could explain why so many people didn’t turn on theirs. I have had cars that have automatic lights but I turn that function off. I am perfectly capable of deciding when to turn my lights on. It seems that these additions to cars are meant to make our lives easier but they just make us more stupid. Automatic choke, synchromesh gears, power steering, ABS all make driving easier. I won’t deny the safety benefits of some of them, but it wouldn’t hurt the general population to make them

THINK

once in a while. Stop living in your cocoon for now and think about your actions and how to make your life (and others) as safe as possible.

Another reason for disliking automatic headlights is that they come on when driving under a bridge. If you are behind someone it looks as though they are braking and it makes you more hesitant as a driver for a short while.

It seems that most modern uses for technology are great at making our lives simpler but they also stop us having to think and understand what is going on. This is a dangerous trend for a stupid world. As Carl Sagan said (the gist not a perfect quote):

We live in a world more and more reliant on technology but where the technology is understood by fewer and fewer.

The Slip Road

Along with previous posts about driving [Thank you and Throttle] I would like to add this short rant.

I have noticed a number of people recently who take the slip road to join the motorway (mainly the M20 near me) who decide to continue at the mediocre speed they were doing before the motorway.
This is clearly dangerous. The whole point of the slip road is to allow traffic to match the speed of the vehicles on the main carriageway. Most traffic seems to travel near 70 miles per hour on the motorway so heading down the slip road at 40 to 50 mph is just plain dangerous. It’s no surprise that I get annoyed when my safety is put at risk because another driver on the road doesn’t have the confidence to drive at a proper speed.

The highway code says [my emphasis]:

259

Joining the motorway. When you join the motorway you will normally approach it from a road on the left (a slip road) or from an adjoining motorway. You should

  • give priority to traffic already on the motorway
  • check the traffic on the motorway and match your speed to fit safely into the traffic flow in the left-hand lane
  • not cross solid white lines that separate lanes or use the hard shoulder
  • stay on the slip road if it continues as an extra lane on the motorway
  • remain in the left-hand lane long enough to adjust to the speed of traffic before considering overtaking

Put your foot down please and stop endangering my life.

Thank You!

I know I am a grumpy git. I know that I am now old fashioned. I know that I moan about too many things and should probably just accept the state of things as they are and move on.

However – It doesn’t take much energy to say thank you when you cut me up on the roads and pull in front of me.

I don’t mind how you say it:

  • you can flash your hazard lights
  • you can wave out the back window
  • you can wave of your side window
  • you can hack into the DVLA database and find my address and send me a gift voucher

Just say “THANK YOU”.

Most of the time you have pulled in front of my car while I’m travelling at more than 50mph and I’m trying to leave a safe distance between me and the car in front because I am normally carrying the most precious cargo possible. You have deemed this a suitable place into which to drive and not worry about a conscientious driver trying to be safe – acknowledge your arseholeness.

Range Rover Drivers

It has taken a long time but I think it is now the time to relegate BMW drivers from the much coveted top spot of the Charts of Arrogance. They have been surpassed by a more irritating and rude bunch of gits. I speak, of course, of Range Rover drivers.
This collection of people who drive the huge, gas guzzling, aero-dynamically inefficient, four wheel drive vehicles are quickly turning out to be a bunch of BMWankers.

It used to be that BMW drivers failed to realise that their car had indicators or that to drive too close to another car was dangerous. Everyone knew that if there was a car doing dangerous stuff (and it wasn’t a Citroen Saxo driven by a baseball cap wearing, pierced youth) then it was going to be a BMW. Their reputation was awful. If you were being cut up on a motorway, or cut up at a junction or a car just braked infront of you and turned without warning then it was a BMW. It was just their right to do that.

Now, I find (spot the confirmation bias) that it is Range Rover drivers who do all the nasty stuff on the roads and endanger my life. They don’t indicate. They pull infront of you. They drive too close to you. They are the NEW and CROWNED arrogant arses of the tarmac. Whether it is the height that these drivers have to sit or just the money they must have to own one of these behemoths they really don’t seem to care about any other drivers. Roadcraft to them is just doing what you want, selfishly ignoring the safety of the rest of us.

What would the roads be like if everyone drove Range Rovers? Perhaps, because BMWs are rather ubiquitous and affordable it means that they have regressed back to the norm? Or it could be an economic thing. The type of person who thought that BMWs were cool and nice 15 years ago has now morphed into the type of middle aged man who thinks that owning a Range Rover means that they “own” the road and the right to endanger my safety. If they really used these cars for off-road and risked their own safety then good for them. But, they don’t.

I would like to appeal to these drivers’ sense of community and social responsibility in an attempt to make them see the error of their ways but it is clear they have none. So I won’t.

Patriotism

I always feel a twinge of patriotism whenever I see the Union Flag or Cross of St George on the back bumper of a car. Seeing the red, white and blue or just red and white makes a touch of “proud” run through my blood.
The person who spent around £5 on a bumper sticker or magnet obviously has a price limit attached to their patriotism because the vehicle is more often than not built in a different country. BMWs with the England flag, Mercedes with the Union flag and Chevrolets with a Cornwall flag.
I believe that if you are that patriotic then your car should reflect your taste in flag adornments!
Actually, I’m not that patriotic. I have some teams I follow and watch mainly the Essex cricket team, the England cricket team and the New Orleans Saints. I wouldn’t say I’m a fan. I tend to watch on tv and have a little emotional investment but it’s not the end of the world if they lose.
Following a team or patriotism or religion just satisfies our human need to belong to a tribe. None of them can be suggested to be a better form of tribalism than the other. Country, Jesus, town, county, country, football team It’s all the same thing really.

Looking in the mirror

Here’s a tip for some of you drivers out there. It stems from my experiences as a motorcyclist and now as a driver, although now I’m not travelling quite as fast. The bike was an 1100cc machine and my car is a diesel estate!

I noticed in the past that whenever I was coming up behind a car on a motorway and that car was indicating to pull out into my lane that the driver would (I assume) check the rear view mirror or door mirror. Now, if the driver looks once and gets a snapshot of the road they would see me in the outside lane. What would be interesting is that the driver would have no idea of how fast I was travelling unless he/she spent a long time staring in the mirror. To get an impression of speed the driver would have to look again in the mirror to see how my position relative to him/her had changed in the time that had passed.

I believe it is for this reason I had cars pull out in front of me causing me to brake many times. It is quite simple that to judge a speed you need two reference times to see position change. Hence drivers need to look in their mirrors twice before pulling out in front of traffic in the next lane. Most drivers are ignorant of this fact of physics given that cars still pull out in front of me and I’m now in a car.

Perhaps drivers don’t care about other road users and I’m in the minority. Gosh, I think I’m better than most.

It’s a 4 dickday

Contrary to what regular users of the internet may think a 4 dickday is or comprises I can assure you that this post is not concerned with matters of that kind!
I drive to work and drop my son off at nursery on the way. It is only about 10 miles at most but does take in tiny streets, village roads, country roads, dual carriageway, motorway and town roads. In the 20 or so minutes of travel from home to work I can normally guarantee seeing at least one example of poor driving. Whether it is inconsiderate and dangerous driving by tailgating, no indication, late lane changing or just plain silly behaviour i.e. speeding or cutting in. These incidents sadden me. Knowing that each of these activities increases the chance of accident bothers me. Generally I would put most of these incidents down to people trying to get somewhere too quickly. Although Some people are just stupid and don’t get manners.
Yesterday was a 4 dickday. I saw four examples of poor road craft. Hence 4 people were acting like dicks on the road. I would say that the modal value is probably 1 but the maximum value for a 10 mile journey has been 6.
I don’t claim to be a good driver, see my previous post on Constant Speed, but I think I am careful and cautious. More so since I have children. The important things in life are my family and friends. Being late is just how things go sometimes. I would love to drive my car or any other car to its limits but until I can afford track days at Brands Hatch that is going to have to wait. That is why I play GT5 and end up crashing, no pain there.
Better to arrive late than to never arrive at all.