wrong side driving

I finally mounted studs on my bike this afternoon, after finishing digging out from December's 61.5 inches of snowfall. This was a one-month record for Spokane, and it all started when we had a 24-hour record snowfall of 19.5 inches. Maybe not much by some standards, but since our annual average is 48 inches of snow.

We spent our Christmas holiday in Ireland. This was my first time driving on the wrong side of the road. Rachel didn't want to drive, so I did all of it. There's a lot to driving on the left of the road when all your life you've been driving on the right. The first thing to know about the Irish is they are good at building with stone. One our trip, not only did we see castles and ruins, but ring forts built hundreds of years ago without the use of mortar. They are simply stacked rocks. This was on the Kerry Peninsula. On the Dingle Peninsula we saw "beehive" structures, also made of stacked stone. These forts and structures of stacked rock have been standing for centuries. When driving, it's not these structures that matter.

The structures that matter, probably centuries old themselves, are the rock walls that line the roads. These walls are several feet high and overgrown with all sorts of vines and weeds and brambles. They've all probably been hit by cars a time or two as well. These walls are of the greatest concern on the smaller roads, those with an 'N' and 'R' designation. I don't know what these stand for, but they are most certainly not the 'M' designations of motorways, analogous to American freeways.

The 'N' routes were generally two lanes, one in each direction, but both often about as wide as a narrow driveway. The occasionally would narrow to a single lane with pull outs. The single lane roads are not so bad because you just drive down the middle, watching for oncoming traffic and keeping aware of the pullouts. It's a bit dicier on the two lane routes because the lanes are so narrow, the roads full of blind curves, and the other drivers used to barreling down the road at 100 kmh, roughly 60 mph.

Rachel's most common refrain was "too close" meaning I was too close to driving in the gutter, into the stone wall that had withstood more than I would ever know. More than once, more than a dozen times, the passenger side of the car scraped the brush sticking out from the wall. I kept thinking there would be scrapes in the paint when we returned the car, but I never noticed any. Better that, I thought, than a collision with an oncoming car on those narrow roads. Telling Rachel my fear was more of a head on than scraped paint, she told me to just stop if it was that close. My manliness, however, would not allow me to stop simply because the road was narrow. If the Irish could drive these roads, I could too. And I did.