But at least I’m not alone with that diagnosis :). There is no other conclusion to draw from my latest and greatest minor adventure (I’m not talking about the Scandinavian trip – blogs/pictures coming up soon)…
On September 16 a family friend and I needed to go to the city of Sokolov – about 150Km from Prague (10 minutes from Karlovy Vary). What better way of doing it than renting a car to go, right? That’s exactly what we did. But here’s the catch: she just got her driver’s license, having learned to drive on a heavy, big car. I have gotten my license 1,5 years ago and didn’t get behind the wheel ever since… If you’re not yet seeing the trouble with that idea, you should :).
The adventure began at the rental spot (a small private one): it turned out we were the first people to need a GPS on that car, the GPS needed the power, and the power source was jammed by something… So it took a while for the guys to change the entire thing, since it kept on blowing the fuses even with shut engine. Good news is that the main business of the place is actually auto-service, so they were able to quickly fix everything up.
Then my friend got behind the wheel… And here came a whole session of start car, jerk, engine-die, restart, repeat… On top of unfamiliar pedals, the reverse on that car was to the front instead of to the back… Plus the way she learned to handle the pedals was completely different to this car overall… As we later learned from the owner, having seen her struggles, the guys at the place were making bets about how far we would be able to make it :D.
Driving in the city was fun…ny… Almost at every street light the engine died, so we used the emergency blinkers a lot that day, while restarting the car and trying to get it to move from the spot :D. One time some even guy came out of the car and said something (I didn’t catch what it was), but we set our minds on full ignore of everyone else in such cases. After all, no one was born behind the wheel and everyone was once an absolute piss poor driver. Everyone behind us at each such stall point had to figure out inventive ways of going around us, but we progressed a bit nevertheless… Or so we thought…
We were going by GPS, and the GPS seemed to have not a slightest clue about a proper route. Somehow it kept sending us to some weird pathways, demanded us to make turns into one way streets, told us to go one way then the opposite way, and after at least 2 hours of driving around some shady roads we made zero distance progress to our destination.
We stopped eventually at some road near a field for an ’emergency relief session’ and I decided to take a closer look at the GPS. For some reason the settings excluded the option of going onto the highways… A couple of minutes later I found the problem: the stupid thing (we borrowed it from a friend) was set on “bicycle”!!! Worse yet, the bastard knew about that setting and didn’t tell anything as a matter of a practical joke. So we wasted a load of time and gas money on following random cycle paths… Although I guess it was a good practice session for my fellow traveler :D.
Once we found out about that bit (very timely – we were about to get desperate and throw that piece of crap out of the window and give up on going anywhere), everything else went much smoother. We soon got onto the highway which was the easy part and eventually made it to Sokolov and to the office that we had to visit.
After we were done with everything, fueled up on some nice coffee and pastry from a nearby spot, I was designated to drive back… Thankfully, I learned on a car similar in handling to the one we rented, so I didn’t have the engine die on me at every stop (more like, not once). We quickly got back on the highway and it was a pretty smooth ride for the most part – except it started to get darker and to piss down raining…
Had someone told me I’d be going just over 100 on an actual highway in heavy rain at dusk after my near-zero driving experience, I’d tell them they were nuts. My original plan was to stay away from any highways until I get a better grip of the craft of driving (maybe one day…). Although it’s much more demanding to drive in the city with constant gear shifts… But I was cautious of the speed. Yet there I was…
Anyway. We made it back to Prague in one piece and with almost no damage to the car! (Well, my partner in crime scratched the front right wheel disk on the sidewalk twice because of the way she was taught to take turns – to bear right… Insanity – you need to leave enough clearance for the back wheel to make the turn without catching the sidewalk!.. But hey – that’s peanuts given the actual risk of the entire enterprise!). Because I was cautious to change lanes in darkness and heavy traffic, we missed our turn from out of the tunnel towards my street, so that resulted in a 10Km detour, but we FINALLY made it all the way to my house, successfully parked and went to sleep.
The next day I was bound to navigate as well, so I had to endure a few more dead-engine moments at street lights. We successfully got back to the rental place and, believe it or not, on the very last damned 3 meters my counterpart actually managed to slightly burn the gear because she held it engaged and kept the foot on the brake! It stank to high heaven. We were lucky that damage was minimal, so we only had to pay about 30 Euros extra to fix it. I think the fact that the owner was actually happy to see his car back in one piece when he probably already kissed it goodbye in his mind played a role :D.
So there, two absolute beginners took their first out-of-driving-school trip of just about 400Km on a rainy day. Definitely insane, but I think that I can pretty much handle the basics of driving from now on 😀 😀 :D.
Although word of caution to new drivers: don’t try this at home. That we were lucky doesn’t mean you would be, so drive safely, train first and take an experienced person with you to all of the first trips. Not everyone’s self-induced crash course ends this well.