Five Miles per Inch

“I think we missed our turn.”

“No, I think it’s coming up. I haven’t seen any signs for it.”

I was driving with the American paradigm, again.

Distances are different here on this small island. It is hard for Brits to understand how big Texas is (bigger than Spain and Portugal together) and, correspondingly, it is hard for us to understand how small Britain is (just a bit smaller than Oregon). Making matters worse is the size of the road maps. We’ve got one of the entire British Isles and it is huge, it’s like a bed sheet; opening it in the car presents a real hazard. But, with some effort it can be folded down to the right chunks of the country. But, the scale is all wrong.

It takes a long time to cover an inch on a Texas map, an hour or more, even on the highway at 70 mph. But, in Britain you can cover an inch, even several inches in a half an hour. Highway driving in the States involves a good deal of time on auto-pilot. You set the cruise control and the just wait for the time to go by. Our van doesn’t have a cruise control here, and on this small island there is just no time for auto-pilot.

We were covering five miles per inch.

In Texas an inch represents 60 or even 100 miles, and takes an hour or more to cover, but these little inches went under our wheels in less than seven minutes. I say seven minutes because the roads are usually crowded and most often curvy, much curvier than the US roads we’re familiar with. And, because the distances are short they seem longer somehow. Our sightseeing radius is considerably smaller here in Britain.

I surprised myself when I saw a sign for Dumfries (dum-FREES): 30 miles.

“There’s no way I’m driving thirty miles over these country roads.” We are well back in the countryside here and, also incredible to my American readers, we’ve covered many miles on single-track roads to get here. Once here you don’t want to leave, and the prospect of another 30 miles over these little roads is not appealing. Even that short distance will take well over an hour, even if it is only 6 inches.

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4 Responses to Five Miles per Inch

  1. Katie Brown says:

    Those curvy roads made me barf all over the floor boards of some poor soul that had picked us up at the airport!! Sure I made a great first impression!

    • revcarswell says:

      Sorry to hear those painful memories. I remember feeling the same way and barfing into Mom’s purse once. I’ve no idea why she held it in front of me when I knew it was coming.

  2. I don’t even remember either of the above events, but I do remember a time when my brother, 5 years younger than I, at age about 3 or 4 was feeling very sick. Dad stopped the car and let him out with one of our aunts to get some fresh air. We were on our way to our holiday place on the Mull of Galloway. Brother John was so sick that he looked into the car and told Dad,”Just you go on. I’ll walk.” I found too that I did much better sitting in the front than the back but we were all issued with the travel sickness pill called Kwells before any extended trip.

  3. Carolyn Nicolson says:

    Doesn’t need to be single track roads. Memories of three children arriving in Aberdeen in their underwear after the stretch of road from Thurso to Golspie.

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