Road Trip Day 2

Attention conservation notice: This is the rarest category of post on this blog – one that’s just “Hey I’m me I did some stuff”. Specifically this is about my current road trip. If you don’t care about what I’m up to, which is really fair enough, you can skip this one.

Well, I seem to have failed to talk myself out of this road trip plan, so here I am in sunny Penzance!

OK, well, here I am in Penzance. It’s quite wet. There are very few pirates, and the WiFi is down where I’m staying so I can’t even torrent things.

The story so far:

Yesterday I drove down from home (near Cambridge) to my aunt and uncle’s place near Reading. On this trip I learned a very important lesson: If you’ve left your sunglasses in your bag and are driving into the setting sun, the correct thing to do is to stop somewhere and get them out. Toughing it out and staring into the sun for two hours as a result is stupid and will result in losing the evening to a splitting headache. Despite that I had a lovely evening catching up with family until the headache finally got the better of me.

I hadn’t actually appreciated this aspect of doing a road trip at this time of the year, but it came into play to a lesser degree this morning; the sun is perpetually very low in the sky, which means that it’s perpetually in my eyes while driving. Fortunately today I did remember my sunglasses.

Still, my inclination had already been that I’d be better off driving after it got dark, arriving at my destination and then doing the actual exploring the next day starting from around sunrise. I think this pretty much cements that as being a good idea.

I decided to take a slightly more scenic route here – when plotting my route Google maps gave me three options. Two were boring motorway driving, the other was still a lot of A roads but swung further south and went through more interesting scenery, taking a bit under an hour longer.

Google maps navigation really doesn’t like it when you do this. About every ten minutes for the first hour the navigation kept saying “We have found a faster route going the way you told us you didn’t want to go. Press accept to use that” (paraphrasing).

I’m reminded of my observation that GPS is basically Revenge of the Turtle Graphics – once we told a little turtle in a computer how to move around on a screen, now the little turtle is telling us how to move around on a map.

The turtle gets very grumpy when the humans don’t follow its advice.

The turtle might also have been right, in that a five hour drive was really a bit too much – I think that might be the longest drive I’ve done in one go (if it’s not it’s certainly close, but the longest I can think of were only about four hours). I’m not destroyed after it, but I’m definitely pretty tired, and at least some of that was from the driving (the rest of it was that going to sleep with a splitting headache that painkillers won’t shake doesn’t lead to a restful night).

This is an interesting demo of my changing relationship with driving – shortly after passing my test I did a three hour drive and ended up absolutely shattered  (the plan had been to continue driving the next day. I left the car where I was and got a train the rest of the way). Back in February I did a three hour drive across Namibia mostly for fun and it was fine but A Big Deal.

These days three hours drives are just things I do sometimes because I needed to. Five hour drives are hard work but basically fine. I guess one consequence of living in the country is grinding driving.

I have decidedly mixed feelings about this. I’m still politically mostly against cars – I will dance on the grave of the internal combustion engine, I think we desperately need more and better public transit, and I think that self driving cars will be life saving  and that’s enough to justify them on their own without all the other benefits – but after spending a lot of time in one I’m starting to have more appreciation for cars too.

On net, I welcome our car-free future. But I’m starting to see that something of value will be lost too. I need to think about this further.

On the driving length front though, I don’t expect that to be a problem on this trip – 5 hours is a lot more than I intend to drive most days – because I’m regarding Land’s End as the real start of the trip, I just wanted to make a beeline down here. I’ll probably be doing more like one or two hour drives most days.

I’m staying at the Penzance Youth Hostel tonight – going to see how the shared rooms go (I have earplugs and a mask). Tomorrow will do a bit of walking around the countryside around Land’s End (I spend about an hour wandering around Penzance itself when I got here and feel like I don’t need to spend more time in the town itself), then tomorrow evening I’m off to the Eden project to stay in the Youth Hostel there. I’ll get a room to myself there! With en suite and everything! This would feel more of a luxury if the room in question weren’t a shipping container. But I’m looking forward to the Eden Project itself, and the rooms are reportedly very nice despite the hipster chic construction material.

(I’m sure I’m being unfair and that using shipping containers for construction actually makes a great deal of practical sense in many contexts, but my association with them is very much Boxpart, which is basically flat-packed hipster gentrification).

That’s pretty much all I have to say for now. I doubt it made much sense given aforementioned tiredness. I’ll post further updates from time to time as I make my way around the country.

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