Jet lag is still fogging the brain. Okay... actually it is not.
After years of international travel, you would think we are old hands at handling this. Yet, those thousands of miles have prepared us with the right blend of cat naps, coffee, activity, and selected travel times that keeps that kind of jet lag at bay. What we are suffering through now is more like 'home lag'. There is something about the sweet purring of the kitties, and a fire roaring in the fireplace, that makes the bed look very appealing by 8:00 pm. Our schedule over the ten days in Europe wasn't hectic, or blistering, in fact by all accounts it was pretty uneventful.
Half of our trip was spent with family, enjoying their company, playing cards, and walking around the countryside in Zeeland. The other half was spent with friends, or traveling to friends. Including one 7 hour drive (one way... so actually 14 hour drive) to visit a friend near Stuttgart, Germany. More on that visit later.
Driving in the Netherlands and Germany is not like what it is here in the States. Ultimately, they are very similar, but there are some nuances that stand out that become apparent every time we go home.
1. All drivers stay to the right, except to pass. If you live in the states (most states at least) you know that this is the rule... that is hardly ever followed. It feels strange watching everyone actually 'do the thing'. Like Alice in Wonderland; familiar yet disorienting. :)
2. Nearly everyone obeys the speed limit, even if there isn't one. (like the German Autobahn). The Autobahn isn't a free for all straight out of Mad Max, it is instead a complex juggle of rules, respect, and safety. Be ready when you come back to the States and tell people you were on the Autobahn. In their head they imagine you were driving 200 mph, when in reality, you were most likely doing 60 because traffic made you do 60.
3. Trucks almost always stay in the far right lanes, very rarely will they pass and block cars from passing them. (Sometimes this is by design, sometimes this just is.)
4. Gas station food..... is really freaking good. Espresso and a hand crafted delicious sandwich made fresh in front of you for five euros.... mmmmmm. How the hell did McDonalds EVER GET A FOOTHOLD OVER HERE!!!!
5. The drive itself is generally pleasant. Even the traffic jams. Perhaps the American in me has a biased view here, so I can't speak for Paul. But, when I go on road trips in the states, the parts that have the biggest draw for me are the wide open spaces. I loathe driving in cities, or around other cars. In Europe, I enjoy the whole thing.
6. Somewhat goes back to number four, but coffee. You are hard pressed to find that typical American diner brown tinted water that has been passed over the grounds of one coffee bean and served as your 'gas station human fuel'. All coffee is essentially an espresso derivative, and ready at the touch of a button.
7. You have to pay to pee. Not sure that every gas station or rest stop is this way, perhaps just the ones we stopped at. So, the downside is you better have coins on you if you need to go to the restroom. Upside, they are generally clean. This is for the ladies... men... you know the drill, and some municipalities actually encourage public urination. Don't get grossed out, it isn't that bad. (Check out this article on recycling pee: Green urinals)
8. Roundabouts and extra lane striping. Lots of them, every where. Get used to it. Get used to watching the actual surface of the road as much as you are watching the cars. Get used to using your turn signal... a lot. The stripes can mean a whole lot of things, most of which make complete sense to anyone that has been driving in the States.
9. The stoplights, and other traffic lights are smart. Sounds a little silly, but they are miles ahead where we are in our infrastructure in the states when it comes to managing the flow of traffic. Part of this is because the lights will sense when a car is coming and change accordingly for the least amount of time spent idly stopped waiting for ALL drivers. You see some of the lights in the States, but I still have a habit of flashing high beams sometimes when pulling up to a vacant intersection to 'trick' the lights into thinking I am an emergency vehicle. 100% believed this as a kid, not sure that there is any truth to it, but old habits die hard.
10. Radio stations are weird. Which works for us, it fits our varied tastes. :) If you are not listening to the informational channels, or the classical music channels, then you are listening to a 'Pop Muziek' channel. There doesn't seem to be much of a theme per channel like we have in the States (Country on one, top 40 on another, Classic Rock, etc....) So you could spin the dial and land on a channel that is playing some classic Van Halen (it's a Dutch thing) then all of a sudden roll straight into the newest release from Katy Perry, followed by the Classic Eurodance hit (like Better Off Alone by Alice DeeJay) and then into some local Ska-Reggae mash up. The DJ's are on top of it and it all blends together rather well... until you sit back and realize that in the past 20 minutes you just sang such a weird playlist.
So there it is, ten random things that are different about driving the roads 'there' and 'here'.
Will write more after the 'home lag' has worn off.