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As I briefly described most driving experiences as mediocre at best, it seems that something has to break the paradigm for me. These were my handful of unbelievable seconds, minutes, sometimes hours en route. I can think of several of the top of my head, one of which I will share right here, right now.
Just over a week ago, I was halfway down a two-week road trip with a group of friends. Four adolescents cramped in a Citroën DS3, along with all the necessary equipment to "survive", splitting through the Middle-and-Eastern Europe? Seems like a plan. Although the complaining was at a constant, all time high, especially after the first few days had turned out rather dramatically, we managed to keep our heads together. After we had seen a few Croatian places, like Rijeka and Zadar, we left Novalja with a ferry towards the main land, to set course to the Plitvice lakes. A better decision could not have been made.
It was my turn to drive, so I drove back onto the land, right into the Velebit mountains. When we were on the small islands on which Pag and Novalja are situated, it looked dark and angry, but impressive above all. While driving through them, they were just idyllical. It was like getting to know a soft-hearted, but scary-looking punk rocker. Tough, yet sweet.
When it comes to the view from the mountains, back onto the islands where we had been that very morning, I stood there, unable to grasp what I saw. I have photos, but they don't do the scene justice. However, as much as I am an adorer of picturesque nature, the drive itself was even greater.
Imagine no traffic on a terrific twist-and-turn 30km mountain road, embraced by Croatia's heavenly nature, in a car that, although fully loaded, still had the heart to keep pushing and give that little extra motivation to floor it just a little harder. That, in a sentence, is how I would describe one of my best driving experiences to date.
Unfortunately, on that hellish day in late June, it was the total opposite.
The excerpt above is from the second road trip I went on this year, of which I just came back. The first one however, was not with a group of friends, but with my girlfriend. To celebrate our graduation and end of middle school period, we wanted to go on a trip through France. Due to the fuel crisis at the time, we decided to head over to the neighbouring country that is Italy, with short stops in Switzerland and the Eastern part of France.
At a certain point, we found ourselves in the vicinity of the memorable and picturesque Cinque Terre, which actually holds a spot on the famous UNESCO list. If you have never heard of it, here's what it is in a nutshell: five villages that are either carved out of the side of the steep mountainside or built against it. The people crazy enough to have built it, created something that still pulls heaps of tourists from all over the world to this day.
Although we did not know about Cinque Terre and visited that camping without intentions of visiting the monument, we were told about it in the evening by an elderly man, who promised us it would be astonishing. Old folks always supply wise information, so we thought. Upon hearing this, we decided to break our plan of taking a day's rest, to spend one looking at genius, man-made structures.
Waking up, I could not be happier realizing that our day consisted of driving a combined 100 kilometres across mountains, with most of it uninhabited and poorly maintained. Moreover, up until that point in our trip, the V70 had proven itself to us on a variety of roads. We had driven all along the stunning Como Lake, through Tuscany's sweeping hills and much more. On every occassion it was a treat, so at the very least it would make for an interesting day.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A58l-MVieZ8 (video of us driving to Cinque Terre, the good part)
And interesting it was indeed. As can be seen on the video, the first part of the drive was beautiful and gentle. The V70 carried us through Italy's B-roads with ease, but as the clocked ticked on and the clouds started to grow in mass, it soon became clear that we would have a rough one on our hands.
As we drove on, the roads got worse and worse. At first, it was amusing. Especially when we saw nature gradually take back what man had once used, we were in awe. Houses in a full on decay, built along the road, were now pupulated by - I am not kidding - sheep. Grass and weeds grew through the surface and the white lines were far from visible. The safety railing would not live up to its name anymore, seeing how it was completely worn out. At times when even the railing could not be found, and we were able to stare into the green, blueish abyss, my girlfriend crawled deeper and deeper into her seat. Yes, it was that bad. To deal with the situation at hand, I started driving slower, to make sure I would not crash a car that, after all, belonged to her parents.
After a good forty minutes, we both had seen enough to see where this was headed. Slowly but surely the fun ebbed away. It got quieter. I tried to focus on the road, but couldn't help to bring it up: the nausea became ever more apparent, and I hoped she had felt it too. Not because I'm an ass, but because I cared about how she felt. Maybe I could do something. Drive even more slow, supply water, pull over, anything. I asked. She replied, confirming my suspicions. At this point it was game on; us versus this horrifying predicament.
We talked it over. We agreed to continue. Fifteen minutes tops, and we would arrive. Surely we could manage that, right?
Ten minutes from our destination. At this point we're able to see it on the navigation. As we turn past one of so many corners that day, a sign can be seen in the middle of the road. It has a skull on it. I park in front of the sign, unable to think of what to do. Our eyes meet, in the hopes that the other will come up with some bright idea. A few minutes go by, when suddenly a car pops up from behind the bend in front of which the sign is placed. Maybe, just maybe, we are able to go there. We're at a point of no return. If we would go back, surely things would go downhill, maybe even literally.
We decide to take the gamble. Maybe those crazy Italians put the sign there as some sort of sick joke, or forgot to take it away?
Five minutes from our target. It must have been less than three kilometres, when we pass another set of rocks and are brought to a halt by a big, fluorescent, orange screen, covering the road from the mountainside towards the ravine. More signs, and this time, no possible way of getting past. Alternative routes to Cinque Terre? Sure, a few, but unless you're willing to go all the way back, and then still, drive another hour on top to reach the villages, you have no options.
At this point we're both shaking and weakened by the constant left-to-right -and vice versa- movement. Not only that, there hadn't even been a moment where we drove at the same height for a minute. We were actually getting mindfucked, for a solid hour. All this, for nothing, and the worse was yet to come: the drive back.
As we sat in the car, staring at the orange canvas we just met, but already hated with a fierce passion, we scanned through our options. Then, some other daredevils bunched up behind us, who were given the same fate. When they saw the roadblock, they made a swift turn, but we decided not to. Fresh air and some legstretching might give us that little extra, to make it back in one piece.
The navigation showed us that the quickest way to drive back was as we came. Ha! Just by the thought of it, I could feel a little stomach acid burn my esophagus. Forget it. We needed straight roads, just what the V70 was built for. Comfort, as if you're laying on an immensely relaxing bean bag, but with pedals and a wheel. Our best option was to drive 30km up, where we would cruise the remainder on the highway. We pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps and drove off, hoping things would get better.
Luckily though, the 30km went by without any major mistakes, and as we hit the highway, the feeling of relief was unlike anything I have ever felt. It was almost euphoric. We pulled over at the first stop we could find, and promised each other to never ever take that cruiseship of a car to such roads again. At this point, we both had drunk so much water to level out the nausea, that our bladders were overflowing. As I started to pee, I noticed just how much my legs were shaking. I felt the adrenaline that had held me together, pour out of my body with every drop of urine that hit the ground. We sat down, at some food and laughed all the way back to the camping.
Now that you know all about my most miserable driving experience, I would love to hear yours! Find your way down to the comments and please tell me all about it.
Have a good one,