This journey is something of a novel experience for me. Having driven many thousands of miles in France over the last 30+years, I am very used to driving our right hand drive cars in a drive-on-right country. Going “the wrong way” around a roundabout has not presented a problem for many years. The only slight difficulty with this road/car combination is an overtaking manoeuver on a single carriageway road, the driver not being able to see past the slow-moving vehicle in front. This is particularly critical when one feels like overtaking at a lower differential speed with Guillaume, our caravan, in tow. However, I’ve developed a fool proof technique for such occasions: I edge out sideways until Francine, in the passenger seat, can see past the obstructing vehicle and, if she screams, I take this as a signal that something is probably coming and pull back in again. 😀
The novelty with this trip is that, for the very first time, I don’t have Francine in the passenger seat. The potential overtaking difficulty does not arise since the vast majority of my 480-mile journey is on autopistas [motorways]. Where I will miss Francine desperately is at the toll booths. Ticket dispensers and pay stations being on the left of the car, it is trusty Francine who always has to deal with these. Now I’m travelling on my own, I’m having to deal with it myself from the “wrong” side of the car. I have to get out of the car at each toll plaza and walk around the car either to take a ticket or to insert the previously taken ticket and pay. It’s not particularly difficult but it certainly feels a little odd.
Navigation is the other issue that’s a bit of a novelty. Prior to the days of satellite navigation systems, I’d have remembered towns to head for on the motorways [in this case: Valencia, Teruel, Zaragoza Logrono, Bilbao] and possibly a road number or two before resorting to reading road signs when on final approach. Now, of course, I have Sally Satnav to help but I’m also used to relying on Francine to “keep Sally honest” and save us from some of her occasionally strange route choices. Honestly, it’s technology that’s almost clever. I must say, though, I was thankful to have Sally approaching 480mls/770kms solo in a foreign land, one with which I’m not yet particularly familiar.
I dealt with the tolls to Valencia (yesterday) before hitting today’s blissful toll-free stretch on to Zaragoza. Then tolls took over again to my stopping point slightly before Bilbao at a place called Arakaldo. As luck (or not) would have it, the toll booth for payment seemed to coincide precisely with my required exit road. As I approached the toll, Sally muttered “exit right”. I stopped at the toll plaza, clambered out, inserted my ticket followed by my credit card, then returned to drive off. Damned if I ever saw an exit road but in the blink of an eye I was past it and heading further towards Bilbao. Bother!
Sally kept her cool and told me to get off at the next exit 8kms away. I did. She told me take third exit off the roundabout at which I’d arrived. I ended up at another toll booth paying a little more. This was wrong, I was still heading towards Bilbao, getting yet further away from my destination.
My nest exit was in a complicated area of Bilbao with tunnels and roads resembling Spaghetti Junction. As I clambered of yet again, as instructed, there were two slip roads on top o each other. Wrong one! Still going the wrong way. Eventually I took a slip road off within a tunnel, arrived at a toll booth, paid – a real warm body for once – arrived at a roundabout, took the third exit and arrived at the other side of the very same toll booth paying yet again to backtrack. Are we having fun yet?
Heading south again, Sally told me to take a slip road right. It felt wrong but my brain was now fried and I did it. Ah, been here before, this was the roundabout I’d first arrived at where I mistakenly got back on going north. Now I think Sally was confused; she said nothing. Sally’s map didn’t help ‘cos here there are roads on top of roads and the intended/highlighted road is unclear. I circumnavigated the roundabout fully twice, hoping that Sally would say something. She remained quiet. Arakaldo did not appear on any road sign, as far as I could see.. In an act of faith, I headed off down a non-motorway road that appeared to be going in the right direction and was on the correct side of the river on the valley floor. (Precipitous valleys are the very reason there are roads on top of roads in this part of Spain.)
I rebooted Sally. Mercifully I was going the right way and was a mere 10kms away. I arrived with much relief, albeit 40 minutes later than expected. I checked in a bought a much needed drink.
This is some supposition based upon my experiences of satnavs in combination with Bilbao:
- There are several roads very close together and/or above and below each other, leaving the satnav less than sure which road you might be on;
- The roads are a tangled nightmare with multiple exits on top of each other. Spoken instructions of the satnav simply are not fast enough to distinguish between the exits; speaking it takes too long. It gets very confusing. I’ve noticed a very similar difficulty with multiple mini-roundabouts on top of each other in the UK.
I hate the roads around Bilbao, especially without Francine. 😀