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Driving

 

I like hiring a car and driving.  In my view it's the best way to quickly get a feel for a country.  Interacting with other drivers provides its own insights and you notice the land forms: mountains; planes; hills; and dales as well as the land use and the natural vegetation first hand. 

The whole trip encompassed twenty-two locations at which we spent one night or more, in a dozen States.  It took just over six weeks involving six domestic flights for the longer legs; five car hires and many thousands of miles of driving: mostly on America's excellent National Highway System or State highways but sometimes on not so excellent local streets. 

Driving to-and-fro around towns and cities to where people live to go shopping or visit a point of interest is a lot more informative about how people live than sitting in a tour bus; a train or even a cab where, in my experience, half the time is spent asleep and the other half gazing out a window, disengaged altogether from the ebb-and-flow of the traffic, navigation or even a decision to stop for a rest.  Scanning from station to station on the car radio is another great source of local insight that many tourists don't experience.   How many religious or 'country' stations can there be?  Doesn't anyone listen to jazz or even classic rock in this region, let alone opera or a symphony? 

I have quite a bit of previous experience driving in the US, most recently on the West Coast,  and we had prepared for the obvious.  We knew that the freeways, with numerous spaghetti-like interchanges, would be impossible to navigate without a GPS device.  Old fashioned maps are no longer up to the task for us. Of course car hire companies generally offer GPS as an extra, often just enabling the one that comes with most recent cars, for a daily fee that can be close to the cost of the car rental and soon exceeds the cost of a separate device. Having experienced this elsewhere in the world and noticed it in the US when booking the cars on-line we dusted off our old TomTom but found it was out of date.  So I invested in a new TomTom with a lifetime of world maps and an Australian female accent.  Navigation errors, now very rare except for one quickly rectified incident in Navajo lands.  Navigation no longer leads to threats of divorce and angry recriminations.  We just blame TomTom and trust her to get us back on track.

Having spent the best part of six weeks on the other side of the road my main confusion was when I got back. I'm still forgetting which side my turn indicators are on on my own car and for a terrible moment I had to remind myself which side of the exit ramp to take leaving the supermarket car park at Spit Junction.

 


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Travel

Southern England

 

 

 

In mid July 2016 Wendy and I took flight again to Europe.  Those who follow these travel diaries will note that part of out trip last year was cut when Wendy's mum took ill.  In particular we missed out on a planned trip to Romania and eastern Germany.  This time our British sojourn would be interrupted for a few days by a side-trip to Copenhagen and Roskilde in Denmark.

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Fiction, Recollections & News

Religious Freedom

Israel Folau refuses to back down, tells Rugby Australia he’s prepared to quit code

(Headline - Weekend Australian - 13 April 2018)

 

Israel Folau is a fundamentalist Christian Rugby League footballer who was asked on Instagram: "what was God's plan for gay people??".  He replied: "Hell... Unless they repent of their sins and turn to God".

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Opinions and Philosophy

Syria - again

 

A fortnight ago I was moved to suggest that it was possible that the alleged gas attack in Syria might not be the work of the Syrian Army.  I withdrew the posting when more convincing evidence of Army involvement became available.

Because of our visit to Syria took place just before the most recent troubles began, I have been, perhaps, more interested than most.  I wanted to know why Syria is automatically assumed to be guilty when there are some very nasty groups on the other side?

We are fed so much doctored information, spin, that it is hard to get the facts even when we are directly involved.

So to claim that I know what is actually going on in Syria is fanciful.  Assad vehemently denies responsibility; the Russians are doubtful; and the inspectors have not yet reported.  But the certainty, and aggressive language, of the Western leaders accusing Syria of this latest incident seem extraordinary - do they know something that they are not revealing publicly?

As I have explained elsewhere I have fond memories of Damascus and of Syria in general.  Damascus was the most pleasant and interesting of the cities we stayed in; lacking the extremes of poverty and wealth we saw in Cairo (and in Egypt in general) or the more western normality of Amman in Jordan. 

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