In the summer of 2011, I walked from Land's End to John O'Groats (well, almost), enduring the worst weather Britain could throw at me. That journey is reported in "My 1200 Mile Summer." In the summer of 2012 I am facing an even greater challenge: I will drive the length of Britain, zooming down Britain's narrow hedgerow-lined lanes and navigating its infamous roundabouts -- with my wife sitting next to me! Follow along to see if we are still speaking to each other at the end of each day.
One shouldn’t set off on a 1200 mile drive without proper preparation.I’ve scheduled several long-distance drives over the next few weeks in order to perfect my driving posture and work my legs and arms into driving condition.This week I’ve been working on getting my kit in order.
Driving kit breaks down into two categories – personal attire and vehicle accessories.I think I’ve now got the personal attire in place:
1.Driving gloves.Smartwool® is the preferable material, because it wicks away perspiration, reducing the chance of hand blisters caused by gripping the steering wheel too tightly.Sweaty palms are a common problem for drivers in Britain, where they drive from the passenger side of the vehicle and on the wrong side of the road.Sweaty palms have also been known to plague passengers, but nobody has yet invented passenger gloves.
2.The quintessential British driving cap.This may be the most important piece of kit, because if you drive without a cap in Britain, you look like a tourist.My cap happens to be a Tam o’Shanter, in a Buchanan tartan.I’m not of the Buchanan clan, but the cap looks particularly good with a red sports car.Unfortunately, I don’t have a red sports car.
3.Driving shoes.As a highly-trained driver, I am aware of the benefits of proper driving shoes.Less-skilled drivers may assume that athletic shoes are sufficient, and believe it or not, some drivers actually wear dress shoes!!The proper driving shoe, though, has a slim line to fit the foot snugly while allowing unrestricted movement among the pedals, and a non-skid sole to grip the pedals.Color is a secondary consideration, and I chose purple, because in the dark recesses of the automobile’s floor, they assume a red hue, complementing the Buchanan tartan of my cap.
4.Sunglasses.Yes, I know the sun rarely shines in Britain, but I’ve got it on good authority that this summer will be the sunniest on record.I chose the modern wrap-around style: dignified, but with a slight sense of the exotic.(That’s with an X, not an R.)
My Personal Driving Gear
With my personal kit in place, I turned my attention to the vehicle equipment.I telephoned Hertz:
“Thank you for calling Hertz UK.This is Nigel Smythe speaking.How may I assist you?”
“Hello, Nigel. My name is Ken Klug.You’ve probably heard of me.I’m the one who did the three-month, 1200 mile walk last summer.I’ve hired a car this summer, and I want to ensure that all of the necessary equipment is included.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Klug.Your name is not familiar to me.Have you a rental confirmation number?”
“Oh, perhaps you know me by my title.I am often known as Sir Lost-a-lot.I’m a personal friend of King Arthur.”
“Yes, I’m sorry.Have you a rental confirmation number?”
“A16FQ223JB007.The last five digits are especially fun, don’t you think so, Nigel?”
“This whole day has been fun, Mr. Klug.Now, about the optional equipment…”
“You don’t need to be so formal, Nigel.Call me Lost-a-lot.Everybody else does.”
“Yes.Well, there is an optional navigational system available for the vehicle.”
“I won’t need that, Nigel.I have an uncanny sense of direction.I’m more concerned about the seat cushions.”
“Seat cushions?Oh, you must mean the infant seat.Yes, we can make one available.”
“I won’t need an infant seat, Nigel – just the seat cushions.You know, the soft, plushy ones designed to reduce the risk of hemorrhoids on long drives.Oh, and I would like them in a color that complements the crash helmets.Clashing colors are so garish, don’t you agree, Nigel?”
“Well, sure.You can’t depend on just the roll bars, you know.But I’ll need one size larger, to fit over my driving cap.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Klug.It appears that we don’t have a helmet available in your size.May I suggest you hire a car from Avis?They’ve recently upgraded their helmets, you know.Thank you for calling Hertz UK.Good-bye.”
I’ll telephone Avis tomorrow.I hope they also have designer luggage to match the seat cushions – perhaps something in a Buchanan plaid.