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Driving from A to Z

25 February, 2015

Helen offers a handy guide to the thrills and spills of life on the interstate.


“Tuesday has been a day of driving – tackling the seven-hour drive between Davidson and Washington DC. We all love the chance to get behind the wheel in America and sample a bit of the all-American road trip experience. We opened the curtains first thing to be greeted by the sight of heavy snow falling in Davidson, and were even more perturbed when we found out that Lisa, our host, had got as far as the end of the road on her way to work before deciding it was too treacherous to go any further. Two of us have a workshop to run in DC at 6pm and the rest of us have tickets to the basketball game at 7pm (Washington Wizards v Golden State Warriors) so we had no choice but to set off into the wintry wasteland. To while away the time I decided to compile an A to Z of driving in America.

A is for Armchair. Driving the massive American cars feels like being on the sofa in front of the TV.

B is for Backseat Driving. Something that is meant to be banned in all cars…

C is for Cracker Barrel. Stile’s favourite roadside joint.


D is for Dodge Caravan, which is what we normally end up in.

E is for Emergency Pull-Off. Signed from every freeway. Luckily we haven’t found the need to use one yet.


F is for Fender Bender, aka a minor accident, something we’ve managed to avoid but there seems to be one every 200 yards on the icy roads today.

G is for Gas Guzzler.


H is for Hotel Car Parks, where we’ve spent many happy hours doing thirty point turns trying to get the vans out of tiny parking spaces.

I is for Interstates, the big motorways that run across America.

J is for Jane, our friendly but slightly useless lady on the SatNav.

K is for Kickdown, a feature overused by certain drivers where you put the pedal to the metal and the car goes into rocket-launcher mode.

L is for Love FM. Everyone’s favourite late night station.

M is for Miles Per Gallon. We don’t tend to get many in these whoppers.

N is for Navigator. The wingman’s traditional role, with varying degrees of competency throughout the group. Getting in a car with certain people guarantees an unexpected guided tour of backstreet parking lots and the chance to learn some interesting new vocabulary.


O is for One Way Street, which it turns out aren’t optional in the States.

P is for Parking Brake, traditionally left on until people notice the smell of burning rubber and smoke billowing out of the back.

Q is for Quiz. We normally put together a car quiz on long journeys just to introduce some elements of competition (in case there aren’t enough already).

Crossing Lake Champlain the easy way

R is for ‘ROADHOG’, best shouted at top volume to anyone in the immediate vicinity.

S is for Speeding Fine. So far we’ve only been pulled over by the Feds once at a cost of $100. It’s best not to mention how many we’ve clocked up in Germany though…

T is for Tunes. Every car has a designated DJ, prepared to accept maximum abuse from the other passengers for their music selection.

U is for ‘Make a Legal U’, Jane’s instruction to get back on track whenever we have deviated from the route.

V is for Vermont. Driving up through New England in October 2013 was one of the top road trips we’ve done.


W is for Winner – first car load in the hot tub.

X is for Crossroads.

Y is for Yelling, at each other and other drivers.

Z is for Zinfandel. Our road trip to Napa Valley in spring 2011 was one of the best!”

photo 17