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Mar 16

The Road Trip

Speaker: Clement Chio

 

Unlike Singapore, where all our expressways are given proper names – Pan Island Expressway, Ayer Rajah Expressway, Central Expressway – highways in the US are all named by numbers. This can make it quite confusing.

So there was once in California when a car was crawling very slowly, at 5 mph.

Naturally, the car was stopped by the Highway Patrol.

When the driver wound down the window, the highway patrol saw an Asian woman taking the wheel.

“Lady, why are you driving so slow, do you know you are road hogging?”

“Oh sorry, I saw the number 5 by the roadside and I thought that was the Speed Limit.”

The policeman laughed and said “That’s the name of the Highway Ma’am. You’re driving on the Interstate 5. The speed limit is 60.”

As the driver laughed at her mistake, the highway patrol noticed that the passengers behind were still reeling from shock.

“What’s happening back there?”

And one of the passengers replied “Well sir, we just got off Highway 101.”

 

Well, for those of you who have gone on Road Trips in the US, you won’t be unfamiliar with the naming conventions of the US roads.

Just 2 years ago I went on a road trip in the West Coast of US. It was fun, it was memorable and it was truly an unforgettable experience driving for long hours along infinite stretches of roads while 4 others are snoring in the back seat.

Of course, driving in the US is very different from driving in Singapore. A sudden change from left to right hand drive was such a huge test on the driver’s psychomotor skills.

So for the first 2 hours, I had both hands on the steering wheel, making sure I kept to the middle of the lane rather than subconsciously steering to the right.

It was also strange looking into the rear view mirror, now on my right instead of it usually on my left.

And whenever I reached a junction, I have to remind myself NOT to turn into oncoming traffic. I had to constantly mumble to myself to “Stay on the right, stay on the right, stay on the right”.

So much so that I figured out that the best way to decide which lane to turn into at any junction is to constantly, deliberately, want to kill myself.

But once that part of the driving is sorted out, basically driving in the US is very enjoyable. The air is much fresher, the scenery is more beautiful, and parking is almost never a problem, except when you urgently need the toilet.

I was also very impressed with the fact that the car had access to Satellite Radio, which is so powerful that even when the car is in the middle of nowhere (and how we define that is when there’s no 3G to support Google Maps), the car still has access to an infinite selection of radio stations. Amazing right?

The only problem was that although there were close to 50 different satellite radio stations, almost all of them played the same few songs! In a day on the road I probably heard LMFAO’s Party Rock Anthem 12 times, Adele’s Rolling in the Deep 20 times and Katy Perry’s entire album was played so many times I could even see and hear her at night in my Teenage Dreams, singing to me “Do You ever feel like a Plastic Bag?”

And because of this US road trip, I realised that never in the 30 years of my life have a pondered a ridiculous question so seriously before:

Who I’m the world has felt like a plastic bag before?

As you can tell, the radio was about our only source of entertainment when we’re on the road. And we’ve developed some sort of a love-hate relationship with it.

There was once we were driving through the woods towards Lake Tahoe. We have been driving for a while already and we were just about 45 minutes away from our destination.

Driving through the woods is an entirely different experience altogether. The roads are winding and undulating, the scent from the trees seep through the air conditioning and you feel at one with nature, peaceful and tranquil, until the radio starts booming Party Rock Anthem for the 80th time.

But I rememeber this song so clearly because mit was around this time my friend, who was the driver then, made this announcement to us:

“Guys, I think we’re running out of fuel.”

That wouldn’t have been much of a problem if we were on the highway, because the highway is often peppered with gas stations.

But in the middle of the woods, we haven’t seen a gas station in miles!

So my friend started to drive very carefully, making sure whatever fuel we had left was used efficiently.

The accelerator was stepped in sparingly, the air conditioned was turned off and all of us prepared for the worst.

What if we were stuck by the roadside in the woods, and had to spend the night there?

What if we were attacked by wild animals at night?

What if, we were lost and no one could find us?

And at that time, a song belted out on the radio, slow, calming, sonewhat familiar, seeming to reassure us, until the singer sang:

“If I die young, bury me in Satin, lay be down in a bed of roses…”

We turned off the radio.

But fortunately, we made it to a gas station just right outside the woods, before dark, just before we arrived at our destination.

 

All in all, going on a road trip in the US has its ups and downs.

You’d develop a wonderful relationship with the vehicle that will bring you through a great part of the States that you’d be visiting.

Just don’t get into trouble with the Highway Patrol.

I’ll end my speech with story that happened to one of my American friends.

Well, a group of them were driving along the highway.

There was once though, while we were driving, suddenly, out of nowhere, we saw a guy all dressed in red by the side of the road signalling us to stop.

My friend was the driver, and he wound down the window and asked “How can we help you?”

“I am the Red Asshole of the highway. Do you have some food for me?”

Well, since we’ve already stopped, and we happen to have a bag of half opened chips in the car, my friend passed the chips to the man and continued driving.

About 20 minutes later, we saw a guy by the side of the highway again frantically signalling them to stop. This time, this man was dressed all in yellow.

“What do you want?”

“I am the Yellow Asshole of the highway. Do you have a drink?”

Feeling slightly amused this time, we passed him a can of Coke and pressed on with his journey, secretly wondering which jerk we’d meet next.

And true enough, 20 minutes later, we saw a guy dressed in Blue signalling us to stop. And we stopped and my friend wound down the window, and said

“Now let me guess, you are the Blue Asshole of the highway. What do you need from us now?”

There was a short pause. And the man said

“Drivers licence and registration, please.”

 

 

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