Being an Aussie, I’d not seen much snow before – but that all changed when I drove from Newark to Boston last winter. Tackling snow drifts and thick ice in an unfamiliar hire car was certainly an experience, but it’s one I’ll cherish forever – I’ve even kept the snow shovel that dug me out of a few tricky situations until I had to fly out of the country again.
It might sound crazy, but when my plane touched down at Newark Airport I couldn’t wait to start a new adventure. I’d always wanted to visit family in Boston and decided to fly to Newark and hire a car. I never factored in the fact that in December snow was falling at an alarming rate and I’d have to drive on the right hand side.
As I turned the key in the ignition, reality started to kick in and I began to feel both scared and excited. I had a satellite navigation system and some rather vague directions to my relatives’ house, but I didn’t have a guide on how to drive through sleet, snow and ice. In all honesty, I was really rather petrified – but I rarely admit that now.
Making my way out of the car park and onto the first time on the right hand side of the road was relatively simple. Sure I got beeped at once or twice for driving down the left lane – but I managed to avoid oncoming traffic (just). Fortunately for us foreigners, grit spreaders had been along major routes, which meant I could sail along pretty nicely. However, things soon took a turn for the worse as I head off the beaten track.
Turning off the highway I began to feel my heart beat quickly for the first time. The roads were much narrower and my car began slipping and sliding. Following the road safety advice I’d read on the plane, I eased off the brakes and began making my way slowly. I could tell people behind me were a bit frustrated with my slow driving, but it was better to get there safely rather than not at all.
Before too long the snow was falling even harder and I started to feel a bit panicky. Pulling over for a few minutes I regained my composure and decided to get a grip. After all, us Aussie’s are pretty thick-skinned and won’t be beaten by a bit of snow. With sweaty palms I carried on my way and soon found I was travelling along nicely.
It certainly takes a bit of getting used to but I soon worked out that you have to steer into a skid and take corners steady. I’m also really pleased I had a full tank of petrol as the journey was longer than I thought. What’s more, the lady at the car hire place had given me a torch, which meant that I was prepared for an emergency – how nice she was.
People en route to Boston certainly knew how to handle the harsh conditions sensibly and this filled me with confidence. I even managed to pull into a petrol station for a rest and tried peanut butter cups for the first time (they were awesome). Luckily the snow eased off half way through my journey, but my family were happy to see me when I arrived.
While the road trip was far different to what I expected, I certainly learnt a thing or two about driving on the right hand side of the road.
Matt Hornsby is a health and safety expert who blogs for whatishealthandsafety.co.uk