1. The title is a Willie Nelson song and Willie is an Austin regular who they even built a statue of.
2. I bought a car (and now aware that NZ pronounces it ‘ka’ and Americans ‘caurrr’)
It appears that that when I left Auckland it had become a city infamously known for its traffic and rising house prices. Austin also starts with an ‘A’ and is steadily becoming known for… its traffic and rising house prices. So why would I buy a ka in a city that has the occasional gridlocked motorway? Because, again, much like Auckland it’s a rigmarole getting around without it.
Because the Austin City Council and Uber didn’t get along there’s no quick way to get around (taxis ain’t as cheap and accessible) and bussing to and from places can take hours out of your day. I rented a bike to give that a go and it’s a little nerve wracking. I can’t shake the hatred Aucklander’s have for cyclists out of my head as cars wizz by. Plus it rained for about 2 weeks. One final indicator was heading to my adopted church of Austin Stone on Sunday takes 15 mins by car or 55 mins total by bus (according to Google Maps). So was time to saddle up.
Now driving on the opposite side of the road I grew up with is naturally going to be a challenge. My Austin pal Scooter (who was awesomely instrumental in helping me buy the car) has experienced the harrowing moments of me still developing my sense for the right side of the vehicle. During our test drive he was good at notifying me when I was millimeters away from scratching parked Chevy trucks on the passenger door. But the more I’m driving around the better I’m getting. I think. I might need a passenger seat robot that yells “Look out!” whenever I drive down a narrow street.
Funningly enough, I’ve found the best time to practice is when traffic is crowded and frantic, because you’re well aware of where you are and where you’re going by following (and avoiding) the cars around you. It’s driving late at night when nobody is around that requires a bit more mental dexterity. When NZ lambast US tourists for bad driving around the Coromandel I’d like to see kiwi visitors brave the North California hills like my seasoned road tripper cousin helped me witness a few months ago.
In closing are the funny things I’ve recently found when in a US vehicle (I’ve heard some Americans precisely pronounce it Vee Hee Kill)
– Gear stick on the right messes with your head
– When I’m at the lights and I go to rest my arm on the door, I tip over as my left arm is now the one that should be getting sunburnt.
– Parallel parking now strains your neck muscles on the other side
– If no oncoming traffic, turning right at a red light is THE BEST! Sort it out NZ Ministry of Transport. (This would equal turning left at red lights in NZ)
– Say “gas” not “petrol”. I’ve had a few confused looks or pardons when I’ve mentioned something to do with petrol. And when on the phone regarding auto insurance pronounce it ARRTOE, not “oartoe”. I generally have many pardons from any American I talk to over the phone (this is my mumbling and speed talking kiwi fault).
– Austin has about four country radio stations to every one standard pop/rock station (Why on earth would that be?)
– American speed limits are the most random variety I’ve ever witnessed in my life. You have no idea how fast you should be going anywhere. Most streets are 35mph but otherwise can be 40, 45, 50, 60, 70 (I’m not joking) and the signs are so infrequent you basically have to guess based on your current surroundings. I had a sirenless cop boost past me the other day and I didn’t know whether I was lagging behind the limit or if Boss Hog needed a quick chicken fried steak update.
– Stop sign intersections essentially have no rules. It’s just whoever gets there first or who nods and waves the most for others to go ahead.
– American motorists are generally friendly and accommodating and it does take some adjustment to the stop sign generosity you get shown.
– “Everything’s bigger in Texas” is thankfully true when it comes to parking spaces. There’s always a nice amount of room to turn into and get out from. Auckland parking can be like a beehive with its inhabitants having to slide out their windows. They’re the same with suburban housing in that one house on the street is always just number 55 Texas Rd, not 55 Texas Rd with units a,b,c,d,e,f,g behind it.
In all it’s nice being on the road again. And now I need to cruise control in a straight line for 8 hours just to feel like a real Texan.