Driving Through the Worst Floods in 800 Years

November 24th, 2009

Flooded Irish roadTake a good look at this picture.

That, my friends, is a road in Ireland that I was supposed to drive on to get to my next hotel. Needless to say, I had to change my plans. I had already driven through one lake that I shouldn’t have and wasn’t about to get washed away by attempting to drive across this. Especially in my rented Chevy Kalos.

I got back from a trip to flooded Ireland just yesterday. One of the most exciting parts of planning the trip was deciding what car I wanted to rent. I ended up requesting a Fiat, wanting to drive a cool European car that isn’t (yet) available in the United States. I would have been equally happy with a Peugeot 207 or Citroen C3.

Maybe if I had rented a Land Rover or Hummer, the floods wouldn’t have forced my change of plans. But I was stuck with the little Chevrolet.

Chevy Kalos

Chevy Kalos

The Kalos is  really an Aveo. Which is a Pontiac G3. Which is a Daewoo. Not exactly the European flair I was hoping for, and certainly not capable of parting Irish floodwaters. The car rattled, it went 0-100 kilometers per hour in about 14 minutes, and it squealed like a guinea pig. But it got about 40 miles per gallon, which was awesome considering gas prices averaged $6.67 per gallon. The car served my wife and me well enough, though, considering we drove 1,000 kilometers (about 621 miles) around the country during the worst flooding Ireland has seen in 800 years.

When we planned the trip, we figured driving long distances would be nothing, since we can easily log 700 miles in one day on U.S. highways. But Irish roads are not U.S. highways. Most of the roads might better be called paths, and are more suitable for hardcore hiking than cross-country driving. And that’s when the roads are dry.

Typical rural road in Ireland

Typical rural road in Ireland

Combine those treacherous driving conditions with the whole driving-on-the-left-thing, and you can imagine the adventures!

Even with all the setbacks, the trip was an eye-opening view into the car culture of Europe versus the U.S.

With small roads, high fuel prices, and excellent rail systems, there is no reason for European residents to own an American-size car or truck. Driving a Ford Explorer (or even a Honda Accord) across rural Irish highways and through tight city streets is as laughable as the bill would be to fill up with gas.

On our side of the Atlantic, wide open Interstate highways and cheap gas have fueled our passion for large, comfortable cruisers capable of chewing up highway miles. Small cars here are needed only when fuel gets expensive. Small cars in Europe are an absolute necessity just to maneuver through the streets.

I sincerely hope all those affected by the flooding in Ireland and England are safe, and I thank the many people there who were nice enough to point a couple of lost Americans to higher ground.

Do you have any stories about driving in a foreign country?

-tgriffith

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