In Australia, Robert has been a jackaroo, successful businessman and is now retired and still exploring USA and UK by car with his wife Sheila. Rather different from his two years in the tourist industry, running coach trips to city and country gardens.
“I had my 78th birthday in Natchez with an enjoyable Thai lunch and even a glass of champagne, to contradict my policy of not drinking whilst driving in foreign countries.”
Experience level ( for long distance driving)
Our impulsive American journey in a rented Mazda 3 from Miami, USA through Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, New Orleans. Tennessee. It was a great way to discover ‘the south’ of America particularly the cities of Memphis and Nashville. We drove 1725 miles in a week. Prior to this last drive in the south of the US, my previous drive on the right was in California in 1988, however I have driven some 10,000 miles in the UK and Ireland.
Why do you enjoy long distance driving?
I enjoy the freedom of choosing where to sleep and where to stop for short or long breaks. In business I frequently drove Sydney and Melbourne and Sydney and the Gold Coast, stopping halfway only for fuel (both car and driver) I have continued these all-day drives ever since, but Sheila is now objecting.
What was your most enjoyable trip and why?
Whilst I thoroughly enjoy driving in the English countryside, I think my most enjoyable was the Natchez Trace Parkway between Natchez and Memphis. So much Civil War history, a speed limit of 50mph, a single lane each way through a beautiful forest.
The beauty and calm of the tiny Mississippi River city of Natchez was the greatest surprise. You could cross the main street without looking for traffic as there was hardly any, with free parking outside almost any building you chose.
Memphis of Elvis Presley fame and where Dr Martin Luther King was shot. Also Nashville for the Peter Frampton concert, (British guitarist) whom Sheila had last seen fifty years earlier in London, UK and the Gibson guitar factory tour.
Fuel was cheap in USA at only $3.30 US per gallon.
Petrol stations were sometimes nothing more than a few bowsers and someone sitting in a steel cage to settle the pre – handed over cash. Tyre air dispensers required a dollar to operate and as the US has only quarters, one had to feed them in and inevitably the thing did not work and the attendant claimed no responsibility and refused a return of your cash. The Mazda had a “low pressure” advisory light, but no matter how much air I actually managed to put into the tyre, it did not disappear.
A high proportion of the highway traffic were semi – trailers and trailers (mobile homes) which often had a car or a boat and car attached on top. Indicator signalling seemed optional and it took me a while to get used to vehicles in front of me suddenly changing in and out of lanes.
Only twice did I nearly forget which side of the road I was supposed to be driving.
Do not be nervous about driving on the opposite side. Take it quietly but keep up with the traffic. Do not do silly things as a good satnav will sort you out.