Had car, did travel
Reminiscing about the times you drove in other countries long ago inevitably brings intimations of mortality.
You tend to forget the exact date, month or year, only the cars and places.
For instance, I can’t remember the year when I joined three other motoring journalists from Manila to test-drive the first edition of the BMW 7 Series in Italy when it was introduced to the international motoring press there and in Germany.
Surely, if I Google the history of the BMW 7, the month and year will appear, but I’d rather not be reminded of how long ago it was then.
CALIFORNIA. Neither can I remember when I drove a rented Dodge Caravan from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and back on an overnight trip with my two younger daughters as passengers and Goya Navarrete, a long-time California resident, as navigator.
What I do remember about that trip is that we drove past the spot on the highway where movie star James Dean, driving a brand-new Porsche Spyder sports car, was killed when he collided head-on with a Ford in 1955. He was on his way to an auto rally in Salinas.
But Canada, not the United States, is the country where I have driven most frequently: in 2005, 2006 and 2009.
OTTAWA. In June 2005, I went to Ottawa to attend my daughter Andrea’s graduation at Alconquin College, where she had taken a two-year degree course in Horticulture.
We rented a 2005 Chevrolet Impala V8 to drive to the graduation rites at the World Exchange Plaza in a suburb near Ottawa, and to a restaurant afterwards to celebrate.
Since the 100 kilometers per hour speed limit posted on the expressway was generally disregarded by other motorists, I revved the eagerly willing V8 Impala to blend in smoothly with the traffic flow, at times hitting 150 kph.
The nice thing about driving on a freeway in North America in a car with the size and power of an Impala, is that you can drive fast effortlessly and comfortably without feeling guilty about it.
BRITISH COLUMBIA. The following year in August, I was in Canada again, this time in Vancouver, British Columbia (BC) where Andee had moved to from Ottawa.
Andee and her boyfriend Karl rented a 2006 Toyota Yaris and I was glad to take the wheel again to drive with them to Butchart Gardens in Victoria, one of the most beautiful tourist attractions in BC.
On the highways towards the terminal of the ferry going to Victoria Island, we saw road signs stating speed limits ranging from 50 to 90 kph which none of the motorists seemed to mind.
In this context, the Yaris had no problem hitting 120 kph, keeping pace with bigger cars on flat roads. But the plucky little engine strained to go up steep upgrades.
VANCOUVER. In July 2009, I flew back to Vancouver to visit Andrea.
We rented a Hyundai Accent subcompact sedan to do some sightseeing and shopping downtown, and Andrea was the navigator as I drove.
It’s pleasant to drive in Vancouver in summer because the roads are in excellent condition, drivers never honk their horns, and they generally obey traffic regulations except for the speed limit on highways.
Buses stay on the bus lane, drivers yield to pedestrians at crosswalks, seatbelts are compulsory not only for drivers, but for all passengers.
BALI. The first time I went to Bali, Indonesia was in March 2007, when Nissan launched the Grand Livina, their answer to the Toyota Innova, with a scenic 200-km, eight-hour test drive around the island for Asian motoring media.
We took turns driving or changed cars along the way. It was a challenging drive for me since people drive on the left side of the road in Indonesia and, like all Filipinos, I’m used to driving on the right side.
But it was such an enjoyable grand tour that I continued driving on the last 40-km leg from Megwi to Café Jatiluwih in Bali’s rice terraces region.
(Indonesia is known for its excellent coffee.)
AUSTRALIA. The year 2008 found me on the Gold Coast in Australia among 90 motoring journalists from Asian-Pacific countries.
It was October – summer Down Under — and we were there to test the braking, handling and cornering characteristics of Goodyear’s latest ultra-high performance tire, the Eagle F1 Assymetric.
In challenging circuit activities at the Holden Performance Driving Center (HPDC) high-speed test track near Brisbane, we drove BMW 525s and an 8-cylinder Holden Commodore (a General Motors car) shod with the new Goodyear tires.
Later in the afternoon, we drove, convoy-style, Audi A4s also equipped with Goodyear EF1 Assymetric tires at a leisurely pace in the scenic mountainous countryside to a winery, Hinterland, Mount Tambourine and Surfers Paradise, then back to HPDC.
Naturally, since this was Australia, a British territory, we drove on the left side of the road all the way.
THAILAND. More right-hand steering wheel driving came my way when I joined the motorheads invited by Ford Philippines to test-drive the 2009 Ford Ranger 2.5 liter pickup and the 3.0 liter Ranger Wildtrak in Thailand, covering a distance of 422.9 km of city streets and highways plus 6.0 km off-road.
Aside from an automatic transmission Wildtrak, I got to drive a 5-speed manual transmission Ranger which required getting used to shifting gears with my left hand.
Ford’s schedule involved pickup trucking for two whole days with an overnight stopover at an inn near the famous River Kwai.
The off-road adventure at a rural ranch that tested the Ranger’s 4×4 capabilities, as well as our bravado was the second day’s highlight.
BUCKET LIST. Looking back and remembering all that energetic driving in Italy, California, Canada, Bali, Australia and Thailand, I sometimes wonder how I managed to do it.
Perhaps it’s because I enjoy driving so much.
Now, driving abroad once more is on my bucket list, with Spain as the dream driving destination.
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