On the way back home from Cazorla Nature Park, we zipped along the road, without much issue with traffic. This might be a good time to reflect on some of the differences between driving in Spain and driving in the US. I will say that back in the States, people have the idea that driving in Europe is “crazy.” Comments like: “I’ve heard they drive like maniacs!” or “You’ll get killed trying to navigate big cities like Paris or Madrid!” are quite common. I have to put my two cents in here.
What I’ve noticed is that people drive with a purpose in Europe. People seems to drive like they need to get from Point A to Point B and they just move when they need to so that gets accomplished. On the other hand, people back in the states, who also need to get from Point A to Point B, do so while texting, talking on the phone, handing a McDonald’s Happy Meal to Junior in the back seat, etc. To me, that is more frightening than the aggressive driving in any big European city. One major difference attributing to this is that the use of cell phones while driving is a no-no in Spain. You can check out driving laws here.
Some other observations:
People in Spain use the left lane for passing. People in the States get in the left lane and hang out there, causing traffic to slow down behind them. Much cursing and road rage ensues.
People in Spain are supposed to wear reflective vests if they are on the side of the road. This is taken very seriously, apparently. We never saw anyone broken down on the side of the road without one. In the US, people will be practically lying underneath their broken down vehicle wearing shorts and flip-flops (another no-no in Spain, if you recall) right on the side of a four lane major highway. I think people in the US would find the reflective vest a bit too unfashionable. I mean if you’re going to get run over while changing a tire, at least you should look cute.
People in Europe navigate the glorious roundabouts with ease. I am a big fan of the traffic circles! No waiting at lights. No standoff at the stop signs where the other person doesn’t know it’s his turn and you are waiting for him to finally move through the intersection. In the US, people seem to be petrified of the roundabout. We have a total of ONE in my town back home and drivers are always slamming on their brakes in the middle of it.
Now I’m sure that there are exceptions to all of these observations, but honestly what is common place as far as driver distractions in the US, I just haven’t seen in Spain. People are not eating slices of pizza off their dashboard, or guzzling 32 oz sodas, or applying mascara at intersections, or reading a few pages of a novel…
That being said, we were on our way back home, and behaving nicely by staying in the right hand lane until needing to pass. Strangely enough, every time someone crept behind us and passed like a lunatic, it was one of these:
Not a silver one, or a white one, but a black Audi. Over and over again. Passed by a shiny black Audi. I wish I would have kept a tally because after a while it was quite humorous.
At one point there were some trucks traveling along, and one kicked up a rock that seriously sounded like a gun shot. If we were getting snoozy, that certainly woke us up! Even though we were beat from our day at Cazorla Nature Park, we decided to stop by Serón to get a feel for that town. It was late in the afternoon, so we just drove through the town and stopped to look at a sign that gave information about the area. We will have to return and make a day of it! I am very interested to see the old mines.
Just before we got home, while driving on the A334, Curt noticed a guy in the road wearing one of those caution green reflective vests. The guy seemed to be standing right in the middle of the lane. I am not certain what exactly our words were, or even which one of us said it, but it was something to the effect of, “What is that crazy nut doing in the middle of the road??” Well, it turns out that the “crazy nut” was pulling over cars for speeding. So he waves us over and tells us that we were speeding and should have only been going 60 km/h but were going 84 km/h. Can’t hardly argue with that. But then comes the clincher. The fine is 50 euros. Cash. As in payable now. Ahora. This might be a good time to mention another difference about Spain and the US. People in the States hardly ever have cash. And here was this Guardia Civil Trafico guy expecting us to rustle up 50 euros out of our pockets like some lucky winners on the way home from a casino. I start counting up all our cash, loose change, every possible centivo, and I only come up with around 30 euros.
“Oh well,” he says. “Then you leave the car here. You can not drive until you pay the fine. You are not citizens of Spain, right??”
(Of course not, dude… you can just look at us and tell we are not locals!)
So, he wanders off to round up more violators, and leaves us in the car. He managed to pull over a couple of others, and during this time Curt went to ask the cop’s trusty sidekick if we could go over the the cash machine to get the money.
Now, let me preface this by saying that I am a skeptic. I am not a person who blindly trusts random people, even IF they are wearing florescent Guardia Civil Trafico clothing. As far as I’m concerned that get-up could have been picked up on the black market and put on by a crazy nut who is making money off of speeding travelers.
That being said, the traffic cop said, “Okay, you can drive to the bank machine, but you must leave your passports here.” That didn’t sound like a great idea to me. I’ve seen enough episodes of Locked Up Abroad to know that untrustworthy people are everywhere. So my thought was to let Curt drive to get the cash and I would stay with our passports and the car. The traffic cop acted like this was an insane idea. He responded with, “Of course you can trust us! We are the police!” and then made a facial expression like we were full-on insane for even questioning him.
Against my better judgment and the inner voice that was telling me that this could be the next great scam, we did leave our passports and went to get money. The whole time I fretted about them being gone when we came back, and I was in general, a nervous wreck.
I’m happy to say that they were still there when we returned. They had pulled over even more people and were no where near being done with their fine collecting. Curt paid the guy, got the traffic ticket, and strategically positioned himself far enough from our vehicle so I could document it for posterity without being the obvious paparazzi tourist.
Now that this was done, we drove (carefully and within the speed limit) to Zurgena for some groceries. We decided that this was just “one of those things” and weren’t going to let it annoy us. What can you do? You got a ticket. No big deal. It wasn’t chump change, but thankfully it was only 50 euros… (insert ominous music here)
When we finished picking up a few groceries at the Cayuela, we plopped back into the car, only to see this:
No problem, you say? The rental car insurance will cover it, you are thinking? Well, let’s just say that we had foregone the rental car insurance because it was more than the price of the rental for two weeks. Let’s just say that we were living “on the edge” and thought we could pass on it. This made the traffic ticket seem miniscule. A windshield is going to be costly. Our only hope was that Curt’s regular insurance would cover it, as car insurance usually does cover rentals. This called for drinks and free wi-fi, so we decided to drive over to a local bar called La Campillo so that we could get all of this figured out.
Long story short, after internet searching and phone calls to the insurance company back in the US, we found out that Curt’s insurance wouldn’t cover anything outside of the US. This was one of those live and learn type of days. Note to self: pay for the rental car insurance!
On the positive side of the coin, La Campillo was a great find. A small bar/restaurant with 1 euro claras and free wi-fi. Now I had a place to go to upload my posts!