While Japan is filled with winding mountain passes that make for enjoyable drives, the wide-open American road has an appeal all its own. After days of barreling down the highways of the southwest, Go came back to Japan with these 50 experiences he had driving in the U.S.
1. At the rental agency, they blow through the explanation of how the insurance works so fast it’ll make your native-Japanese-speaking head spin.
2. After signing the paperwork, they say “Your car is parked outside” and send you off to find it yourself in a parking lot so huge you’re amazed that the vehicles don’t get stolen.
3. When you finally find your car, you see the key is just sitting inside it, and once again think, “Seriously, no one just steals them?”
4. When you start the engine, the navigation system comes on, but again, it’s talking in English so quickly that you lose all hope of understanding what it’s saying.
5. To get used to having the steering wheel on the left side of the car (cars in Japan have theirs on the right), you do a couple of practice laps around the parking lot.
6. You take a deep breath, and finally pull out onto the American road with a mix of fear and excitement that you’ll never forget.
7. While driving, you keep intoning the words “Stay on the right side of the road” so you don’t drift over to the left, where you’d drive in Japan.
8. You pull onto the freeway, feeling frightened because you have to drive so much faster than the speed limit in Japan to keep up with the flow of American traffic.
9. Once you finally start to settle down, you think, “Awesome! I’m driving in America!”
▼ Go’s ride while in the U.S., a Toyota RAV4.
10. Then you feel like a doofus when you make a left turn and put the car on the left side of the road like you’re still back in Japan.
11. You keep forgetting that you can make a right turn on red (Japan doesn’t allow any turns on a red signal), and while you’re sitting there waiting for the light to turn green, the people behind you start honking their horns and yelling “Move it, ya moron!”
12. When driving through San Francisco, even the trolley drivers yell at you to “Get out of the way, ya moron!”
13. You go to pick up your friend, but when you stop the car, a passerby yells “You can’t park there, ya moron!”
14. You finally find a place where you think it’s OK to park, but it’s in a rough neighborhood, and when you later ask your friend about it, he says, “Wow, you were really brave to try to park in that part of town.”
15. While killing time waiting in the car you parked in that rough neighborhood, some random person starts banging on the outside of your door and yelling something you can’t understand, so you start the engine back up and get out of there ASAP.
16. But hey, because a lot of people yelled at you on your first day of driving in the States, you feel like you’ve learned a couple more of the rules of the road.
17. As you get on the highway leading out of town, you realize it’s not so scary, because even though you’re driving fast, the road is wide and straight.
18. You notice that while some cars stick religiously to the speed limit, others are flying past at 120 miles (193 kilometers) an hour.
19. You start to get excited about how many more cool sports cars there are on the road in America than in Japan these days.
20. You also get excited by the fact that all the trucks in America totally look like Optimus Prime!
21. You see the road keep going straight ahead until it hits the horizon at a 90-degree angle, and it’s such an American moment that you know you’ll always remember it.
22. After seeing the road meet the horizon for a solid hour, the emotion starts to wear off.
23. And after seeing it for two, then three hours, you start to get pretty sick of it.
24. You see the gas gauge is starting to go down, but you think, “Eh, I probably don’t need to stop yet,” and you don’t realize what a huge mistake you’re making.
25. You learn that there are seriously parts of the highway where you might go 100 miles (161 kilometers) between gas stations.
26. With the car running on fumes, you get to a gas station, and for the rest of the trip you never find yourself thinking “Eh, I probably don’t need to get gas yet” again.
27. Because almost all gas stations in Japan are full service, you realize you’ve got no idea how to pump your own gas. Oh, and when you slide your Japanese credit card into the slot at the pump, the machine spits it back out.
28. You’re amazed to see a 7-Eleven that sells gasoline, because even though the convenience store chain offers all sorts of stuff in Japan, it doesn’t have gas.
29. You learn just how many Taco Bell locations America has.
30. You learn just how many Burger King locations America has.
31. You stock up on energy drinks to keep from getting drowsy on those long, straight highways.
32. The gas stations along the highway start to feel like entertainment centers, since you get to interact with the locals and other travelers.
33. A guy at the gas station comes up to you and asks to bum a smoke.
34. The gas station attendant chases the guy off, shouting, “Leave my customer alone!” and you learn that America is made up of all sorts of people.
35. Inside the store attached to the gas station, you buy an iPhone charger with a colorful cord, and the clerk says, “Make sure you don’t leave it sitting in your car. People will think you’ve got a lot of money and rob you.”
36. You pull into your motel, which is in a shady part of town, and the front desk clerk says, “Make sure you take the navigation system out of your car. Otherwise, someone might steal it while it’s parked in the lot.”
37. You remember your Japanese friend who lives in San Francisco telling you “People get their GPS systems stolen even if it’s not a particularly bad area.”
38. You also remember him telling you how thieves sometimes bust people’s car windows to get inside, so you don’t leave anything in the car overnight.
39. You start to become really familiar with the major chains of cheap motels in America.
40. You also start to become familiar with their knockoffs that have almost the exact same logos.
41. After going around to five motels and not finding a single vacant room at any of them, you feel like you’re going to have a nervous breakdown.
42. You tell yourself, “You know, I think I’ve gotten totally accustomed to driving in Americ”…right before you almost turn onto the left side of the street again.
43. You find yourself thinking, “It’s awesome how many freeways in America have no tolls. Why does it have to cost so much to use the ones in Japan?”
44. You start planning an unnecessary detour so you can drive even a tiny part of Route 66.
45. The left side of your face and your left arm get sunburned.
46. After mixing up the turn signal and windshield wiper stalks (they’re on opposite sides in the U.S. and Japan) so much in the beginning, you gradually get start getting them right.
47. After driving for more than eight hours a day for 10 days straight, you finally become completely adjusted to driving on the right side of the road.
48. So much so that when you come back to Japan, you get freaked out driving on the left side of the road.
49. And you mix up the turn signal and wipers in your car in Japan.
50. But you play it off by acting cool and telling everyone else in the car “Oh, yeah, this is a habit I picked up driving in the States.”
[ Read in Japanese ]