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Is this the way to … ?

I’d have to say it’s true. 1) Americans like to drive. 2) They like to drive everywhere. 3) They love their SUV’s for putting all their crap in. 4) Everyone seems to have a SUV – see below for proof m’lud.

But they have big cars to match that fact that there is so much space here that everything else is big, and when gas is as cheap as it is, then it’s much cheaper to drive everywhere too – who needs public transport?


Well I still need public transport – or at least the Englishman in me still needs to know that I can catch a bus or train if I need to, but to answer a question which I’ve been asked a lot – no, Charleston does not have metro/subway/tube system. The nearest one to me is probably the one in Atlanta. But it shouldn’t go unoticed that New York is just a 90 minute flight away up the east coast. I’m not saying that I’ve got plans to do it (and try and beat this time), but I’m not dismissing the idea either.

Charleston TubeA lot of Charleston is under sea-level anyway (apparantly during July-October when it can rain heavily in short bursts, it can flood now and then), so a subway system might not be that practical to build – but that hasn’t stopped me getting a map of the downtown, me learning how to use illustrator and starting to design a fake metro system for my new home town. I’ll publish it when it’s done – it’s in the very early stages at the moment.

There is a bus network though – my local routes are 20 and 21, but Leigh has never ever got the bus. Why would she? She has a car of course! But one day, I’m going to get the bus into town and back just for the hell of it.

The name of the bus ‘company’ is CARTA – Charleston Area Rapid Transport Authority, and somewhere in the back of mind I started to devise a gag about taking the bus being called “Getting the CARTA”, which turned into “Get Carter” and I started doing Michael Caine impressions before I knew it. I have a strange mind some days.

But all this transport talk though is really just a ruse for me to lead into this weeks …

‘Things which help me think I’m not 4,000 miles away from home’

Because I brought my TomTomGO with me when I came over. Which I used to use a lot back home – so using it here makes me feel just like driving around back home, and also makes me feel not lost!

When I first bought my TomTom about a year ago in the UK, I remember clearly someone saying to me “But you only ever drive to the shops and your mums – and you know where both those are!”. Well eat yours words, because when I moved here it occured to me to get the USA maps – for a price – which they delivered, and my word .. the whole of the USA does indeed turn up on one 512Mb SD card – how cool is that?

This means that Leigh can unleash me in the Tank-Mobile, safe in the knowledge that I won’t get lost – or will at least know how to get home, and she’s only got to worry about me driving on the right (and I do mean the right) side of the road when turning at junctions.

I’m sticking with the English voice of Jane though. The US female dulcit tones of Terri (and there’s a whole other blog topic there – female names that you don’t get back home which I’ll save for another time) just don’t do it for me, and besides Jane still says “Motorway” instead of “Freeway”, and “Roundabout” instead of “Rotary”, which kinda helps.

Bridge in CharlestonThere’s just one teeny problem – and that is that for one specific part of Charleston, the map is already out of date! Just under a year ago, the brand new Cooper River Bridge was opened here, that replaced the original ones that dated back to the 1920’s.

So if you programme a route to go from the main peninsular over the bridge to the Mount Pleasant area, it tries to route you over the old bridge! Instead, you end up driving over the NEW bridge, and there’s classic moment where it can’t put you anywhere else except in mid-air above the water, and it goes crazy for a few moments until you get to the other side trying to work out where you are.

So in the spirit of being able to programme it into a few places “Just because I can”, here’s a few times of how it takes to get from my address (Charleston, SC 29403) to some hot spots around the USA …

Beverley Hills, 90210 – 46 hours, 23 minutes.
Area 51, Nevada – 49 hours, 11 minutes.
Mount Rushmore, South Dakota – 32 hours, 21 minutes.
Graceland – Memphis, Tennesse -15 hours, 47 minutes.
Grand Canyon, Arizona – 37 hours, 19 minutes.
Bedford & Grove Street, New York (Where the exteriors for ‘Friends‘ were shot) – 15 hours, 23 minutes
Anchorage, Alaska (Because I wanted to see if it could route through Canada – and it can!) – 3 days, 12 hours, 5 minutes.
Tulsa, Oklahoma – 21 hours, 11 minutes. (Gutted that it wasn’t 24 hours!)

And finally …

Amarillo, Texas. (You know, as in Tony Christie!) – 25 hours, 6 minutes

33 responses to “Is this the way to … ?”

  1. Jono says:

    There’s nothing quite like being driven from your hotel to a restaurant…

    …200 yards away.

    I had this experience in Atlanta last November. There simply wasn’t any pedestrian access between the two buildings, unless you were prepared to walk along the road.

    And that’s not a good idea, <bait>given the general level of driving ability in the US</bait>.

  2. geofftech says:

    Jono – Are you sure you’re not just John Prescott in disguise? πŸ™‚,,1476746,00.html

  3. Agricola says:

    Geoff – I like the simple, logical look of your first three stops on the CARTA Tube concept, which seem to differ greatly with the routes that currently exist. I urge you to finish the project and impose some reason on our very unreasonable route system. Nothing like having new eyes look at an old problem. Cheers.

  4. I’d be saying Get CARTA in my head all day too. I’d advise against walking around the streets naked with a shotgun though.

    And can I beg you to use the bus *all* the time? πŸ˜‰ Save the trees! You know it makes sense πŸ˜‰

  5. Lisa says:

    Ummm…if you’re just hanging out downtown, why not walk or cycle? Save the trees! It also make cents πŸ˜‰

  6. Fimb says:

    *loves her TomTom* It did get me very lost in Camden the other week though as it wanted me going the wrong way down one way streets!

  7. Paul says:

    Tulsa could be 24 hours away, I mean, you could get stuck in traffic!

  8. Skarlett says:

    Beware any drive that takes you through Texas-
    Texas is HUGE.
    And Texans love that its HUGE.

    Amarillo is part of what Texans call, ‘The Pan Handle’
    And to make big even more disgusting-its home to The Big Texan.
    -It’s a 72 oz steak dinner that comes with a baked (jacket) potato, an appetizer, maybe a salad, but mainly a HUGE slab of beef.
    If you can eat the entire meal is 1 hour, its free.

    When I moved to LA it took me 12 hours to drive from Dallas (sort of central east texas) to El Paso (the furthest city west in Texas).
    I napped, got back in the car, and then it took me 12 hours to drive from El Paso to LA.
    To drive across Texas takes as long as it does to drive half way across the country!

  9. daniel says:

    i used to live in el paso, and the rest of the state wanted nothing to do with it. which is kind of the way the rest of the united states feels about texas.

    and if you think our cars are big, wait until you meet our cockroaches…

  10. Lisa says:

    I must add and warn that the cockroaches in Charleston….fly.

  11. geofftech says:

    Leigh says that the huge flying cockroaches are nicknamed “Palmetto Bugs” – just ‘coz it’s a nicer name. I have yet to see one. Which typically means i’ll got out today and be confronted by a horde of them.

    Can’t I train the dogs to eat them or something? If they can chew my smelly socks, i’m sure an odd cockroach or two would be equally digestable.

  12. Helen says:

    You’re right by the sea! How nice!

  13. Well I disapprove of the first three stops of Gef-Carta. Surely you know that a round station symbol is only used for an interchange. And it’s clearly not one. It’s ruined it for me. RUINED IT.

  14. Chucker says:

    The comments about the great state of Texas reminded me of a sign I saw years ago scrawled on the back of a large truck: “The sun has riz, the sun has set, and here I am, in Texas yet.”

  15. geofftech says:

    #13 – Quick! Tell TFL! Get them to sue me!

    Actually, it’s a part of Charleston known at ‘The Battery’, and again in my dark warped mind, I thought “Battery”, “Terminal”, “Terminal Connector”, etc…

    Oh, that and it’s really the bottom of Wimbledon branch of the District in disguise!


    I’m getting the impression that Texas is quite big then?

  16. leslie says:

    Good on ya for wanting to use public transport. Here in Austin I use it whenever I can, but it’s become harder recently since I didn’t have enough interchange time between the two schools i was student teaching at. And, unfortunately, I got a job 40 miles out of town for the next school year, so I will have to drive :-(. I just don’t feel right… But, I needed the job, so that’s what I have to deal with.

    Oh, and, yeah, it does take FOREVER to drive through Texas.

    take care, Leslie (the girl who sent you the waterloo records link last year).

  17. Coco J. says:

    Geoff- I’ve now realized what you issue with American plugs is all about…. Is it because they’re aren’t big enough for you to LABEL eachindividual plug with your handy labeler?

  18. philippa says:

    I’ve worked it out! Finally, the big result of my scrutiny of you is this one noun: Geek!


  19. Camilla says:

    #11 palmetto bugs are huge!!! we have them in florida and they wont die! we caught one in the kitchen, hit it repetedly with a shoe. mum put it in a ziplock bad and pinned it to the noticeboard (so she could prove to my step-dad how huge it was) it was still wriggling 2 hours later!! ick

  20. Fimb says:

    Oh, and meant to ask whether you’d seen the vid to the new PSB single? Its fantastic!

  21. The Divine Mrs M says:

    #19 – ewww. Sounds like the beasties that broke a window when we stayed in Sydney one Christmas. Size of a tennis ball?!

  22. Tower Block Tina says:

    What happened to your weight gain/loss post? Want to know if eating all those big steaks
    has helped you gain yet! (Come on Geoff, eat your dinner up)

  23. geofftech says:

    I saw a cockroach tonight! My first one … visiting someone round the corner, and suddenly they got up, and BANG! Foot came down – one squashed palmetto bug. It was a about an inch long I guess, and it all oozed out everywhere over their nice wooden floor until they scooped it up. Eugh.

  24. geofftech says:

    Weight gain/loss is on a Saturday mum!

    The schedule:

    Monday – Candy bar of the week
    Thursday – Things that make me feel I’m not 4,000 miles away…
    Saturday – My weight

    and other bollocks squeezed inbetween as and when I feel like it.

    the PSB video is avaiable on YouTube Fimb, and yes – it is rather good!

  25. Amy says:

    Take the TOMTOM and go to Graceland! I’d love to hear your impression of it πŸ™‚

  26. Kit Peters says:

    CARTA actually stands for Charleston Area *Regional* Transit Authority, ‘cos you can’t get anywhere “rapidly” on CARTA. (More’s the pity)

  27. Peter says:

    #24 – Bollocks squeezed in between your weight and a candy bar? Don’t put on too much weight, or that could really hurt!

    #15 – Yes, Texas is bloody huge. I refer you to “Dave Gorman’s Googlewhack Adventure” (Dave Gorman, 2004), page 211 (Chapter 14, “Pomegranate Filibusters”).

    And there’s an idea – an official reading list! You could have a list of books (and possibly magazines and other publications) that you may refer to from time to time, so people can have a read of what you’re on about.

  28. geofftech says:

    I actualyl sat down and watched the Googlewhack DVD last week – most fun, and it reminded me that I know a lot of iPod/50p people about the ‘states.

    I’ve emailed a few of them, and do have a long term plan to meet up with some of them.

    Unfortunately, they’re in places like New Mexico and Missessotta, which (as we know from above) are like 20+ hours driving – not really something I can do in a day and back. But i’ll do it … at somepoint …

    Now, what was I doing? Oh yes .. downloading tonights Dr. Who!

  29. Lisa says:

    Is Missessota a cross between Minnesota and Mississippi?

  30. Andrew(TM) says:

    Is it true that in most of the States you aren’t allowed to drink beer on the streets, and you’re likely to have a cop point a gun in your face if you do…?

  31. daniel says:

    30: No, that would be Deutscheland. HALT!

  32. geofftech says:

    Saw my first cop with his gun this morning. I went to a part of town with a grocery store which I gather was not the most affluent part of town. And a guy and woman cop were just inside, watching everybody go about there business, just .. watching. And I got an eyeful of their guns. This may not sound so “wooo” to americans, but we just don’t get this at home, and it’s still novel to see.

    #29 – Minnesota, yes. πŸ™‚

  33. zuzula says:

    huge, flying cockroaches? OMG… maybe i won’t come and visit you after all!

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