Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Road Train Chicken

Gavin: Michele and Robin and Will and Lorna and Barbara and Phil and I all piled into our rental mini-van on Sunday and headed for the Atherton Tablelands and then the outback. Just the driving was a good adventure.

There's a certain etiquette to outback driving, based on the width of the road and the size of your vehicle. Happily, my relatives filled me in on the proper etiquette, so we were well-prepared for the impromptu games of "road train chicken." Here's how you play:

First, plan a trip that involves a "developmental" road. I believe "developmental" is government-speak for "we'd build a real road here if we had the money, but we don't, so instead we'll pave a single lane down the middle of a wide gravel path."

Then drive for a while. Eventually you'll see a cloud of dust in the distance, which is the road train: a truck towing three or four trailers, up to 50 meters (160 feet) long, coming towards you at up to 100 kmh (60 mph).

The only rule in Road Train Chicken: Road trains have right-of-way. The developmental roads have big gravel shoulders on either side, so when you see a road train coming you slow down, pull all the way over off the paved surface, and let it pass.

What happens when two road trains meet each other? I dunno. The truck drivers all talk to each other on radio channel 40, but our rental van didn't come with a UHF radio, so I don't know how they work it out.

Two cars meeting is no big drama-- you just share the road, with each car putting two wheels on the dirt to pass.

Well, no drama as long as you remember to put your LEFT wheels on the dirt. I'm really glad I had a couple of months practice driving on the left before playing any Road Train Chicken!

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