Coming down the tracks

dvanzuijlekom via Flickr/Creative Commons

The closed doors pass the spot. Your spot. The side-stepping starts. The path ahead seems clear, until you’re enveloped by an early morning SWAT team, peeling left and right as they claim their bleary-eyed prize.

Two-person teams are smaller but just as efficient, its lead taking not the first available seat but the next one, in the hope of turning to face their partner in crime instead of the stranger that got the cream and knows it. The morning chat will have to wait.

Like a long-haul flight that never gets airborne, the ones who still want sleep try to welcome it with bodies folded in on themselves in their attempts to achieve stability in a fast-moving bedroom.

Musical choice clashes with musical choice through a combination of noise-leak and volume. Stars mix with unknowns in duets that would never sell in a month of Sundays but which nonetheless have an audience, bemused at having paid for the privilege.

Mini-offices are constructed, with laptops and highlighted notes bridging the gap between leg and undersized table. For every spreadsheet there’s a video – last nights illegal download becoming this morning’s treat.

The first few stations bring those who haven’t given up hope. An unbelieving few race up and down for a seat that has hitherto helped a backpack punch well above its weight, with an enabler who refuses to sit on the inside, instead getting up to let the victor in.

Round one is over. Winners and losers declared, the dust settles. Round two brings a prize worth fighting for. After all, home is where the heart is.

Suits you Sur

Fly-drive holidays may conjure up feelings of a break wasted behind the wheel, but depending on where you find yourself, the experience of travelling from A to B might just change your life, writes Paul Hyland.

HAVING landed in San Francisco, the frantic planning that had underpinned the last 12 months of our lives lay lost in the North Atlantic Ocean, cast adrift by the words “I do”. Our honeymoon was finally here, but upon receiving our rental car, the realisation hit that our driver’s seat was very much over there.

They say time is money, but the scarcity of both had left my bride and I staring nervously at each other in Dublin Airport 12 hours previously. With only our first nights accommodation booked and internal flights deemed an unnecessary frill, a unique driving experience awaited. If the stress became too much, we could always get an annulment anyway. Couldn’t we?

Twelve months later, we find ourselves still very much married, and dare I say it, happy. Equally as happy are the memories of our West Coast adventure. The inconsequential details of the trip may have faded with time, but the standout moments remain as vivid as ever, burned into our collective brains with a seemingly direct link to our endorphin producing pituitary glands.

Our first night in San Francisco was a night of firsts: first time driving in America … at night-time … with a faulty Sat Nav. Yes, it’s fair to say we began to question ourselves – first our logic, and soon after hearing the welcoming car horns, our sanity.

Two days in, and still in one piece (rental car included), we had found our feet. I had gotten used to San Francisco driving, and my wife had gotten used to the idea of spending the rest of her life with me. It’s fair to say we both felt truly at ease for the first time since landing. What better way to test this status quo than with a 300-kilometre drive along California’s Scenic Highway One to Morro Bay?

With roughly 5 hours of driving ahead of me, the thoughts of covering the equivalent of Dublin to Cork, and then some more, brought on a jaw-shattering yawn. Five hours later, I couldn’t have cared less about either county. The mesmerising meandering of the Big Sur had left me both mentally tired and stimulated at the same time.

The Pacific Ocean, with an expanse larger than all of the Earth’s land area combined, had proved itself to be the warmest of companions. Hugging the cliffs, our cars embrace left us with little more than ocean and horizon to fill our peripheral vision; providing views which not only confirmed that we were further from home than ever before, but also made us question whether we were still on the same planet.

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Arriving at our destination, we wanted to do it all over again. Our lack of planning had serendipitously provided an experience which each of use will take to our grave. I’d like to think that heaven exists, and if it does, I think I know what it feels like.