I was born a traveller. For as long as I can remember I’ve had a fascination with far flung places, exotic destinations and unfamiliar cultures. As a youngster, it was my ambition to become an explorer and adventurer, hacking my way through virgin rainforest on distant continents and discovering new and unseen places and peoples, unknown to science.
Unfortunately, I was born maybe a hundred years too late into a world where most of the great adventures had already been undertaken. Even so, it never stopped me dreaming: Jules Verne, and later, Paul Theroux were my bedtime reading; Thompson and Livingstone were my heroes, and I still live in the hope that one day fate will deal me a hand that takes me far off the beaten track and into undiscovered territory… Who knows?
Of course, whilst I’m waiting for opportunity to come knocking, there’s always the world of SL waiting to be explored, and ever since I found this quirky offshoot of life, tucked away in the unfashionable backwaters of the Internet, one of my great pleasures has been to be found in exploring the virtual world.
It’s always surprised me that so many of my fellow SL residents seem immune to the lure of the temptations of the virtual unknown and are quite happy to spend the majority of their time inworld in familiar surroundings, feeling little need to travel any further or to expand their territory beyond what they already know. That’s something I’ve never really understood – knowing there’s a whole world out there, just begging to be discovered is something that I could never personally ignore.
However, time is limited, and – considering how long I’ve been around in SL – it’s remarkable just how little of the Grid I’ve managed to get around to seeing. And there is, indeed, an awful lot out there to be seen. Just take a look at the huge number of private islands on the world map alone and you’re overwhelmed by the sheer scope of the challenge! There’s always the Mainland though, which is a great starting point for any budding SL traveller. In fact, it’s always been my intention to conduct a systematic tour of the Mainland, but somehow I’ve haven’t managed to get around to it yet.
I suppose the simplest way to get started is to teleport in to an appropriate location and then work ones way across the map, sim by sim, square by square. But that’s never appealed to me – that’s too formal and far too forensic for my liking – exploring is a journey, it’s not a scientific search for evidence. So I prefer a different approach altogether. It’s always been one of my aims to travel the railways and roadways of the virtual world, but it’s something I’ve never really managed to get around to. I have trudged the odd mainland route, fairly aimlessly it must be said, on times, and travelled some of the seemingly forgotten SLRR routes, but never with any definite plans… So maybe it’s time to do something about that?
Route 8 seemed like a good place to begin. Yes. I do realise that 8 is a a fundamentally illogical starting point, but I’m a bit weird, (OK, a lot weird!), plus the number 8 is considered auspicious to the Chinese – I’m not Chinese, but more than happy to jump on board for a spot of good fortune! Apart from that, the route offered a few different options, with some potential points of interest along the way, one of which – the Old Wagon Road – a short, but intriguing section of roadway that seemed to go however in particular, appealed to me.
Unfortunately, I regret to say that, despite my normal positivity towards all things SL, having traversed around half of the road so far, my overwhelming feeling is one of disappointment. If you choose to drive – as I did for most of the journey – sim boundary crossings, despite the work that has gone into improvement, are still nasty: As you make the handover from one server to another, you can find yourself propelled into the air, plunged plunged beneath the roadside, or physically ejected from your vehicle. It would be amusing, if the sim boundaries weren’t quite so frequent!
Then there’s the scenery – or lack of it! The terrain, even by SL mainland standards, is bleak… There are huge swathes of empty, abandoned and undeveloped land, which makes for a singularly disappointing vista. Similarly, many of the roadside properties lie empty and unused – it’s all rather lacklustre and dispiriting, I’m afraid – although at one point I did pass through a very colourful and intriguing spot – all purple mushrooms and glowing foliage. The road itself though is quirky and has the occasional points of interest: At one point, you hit the water’s edge and have to swap your wheels for the ferry, whilst elsewhere, there’s a bridge – or rather a distinct lack of one, which makes for interesting driving!
More bizarrely, at one point the road simply comes to a dead end, only to resume a few sims away – it’s as if some awkward land owner has dug their heels in and point blank refused to let the Lindens build a road over their land. It’s practically impossible to cross the void in a vehicle – the route is a mess of ban lines and weird gradients. Most bizarre of all, however, is The Old Wagon Road: It goes from nowhere to nowhere, it’s situated nowhere in particular, and has nothing of merit about it!
In all, a strangely dissatisfying experience… Maybe the rest of the road is hiding some treasures I’ve yet to discover.
Here’s hoping !
You can find my starting point for Route 8 here.
Well we know where we’re going
But we don’t know where we’ve been
And we know what we’re knowing
But we can’t say what we’ve seen
Talking Heads – Road To Nowhere