I enjoy driving. As soon as I was able in my teens, I started driving lessons and I’ve never looked back. After passing my test, through an extensive and eclectic selection of cars, and numerous roadtrip adventures, I’ve been driving – and enjoying the experience – ever since. I love the freedom of the open road, and the joys of exploring both at home and abroad, without being compelled to follow itineraries and plans, or travel the well-worn routes determined by others, when other more interesting options are available.
Times have become harder for the motorist in recent years however, especially when it comes to driving for pleasure. With over-zealous traffic-calming measures and ridiculous speed limits in urban areas, fuel prices at an all-time high, and – in Britain – changes to the Highway Code that seem designed to increase uncertainty and potential accidents for all road users, rather than improve safety, there’s really not a lot in terms of pleasure that can be derived from getting behind the wheel any more.
However, moaning aside, at least in SL driving can still be pleasurable, although I’m always surprised at how few people actually seem to hit the virtual open road. There are, of course, first a few considerations that you need to take into account if you want to burn rubber inworld: Notably, not all vehicles are created equal. Some are an absolute dream to drive, whilst others are practically unmanageable – still, that’s all part of the fun, as far as I see it. Then, you have to find somewhere where you can first rez a vehicle and have sufficient roadway to enjoy driving it – most sims are just too small, and even those that have roads are often not constructed to be of any practical use for virtual traffic. However, the mainland is absolutely crammed with roads you can play on, and if you fancy a bit of offroading too, there are miles of abandoned and empty land that are just begging to be utilised! There is one huge drawback with mainland, however: Border crossings! Despite vast improvements to server handovers, you’ll still run into occasions where you’re unceremoniously dumped underground, whilst your vehicle has dissappeared into the ether, only to be returned the following day by an irate resident who’s found your 32-ton truck lodged halfway through their bedroom!
There is much to be appreciated from mainland driving though, if you’re willing to put up with the inconveniences. And, if you’re the sort who’ll happily splash out a few thousand bucks on a flashy virtual sports car, only to use it as a decorative item in your SL driveway, then it’s high time you charged up that battery, filled the tank, and took it for a spin – you’ll thank me for it, I promise you!
There’s a vast array of fun vehicles you can play with. In my virtual garage, I’ve everything from kiddie-cars to big rigs and military hardware, and I have hours of pleasure taking them all for a spin from time-to-time. They’re an enjoyable, quick and efficient way of getting the most in terms of sightseeing and exploring some of the lesser-know regions of SL. There’s a surprising amount to see, especially on the mainland, where the extensive road network can lead to a few surprises… Huge suspension bridges, undersea glass tunnels, snow-covered mountain passes, extreme roadworks, ferry crossings, quaint japanese village streets, viaducts with hidden roadways inside them, checkpoints leading to secret establishments, and olde worlde cart tracks! There’s also plenty of places to pause along the way, including stores, attractions, even museums, and a wealth of the quirky weirdness that crops up all over SL.
It doesn’t matter all that much if, like myself, you’re a pretty rubbish virtual driver. Apart from the embarrassment factor of driving in a permanently wiggly line, with the occasional diversion into the side of somebody’s house, you’re not going to cause a lot of harm, even if you’re the world’s worst, and with SL’s roads having so little traffic, the chances of a prang with another driver are pretty low too. I’ve driven for hours on occasion and never come across another road user, of any description, apart from the occasional automated bus or tour pod, and even with the relative popularity of GTFO in recent times, you’re still going to be unfortunate to run into other vehicles on your travels, which I reckon is a good thing… There are few things more frustrating than sitting in traffic going nowhere in RL, and I really don’t want to have to do so inworld too!
It seems to me that the nature of SL is slowly changing. When I first signed up, everybody wanted to explore and discover what the virtual world had to offer; some people even embarked on mammoth, cross-grid expeditions on foot, documenting their discoveries in blogs and online forums. Noobs would travel all-over to find money trees and their elusive fruits, and the allure of camping for lindens ensured a steady ebb and flow of travellers all over the Grid. However, today those enticements are things of the past, and so, apparently is exploring and travelling the highways and bi-ways of SL. It’s no longer cool to be an explorer, and for many, the entirety of SL is a small bubble of the same stores, events and venues that they visit and revisit, time and time again; anything further afield just doesn’t appear to exist for them. I’ve even known people to visit the same store or club for years, and yet remain completely oblivious to what might be present outside those four virtual walls.
When you consider the vastness of the virtual world that we have, and the amazing things you can find if you search them out, it’s a great shame that people don’t explore it as much as they used to. Perhaps it’s a matter of having the time to do so – after all, walking in SL is a slow process, and if you choose to fly instead, well you’re going to miss out on an awful lot. It seems to me that driving is the perfect happy medium: Faster than walking, but closer to the action than flying, and you can do it from the comfort and coolness of a flashy Italian sports car! Or, maybe if you’re more the Easy Rider type, perched on the saddle of a badass Hog! So, if you haven’t tried it before, why not give it a try?
And, if you’re not a fan of driving yourself, find someone who is… And ride shotgun instead!
Stay on these roads
We shall meet, I know
Stay on my love
We shall meet, I know
A-ha – Stay On These Roads