Those frustrated by having to sit at home and not go for a nice drive (and yes, I know that’s the pinnacle of first world problems, but we all have our crosses to bear) have a possible source of succour for the next few weeks, until NPHET lets us out — Google Street View.
That’s right, it’s not just for checking if the AirBnB you’ve booked is on a dodgy street — you can use Google Street View to wend your way along some of the world’s best driving roads. Helpfully, UK-based insurance comparison site GoCompare has collected the best into one place.
The tour of the world’s best roads starts with a drive to the Grand Canyon in Arizona, and there’s even a ‘virtual hike’ function that allows you to tour the Phantom Ranch area of the Canyon, courtesy of the US Geological Survey website.
Iceland ring road
The Ring Road in Iceland; the single road that runs almost the entire circumference of the most volcanically active place on Earth
Next up is the Ring Road in Iceland; the single road that runs almost the entire circumference of the most volcanically active place on Earth. You can view the dramatic landscape, the big, open skies, the distant glaciers and volcanoes, and even pull into the car park of the famed Blue Lagoon. Sadly, the Google camera car wasn’t allowed into the Lagoon, but at this stage even the car park feels like a treat.
Next, we hop to the antipodes, to take a tour from Sydney to Byron Bay in Australia. Don’t click the ‘forward’ arrow too fast, though — the Aussie police take a stern view on speeding. From the heat of Oz to the cold of Norway next, as we ascend the might Trollsteigen road, that runs up the side of a mighty fjord. You spend the entirety of this Google journey following a silver Mk 5 Golf and an Audi A4, which gives you a frisson of being back in a warm, familiar traffic jam.
What did Ceaușescu ever do for us?
Then it’s to Romania, and the Transfagarasan Highway, a mountain pass built just for the heck of it by insane dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu, and popularised by Jeremy Clarkson and friends on Top Gear. Hugely popularised by the looks of the traffic, which is mostly Skodas and Dacias, although we did spot a rather nice Porsche Cayenne at one point.
The Transfagarasan Highway, a mountain pass built just for the heck of it by insane dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu, and popularised by Jeremy Clarkson and friends on Top Gear
Inevitably, Route 66 (makes an appearance on the list. It runs from Chicago to LA, as Chuck Berry constantly reminds us; more than 2,000-miles all the way. That’s a lot of clicks, and a lot of pickups, but the wide open vistas as you pass through Arizona are worth the effort.
A quick loop of the north-east of Scotland, on the North Coast 500 brings some drizzly coolness after the heat of the ’66, and if you fancy something even chillier, you can head to the snow-dusted curves of the Grossglockner Hocchalpenstrasse in Austria, a fearsome mountain pass that was once a hillclimb course, dominated by the mighty Silver Arrow racers of the 1930s.
Europe’s Grand Canyon
Finally, there’s a hop back across the Atlantic for a spin from Los Angeles to Yosemite National Park, before we end our world tour at Verdon Gorge in France, following the inevitable white rented Peugeot around what’s become known as ‘Europe’s Grand Canyon.’
Okay, so Google Maps is a poor substitute for actually getting out there with a steering wheel in your hands, but as with everything right now, we make the best of what we have. And at least, no matter how incompetent your clicking is, you’re not going to drive off the edge of a gorge, which is doubtless why all of this is being recommended by an insurance comparison site.
We can’t help but feel that a couple of tricks have been missed, though. What about the Moll’s Gap road in Kerry? It’s one of the world’s great rally stages, and you can click your way along the tarmac in the wheel-tracks of McRae, Toivonen, Fisher, and Coleman.
There are others. You can’t use Google Maps to follow the course of grand prix tracks, but there are the remnants of old road circuits, such as the original Spa Francorchamps circuit (you can find the original Masta Kink and marvel at the thought of driving a 1960s F1 car flat-out through there…).
The best is Le Mans, as most of the 24hrs circuit is public road, so you can trace it along the Mulsanne Straight (actually the D338), turn hard right at Mulsanne Corner (actually the roundabout that brings you onto the D140) and all the way back up to where the public road runs out and the purpose-built Porsche Curves begin.
Now all we need is for someone to invent a horde of drones that we can remotely control and ‘drive’ ourselves along these great roads. For a few weeks’ more, anyway.