On my rock, the preferred mode of transportation, or “trans” as it’s commonly referred to, is a golf cart. But not just any old golf cart; we’re not talking about the kind that your average snowbird tootles around in their South Florida retirement community. No, these carts have style. And style is all relative to how one wishes to portray their island image. Meaning… anything goes.
Here on Harbour Island, it’s not practical to own a fancy car, what with all the hazardous door-dingers lurking the streets and salt air threatening to turn your vehicle into a rust bucket within 6 months. We simply can’t be fussed over a Mercedes Benz or an Escalade. While in certain parts of the world, people fall victim to mega car companies’ marketing powers which use their brand names and price tag to instill a certain status symbol, here, even the rich and famous drive something modest and/or quirky. And if it’s not an open-air, slow-moving, fuel-sipping buggy with a lawnmower-sized engine, then you ain’t carryin’ yo’self proper.
We have massive potholes and some of the narrowest roads you’ll ever drive on (coupled with the fact that the temperature rarely dips into the 60’s), which makes the golf cart the ideal island grocery-getter. I actually choose to drive a car, and some days I sincerely regret that decision. We call our car “The Bentley”. Though it’s actually a Subaru, it sure feels like a high class ride. It has a/c, radio, tinted windows, and this great feature where the rear view mirrors fold in with the press of a button. But driving a full-sized vehicle is stressful, and I’m constantly worried about someone dinging my car or parking in my blind spot for no logical reason (example: my husband backed into a taxi who angle-parked directly behind him in what normally would be a no-stopping zone, smashed the bumper of our brand new car, and then proceeded to avoid coming home for several hours to prolong the inevitable Wrath of the Furious Wife). So now we only use the The Bentley for special occasions and otherwise use a scooter or our beat-up micro van that we don’t mind bumping into things with.
Visitors flock to Harbour Island for its historical charm and for the 3-mile stretch of world-famous Pink Sands beach. Most visitors are content to lounge under an umbrella for hours, watching the turquoise sea lap against the pink sandy shore. But if you are the active type, I’m afraid there aren’t many other options for diversions on this island. Other than catching up on your Vitamin D intake, the second most popular activity here is mixing a cocktail and exploring the island by golf cart. For being a skinny, 3-mile long island, there is a surprisingly endless maze of roads that lead to beaches, bars, and bays. Golf-carting can end up being a full day activity, especially if there is a bit of pub-crawling in the mix.
So with that being said, if on Day 3 of your tropical paradise vacation, you’re feeling antsy and ready to unleash your hot rod on the open roads, here are a few tips to ensure your island transportation adventure is a success.
RULES OF THE ROAD:
1) Slow Down And Pay Attention
Most rental carts have speed controls on them, making it impossible for you to go fast. Actually, it would be unfair for me to use the words “they do not go fast” to describe these carts. No, the correct description is that they operate painfully slow and you will constantly get passed, but that’s OK, you’re on vacation, and you don’t need to go anywhere in a hurry. But you learn pretty quickly, the locals have been able to fix the slow glitch on their personal carts, and they love to come flying with unbridled abandon up to an intersection in their speedy carts, looking only in the direction in which they are turning and going for it. Which means if you are coming in the other direction that they chose not to glance in, you are pretty much obliged to give-way by default. If you prefer to play by the American driving rules (that it’s your right of way), you will spend your entire vacation in a fit of road rage, or nearly smashing into other carts who did not, or chose not to, look in your direction. Yes, accidents do happen – even at 10mph.
2) Watch Out For Children
Most children on this island walk to school. When school lets out, you would be seriously swayed into believing there are more children than adults on this island. I tend to try and avoid the roads during the 8 o’clock and 3 o’clock hours because it is pure child mayhem, and it makes whatever road they have collectively chosen to navigate their way home on nearly impassable. There are children from ages 5 to 18 years old in the mix and the younger ones like to weave and dart sporadically through crowds of older children. The older ones love to push each other and inevitably, one will push the other right into the middle of the street just as you are trying to make your way through. Don’t hit one.
3) Watch Out For Potcakes
Our beloved island mutts can sometimes be a terror on the road. I know the exact neighborhoods that they are on the lookout for unsuspecting vehicles but even so, it’s quite alarming have a 70lb dog come running out from nowhere and start biting your tires. It’s especially interesting if you have your own dog in the vehicle and as their territorial demeanor kicks in, a high speed dog fight ensues.
4) Watch Out For The Polaris
The monster truck of all carts: the Polaris. Good luck attempting to have a conversation if you are sitting in the backseat of one. They are loud and fast and the drivers of them like to maneuver the streets of Harbour Island like they are on their own personal Grand Prix race track. Protect your women and children if you hear one coming. Best not to combine with late nights and alcohol consumption.
5) Golf Carts Are Not Dune Buggies
Stay off the sand. As much as you’d love to spin doughnuts or take your lady down to the beach to watch the stars, just don’t. You will get stuck. And the rental company will not be happy.
6) Don’t Leave Your Keys In Your Cart
OK, so you’re thinking, “It’s a 3-mile island, who is going to steal a golf cart and where are they going to take it?” Surprisingly, it happens all the time. Tourist goes to bar, forgets to take key, golf cart is found upside down in the bush somewhere, the joy-rider long gone from the scene of the crime. Because of this, the golf cart rental companies actually cruise around looking for their carts with keys in them and will take it back. You’ll have to wait until the morning to collect your cart, and it could be a long walk home.
7) Keep Left
We drive on the left here in the Bahamas, and it doesn’t take long to figure that out. Ultimately, you will get hailed by a helpful local for driving on the wrong side, even if you were fully aware of it because you were just parking. It happens to me all the time because I’m the white, touristy looking gal.
8) If It’s Raining, Stay Put
Order another drink or keep on doing what you are doing. The rain will let up. But you will be cursing yourself if you decide to make a run for it. You will get drenched.
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And now, for your viewing pleasure,
here is a sampler of the unique “trans” on my rock:
Ingenious Ways to Move Things with Small Vehicles…
What’s your island’s preferred mode of transport? Can you compete with Harbour Island’s quirk?