Driving in Strange Places

I have two jobs. I work my full-time day job, then head straight to my part-time night job. I leave my house at 8:30 am & walk in somewhere around 12 hours later. The way my time off has worked this year, I have 4-5 days for vacation, starting in a week and a half. It took until a few days ago to figure out when I'd be able to go, so now I'm scrambling to find someplace I can go last-minute within a few hours' drive or flight that isn't too expensive. I have two options so far: see my friend in Seattle; and get lost in the woods for a few days.

The friend has first priority, since I can pretty much walk in the woods anytime and I haven't seen him in about a year, but he won't know if he can spend time with me until this week (even if he can, I'll probably be on my own most of the time). I don't know the area at all, so, I'm relying on him to find a hotel for me, but he said I'd probably want to rent a car.

I was hoping the transit system would be decent or I could hoof it, because I have bad luck driving in new areas, particularly in cities. Middle of nowhere? No problem! But cities have hazards like pedestrians, cyclists, one-way streets, non-parallel streets, narrow alleys, no u-turns, heavy traffic, road rage. Plus, parking is practically non-existent in most cities, and when you can find it, it's expensive.

Some things that have happened to me while driving in unfamiliar cities...

...I was in a line of traffic at a dead stop in New York, and the guy behind me starts leaning into his horn. We're all completely stopped, so no one is going anywhere. He continues for a minute, then gets out of his car, walks up to mine and points to the space between me and the car in front of me, as if moving up three feet will make a HUGE difference in the flow of traffic! It was hot, I didn't have air conditioning, he was big and hairy and I was alone, so I rolled up my window, locked my doors and grabbed my tire wrench in case he decided he wanted to beat me up (hey, I wasn't going down without a fight).

...I was double-parked in Manhattan picking up my housemate at her parents' apartment, and a delivery van that was turning right cut too close and took off my rearview mirror. Okay, I wasn't lost and it was my stupidity, but I'd have never found the right parking garage without my housemate and I had to pick her up somehow (this was before cell phones).

...I was leaving Burbank airport and the instructions I had told me to turn left on some street to get to the freeway. I see the street name, turn left... and see the freeway entrance to my right, on the other side of a solid divider and I can't get over. Apparently, I was supposed to turn left at the NEXT light instead of the one I took and the streets seem to have the same name. The street I was on was busy and had a solid divider line, and it took awhile before I found a street where I could turn around and come back -- I couldn't turn right to get to the adjacent street because the berm seemed to go on forever (or maybe it was a railroad track or one of those freeways that's been built up, I'm a little fuzzy on that). A few months later, I was driving the same road with one of my bosses, who has the map, sees the intersection and says "Turn left!" I kept going. "You missed the turn!" If he made the same mistake I did, I guess I don't feel TOO bad about it.