Driving Mr. Daisy

What The-Oldest is thinking.

One of the great events in our early lives is learning to drive. Driving equals independence. It’s a milestone in life.

And it’s something that can drive parents crazy.

It’s all because we think, gosh, we can teach our child to drive. We’re good drivers, right? We’ve been doing it for years, right? We love our child so we will teach him with patience and understanding how to drive a car, right? Right?

Oh, how we forget what it was like when we learned to drive.

I remember being so excited about driving that when I turned 16, I immediately went down to get my licence and began bugging mom to teach me to drive. However, this was back in the Flintstone era when there weren’t such things as L’s or N’s or seatbelts or internal combustion engines.

However, I learned quickly, as did my mom, that she should not be teaching me. Not that she was a bad driver per se, but more like one of us would end up having a nervous breakdown. Speed up, slow down, hand over hand, check the rear view mirror, shoulder check, look out for that little old lady crossing the street! Look  out! Hit the breaks!!!!! Ok, find a phone and call an ambulance.

Now, did I remember any of this?

No. It all faded into the background of my mind when I offered to take The-Oldest for his first drive. I have to confess, I was super excited. He was super nervous.

The plan was simple. We’d take out the Rav4 and drive around the local theater parking lot. It’s a nice safe place and likely would be empty at 3pm on a Monday afternoon.

The-Oldest started off well enough. He quickly got over the whole go-cart way of driving (using his left foot for the break) and began to learn how far to push down on the gas to go, then how hard to press the break so as to actually stop the car and not send his favourite stepdad flying through the windshield.

But then things took a turn.

There was no reason that the parking lot shouldn’t have been empty, but the moment he put his foot on the gas, someone pulled into the center of the parking lot and took out their little 2-year-old who went charging around like she wanted to be hit by an overwhelmed sixteen-year-old. Then, another car arrived and parked on the edge and just sat there, the driver and passenger smoking and basically acting like THEY wanted to be t-boned by an overwhelmed sixteen-year-old.

If that wasn’t bad enough, someone else decided it would be nice to teach their son how to drive in the same lot.

What had been a great idea, (you know, find empty lot, train boy to drive) became avoid running over 2-year-old, don’t hit the couple doing, ah something, in the car, and please avoid ramming into that white-knuckled, pimply-faced boy with a terrified-looking mom in the front seat.


Well, it was, actually. Fun, I mean. The-Oldest got used to the pedals, he learned to break and steer, he took WIDE turns to avoid cars, curbs and 2-year-olds, and he even managed to back up without running over anyone or anything (more than I can say most times.)

He did amazing. Sure he started out looking like we were about to make him do a public speech about girl’s anatomy, but he ended up confidently parking between the lines (again, something I can’t often do.) He was proud of himself and he began to feel like he could totally learn this whole driving thing. I know this because he said, “I can totally learn this whole driving thing.”

Parenting win! A win for The-Oldest!

Next up, we’ll see if he can drive in some lanes around that parking lot.

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Why Road Trips Rock

Fabulous Vegas
Fabulous Vegas

Can you make a road trip fun? Or does fun just happen sometimes?

We had just three things to accomplish. Drive to Vegas. Stop and see the amazing Hoover Dam along the way, and see what The-Youngest called the MUST-SEE place half way to the dam.

All three things offered something new, something unexpected, something, kinda awesome.

Now, take a guess.

What would The-Youngest’s MUST-SEE place be? Uncle Jeb’s Monster Trucks, Guns and Liquor? The location of the Cars movie? A tumbleweed race-course?


Dunkin Donuts.

See, they don’t have a Timmies down there. At least down in Arizona. The Americans have DD. And The-Youngest was convinced it would be the best place to find a good donut (based on his research of donuts.)

It made sense. There was a Dunkin Donuts half way to Vegas and, this time, we had no elusion that we could do the 4-hour drive without several rest stops. Plus, I wouldn’t mind a good donut as well. And something akin to a double-double.

All kinds of Ford Mustangs on the road. 2016's. 2013's like mine. Mint 1967 ones. ugly 80's mistakes. It was like they were given away free with any gun purchase.
All kinds of Ford Mustangs on the road. 2016’s. 2013’s like mine. Mint 1967 ones. Ugly 80’s mistakes. It was like they were given away free with any gun purchase.

So let me tell you about the drive. It’s a boring drive. However, cool note, there are a billion Mustangs on the road. It is, by far, the muscle car of choice. Sorry Charger. Sorry Camaro. It’s actually crazy how many there are. On the drive TO Flagstaff, I started pointing them out, but after about 20 within 30 minutes, The-Oldest begged me to stop.

It was the same on the way back. You couldn’t toss a cup of coffee out the window without hitting someone speeding by us in a ‘stang. Personally, I would have bet on some form of truck being the most popular car in this neck of the woods. Gun rack. Confederate flag. Deer antlers on the hood, But no. Young, old, short, tall, man or woman, they all seemed to choose the Mustang.

Also of note was the fact there aren’t any rest-stops like the ones we have in Canada and the Pacific North West. No place to pull over and let the children out to pee. Those places in this part of the world are called gas stations.

We never found Radiator Springs. That's more like Peach Springs on Arizona State Route 66, but we did see a lot of similar geography.
We never found Radiator Springs. That’s more like Peach Springs on Arizona State Route 66, but we did see a lot of similar geography.

Now, for The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World, the best part was seeing a real-life tumbleweed tumble across the highway and back into the desert. No Roadrunner this time, though. And she was excited to see a lot of the terrain depicted in Disney’s Cars, a movie she watched over 200 times with her young boys.

For The-Oldest, he was happy that we listened to classical music the entire drive. He got to explain who wrote it, why it was awesome and how he would change it to make it more awesome. He had no idea what awaited him at the Dunkin Donuts. Not a clue.

And The-Youngest was happy just to discuss the possibility of donut selection. Would there be a double chocolate donut? One with sprinkles? One with chocolate AND sprinkles? Maybe there’d be an arcade there. And wifi. And a place he could buy cheap headphones. When he grew bored of that, he tried to yank one of his loose teeth out of his head, grossing his brother and mom out.

Dunkin Donuts!
Dunkin Donuts!

At the Dunkin Donuts, The-Youngest had his dream come true. A double-chocolate donut WITH freaking sprinkles. I got to have my double-double (and the same donut as The-Youngest), while The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-world chose a healthier black coffee, and The-Oldest was satisfied with milk and Wifi.

But while he was looking intently at his phone, two girls came in. Same age as him, as near as I can tell these things, and they totally checked him out.

I wanted to jab him and point out what was happening, but that might have been embarrassing for him, so I let him be. But there was no mistaking what the girls did. They huddled close to each other, shot looks over at him, giggled, tried to catch his eye while trying to look like they weren’t interested at all, and played with their hair, smiling in his direction a lot.

The man The-Oldest will become can be seen in this picture
The man The-Oldest will become can be seen in this picture

It made me realize what a transformation The-Oldest has gone through this year. Ok, he’s still largely oblivious to girls, but he’s become quite the handsome boy. Tall and lean. Big brown eyes. Great smile. You can see it in some of the Grand Canyon pictures. You can see the man he’s becoming. (FYI – it makes The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World cry.)

Sadly, he saw nothing of the attention he received. He later explained he was too busy composing in his head, but wasn’t uninterested in hearing that girls might find him, you know, attractive.

Equally sadly, The-Youngest didn’t find his headphones and we weren’t going to let him eat 12 donuts, so for him, he was happy to get on the road, again.

I wondered as we drove off, though, a few years from now, what would The-Oldest have done? Smiled back? Simply ignored them? Gone over and talked to them about Beethoven?

Who knows? That’s the amazing part of watching these boys grow up, deal with how their world changes, how they change, and how what’s important changes.

How lucky am I to be there with them? Maybe to help them along the way. Maybe to be there to support their choices. Their decisions. Maybe to offer sage advice that will likely be completely ignored.

But for today, just being there with them, on something as simplistic as a car ride, made this adventure a thousand times better. And we hadn’t even reached the dam, yet.

The End of the First Day – Flagstaff, Toilets and Safes.

Salsa Brava. Flagstaff. Our destination. If we could make it in time.
Salsa Brava. Flagstaff. Our destination. If we could make it in time.

One thing that I’d not trained for was the long drive. 4 hours from Vegas to Flagstaff. OMG, my bum and back hurt after two hours. After 3, I began to get so antsy that I was like a 9-year-old without any electronics. But I still thought we might have a chance to reach the restaurant in time.

The boys, for the most part, were amazing. They spent 4 hours listening to music, most of it the sleepifying Beethoven-type classical music. Honestly, I don’t hate classical music, but let’s face, it, it isn’t always the best for staying IMG_9741[1]awake. Hell, it was all I could do to keep my eyes open, but that’s the music The-Oldest loved so we listened to it while The-Youngest snoozed in an adorably cute way.

However, we had to stop to save my bum and feed the boyz, so it became clear, beyond all reasonable doubt and lacking a working teleportation device, that we wouldn’t make my birthday supper appointment, so I phoned to rebook for Monday.

Ok, first I phoned to say I’d be late. Then 2 hours later, when we were on the road, our tummies full, I phoned, again, to say, um, yes, looks like we’re going to be SO late as to be having to book the next day. The person on the other end didn’t laugh but did rebook us.

Not a tragedy.

At this point, The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World was dog-tired and just wanted to get to the hotel room, unwind a bit, and grab something nearby. She didn’t want a big feast and certainly wouldn’t have loved a lot of people singing happy birthday to her in Spanish.

days hotelWith The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World’s perfect navigation, we found the hotel without getting massively lost. A Days Hotel. Simple. Close to the highway. As cheap as I could get and still have some basic amenities.

We checked in without breaking anything (despite the best efforts of The-Youngest who seemed possessed by a need to touch, move or otherwise play with everything in the hotel lobby.)

But then the adventures began to happen. We were helped by a very pretty young, Asian girl with white pants who couldn’t have been nicer. Of course, had she known what would happen, she might not have been so nice.

In writing terms, when everything goes right, it makes a terrible story.

So, let me introduced you to the plugged toilet.

To be fair, The-Youngest only filled it up. With an epic deposit. And when he tried to flush, it began to run over.

He didn’t cause the problem at all, but you know that feeling. That horrible feeling. The water rising. With lots of stuff in it. You want it to stop. Pray that it’ll stop. You don’t want it to overflow, not on your watch, not from something you’ve done.

I can only imagine his panic, but when the water reached the rim, he shouted for help and we came running.

As you know, there’s not much we could do, though, but pray.

And the gods were with us, it didn’t overflow. It stopped at the edge. Right. At. The. Edge.

The-Youngest apologized, afraid we’d be mad, but it wasn’t his fault, so I phoned down to get it fixed but who should appear but the pretty, young Asian girl with white pants who couldn’t have been nicer. She gripped a plunger. And had a look of great fear.

Now who among us would make a pretty young Asian girl with white pants who couldn’t have been nicer unplug a toilet?

Well, not me.

I took the plunger, asked if she could bring some rags or used-towels in case this went very wrong and, ah, stuff spilled out onto the floor. She nodded and fled like I’d given her a reprieve from being tortured or forced to watch the entire Zoolander 2 movie.

Now being all chivalrous is fair and fine until you have to face down that toilet. With The-Oldest watching and giving advice like you probably don’t want to spill that water all over, I began.

OMG, don't ever EVER do a search on the internet for plugged toilets.
OMG, don’t ever EVER do a search on the internet for plugged toilets.

Very carefully.

So here’s the thing. Unplugging a toilet is a delicate operation. Plunge too hard and you’re picking stuff out of your hair and mopping up the floor. Plunge too lightly, and all you’re doing is making poo-soup. Yum.

With unbelievable skill, years of training, and not a little luck, I managed to plunge the blockage away without making a bigger mess.

Honestly, it was a miracle. The toilet was saved. All was good and right with the world.

Then we broke the in-room safe.

Not an easy thing to do.

Even harder to phone down to the desk and have the very pretty young, Asian girl with white pants who couldn’t have been nicer come up and have to fix that!

“Ah, hi, It’s room 321. Yes, us. Again. We, ah, broke the, um, safe. Yes, after putting all our valuables inside. Yes, it’s now locked us out. Would you mind coming up, again?”

This time, it was The-Prettiest-girl-in-the-world who fixed it. I don’t know how, but it did involve a lot of banging and swearing, but in the end, she managed to get it open. I think she was one step away from using a blow torch or seeing if the local 7-11 had a stick of dynamite.

Exhausted, scared of doing anything more in the room lest we break it, we went for supper in the bar.

Yes, our 9-year-old got to go into his first bar. He wanted to order a beer. He got a hamburger instead.

The boys in the bar at Days Hotel, Flagstaff
The boys in the bar at Days Hotel, Flagstaff. See big booth!

Now, in the hotel, the restaurant and bar are side-by-side. I think they sat us in the bar side to a) give us a view of the TV (b), I think the very pretty young, Asian girl with white pants who couldn’t have been nicer may have called and said there’d be a family coming down in need of lots of alcohol and (c) they had a huge booth for us.

We ate without breaking anything, getting into a bar fight or having to stop the-Youngest from sneaking tastes of other people’s drinks.

Time for bed.


Somehow we managed to have a full day while planning to do nothing.

And tomorrow, the Grand Canyon awaited. What would we break there?

Traveling With Kids – San Diego – Navigation

The Ride of Death

san diego mapOk, it’s time.

Time for the oldest to take a crack at navigation.

He’s terrified.

He fears we’ll get lost, run out of gas, that I’ll get mad, that he’ll not be able to understand the map, that he’ll have to think fast and act fast.

See, the boys have been unholy terrors in the car. If I put live scorpions down their pants, they would have been less beserko-nutso. They can come back, complaining of being tired, unable to walk another step, wanting only to rest, and they get in the car and whammo, goofy-giggling-fighting silly-buggers.

It’s as amazing as it is annoying.

Especially when I’m trying to drive in heavy traffic and the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world is trying to navigate in an unfamiliar city (with roads that sometimes aren’t signed and a gps that says we’re in the ocean every so often.)

I want to say that I’ve been all zen and understanding, but there have been times I’m a millimeter from pulling the car over, tossing them out, and driving away.

So we thought this would be a good exercise for the oldest.

He’d get an idea of what it was like to be the navigator.

Destination: Denny’s.

4 blocks away.

Pretty much a straight line.

One highway to go on.

One exit to take.

I’m ready.

I know we could get lost.

Badly, badly lost.

But it’s all good.

I don’t get angry at being lost on vacation. I only get stressed if we have to make it to a certain place at a certain time, but today, we don’t have that problem.

galantSo, we get in the car, he takes the phone. Tries to talk to his way out of it.

But no way, man.

No way.

I start down the driveway towards the road.

He’s not sure which way to turn.

I hear panic in his voice.

Then he figures it out. Right!

We go right.

The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world asks, “Now where does Joe turn?

What? I dunno. What? Turn?

There’s a road coming up. Does Joe turn?

Yes. No. Road?!?!

We’re nearly at the road. Does Joe take it?

I dunno! Ah! Ack! Urg.

We just passed the road. We’re heading for the highway.

Highway?!! Wait. Eeeek. We’re on a highway?!?!!?

Do you see the Denny’s?

I have to look for that too?

Me: We’re heading to LA now.

We don’t want to go there!!!!!!!!!!!

Me: No. No we don’t.

Then there’s a large popping noise and his head explodes. Brains and skull fragments everywhere.

We pull off at the next exit as we see the Denny’s sign.

We park and he staggers out of the car, ashen-faced and twitching.

“Welcome to navigation,” I say.

The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world adds, “And that was without anyone kicking your seat or screaming in your ear.”

He just blinks and stares off in the distance in horror.

The youngest one pipes up.

“Can I navigate next?”