Monday, January 22, 2007

Learning To Drive, Learning To Sit In The Passenger Seat

Jr. and I took the JEEP deep into Devils Hammock Wildlife Management Area for some manual transmission, clutch pushing, gear shifting driving lessons. He's 15 and that Restricted Driver's License is burning a hole in his pocket.


It was an excellent afternoon, made more interesting by his apparent habit of driving with his eyes closed. As soon as we pulled into the 7,000 acre park, I turned the Jeep over to him and moved to the passenger seat. (GULP!) He drove really well as it turned out. We saw deer, anhingas, carnivorous plants having sex, and beautiful scenery. Those pics are another post.

The scenery was pure Florida wild and the conversation a rambling one. At first, there was lots of driving tips, ... how to start off, shifting smoothly, remembering to push in the clutch when I made him stop for repeated photos. Then somehow, the conversation flowed to oil, the need to replace it as our primary fuel and why oil powered dictators like Iran's president and Venezuela's Chavez are such an irritation, and yet popular with their country's poor. Yes, I shared some of our historical errors in dealing with South America and the Mideast.

A pair of deer interrupted for a few minutes when we stopped to watch, then it continued ...

Talking about Chavez got us to Castro's history from rebel to dictator and what Cuba might be like in a few years. Then we covered the China/ Taiwan dispute with a brief history of the Nationalist defeat and retreat to Formosa and why China wants it back. We talked of China's changing social situation, how their economy was surging as was their military budget, and how the rising middle class in China might make a future war with us less likely due to our increasing similarities. It's harder to jump to swordplay when you have so much to lose.

It went on. I was not monologuing, he was full of questions. Whose our best ally? Is an ally who says "I support you no matter what, or I support you when you are right? What was NATO? (How did he miss that in his education?) We covered the French, Brits, Germans, ... I think we skipped the Spanish, but we hit the Italians. I pointed out that the French and the Germans got a lot of bad press, for their lack of support for the Iraq War and yet they flew CAP over the US after 911 and did not hesitate to fulfill NATO responsibilities in Afghanistan. I thought their bad press was unfair and told him that...

The rutted dirt road twisted and turned through the swamps and forest while the JEEP conversation turned and twisted from one ally to another. I explained NORAD, the DEW line, and a little about growing up in the cold war. (Ever get nostalgic for the cold war?)

Eventually we made it all the way through the forest and came out on to the highway at Blue Springs.

"Do you want to drive back fast on the paved highway or turn around and drive home slow through the swamp again?" I asked him.

He turned the JEEP around and headed back into the swamp.

A pileated flew ahead of us and landed on a cypress tree.

"See that swoopy flight? When you see that, you know it's gonna be a woodpecker." I said.

The muddy rutted road twisted through a dense palm, bay, cypress swamp and the conversation turned back to the wildlife around us.

I think it was the best driving lesson I ever had.
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pablo said...

Sounds like your son has his head screwed on correctly, but I don't like the looks of the people he's hanging out with. Sheesh!

Floridacracker said...

I know what you mean. We are judged by the company we keep. Poor kid.

LauraHinNJ said...

Sounds much more productive (and considerably more intellectual) than the lessons I got from my Dad on driving a stick shift.

All I remember is lots of yelling.


I drive an automatic now.

Laura said...

I think it's great that he's into history and current events and so forth. Or was it really YOU that had your eyes closed, and dreamed this??
I'd have to agree with Pablo's comment, although I thought the passenger was pretty good looking. Who is that?

lol oh, I slay myself with these lame jokes of mine...

In all seriousness, spontaneous conversations like that one are often the best ones! :)

Rurality said...

You shouldn't hit the Italians. They don't like it much.

Hyuck, hyuck, hyuck...

Sounds like a nice place for a driving lesson!

pablo said...

I still can't drive a shift.

threecollie said...

I love driving with the kids one at a time, no matter who is holding the wheel....although my knuckles aren't quite as white if it me or Liz...always good talking time. I don't envy you the teaching though. We have two with learner's permits right now. I wish we had a swamp road like that to drive with them.

kevin said...

Drives through the woods remind me our learning to drive days. We honed our shifting skills in the woods.

Not to hijack the thread, but today is FC's birthday. I won't say how old, but he's really old. Check the beard for gray hair.

Floridacracker said...

LOL! I left out the yelling, but that was the first grindy lesson! There's a commercial on TV now with a dad teaching his daughter to drive a shift and it always makes me chuckle.

It was just one of those amazing conversations that started when I said, "Did you hear the Chinese shot down a satellite this week?" That was the seed and I am still amazed at the range of the discussion.
That passenger looks pretty shady to me :)

You're killing me.LOL I noticed that and wondered if it would get a response.

I will give you lessons.

They are different people when you have them alone.

I will always be about 11 days younger than you.
Sorry I didn't email ya on yours. I figured you were having so much fun on you international tour, you wouldn't notice.

Deb said...

I think I learned more about 20th century history and international affairs from this post than I ever learned in school.

Sounds like it was a nice time.

Alan said...

I am NOT looking forward to teaching my girls how to drive one day. I am still scarred from trying to teach my wife how to drive my standard tranny pickup. I was able though to teach my oldest sister how to drive some years ago when my mother said "no way!"

Now, what's this about carnivorous plants having sex?


kathy a said...

i will freely admit that i am the worst parental driving companion in the universe. now i totally understand why my father had conniption fits teaching me to drive, often pushing his right foot through the floorboard while yelling "stop" a full block before the stop sign. [i was the oldest of four, and i hear rumors that he calmed down considerably as the years passed.]

if only we had some empty open roads nearby. well, there are some, but on windy state park roads with cliffs on one side and mountains on the other. this does not seem like the ideal arrangement for beginning drivers, so i leave that part of the parental accompaniment to my husband.

daughter has her permit, and she is much more careful than her brother was when he learned to drive about 1.5 years ago. he was 18 when he learned to drive, felt far more confident than he should have, and i almost cried when he passed the test. he had 2 accidents with airbag deployment, both his fault, within the next 2 months. thankfully, nobody hurt -- but these circumstances did *not* make me a better, more relaxed driving instructor/companion.

[they did, however, cause my son to partially reconsider his view that i am an idiot. he has generally been more careful since he had to buy his own car and insurance.]

our normal daily routes contain traffic, crazy licensed drivers speeding and weaving through lanes, too-narrow and/or windy roads, multiple schools infested with driving parents in a rush AND students sauntering purposefully into traffic, crowded and badly designed parking lots, etc. freeways are even worse.

can i send my lovely daughter out for some driving lessons? she would love driving the JEEP! and it would be great for her to get the feel for driving without the extra worries of the urban crush.

kathy a said...

or, i need hardly add, the worries of a high-strung, vocal maternal unit.

kathy a said...


Floridacracker said...

It's not our usual topic. Maybe we should drive alone with the radio off more.

You have a long time to build up you nerve. Enjoy it!
The carnivorous amorous plants were flowering bladderworts.

Kathy A,
We do mellow down the line. He's got it considerably easier than his two older sisters.
My Katy's driving record sounds like your sons... two airbag deployments.
I can feel the grey hairs popping.

Floridacracker said...

Kathy A,
Oh, and thanks for the birthday wish!

Hurricane Teen said...

Feliz cumpleanos, FC!
And hasn't it been a little warm for that beard this winter?

Floridacracker said...

Gracias amigo.
Yes, it has been a little warm. Notice how short that beard is.
Not like my drivers license... I look like a terrorist.

Thunder Dave said...

Let us not forget that the French funded our revolution for freedom from England!!! Sort of odd that we think now think the UK as better allies than the French!

Anonymous said...

the pulguinha looks forward to her first driving lesson in the Jeep. When she's 13.

Anonymous said...

Oh - that's the best pic of you so far, IMHO, by the way...

Got ammo?


Floridacracker said...

Vive le France!

Well, I trust your opinion :)
Got Ammo?
Why yes I do ...quite alot.