Road Worthy

Our middle child turned sixteen on April 15th. Right in the middle of quarantine/ social distancing life. (Note: I’m not saying the world has overcome the pandemic, just that the peak of solitude seems to be behind us.) We were hoping that on her birthday she would have been able to go and do her knowledge test to begin driving. But it seemed that life was on pause until the start of June when ICBC began allowing people to book these tests.

Our daughter booked her test immediately- but there was a two week queue already. This gave her more time to study and finally had a deadline. I went with her yesterday morning because I had to sign off on her getting her license as she is still a minor. Once I signed off, I was asked to wait outside. I watched from the parking lot as our daughter took her exam. She had forty five minutes to complete it.

She was done in eleven.

She successfully aced the test with only one wrong answer out of fifty questions! 98% is dang impressive, clearly she gets her intelligence from her father. A very proud teenager showed off her “L” to her friends on Instagram and through texting. We stopped about a block away from our home, and I let her get a taste of driving.

All I can say is that this one will need lessons from someone who is not mom or dad. She may be book smart, but she needs to become road smart because those are two very different skill sets. I’m really happy for her and think that driving is a great skill to possess.

Frosty

I find the biggest downside to winter is warming up my car. I can deal with snow and even ice. I just hate waiting for my car to get warm and de-fog.

This morning I decided to sit in my car and write this blog as I waited for my windows to clear up. I did my best to wait for complete visibility, but I’m cutting the blog short so I can start driving as the rest of my car warms up. My seat warmer works really well and I just feel like getting going.

I can’t wait for warmer weather to return.

108,000 Kilometers

I’ve owned my 2016 Nissan Rogue for exactly three years. I bought it the day I took a promotion and became a supervisor at my work: Changing It Up. The car received its regular oil change today. I also had the brake fluid flushed. My vehicle hasn’t required anything major considering I have put on 108,000 Kilometers on it since new. The service department was surprised by two things.

First, that I haven’t had to change my brakes. They told me that most people get new brakes between 50-60,000 Kilometers. Mine are on the verge of needing replacement, but can wait until the new year. The service department said I must be really gentle on my brakes. Um… not really, but I guess the vehicle tells a different story.

Secondly is my tires. They still have quite a bit of life to them. The tires came with the vehicle and are stock as well. Nowhere near high performance or high mileage quality. I’ll probably get some all-season tires in the Springtime. No need to fork over money for winter tires at this time either.

All in all I will say that my Nissan Rogue has been a great vehicle. “Five out of five stars- Would Buy Again.”

I did however forget to put insurance on it again this year. I noticed as I left the dealership that it expired yesterday. Oops. Time to get that rectified immediately. Wouldn’t want to have my car not taken care of since it’s been taking care of me for three years without complaint.

Getting Chipped Off

Over the past month or so my windshield has been getting abused. I don’t much care for it.

It’s very frustrating to be driving down the highway and hear that loud PING as a projectile leaves its mark on your car’s glass. I had three separate small ones all appear at various spots within a few days of each other. Every time I get in my car I think, “I should get that looked at and repaired”. But I never do.

Then this morning as I drove home from work- a massive attack occurred. I was even able to witness the projectile as it flew at my car. It was a dull grey image barreling directly at my line of sight. It wasn’t until it hit my window and scared me that I mentally zoned back in. Now there is a large crescent moon chip in the center of my windshield. The diameter of the damaged area is larger than a quarter- this is definitely a fifty cent piece sized chunk.

So I guess I’m glad I didn’t get the other three chips repaired. It would feel like a waste of time. On my next day off- I’ll be looking to get something done about it. Until then, I’ll just have to do my best to not focus on it… Good Luck Joe– it’s right at eye level. I better not buy a new vehicle like I did years ago when I got our minivan windshield replaced. Even though our Pathfinder was a great SUV and much better than a minivan. I still love my 2016 Nissan Rogue, so just a new windshield shall do.

Crossing Tracks

Everyday I cross two sets of train tracks near our home. I’ve been doing this for over a decade now. Recently they changed one of the crossings.

They removed the stop sign and installed some lights. Needless to say that many of the local residents are having a difficult time adjusting. Since many have lived here for a long time. Even though I know it has signals and no more stop sign, I still slow down as I approach. Perhaps it’s the railroader in me exercising caution.

At the other crossing I sometimes stop and take a photo. There can be something beautiful about the skyline and the tracks that needs to be immortalized in a picture.

First Day Of School- Sort Of

Yesterday was the first day of school. Only it was just one hour of school. Not really a “day” to speak of really. But the kids enjoyed seeing their friends and smelling the hallways once more.

My wife even took the obligatory “Seeing the kids off on the first day of school photo“. This year was of the car as it drove off. That’s because our oldest has her driver’s license and the other two are both in high school now. This meant we didn’t have to spend the “day” waiting for them. It’s bittersweet in a way. But for this year, my wife and I won’t have to spend 40 minutes in the morning and 40 minutes in the afternoon driving.

Huge sigh of relief.

Today is a real day of school. Now starts the hard work and education.

Safe Travel Day

As I mentioned yesterday in my blog- Off To Fort St. John– we had a road trip taking us fairly far North in British Columbia. We left our home at 6am and made it into Fort St. John by 8pm. we made it in one word:

Safely.

That’s the key that I want to mention about this road trip that I always overlook when talking about driving. I love taking the roads through the mountains, deserts, countrysides and cities. Road trips are a good way to bond with my family on these vacations. But the journey needs to always be taken safely.

We left before the sun came out. But we stopped twice before even hitting the freeway. That’s because I was uncertain about one of the front straps on the kayaks I had mounted to the roof. Because of my anal retentiveness- this prevented any possible issues during our drive. Every time we stopped for gas- I rechecked the tie downs. All was good.

After about eight hours of my hand at driving, I realized I was becoming extremely tired and had my wife take over. I hopped into the back seat with our son, while our daughter sat up front and played “DJ”.

After a couple of hours driving on the single lane roadways- my wife was behind a slow moving vehicle. When an opportunity arose for her to pass the RV, she signaled and began to pull around. At which point the truck behind her also decided he wanted to pass both our car and the RV. He had no signal and a lead foot. My wife had to jerk back into our lane narrowly avoiding hitting the front side of the truck and the rear bumper of the car in front. There was no reason for the guy behind us to try and run us off the road. But he felt he was more important.

My wife remained calm and then passed the RV. The other truck was now barreling down the road ahead of us at close to twice the posted speed limit. Oh well.

About an hour before we were to get to our destination- there was the remnants of a bad accident. It looked as though a train had collided with a semi trailer at the only train crossing around. The flag people were in position alternating the flow of traffic. We weren’t held up for very long.

Needless to say, we encountered a few indiscretions during our fourteen hour drive. Road trips are long and can be tedious. But keeping your occupants and fellow drivers around you safe should always be number one. We preach safety at my work, and I take that home every day as well. I’d much rather get to our destination safely than in a hurry.

So we made it to Fort St. John safely.

Off To Fort St. John

Today we are driving North. This will be the furthest North I have ever driven. Prior to this was back in Grade Eight in 1988 when I went on a band trip to Prince George. That was memorable because we stayed at the host homes of one of the schools up there.

But today we are driving for about another four hours past Prince George. Driving North. I can’t get over how far this is from our home.

But it’s not the furthest we’ve driven from our home. We drove South one time almost all the way to the Mexican border. Driving South usually means warmer weather and a more fun destination.

Earlier this year we headed East. Not quite out of Alberta. But getting pretty close. The distance is almost as far as our travels today. But the time to get there is quicker. Most likely due to the route and my tendency to get a speeding ticket in Alberta…

As for driving West- Gold River On Vancouver Island was the furthest so far. Can’t overly drive through the Pacific Ocean. The ferry only gets to the islands nearby.

Do you enjoy roadtrips as much as we do?

What’s the furthest you’ve driven?

Any sights you’d recommend on the drive North through British Columbia?

Let me know in the comments!

On Her Own

On Friday our oldest got her N which means she can drive without supervision. Today she left for her work on her own. To my wife and I- this is a big deal. It’s the start of a bit more freedom. Freedom from chaperoning the kids everywhere.

But it was also tough to see our oldest leave without us. Even though we could’ve slept in- we had to make sure she left the nest and got to work safely. So we made her text us once she arrived at her job. Being a parent means we still worry.

And worry we will.

Forever.

N

A little bit over a year ago, our oldest daughter got her Learner’s License. She has practiced driving a few times every week since then. Mostly driving my car because it is an automatic. She has also driven our 2003 Honda Element which is a manual transmission. We kept that vehicle because it has been extremely reliable and had we traded it in- we wouldn’t get much money for it. It’s also a safe vehicle for her to drive around in.

Today she went in to get her “N” to begin being a Novice Driver. She successfully passed the road exam. Now she will have more freedom to drive without mom and dad overseeing her every move. Just look at that teenage smile!

We insured the Honda Element today for a full year with her as the primary driver. The first thing she did for the car? Set her radio stations.

Having an L for the past year meant she wasn’t permitted to have music or the radio playing while she learned to drive. Earning an N gives her the opportunity to enjoy driving. She will be more independent now. I also gave her some training this evening on how to change the tire in case she ever gets a flat.

So there it is- another milestone in a young person’s life. It feels as if we just took off her training wheels yesterday. Except that was a fight. She had no desire to learn how to ride a two wheel bike… but that’s a different story.

Congratulations Random!

Continuous Commute

Commuting alone has its advantages.

I commute 56.9 km from my home to work and the same for the return. It takes about 45 minutes on average each way. I’m lucky in the sense that I usually miss the bumper to bumper driving because of my start and end times at work. Usually.

I don’t mind this commute. I listen to the daily news report on the radio as I drive. It also clears my head after a day of working. This allows me to devote my time to my family when I arrive at home.

Mornings like today are spectacular to drive home in after a night shift. I get to enjoy the sun peering over the trees and casting a light onto my destination- my home. My neighborhood lights up with activity as well. Birds, rabbits and squirrels darting around the streets. As if my drive home has turned me into a Disney Princess and the small woodland critters are greeting me on my journey home.

Or else I’m just really tired and need to get some sleep and stop tripping out. At least I made it home alive…

U-Turn!

Having a day off before the weekend is fantastic. Shopping is easier when the stores aren’t crowded. This morning I thought I’d get a good jump on my day off. Out the door at 8am to drop the kids off at school, then down to the good ol’ U.S. of A for some reasonably priced gas and dairy. I’d even beat the other parents since most school drop off is at 9am.

What a great plan. Or so I thought.

Today was the only day I wasn’t listening to the news radio. Turns out there was an accident at a major intersection that I needed to go through. I was wondering why the traffic was so busy going the opposite direction from me. Got to the detour and instead of heading south I was on my way north.

My brain went into re-routing overdrive. What roads connect where? Which ones won’t be busy? GIDDYUP U-Turn! Followed by a quick right and I was headed down a quiet street. I got this. Smooth sailing so far. Hang a left… traffic looked a bit busy up ahead- just a school zone to get through. Crossing over the other busy street when complete stop. Still about five blocks away from my planned route.

A couple minutes went by and we’ve moved two car lengths. There’s a driveway to my left…U-turn number two! Heading north again in order to go west down another back road. But I need to head east and south! Now I have a Pet Shop Boys song stuck in my head. “Go West- life is peaceful there…”

Finally a road that isn’t busy. The road that takes me home. I can’t go that way- I still need gas! I’m finally heading south. Back roads are fairly empty. Phew. I can begin to head east again. Alright- smooth sailing… construction zone!??!? How in the world is a person supposed to get anywhere? Am I living the traffic jam scene from “The Truman Show”? I gave up and just sat in the lineup. It was a bit of a wait, but not too bad.

I finally made it to the border. Which was not busy at all. My guess is people gave up trying to get through the blocked intersection I was frustrated with that begin my ordeal. Zipped to get fuel and zipped back across to come home. No waiting either way. Going home was easy as well. No traffic this time.

Two hours gone from my day however. But it was my day off without much in the way of plans- so that’s okay. Next time I’ll listen to the radio for traffic reports.

Night Drive to the Airport

Last night I had to pick up my wife from the airport. Since I was working out in North Vancouver during the day, it didn’t make a whole lot of sense to drive home first. I’d have driven eastward for 45 minutes just to have headed south west and drive for another 50 minutes to the airport. So I decided to kill some time in North Vancouver and had a quiet dinner by myself followed by a drive through Vancouver.

It was a route I don’t normally take. As I’ve mentioned in the past- I rarely travel to Vancouver. So I took my time and drove over the Lions Gate bridge from the North Shore past Stanley Park and into Vancouver. To my surprise, I really enjoyed seeing this part of the city at night. I can see why my wife would like to spend some time living in this area.

There’s something about city lights and a clean part of the city that becomes enticing. My wife may be able to sway me into buying our next place out that way once our kids are adults. I never thought of myself leaving the ‘burbs. But a nice view of city lights seems plausible. Only time will tell.

Madonna Sing-a-Long

C’mon Girls! Do you believe in love?

I’m just going to put this out there.

I enjoy listening to Madonna.

The other day, I pulled out her “Immaculate Collection” CD from my music assortment. I popped it into my car’s CD player and put it on shuffle.

You know, commuting in and out of Vancouver is much more pleasant when you sing along to music. Boy, do I love to sing along!

Sitting in my car is a crocheted BB-8 that hangs out by my cup holder. I’ll pick him up by the head and flip him around as I drive. His ass makes a great impromptu microphone. Occasionally I’ll stick it in my family’s face to try and get them to sing along as well. A lead singer needs his back up vocals!

Rocking down the highway to some classic Madonna makes me happy. I know most of the lyrics to Madonna’s songs from the 80’s and 90’s. Some of the lyrics I mumble or sing incorrectly for fun. Even though I belt them out, I still have to have her music cranked up. It drowns out my inability to sing. But I sure look like I’m having fun.

So I take a note from one of Madonna’s lyrics:

Express what I got,

oh baby ready or not

Express yourself!

Christmas Eve Close Calls

Today as I was driving to work, I almost got in a car accident. There was practically no one on the roads at the time. I was in a roundabout when another driver nearly hit me. She was clearly not paying attention. Probably distracted thinking about Christmas because she was in a real hurry.

There are certain rules of the road that people need to follow. Yielding to those in a roundabout is one of them. I wasn’t angry at the other driver, just a bit frustrated. But I’ve been on the other end as well where I’ve made a mistake driving nearly causing an accident.

Christmas Eve 1993, when I nearly got in a car accident. I was 17 at the time and my mother had asked me to go get gas and a car wash up the road from our place. My younger sister came along for the fifteen minute car ride. It was probably to get us out of the house in order for my mother to do last minute gift wrapping. It was evening time and the roads were getting frosty with patches of ice.

I was approaching a stop light and wanting to take a righthand turn. That’s when my wheels locked and I slide towards the car that was perpendicular to us. I must’ve stopped inches away from t-boning the driver’s side door. When I stopped, I quickly reversed and then proceeded to make my turn- waving apologetically to the other car.

Once I had turned into the gas station, a police car pulled up behind me with lights flashing. The officer had seen my close call but was kind enough to let me off with a warning and some friendly advice to be careful during the holidays.

I’ve always remembered that moment and taken it to heart. Even with your mind elsewhere, you need to pay attention to your immediate surroundings.

Stay safe over the holidays everyone!

Candy Cane Can’t

I was driving to get the kids from school like I usually do on a Friday afternoon. Being the cool Dad alone in the car- I was grooving to some Christmas tunes on the radio. I also decided that I was going to eat a Candy Cane. Because- Christmas of course!

So I’m driving and trying to open the wrapper with both hands- while still holding the steering wheel- safety first. Just bopping along to some tunes and smiling as I struggle with the heat shrinked wrapper. My smile is now fading as I try and use my teeth to rip into this unforgiving clear plastic of pure evil. I want to eat my sugar treat!!! Why is this so difficult???

I finally got a little tear opened on the bottom of the candy cane. So I went back to multitasking with my hands on the steering wheel and opening my treat. The nearly impossible plastic protective shield was outsmarted by this man! I was about to revel in my Christmas Sugar Rush when the unthinkable happened.

The wrapper split open from end to end to reveal a shattered candy cane.

Nay! Not reveal- but rather EXPLODE!

Candy Cane shards went everywhere. All over the floor mats, the dashboard, my cup holders, and even into my steering column. Instead of a loud cursing scream, my voice let out a cracked whimper of defeat. I was beaten by a cheap Christmas confectionary. The rest of my drive was met with a taunting Christmas jingle pumping through my stereo.

No treat.

No joy.

Just a flaccid piece of plastic wrap in my right hand with a few bits of red and white dust falling out. This is the perfect example of why I don’t like sweets.

Auto Pilot Driving

This morning I made it home on autopilot. I’ve done this numerous times. Just like an ant- I know the route home off by heart.

I caught myself twice that I had zoned out. Once was driving past a police car with someone pulled over. Next, I was suddenly at my exit off the freeway without realizing it.

It still worries me though. I don’t like the sensation of losing the time. Once in a while I’ll take a different route home from the freeway just to change it up. I usually do that if I’m really tired. But it’s that long stretch driving for twenty minutes that has my mind wandering.

I can’t think of a good way to keep myself focused. I’ve tried a variety of music, podcasts, talk radio, even hands free calling.

Who knows. Hopefully one day I don’t have to drive anymore. Then I can zone out all the time.

Driving On 9

Today I chose to drive everywhere by doing the speed limit. I know-crazy.

I’ve always been a Mr. heavy foot when it comes to driving. Over my 25 years of driving- I have had about 20 speeding tickets (3 of which were in my first two years of driving) and numerous warnings. It’s about time that I stopped handing over thousands of dollars in fines and started behaving.

This morning I decided to drive at exactly the speed limit on my way to work. It was early morning, meaning no traffic on the roads. Surprisingly, any other driver I met on the road was speeding. I just stayed in cruise control in the right lane and let them whiz passed me. It was the same on the drive home.

I also chose to follow the rules of the road a bit more closely in order to be able to showcase to our daughter that following these rules are important.

If I’m going to help teach her how to drive- I want her to have a good role model. Time to be that person.

Jacked

We insured our Honda Element today in order for our daughter to learn how to drive a 5 speed manual transmission. I thought it was a good idea at the time of deciding it. Only cost us $708 for four months insurance. OUCH. But at least it won’t cost us much more… except…

Whattheeverlovinghell?!?

Ok, not gonna lie. I knew we would need a tune up service for the car. It had been sitting for about 18 months. So no big deal. Really. I have started it up and moved the car a few times. My daughter and wife had driven it a bit today. They filled the tires and got some gas. I decided to take it out for a drive when I came home from work.

It probably wasn’t the best idea. Lots of driving for a car that has been stationary for far too long. That “Check Engine” light did not disappear. On my drive back to the house from the store, my little Element began to “Jack Rabbit” when I was in 2nd and 3rd gear. I pulled over and shut off the car for a bit before driving again. The car ran smooth for a bit, then began Jack Rabbiting once more. I made it home and have decided that I won’t drive it this weekend until after I get it looked at.

Hopefully it won’t cost a small fortune and that all it takes is simply a couple of twists and turns to tune it up right.

Hmmm now I want to watch “Pulp Fiction” again.

“In The Shape of An L On Her…”

Car!

Random did it. She turned 16 yesterday and went and got her learners permit today! She passed the test without issue.

So my oldest is now learning to drive. I raced home from work so that I could take her out for a spin. She slapped the “L” on the back of my car and we got ready to head out. Being her first “official” driving experience (she may have moved the cars a few times over the past year in our driveway, but I won’t tell) she did everything by the book!

She walked around the car- twice. She sat in the driver’s seat and adjusted her mirrors, steering wheel and seat. Her seat belt went on, she started the car and the radio got turned off. As we drove, she used signals, drove just below the speed limit, shoulder checked, and focused. Our trip up the road to the gas station was one of the most perfect by-the-book rides I have had since probably my road test 35 years ago.

Starting with the good habits is difficult. I know how I drive. I know what my car is capable of. I also know how to *ahem* bend the rules a bit. I had to put all of that behind me and talk with her about how to drive properly. She did great- and her smile afterwards was worth it all. Like back when I taught her how to ride a two wheel bike. She was so proud of herself. That was eleven years ago…

But she’s still my little girl. And I am proud of her accomplishments as well.

Driver’s Tan

The sun is out and the heat is now in full force. Driving in my car, I prefer to roll the windows down and drive with the wind blowing in. I think every car I have ever owned has had AC, but I don’t like to use it. Plus, how can everyone else enjoy my loud music if the windows are shut?

I enjoy resting my arm on the edge of the door while the window is down. It’s a casual feel and keeps me calm while I drive. The only problem is that I get a funky one sided tan that is worse than a “Farmer’s Tan“.

The dreaded “Driver’s Tan“.

At the end of my evening commute to work yesterday, I felt like Richard Dreyfuss from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. My arm was warm and the side of my face was beginning to feel it as well. The only way to balance this out is to become a passenger in the car and hope that the sun beats down on the opposite side.

But the sun is great and makes everyone a bit happier. I love that the weather is spectacular these days. For the past 25 years or so, I have survived every summer’s “Driver’s Tan“. I think I’ll survive this years as well.

The Shitty Routine

I’ve been coming to Calgary Expo for seven years now. And every year I get the same gift. A gift I don’t want. I thought this time would be different.

I had been awake since 3:30pm the day before, worked all night, then grabbed a quick nap before hitting the road by 09:00am. As much as I wanted to sleep, I had to stay alert. But throughout the drive, my co-pilot was out cold periodically. I began zoning out as I drove. It was the last leg of our journey- only about an hour and a half remained of our ten hour drive. Then it happened…

A speeding ticket.

This year it happened on my wayin to Calgary. The officer was quick to pull me over, issue the ticket and in a few short minutes- turning around his car to give out a ticket to someone else. Seems like it was a regular place to make a buck or two… Usually I get a lovely photo in the mail a few weeks after our trip. Oftentimes an image of my car the day we are leaving!

So now that The Shitty Routine is behind me for this trip, time to enjoy my weekend.

Let the Full Frontal Nerdity begin!

Just Music?

On my drive to work today, these were a collection of the songs I listened to:

Peter Gunn by The Art Of Noise

It’s music that just sounds like it’s from a 1970’s/1980’s film. Jazzy and techy. Fun to drive to.

Mama Mia by ABBA

A great disco tune. One that I know the words to. I love singing to this and bouncing around in my car.

More Human Than Human by White Zombie

This song just gets me going. It has a killer beat and drums along.

My Sunday morning drive is usually an eclectic arrangement of fun music that I enjoy. The drive home was NEWS Radio. That my usual Sunday. The rest of the week is mostly talk radio and podcasts.

Quiet Sunday Roads

Turns out that not a lot of people were on the roads this morning. I was heading home with my son after we spent the night at a friend’s place. The roads were empty and the fog was blindingly thick. The sun was attempting to burn it away with hardly any success.

On our way home I stopped at another old friend’s home to pick up a bed frame for my oldest daughter. She’s kind of outgrown her twin bed. At age 15 and being 6’2″ I figured it was time to get her a bigger bed. So I packed in the dismantled queen size bed frame into my Pathfinder and headed home.

No one was on the back roads going home. It was eerie and calming. Usually there is too much traffic and bad drivers. Not today. My son and I had a pleasant journey home as I drove below the speed limit in order to not jostle the bed frame pieces around. Before getting home I was tempted to keep on driving around since it was a quiet Sunday and the fog was dissipating. But I needed to come home and rest before my night shift. Hopefully the roads will still be quiet later on for my commute to work.

Belting Out Song Lyrics

I am a terrible singer. I don’t even try. But I do have fun.

I end up having more fun mocking the styles of the artists I hear by over-exaggerating their sound. Sometimes it’s just loud mumbles until the chorus. Then I own that shit! I’ve done that at pubs and bars- sometimes in the middle of a live performance by a cover band. Shocking everyone.

I really enjoy flipping radio stations in the car when my kids are with me. I’ll sing portions of songs, then switch to find another that I know, just to switch it to another. This is also done at extremely loud decibels. That way people outside the car can hear it as well.

Did I mention that I not only drum on the steering wheel, but also dance in the car or make motions with my hands to the lyrics? There has been times where I’ve stopped the car and continued to sing and dance in the driver seat while people walk past. Only to have them smile and do a little jig for a moment before catching themselves. Life can’t always be serious and stagnant.

We’re here for a good time. Not a long time. So have a good time.