WEST END NEIGHBOR: A long drive for dad

I COME FROM a line of lead-foot drivers, but not the kind with one foot on the brake and one on the gas.

We drive as fast as we can, but relatively sensibly so as not to get caught or put undue wear on the car. None of us have, or ever have had, a flashy, brightly colored car.

We don’t abuse our vehicles, per se, but we all like to know just what our cars’ limits are on the roads we regularly drive.

This trait comes down my father’s line, which is kind of interesting because he was raised by his aunt and his mom, who was a single parent.

Both of these women had their share of tickets and driving stories.

There are two difficult consequences of this trait.

First, we are all ridiculously critical of other people’s driving, and, needless to say, following big RVs around Lake Crescent is a personal form of torture.

The other unpleasant consequence makes us dreadful passengers.

We drive, we don’t ride; which in turn has made it a challenge to ride shotgun while my kids get their practice hours completed to get their own driver’s licenses.

It’s bearable, though, because they’ve been trained from infancy with my driving style and loud vocalizations about other drivers.

The lead foot is in their DNA, too. My daughter just bought her first V8 truck with some help from my mom, my husband and me.

In sharp contrast, my mom has had just one ticket in her whole driving career of almost 60 years. Wouldn’t it figure I had something to do with that ticket, too?

This lead-foot driving trait I never questioned was just a fact of being part of this family, like freckles and reddish hair.

Recently though, I inherited boxes of stuff from my father’s family. Some of the most fascinating items were papers, many of which revealed things I had never known.

No papers needed to tell me that I got my driver’s licence when I was 16.

I totalled my 1975 Monte Carlo with a 350 cubic inch engine a month later and my license was suspended by the time I was 17.

I was almost 30 when I got it back, but I never stopped driving.

At times I was arrested and jailed. The courts called me a “habitual traffic offender.”

Whatever.

My dad always took it in stride, which seemed a little odd in comparison to my friends’ parents. But I just figured it was part of choosing his battles with a difficult daughter.

One thing he always emphasized was that I should have a vehicle that doesn’t draw attention — no cracked windshield, current tabs, the body all the same color and a quiet exhaust.

I pretty much paid attention, the logic becoming clearer as police encounters came more often.

But it wasn’t until just about a month ago I began to understand where my father’s insight came from.

In these boxes of family history, I found my dad’s written driving test. There is no date, but the paper is old newsprint and he wrote his answers in pencil. His signature was neat, school-like cursive and still hadn’t even come close to the loopy, chaotic mess I tried so hard to forge in high school.

My dad missed two out of 40 questions. I found his instruction permit from January 1957.

Also in the boxes was the paper from his road test. He got a perfect score.

When I took my road test, it took me three tries to get out of the parking lot because each time there was something wrong with my car.

My daughter passed her road test on her second try, parallel parking being one of the issues on the first. My son takes his driver’s education course this summer.

The next paper I found was a small paper that expired in January 1960. This was my dad’s temporary license.

When I opened an envelope from the director of Motor Vehicles that was addressed to my grandma, there was a letter indicating she had the option to appear in court because the state was “proposing to take action against the driving privilege of this minor.” The minor was my dad.

Apparently my pops didn’t sweet talk his way out of anything in court that day, another family trait, because the paper folded up behind the letter stated his license was suspended for 30 days, effective Jan. 16, 1960.

A 1962 pit pass and dragstrip entry from Half Moon Bay, Calif., for a 1960 Pontiac with my dad as the driver told me he did not keep a suspended license for long.

Both he and my grandma were known at that track for consistent times in their street cars.

In my day, we went to the Thursday night high school drags at Sears Point in Sonoma, Calif. I never raced there, but my friends did and my auto shop teacher regularly raced his restored Fords.

These days, my dad doesn’t drive anymore.

His 79th birthday is today.

Later, I will endure the torture of construction lines around Lake Crescent on my way to pick him up in Port Angeles.

I’ll help him get into the shotgun seat of the car and we will go for as long a drive as he wants.

We will get a burger at Frugal’s and look at life through the uncracked windshield of the modern version of our street car.

_________

Zorina Barker has lived on the West End for most of her life. She is married to a Forks native who works in the timber industry. Both of her kids have been home-schooled in the wilds of the Sol Duc Valley. She can be reached at 360-461-7928 or [email protected]

West End Neighbor appears in the PDN every other Tuesday.

Her next column will be May 28.

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