A road trip 18 years in the making

Ladies, if you’re behind the wheel, you better know the basics supporting that steering device. That wisdom from my dad still resonates with me. Dad never shooed me away whenever he was bent over the engine of our lime-green station wagon, coaxing a new timing belt into that behemoth V-8 motor. I credit him for my fondness of cars and hope to instill the same with my own kids, starting with my first baby (well, she’s actually 18, but you know how Moms are).

She starts college in a about a week—five states away. Too many borders to cross, too far away from me. Rather than weep all summer, I’m planning ahead: she and I will be hauling her things to the dorm this coming weekend. We are a bit on the late side, but this final summer travel session should be good for some mother-daughter bonding time.

I expected her to cringe. Instead, she loves the idea of us driving late in the summer, just before the semester starts. Her dad said it’ll be a long haul during the summer travel season, especially with our neighbor David’s trailer hooked up to our car. Given that she hasn’t been doing a lot of driving, that’ll require some safe driving techniques that may be new to her. I’ve got that covered—part of my bonding plan is to instill all sorts of safe driving tips as we take turns driving.

The three of us went over the car maintenance schedule to ensure mishap-free late summer travel. David later joined us to show how to: engage and disengage the trailer’s ball-and-hitch; ensure trailer lug nuts are tightened correctly and bearings are greased properly; install the trailer lights, connect safety chains from the trailer to our car. He discussed good driving tips for trailer hauling and what to do at every rest stop, such as safety inspections and checking car and trailer tire pressure.

A few more safe driving tips we talked about were:
• Use the side mirrors constantly
• Reduce speed gradually
• Keep a steady hand on the steering wheel
• Never slam the car brakes!

My daughter and I put our safe driving tips to use during some short practice runs across a few cities, from wide, traffic-jammed highways to thin, two-lane roads in the hills. We even took a drive during a rainstorm–something you don’t really expect when driving during the summer! It got to the point where wild winds forced us to use every safe driving tip in the book.

With good driving tips under our belts and a car maintenance schedule list checked off, I’m looking forward to driving across five states, peppering our conversations with my mind’s vast library of driving safety tips, with my baby at my side (yep, she’ll always be my “Baby). Maybe this is how Dad felt when he, that V-8 station wagon and I were driving during the summer of ahem, late 1970-something, hauling my things to the dorm for my freshman year? I’ll have to ask him, that is when I’m done cleaning up the mess I made in the garage!

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