I told her, “At the stop sign, turn left.”

She asked, “Do I have to stop or can I roll through?” She’s 18 now, my daughter not the car. My Midget turned 40 this year, just a few years younger than me.

In the sweet spot

In the sweet spot

She’s only driven a stick shift four times and the Midget only once before this. Why only once? I really can’t remember looking back but I am sure every time one of us had an excuse to do other things.

She ends up getting lucky. She shifts down to 2nd and rolls on through not having to stop and put it in 1st. She remembers her first time all too well of begging the crash box not to grind going into 1st. An experience she would like to avoid this trip.

The day is nice, about 74 degrees, and we are cruising along. We are in the sweet spot now. The Midget is holding a steady 50 mph and all noises have calmed to a whisper. We look at each other, laugh, and I wonder why we don’t do this more often, but then again, we all know why.

We are on a loop out of town that could easily take us 50 miles without hitting a stop sign or Turnkey Signs. She’s familiar with the area but doesn’t have an intimate knowledge of it. I point her to the left at a Y in the road. She can tell I have something in mind. I tell her, “a little practice from a stop will give you more confidence.” She smiles and nods her head, ready to play along.

We are getting to the end of a long stretch of road that is lined with rolling hills of grape vines. She sees the end is near and starts to get a bit nervous. With one hand she is holding the wheel, the other she is biting her nails. I have trapped her. The road falls to the left with a reduce speed sign and a stop shortly after that. I can see she is going through the down shifting and ultimate stop in her head. She lets off the gas long before necessary to set up for the maneuvers that will involve both hands and feet, “this isn’t your Ford Focus is it?” I tell her.

Since moving gear changes are quickly mastered she deftly puts the car into 3rd just before turning into the downhill left hander. As we approach the stop sign, clutch in now and standing on the brakes, she shifts to 2nd. This takes me by surprise because I have coached her on just coming to a stop in 3rd then transferring to 1st. I had been watching her but she correctly had been watching the road. As we approached the stop sign there were no cars in any direction so she rolled through another stop sign not having to touch 1st gear. She gave me a smile as if to say, “you thought you had me, well think again.”

I knew eventually the joke would be on her and it happened sooner than I expected. I had forgotten that the road we were on ends just a mile up the road requiring you to choose a left or right turn. As we approached you could see there was traffic from both directions. Not heavy but enough that a stop was inevitable. This time she shifted to 3rd, and left it there, knowing she was going to have to make the dreaded stop.

As we eased up to the stop the incline was more than I recalled. This was going to add a nice little twist to things. As expected she barely gave it any gas and dropped the clutch. She might have pulled it off if we had been on flat ground, but not today, not this time. As she restarted the car I encouraged her to give it some gas. “Don’t be afraid”, I told her, “just when you think you have given it enough give it a little more than ease the clutch out.” With more resolve than I expected she brought it up to 2,500rpm then 3,500rpm as she started to release the clutch.

The launch was nothing short of perfect. “I couldn’t have done it better myself,” I told her.

As we approached the next stop a few miles ahead I wondered what her tactic was going to be. And would you believe it? She chose to actually follow traffic laws and came to a full and complete stop. With the same tempo and resolve as before she brought the car up to launching RPM and again made a flawless launch.  Yes, Dad was proud.

There was only one more stop sign on the way home and it was downhill coming off a little plateau and you already know the answer. She shoved it in 2nd gear and rolled on through. She didn’t want to take any chances. “I wanted to end on a high note,” she said.

Not a bad Father’s day gift.

Shawn Carlberg


'I told her, “At the stop sign, turn left.”' have 2 comments

  1. June 22, 2013 @ 6:03 am john

    Great story,I know that this day is coming for me and I don’t know how to feel about it.When my daughter got into my Tr6 for the first time (9yrs old) the very first words out of her mouth were “can I have this car when I’m 16” Yikes!


  2. July 27, 2013 @ 10:20 pm Jim

    Thanks for the humorous and sentimental story, the mention of grape vines reminded me of my home in Napa Valley. I haven’t lived there since 1986. As I read, I thought of my own daughter who just turned 18 this past July and how she would react to driving my 74′ TR6. She drives an automatic civic so I am sure the experience would be memorable.


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