The Cost of a Teen Turning Sweet Sixteen. (and a muse on the driving age in the U.S.)

This is my son preening after one of many victory rides.

Goal Accomplished!

He’s become rather¬†obsessed with cycling since we moved to Monterey, and he cajoles his dad into long rides (think 20-30+ miles) up and down the coast as often as possible — at least once a week, though he’d go out more if he had his druthers (and not these pesky academics to attend to) (or a dad with a meddling J.O.B. which is the reason we’re living in this amazing place to begin with). (You like all my dangling prepositions?)

Now, it’s not like Conner’s never ridden his bike before we lived here. But in Ohio it was used as a form of transportation to and from his friend’s house less than a mile away, and like many, many places in the U.S.A., biking around Centerville just wasn’t something people did very often for recreation or just to get from Point A to Point B. Not very many pedestrian-friendly zones. Oh, and the weather pretty much stinks for several months a year.

Not so in Monterey!

Biking Weather All Year-Round!

Conner recently turned 16, and it’s funny: everyone kept making comments about how “now there’s going to be another driver on the road!” and asking if he’s gotten his Learner’s Permit yet.

Conner driving has been nary a topic of conversation around here: all he wants to do is ride his bike.

I do believe he needs to earn his driver’s license soon and get plenty of hours behind the wheel with a parent beside him. Lordy knows I don’t want him leaving this home someday and try to learn the life skill of driving on his own.

But it could be argued that there’s no reason to hurry, and so we’re not. He’s quite busy with academics right now as it is. And long bike rides. So we’ll see… I know he’s reached the minimum age in California for a permit, but other than that I still need to research what’s required before we can let him behind the wheel and practice the basic mechanics in remote stretches of nearby Ft. Ord. Lord knows I don’t want him flat out on these roads by our home fresh out of the¬†barrel.

How old were you when you started to drive?

I was 14. Yes, you read that right: FOURTEEN. I grew up in Kansas, people, rural roads and wheat fields and all that. Except I lived in town. A small one compared to most, but a real, bona fide town with roads and stoplights and everything.

This Fiesta actually looks nicer than the version I remember driving.

I also learned to drive using a stick-shift, because it was what we had. It was a hunk of junk and to this date I have never driven anything else so difficult and persnickety. My friends and I used to joke and call it the Flintstone Mobile because it had “built-in ventilation” (aka cracks in the exterior) and sometimes practically required me to get out and push. It liked to stall at every stop (I learned to alternately pump the gas and clutch and brake just so) and leaked transmission fluid like a sieve and the tires constantly needed air and all it had was a.m. radio which we blared, loudly. And just forget about AC (which would have just leaked out the cracks anyway). Everything since has been a dream to drive in comparison.

It seemed like I had to drive because my parents both worked and it was the only way I could get to school and my activities I wanted to do and my various jobs that I worked. People just didn’t ride their bikes for these things. Or walk. It would be very strange to see people just walking around in my hometown unless it’s for exercise. If they actually want to go somewhere they get in their car.

All that to say I think there’s an argument that the need for Conner to drive when he’s sixteen is a cultural one and not a real need at all. Many countries (such as in Europe) grant drivers’ licences much later with much, much more cost and difficulty attached to the process. (Think a thousand-plus dollars and several months-worth of testing.)

That being said, this is the culture we live in, and despite Monterey being rather dense and pedestrian-friendly compared to most places in the U.S., we aren’t going to live here forever. It would be prudent for Conner to earn his license sooner rather than later.

Just not today. Because for his birthday, we got him this:

And because his dad argued that he would no longer be able to keep up with his son if he didn’t upgrade as well, we got two.

Two Motobecane Grand Record Road Bikes: $1,199.98.

These aren’t exactly Lance Armstrong-worthy, but they’re serious enough for now.

And yes, we paid cash. Specifically, we used the credit card, then immediately turned around and paid it off.

And yes and yes, Conner was very pleased – and surprised. “I didn’t think I’d be getting anything like this for a while.”

Oh, and don’t forget these:

Conner is always asking for more food. And while this junk doesn’t exactly qualify, his siblings have learned the way to their brother’s teenage heart is through his stomach. You might say it was a Sweet Sixteen in every sense of the word.

4 thoughts on “The Cost of a Teen Turning Sweet Sixteen. (and a muse on the driving age in the U.S.)

  1. We must have been very hard on the Fiesta before you got it. I remember feeling like I was stearing the roller coaster because 20 mph felt like 40 and every dip was an adventure to see if you could catch air. The thing must have had no shocks. The hardest stick shift I have EVER driven. Used to drive Janet crazy that she could not conquer that clutch. You are right when you say every ride has been a pleasure since.

    Happy Birthday Conner! Wish I was there to celebrate with you!


  2. Ok, I live in SW Ohio, so as you can guess, my son got his license the week after he turned 16. Hubby and I both work. The school district discontinued bussing for high schoolers. So he is driving for my convenience and sanity. Here in Ohio you can get your temps at 15-1/2 and you need 50 hours of driving with a parent. My son documented 50 hours and drove at least twice that. We did it all, city, country, expressway… We were all very comfortable with him driving when he took his test. Good luck to your son and congratulations on the new bikes.


  3. Although I drove my parent’s car in the driveway (very long driveway) at a younger age, I did not get my permit/license until I was 17. I already graduated high school. My children on the other hand had their license at 16. I think it is aright of passage in California. They earned their wheels and driving with good grades.


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