Most people in the United States consider driving a car a right, but in reality it is a privilege, and must be earned. At 15 a child may obtain a permit to drive with a licensed driver by taking a written exam. Then in a year, or at age 16, they have to take a written and driving test to get a license. The driving test can be waived if they have completed driver’s education. The exams are pretty basic, and in this country, most people pass the test on the first try, and if not on the first try, most pass on the second try. The first driving test was administered in 1899 Chicago and New York City. Massachusetts and Missouri were the first US states to require a license for driving a motor vehicle in 1903. Pennsylvania’s 1909 licensing laws were the first to give an age restriction “18 years of age” and the first state to allow 16 year olds to drive, if they were accompanied by a licensed driver, was Connecticut in 1921. I’m sure that prior to these times most people didn’t have one of the new fangled automobiles, so a license was not needed.

The United Kingdom made the move to require testing on March 24, 1934, and the requirements were a little different than in the United States. The test must be taken in order to receive a full license, and also to add full entitlements to an existing license. The test varies, depending on the class of vehicle that is to be driven, and is administered by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency or DVSA, in Great Britain and the Driver and Vehicle Agency, or DVA in Ireland. Those parts of the program seem to be just like here in the United States, but from there on out, there is a pretty big difference. In the United Kingdom, the minimum age at which one can take a driving test is currently 16 for mopeds and 17 for cars, with an exception allowed at 16 for those on the higher/enhanced rate of the mobility component. In addition to a driving licence, a CBT certificate may be required before a moped or motorcycle is ridden.

In Great Britain around 1.6 million people take the practical car test per year. Approximately 43% of those who take it pass the test, and the theory test has a pass rate of about 51.6%. Now I don’t know what you think, but I think the kids in this country would be pretty upset if only half of those who took the test got to actually drive legally. Then again, maybe kids would study harder for the test in that case. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard a kid say, “It’s all common sense.” My thought is, “What wealth of knowledge about driving a car is a 15 year old, who has never driven one, going to have.” The answer is obvious…to the parents anyway. If they don’t study, they will likely not pass, but what of the people of Great Britain and Ireland. They know the test is difficult. My guess is that they do study, but that the test is a much more advanced version than those in the United States. Maybe it’s because they want it to be more than just common sense. I’m not saying our tests are too easy…but it’s something to consider when you look at the statistics.

Bob on the TrailRed Winged BlackbirdSince 1995, Bob and I have loved hiking. At times we could not do much hiking, because we had important responsibilities elsewhere, but as much as we have been able, we have hiked. I have a treasure trove of pictures from our various hikes. They are all beautiful, and I wouldn’t trade a single one of them. They are the memories of those amazing times that we have been able to spend together. The peacefulness of those hikes cannot be copied in any indoor setting…nor would I want to. The fresh air, the birds and animals, the quiet, and the push on our bodies, all add to the feeling we get from our hikes.

Many of the pictures I have taken over the years, while wonderful, were not of the quality I had wanted. They were taken with my phone, and while they were great shots, I still could not get that elusive shot of landscape or wildlife. I knew I would need a better camera, but I hesitated because of both cost and bulkiness. Nevertheless, that elusive shot was always in the back of my mind, especially when it came to wildlife. I wanted to be able to get a shot of an animal or bird that looked like I was standing right there, next to it, and that was impossible with my phone…even though it is an iPhone and has a great camera…along with the dozens of apps I had tried, in search of just such a camera.

This year I decided that the time had arrived to get the camera that would do what I wanted it to do. It’s not the most expensive camera, but it has a couple of good lenses, and it takes good, high resolution pictures. I had played with it a little bit at home, but this vacation was going to really put it to the test. My hope was to finally get the kind of pictures that would be award winning…whether I ever entered them in a contest or not. With each hike we have taken my appreciation of this new camera has grown.

I have three more days of hiking and picture taking ahead of me before we head for home, and the possibilities are endless. I could potentially take some amazing pictures, and any Downy WoodpeckerBridge on the Trailone of them could be better than any I have ever taken. Still, I have to think that while the pictures I took of the Red Winged Blackbird were…less than amazing, the picture of the Downy Woodpecker, which was the first of those elusive shots, has more than made up for it. Yes, the pictures of us on the trails are great, and the bridge on the trail is very quaint, but  it is the Downy Woodpecker that finally got me that elusive shot.

When I was a kid, one of the fun things to do was the stare down. Two people stare at each other until one blinks. The one who stares the longest without blinking is the winner. There was never any real purpose for this little game except to outlast your opponent, and that seemed to be the thing to do. And the funny thing was that it wasn’t just little kids that did it. Teenagers did it too. Maybe it was a silly kids game, and maybe it was a way to test ourselves…to see how long we might be able to endure. I don’t know for sure, but it was the contest of choice when we were goofing around…especially when we had cousins in town.

Of course, some of us were better at it than others. I would love to say that I was one of the best, but I think I probably fell somewhere in the middle. As I recall, Alena and Allyn were pretty good at it, and my cousin Terry was good too. Whenever he was in town, you could bet that there would be a few competitions that included the stare down that would end up in the mix of events.

It’s funny how quite often it is that you and your cousins are the most competitive. Sometimes it goes to the point of not getting along at all, but that was never the case with our family. The stare down and other competitions were always done in good clean fun, and were very much enjoyed by all of us. We left the fighting to other things…things that were more important, like who was a tattletale, or who hit who. Thankfully none of that happened so very much.

We always enjoyed the times when our cousins would come to visit, which became less and less as we all got older, and started working or got married. Those were some of the greatest times, and I miss them very much. Sometimes I wish things didn’t have to change so much…because in the stare down of life, time is always the winner.

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