Almost Fearless

Thai Driving in Seattle & Other Bad Ideas

When I wrote about where we are having the baby (Mexico, if you missed it) I talked about my half-baked idea to go pick up the dogs in Oregon, drive them to Mexico and rent a house there for at least a year, getting dog-loving house sitters for when we travel, specifically our planned six months in Taipei next year.

Sounds so easy, right?  It’s that kind of confidence that tricks my husband into doing crazy things every time.  He’s a total sucker for my ability to announce big plans like this, without any details and do it in such a breathtakingly nonchalant way, that even he, the worrier-in-chief doesn’t blink an eye.

“Of course!” Drew said.

If you’re married to someone who is less keen on taking these kinds of highly unplanned adventures, the best thing to do is get really excited about it (I suggest looking at other people’s vacation pics on Flickr and say things like, “ooh isn’t that a pretty beach, honey”) and then act quickly.  At tops you have 24 hours.  If you can get a flight booked before they can sleep on it, well then, welcome to the pros.  The water’s fine.

So that’s what I did.  I loaded up every luscious pic of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico on my Macbook, ran a query on for tickets to Seattle, and pounced.  He didn’t see me coming.  Before he could say, “Espera!” I had bought him a one-way ticket, on his own, from Bangkok to Beijing to Seattle that cost about $600 (a steal).  “Blah blah blah, and you’ll get a car, the dogs and meet me in LA. Blah.”

I am quite sure he heard even less of that than I am giving him credit.

How to fail a driver’s test

Of course, there’s one (well, many, actually) snags in our plan, and that’s the fact that Drew and I both let our licenses lapse while overseas.  We could have handled it via mail, but we just forgot, and once you’ve expired you have to take the entire driver’s test again, both written and driving.  Drew lands in Seattle and he has just about two weeks to get a license, buy a car, get a title, register it, drive to Oregon, pick up the dogs, drive down to LA and pick me up on the 18th (when Cole and I arrive from Bangkok).  He also has to sell my Canon 7D and a 14mm lens so I can buy the 70-200mm telephoto and TS/E 90mm tilt-shift lenses that I want.  Oh and pick me up an Ergo and baby wrap for the new baby.  And get our mail from the drop service we use.  And buy some car seats, one for our toddler and one for the infant on the way. You know, pretty much run around like a crazy person.

So he lands in Seattle, goes straight to the hostel, and books his driving test.  Without any time to practice, he hops into the car and they are off.

Sometimes, it’s hard to remember what country you’re in. We’ve been in Asia for a long time.  It’s confusing.

So the driver tells him to take a left turn, which he does, but as he’s turning his brain goes into Asia-mode and he very casually turns into on coming traffic.  You know, the left hand side of the street.  Of course if this was Chiang Mai, that would be exactly right, but seeing as it’s downtown Seattle, they tend to frown on that.

I’m not sure if that failed him, but I’m assuming two other things didn’t help.  First, he cut someone off, rather dramatically, because generally in Thailand, you have some flexibility in that regard.  “Right of way” isn’t really enforced and if you can get your vehicle out before oncoming traffic then you have the right of way and everyone should slow down for you.  Somehow this trend hasn’t hit Seattle and I think the instructor yelled at Drew a little.  There might have been some angry horn honking behind him.

Relax people, it’s just a little Thai driving!

Anyway, the last faux pas probably wasn’t illegal but it did irk the instructor.  Drew didn’t trust that anyone coming from a side street would actually stop at the stop signs.  So he’s slowing down after each one, and the driver is like, “You’re going to get someone killed, just drive!”

He did not pass.

Buying a vehicle is stressful

I did the online research for Drew, searching for vehicles, looking up the DMV, doing all the things you should do when you send your husband half-way-around-the-world to run your errands.  We ended up with a Dodge Caravan, which is good because it seats seven (Drew, Me, Cole, Baby plus two dogs gives us six) and it’s built in North America, which is important for anyone looking to move to Mexico because if you do want to make your vehicle Mexico registered (since we’re staying longer term we might want to do that) then it has to be a US or Canadian built brand because of NAFTA.

Drew bought it, drove it home and prayed there was nothing on the title because if your vehicle has ever been involved in a crime (which is a weird thing to say, like a car can have a rap sheet?) then you can’t even cross into Mexico with it.  Oh details.

It was clean.  It passed emissions.  Drew got the registration and title without even having proof of insurance or a valid license.  Thank you Washington state.

At this point we should have cut our loses and moved on but Drew brought it in for a tune up, where they presented him with a list of $1500 worth of repairs (amazingly the exact amount we paid for the vehicle).  Drew’s dad was like, “Oh crap, well there’s always the junk yard.”

Family.  So supportive.

Of course when you go through the list it includes $300 worth of labor to change the coolant and other insane things, so we cut that list down.  New water pump.  Get the transmission sensor thingies replaced.  That’s it.

Here’s the thing though, if this was Asia, they don’t fix things that might break, they fix it when it breaks.  Coming back to the States it’s so easy to get sucked into that whole mentality of “better safe than sorry”.  But what happens if the oil pan, which is old, but not leaking, starts leaking?  You get it replaced.  You know?  It’s not like your vehicle explodes!  Anyway, we bought AAA if we do break down and we’ll keep an eye on it.  Five years ago, we would have stayed home, saved money and made every single repair on that list.  Either we’re much more irresponsible now or our tolerance to risk has shifted.  I suppose it depends who you ask.  If we die, I’ll be sure to let you know.

I suck at being a single parent

I’m not getting much work done, I’m just hanging out with my child and then writing like a mad woman when (if) he naps.  But I’m pregnant and very sleepy so we’ve slept in late every morning.  Drew helped so much, now I feel like I’m missing a limb.  We don’t use childcare in general, so it didn’t make sense to introduce yet another change into the routine, so I’m limping along.  If you see me in Chiang Mai, please just ignore the fact that I’m wearing the same outfit as yesterday, my child has ice cream in his hair, and I look like I forgot where my keys are (I’m probably holding them).  I took Cole to the zoo with friends last week and I noticed that he’s now imitating me huffing and puffing when he walks up stairs.  I’m like, “Cole I’m seven months pregnant, give me a break!” as I climb the stairs to the lion exhibit.  I was not huffing.  Maybe a little puffing.  It was hot out!  I had braxton hicks!

Anyway, I won’t get any awards for my parenting this week, although it has been great for Cole, he’s gotten 110% mommy time, which includes watching hours on end of animal nature shows, and having me name all the animals over and over.  He’s very upset that a venus flytrap will “bite” (as he says) the fly, and he made me replay that part a few times so he could make sure the fly was okay (it was totally not okay, but he’s 2, he can face mortality next week, thanks).  Anyway, I’m a mess, but it’s good for my marriage, Drew loves it when I flail around, and this week I’ve been happy to do just that.  Probably makes up for the fact that he has to do all the crappy running around, while I cruise into LA next week, barely a hair out of place.  See, I’m doing it for my marriage.  Uh, anyway…

I do love it when a lack of plan comes together

Drew drove the Dodge Caravan to Portland, Oregon (he passed the driver’s test on the second try), and he’s now in striking distance of our two very fat labrador retrievers.  Next week, LA.  Until then, I’ll be here in Chiang Mai, trying to pack up this apartment, keep ahead of my deadlines, get one more ultrasound and eat as much Thai food as I can scarf down between chasing my son and trying to get him to eat something other than sweetened roti.

See… easy!


Christine Gilbert

I’ve been dragging my husband around the world since 2008 always with the promise that, “Yes, Drew there will definitely be hammocks there.”



  • Whew! Good thing we weren’t in the city when he was taking the first driving test! 🙂

    This, sounds exactly like my husband and I –

    “It’s that kind of confidence that tricks my husband into doing crazy things every time. He’s a total sucker for my ability to announce big plans like this, without any details and do it in such a breathtakingly nonchalant way, that even he, the worrier-in-chief doesn’t blink an eye.”

    And is why we are in the process of selling the house, all of our stuff, and will launch in 2014 with our boys along for the adventure.

  • Hilarious, as always. Drew’s halo is blinding! As a dedicated pantser, I am constantly in awe of how you continually get things to work out … even when they don’t. Laughing out loud first thing in the morning is the best way to begin my day, so thanks for that! Have a good flight to LA.

  • Love the comment on the American philosophy on fixing things, versus the Thai. You will love Mexico. When we brought our spare starter for our boat engine out to a mechanic in Manzanillo, who immediately got to work, I expressed some surprise. “Wow,” I said. “You know we salvaged that starter from a boat that sunk to the bottom of San Francisco Bay. My husband thought you’d tell us to throw it away.”

    The mechanic waved his wrench in my face. “This is MEXICO,” he hollered. “You tell your husband we can fix ANY PIECE OF SH-T HERE.”

    And he did. Next day, he had it running like new. And I think it cost, like, $30.

  • There are so many things I want to comment on here, as a person who lived in Taiwan for quite a while, also travels down to Mexico with family in tow and most importantly, OWNS A DODGE MINIVAN! 😉 ours is the same deal – lots of repairs advised and we bought AAA as a panacea. My husband is a mechanic though. If Drew needs anything on the way down – we are in the Bay Area – holla.

  • You have no idea what a relief it is for me to hear you say that you’re struggling in your parenting role. You’ve always made it sound so dreamy and I always read those kinds of posts at the end of an especially crappy day.

    So, sympathies for having a crappy time solo parenting. And yay for Mexico and scrumptious new babies! Good luck Christine.

  • Yes yes yes!!! That was brilliant!!! My co-worker can attest to that as I began laughing so hard I had tears and am apparently getting no work done. You guys are wonderful!! Safe travels!

  • “which is important for anyone looking to move to Mexico because if you do want to make your vehicle Mexico registered (since we’re staying longer term we might want to do that) then it has to be a US or Canadian built brand because of NAFTA.”

    Um…can you explain that?

  • Most would say that we should be prepared and plan ahead before heading out. But I also love the thrill and surprises when you’re not so ready.