What Did You Do on Your Summer Vacation?: Slice of Life

slice of life

I saw cars. That’s what I did.

If I were planning a vacation for me, it would focus exclusively on local coffee shops, independent bookstores, farm-to-table restaurants, art museums, and nature meanderings. I know what I like.

I know what my son likes too. Cars. American muscle cars and Italian sports cars and German sedans and California electric cars and anything expensive and shiny. Butterfly doors are a bonus.

The very first words he spoke when we stepped outside the airport in San Francisco? “Look, Mom! It’s a Tesla!”

It was the first of four thousand “Look Moms!” For the first thousand or so, I turned quickly, thinking I was about to see something spectacular. A blooming flower or a parrot flying overhead or a cool building or perhaps a tiny kitten.

But it was only and always a car.

Granted, sometimes it was a spectacular car.

I saw hundreds of Teslas and Porsches and Corvettes and, thanks to a car show we stumbled onto, 1930s roadsters. I saw a handful of Ferraris, a few Lamborghinis and McLarens, a couple of especially fine classic American muscle cars, one Dodge Viper, and—insert a pause so that an appropriate amount of awe can build—two Bugattis. (Well, technically six, since we saw four classic Bugattis at the Peterson Automotive Museum, which is surprisingly interesting, even if you don’t give two hoots about cars.)

The two Bugattis (found after quite a bit of Internet searching and some very convoluted GPS work) were a religious experience for my son. He couldn’t even form words, and this is a boy who cannot ordinarily stop talking even to sleep. He was silent for so long after we left the dealership that I thought something might be wrong with him.

“Are you okay?” I finally asked.

He opened and closed his mouth a few times and shook his head slowly.

“I don’t know what to say,” he said. “I feel like I just saw an alien.”

Since we’ve been home, he’s insisted on showing off the photos to anyone who will look. The pictures don’t look like much. Bugattis don’t photograph particularly well: they’re too shiny. Still, they look expensive and fancy and special.

Hours of my vacation were spent in conversations that went something like this:

T: If you had to choose between a McLaren and a Lamborghini, which would you choose?

Me: McLaren.

T: Me too.


T: If you had to choose between a BMW and a Mercedes, which would you choose?

Me: Mercedes.
T: Me too.


T: Wouldn’t you give anything to be able to drive a Bugatti?

Me: Anything. Everything.

T: Me too.

I’ve found that it’s best to have an attitude of “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” when it comes to my son’s interests. After visiting a dozen car dealerships, discussing the finer points of McLarens vs Ferraris with patient salesmen, and reading countless reviews and articles online so I can share the fascinating parts with my son, I can now add supercars to my areas of specialized knowledge.

While it might be nice if he developed an obsessive interest in modern art or baking or cats, his obsessions tend to be of the sports, sneaker, and engine variety. And eventually my curiosity gets the better of me, and I become interested too.

I didn’t even have to fake enthusiasm or hide dismay when he grabbed my arm and dragged me off the cable car (iconic San Francisco experience) at a stop that was still several blocks from our destination.

“Look,” he said. “Just look. There’s no way you would have wanted to miss this!”

He pointed to a bronze Lamborghini and a red Ferrari parked in front of a boutique hotel. A rare double supercar sighting in the wild. He couldn’t stop grinning, elbowing me, or taking photos.

He was right. There was no way I would have wanted to miss that.






12 responses to “What Did You Do on Your Summer Vacation?: Slice of Life”

  1. jarhartz Avatar

    You came to the right place for all of those cars! In San Francisco car ogling is a great spectator sport. Even the most disinterested can’t help but get caught up in the excitement. Raising boys in LA I’ve had a few of those who you rather have… or have…conversations myself!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington (@elisabethelling) Avatar

      We drove from San Fran to LA, stopping in Carmel for a couple of nights, and so we were able to ogle to our heart’s content all over California! I didn’t think I was going to get him out of the Petersen Automative Museum!

  2. elsie Avatar

    Welcome to my world, this is my husband. So for future vacations you need to consider that in Amsterdam, Teslas are used as taxis. But for the ultimate OMG car sighting, you need to visit Monte Carlo. I didn’t think we were going to ever get out of that city. This is my husband’s life-long passion, he laments that he can’t be like Jay Leno and have a barn to house the cars he can’t afford to buy.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I have a feeling we’d be spending a lot of time in taxis! (Amsterdam…. so lovely!) I have a feeling cars will be a lifelong interest for my son as well. I am hoping he will also want to learn how to be hands-on with them and fix them, but it may stay a more aesthetic interest. I was sorry we didn’t spend a little more time in Beverly Hills on this trip, so we could have a few more OMG car sightings ourselves. He got pretty excited when he saw a Rolls Royce in the wild and he doesn’t even like those! But hey, it’s fancy. We watched an episode of Jay Leno’s car show on vacation, and now my son’s new dream is a glass barn to store his cars–glass so that he can see them from wherever he is on his property, LOL. Dream big!

  3. Linda Baie Avatar

    You are a good mom, and some of those cars are very fancy looking. We had a Mercedes a long time ago, and I do admit it drove very nicely indeed. That was part of who my husband was, but he also owned a car sound store, so had to “know” cars & how they could be handled stereo & speaker wise. Of course our children loved it! I saw that Elsie mentioned Jay Leno & wonder if there is a way your son could write him, to see what happens? And is it possible for you to drive to CarHenge?

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      My first car was an old Mercedes, and it was just lovely. (My second car was also a Mercedes, so perhaps my son gets his car snobbery honestly!) He hasn’t seen Carhenge yet, but it’s not that far from where we live (well, “not that far” in South Dakota terms, which means it’s a two-hour drive!). I am sure he would enjoy it, as he also has a healthy appreciation for kitsch (another quality we share!). My father-in-law owns a body repair shop, and my son loves picking his brain about cars. He hasn’t yet realized that he can develop an obsession with car sound and stereo, but I’m sure that’s coming!

  4. Shari Daniels Avatar

    Elisabeth – we would make perfect vacation companions as it sounds like we would be at the same places anyway. And, this son of yours, he makes me smile so much as he reminds me of my own boys and their obsessions. Snowmobiles, cars, dirt bikes and whatever tickles their fancy that given year. I won’t even get into my husband’s obsessions. And you – you are such a compassionate mother to join the club as opposed other roads you could take. Life is so much easier when we realize it’s just not all about us, isn’t it?

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Boy obsessions are so interesting to me! Maybe if I had had a brother growing up, I’d be bored and over it, but I feel like an anthropologist in my own home. It’s especially interesting when I can overhear my son and his friends and they’re ALL talking about this stuff. I thought it was just him who could have hours-long discussions about what number he should wear in basketball, but nope!

  5. carriegelson Avatar

    Oh my and yikes, you are good. I can’t imagine being able to answer those questions. Give me a quiet carless path to wander in peace but I get teenagerish boy and obsessions. I find with my son, the conversation goes along even if I just nod. He just keeps talking . . . ! 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I did feel pretty impressive when I pulled not one but two Bugattis out of my hat (one of which was the only example of its kind in the US!). A quiet carless path to wander sounds just my speed as well! Next year, I think we’re taking a quiet nature ocean type vacation.

  6. Tara Smith Avatar

    I was just in San Francisco visiting my brother, and yes…lots of fancy cars! Thanks to him, I rode in a Porche and a Tesla. I love the way you gave in to the experience – you are a wonderful mom!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      That would probably be the end for my son. He nearly lost it when the McLaren salesman took pity on him and cranked the car. The revving engine was absolutely earsplitting! He got to sit in a running McLaren. If he’d gotten to actually drive around in one of his favorite cars…. it might have been too much! His head was on a swivel the entire time–always afraid he was going to miss something amazing.

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