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Great Drives for a L Plater in Perth

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by Weekends with Jack (subscribe)
Hi I'm Jack, weekends are too short, so I love to make the most of the time we have. I also love cooking and occasionally write a blog of the food I love to cook, if you'd like to join me for dinner, click here
Published May 17th 2012
Weekend Adventures of an L Plater

For the past fourteen months, I have been spending a lot of my weekend time with my youngest son Joel, driving through the streets of the greater metropolitan area. As he learns to drive, he has been a fast learner and is now developing into a very competent driver.

Stage 1
We started out in my Mazda 3, which allowed him to become comfortable behind the wheel. Being an automatic he had less to concentrate on, as at that stage he had never driven a manual before.

We then enlisted a professional driving instructor, to embed some of the finer points into his psyche before he developed too many bad habits, and to give him a bit more confidence as he made his way around the neighbourhood streets.

Off to Mandurah
A few months into his lessons, I purchased a second vehicle, a Suzuki Swift, it is small and zippy and has a manual gearbox, so it suited Joel down to the ground for his lessons.

By this stage, he had become quite comfortable behind the wheel and it seemed like the right time to begin exposing him to a greater range of driving conditions and roadways.

We started out heading down to Mandurah via the old Perth Bunbury Highway, now known as Old Coast Road, thanks to the new freeway extension which has become the main Perth Bunbury thoroughfare.

Harvey Estuary
It is a good highway for a learner, as it offers a range of different speed limits, is not too heavily trafficked and there are not really any difficult stages between Rockingham and the Dawesville Cut.
Once over the big Bridge, there is a fantastic scenic drive along Estuary Road which runs alongside the Harvey Estuary, it is narrow and winds its way around to the cut, it also has several places to stop and stretch the legs and offers a bounty of photo opportunities.

Freeway North to Safety Bay Road
Heading back to Rockingham we took the opportunity to give Joel a taste of freeway driving conditions, charting a course via the new Mandjoogoordap Drive to Kwinana Freeway, then headed north to Safety Bay Road.

The freeway can be a nightmare for a seasoned driver, as it will be so frequently used by Joel I want him to be confident when he uses it, this session gave him a taste for it without being overly complicated, and that would come later.

Freeway Lessons
The first thing I taught Joel about driving on the freeway is that it is easier than people think, due to the fact that you can enter as far south as Lake Clifton in the left lane and until it is time to exit you never have to change lanes, and you can do that all the way through to the Burns Beach Road exit at Joondalup.

In later lessons, we did just that from Safety Bay Road to Osborne Park, only changing lanes to exit at Hutton Street. Heading back north where you enter the freeway where it is three, four or five lanes wide, you just make your way over to the lane next to the fast lane and stay there again until it is time to exit.

That just left the entrance and exits to deal with, these can be the most stressful periods in a journey, merging into fast moving traffic and then when ensuring you are in the right place to exit. We rehearsed this over and over again, exiting off a ramp and then re-entering over the other side of the intersecting road, until I was comfortable that Joel was comfortable, then we moved onto more complex entries such as the from Mounts Bay Road under and over the Narrows and from Murray Street heading South to Kwinana Freeway, always on a Sunday and when the traffic was moderately light.

Country Roads
A subsequent lesson, I wanted Joel to experience more country driving, exposing him to smaller highways and rural roads of varying conditions. We headed east from Safety Bay Road, taking the freeway to Mundijong Road and then headed east to South Western Highway Jarrahdale. = Once there we headed up Jarrahdale Road to a very small country road that was rather rough and deteriorated the further we drove into the forest, until the sealed petered out and we were driving on a rough gravel track. It was slow going but I sensed Joel rather liked being off the beaten track!

Dirt Tracks to Jarrahdale
We ended up at a point where we had no option but to turn back and go the way we came, and I was satisfied we had accomplished as rough a road we could in a little swift. Back on Jarrahdale Road, we made our way to the town site and stopped at the general store for a break.

I think Joel thought he had stepped back in time - the general store is a quaint little building, as are the old timber homes nearby, and it really is a lovely part of the world.

Serpentine Dam
As we walked around stretching our legs, I learnt Joel had not been to Serpentine Dam and I could not remember having been there in the past twenty years, so we decided to head home via the dam. Joel was somewhat surprised to learn that we had to actually drive across the dam wall.

Kingsbury Road
After another photo stop, we began our journey West to Rockingham via Kingsbury Road, it was whilst we were making our decent down from the top of the range, that I learnt just how far Joel had come - a Landcruiser heading toward us suddenly veered to into our lane, Joel very calmly steered left onto the gravel shoulder to get past the enormous beast and came gently back onto the sealed surface, remaining as cool as a cucumber, whilst I was trying to get my heart out of my mouth!

The remainder of the journey was pretty much uneventful. We returned home via Karnup Road and making a detour past the Potato Shed so I could pick up some fresh veggies for the Sunday night roast - that lesson to this day remains as Joel's favourite lesson. He loved the country roads and venturing into new territory, I think he takes after his old man a little bit in that way.

Great Drives for a learner
Other great drives we have had include Rockingham to Fremantle via the coast, then through to Cottesloe and through to Perth for lunch, before taking the freeway South to get him home, and another saw us down to Mandurah, across to Pinjarra for lunch, then home via Armadale.

Stage 2 heading toward the final journey
He is into stage two now and we have started keeping a log of our journeys, he will not get his full licence until a week before his 18th birthday, so it leaves a few more months worth of opportunities to spend with my youngest son, I keep telling him he better come visit once he has the licence. Can only hope he does!
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