We have a tradition in our family that when our teenagers are ready to learn to drive a car, we bring them to the desert for initial instruction on the dirt roads. It seems wise to allow them to learn to handle acceleration, turns, stops, and parking where a mishap would not involve another vehicle. There is a scorched and oddly clipped greasewood bush off Blanco Road north of El Mirage Dry Lake that stands as silent testimony to the value of learning these preliminary skills on your own, independent of others.

Once our new drivers feel confident to handle the vehicle basics they are initiated into the rules of the road. Speed limits in un-posted areas, the coded instruction of the no passing lines, who advances first from a four way stop, keeping eyes open for the driver who is not as careful as yourself; and not using a cell phone when operating a moving vehicle become defensive postures in their driving repertory. They love coming up to the desert to practice their craft and I think I know why.

In our traffic patterns drivers stop to allow the cars exiting from parking lots to enter into a place in traffic ahead of them. Just to be nice, they often wave other drivers on with a smile giving up their turn at the stop sign to let others proceed. They don't zoom in front of you in the parking lot to snatch the open slot closest to the store entrance and they don't seem to be inconvenienced when having to wait because an old-timer needs an extra few minutes to hobble out of the way.

I'm glad my teenage drivers practice here to see these examples of good driving because I believe that Victor Valley is probably the only place on the planet where drivers are this courteous.

This may be the result of something more than an acceptance that there is room for us all and our time is equally valuable. I think there is something special about the people living here that brings forward that stand-up-and-help attitude when they see a problem (in or out of the traffic lane) that needs solving.

Strangers have stopped to help me put a large package in the trunk of my car when store personnel had no one available to assist me. I've seen people step out of line to come forward to help a grocery clerk bag groceries when the bag boy dropped off the radar screen. A stranger pushed my shopping cart to my car without allowing it tip over when the rickety wheels froze into lock position and he did this without complaining about the shoddy equipment or the fact that I had the cart filled to overflowing. I've observed strangers at the hospital push wheelchairs for outpatients with trouble walking while staffers look on in bewilderment when asked if trained volunteers were available for that task.

My first experience with desert hospitality, resourcefulness and assistance was in the late 50s when a neighbor from an adjoining ranch came over just to say hi and stayed to show us the proper way to trowel the cement slab we were laying.

I think it is part of the self reliance in folks who were attached to the desert in the first place. The kind of getting down to basics that starts with getting the important stuff done first. Kind of what we experienced in letting our drivers learn first to operate the car and then how to navigate the streets with others.

You don't see this kind of consideration down the hill. Maybe it existed there once, and maybe it got pushed out of vogue as the careful drivers got pushed out of the fast lane. Maybe the Good Samaritans became scared off from injuries, law suits, or fear of the stranger.

I hope this common courtesy doesn't ever leave the High Desert. I hope that even as we become more complex and diversified we still notice when others want to blend into the traffic pattern with us and when they might need a helping hand to do so. It's a great example for our next generation to follow.