By BOB FOULKES

There comes a time for every guy to  — literally and metaphorically — put his son in the driver’s seat.

I love road trips. Men in a car, a full tank of gas, the open road, driving music, roadside diners, no eye contact and no schedule. It is a formula celebrated by men for millennia.

We’re driving up the coast of California north from San Francisco, heading for Vancouver. My son, Blair, 32, is back from the big city after six hard years in the trenches of a soulless law firm. He’s taking a break and has come south to pick me up and drive me and my stuff home. He loves driving, particularly on scenic off-the-grid roads.

Me, not so much. I’m a get-in-the-car and pedal-to-the-metal all the way home, preferably on the freeway and in a straight line. I’ve also been known to outline detailed itineraries for the days ahead. This is not one of those trips. It’s as much about serendipity, changing, connecting and learning as the adventure itself.

“I’m riding shotgun.” I announce as we load the last of the stuff in the car. “Okay,” is the slightly dubious response. I rationalize the tectonic shift. It’s about safety: He’s in his 30s, more alert with quicker reflexes. I’m safer with his hands on the wheel. It’s uncharacteristic but it feels surprisingly good to ride shotgun. “Why don’t you drive.” may become a regular opener for me on future drives, even to the store.

My second decision after turning over control of the wheel is to give up control of the trip and all the details.  Turning this over to my son requires constant discipline.

Blair at the wheel: "You hardly used the air brakes all day, Pa."

Instead of . . .

“Shouldn’t we get gas now?”

“Are you sure this is the way”

“Can you really trust Hotwire to get the best hotel deals?”

. . . all critiques masked as questions, I sit quietly.

It delivers surprisingly joyful results. Instead of motoring up the I5 at autobahn speeds with pit stops only when absolutely necessary, we are exploring and meandering at a pace that offers pleasant surprises.

We stop at Fishermans Wharf in San Francisco and eat chowder in a sourdough bread bowl for dinner. I get to explore all next morning while he catches up with a close friend from law school.

He recommends we drive Highway 1, covering less than 200 miles in the day. We hug the coast, track the terrain, dip through every gully — it is almost spiritual; even the BMW is happy. As a reward for sitting quietly I get this: “You hardly used the air brakes all day, Pa.”.

We discover Mendocino, find a hotel built in the 1860s, beautifully redone. Dinner and a rambunctious game of Scrabble, hotly contested by the lack of a dictionary, bookmark a perfect day. I’m dethroned as Scrabble king and discover this is his favorite game.

Father and son at the basketball game: Priceless.

The next day we detour to see California’s biggest redwood and drive the BMW through a tree. We talk about whatever, whenever it comes up. We play music he’s specifically crafted for the trip, interesting stuff I’ve never heard.

Rain hits hard and we opt for a Best Western on the beach in southern Oregon. Pizza from the local hangout and a scary movie. Another Scrabble game. I lose again.

We find a floating diner at Coos Bay, seats eight in a pinch, that serves the freshest fish and chips ever, with a chowder to match, then race hard to Portland to our NBA game. His idea; I would have never thought of that. The Trailblazers beat the Lakers, though Kobe Bryant is mesmerizing in the first half.

Our first joint decision: We decide not to challenge the gods of road trips and ask too much. We head up the I5 for home.

When I gave up control of the driver’s seat and the trip, the door opened to a real adventure, a singular unforgettable trip with my son. We saw great corners of rural America. We hoovered up memorable meals in restaurants and diners we’ll never visit again. We visited friends the old fashioned way — face to face. We played some mean Scrabble and established a new board master pecking order, at least temporarily. We saw our first NBA game together in about 10 years.

We talked, we laughed, we shared experiences, both meaningful and trivial. My precious adventure came from giving up the driver’s seat, letting go of control, accepting his contribution, his knowledge, his ideas as more interesting than mine. At the end I said, “Thanks, best road trip ever.” The  response was simple and eloquent, “Me too.”