After a month of classroom and seven tests and six days spent creeping around carefully laid out courses practicing backing manuevers, we hit the road on Wednesday.
And somehow I lucked out.
For good or bad, the instructor I drew has unleashed us on the general driving public and let us drive, which has been amazing. Picture driving as an adventure again, picture sitting in front of 20 tons slowly trudging through traffic grinding through 10 gears until suddenly, finally, you’re rolling free, stacks billowing.
Ooooh, baby, baby.
All would be rainbows in a bright blue sky and unicorns cavorting if it weren’t for the double clutch pump.
VDOT, in their infinite wisdom, requires double clutching through every gear as you upshift and downshift, which means you clutch, shift to neutral, clutch, and shift to the next gear.
Bored yet? No? Keep reading.
That was upshifting. Downshifting requires that you brake to match engine speed to road speed, clutch, shift to neutral, goose the gas pedal to bring the rpm’s back up, clutch, downshift with the gas back on and brake again to slow the truck. It’s quite the tap dance while you’re trying to bring your 20-tonner to a controlled stop before you mow down that little Ford Focus that just cut in front of you trying to get to the light first.
Are we having fun? Is anybody still reading this?
So anyway, in the last coupla days I’ve discovered that clutch and brake tap-dancing these big rig clutches and transmissions that’re as huge and gruesomely tough as the trucks themselves makes driving one of these big bitches a workout.
But ya know what else I’ve learned?
It’s flippin’ FUN.