Progress, greasy messes and intersections

It’s been almost an entire week since I’ve written! Since I’ve already gotten my Instructor’s Permit, got signed off on the three major backing exercises, and started driving on the road, not too many huge things have happened since then. The one thing that stands out, though, is progress. Each day in class I get out on the road and feel a little more comfortable, a little more confident, and places I’m struggling seem to smooth out just a bit more. Case in point: shifting. My shifting seems to be getting better each day I get out there and drive. I look forward to going to school every day, getting into that truck and getting out onto the road. Seriously, even with the heavy weight of some major responsibility and safety in mind, this is so much FUN!

I guess one thing that kind of feels like a big deal, is that I haven’t hit any more snowbanks. In fact, the last few times I navigated roundabouts, I’ve been close to perfect. Today they would’ve been perfect… except that I forgot to signal on the exit! Dangit! I was so excited that I hit that roundabout and tracked my trailer through so smoothly that I forgot one of the simplest, important tasks. Next time I’ll get it.

Intersections are usually where I struggle a little bit right now, but as I mentioned, each time I get out I feel a little more comfortable. What happens at intersections is I see all this traffic ahead going in all directions, but I need to pay attention to the stop and go lights, what turn lane to be in, when to start downshifting, getting my tachometer and speed down to the correct speed and rpms to downshift smoothly, recognizing what kind of turn it is and how much room I have, where the hazards are, snowbanks, turn signals, merging into turn lanes and traffic checks, mirrors and more traffic checks… to name a few. It’s going to eventually all become second nature, I know, but for now I am hyper-aware, trying to stay completely focused and not screw up. I get tense with all this going on, and sometimes admittedly forget to breathe. In fact, one of the instructors got into the truck with me the first time and said, “Are you the one that forgets to breathe?” I laughed and replied, “Yeah… you’ll notice my face turn bright red at intersections sometimes… that’s when I need to breathe.” I think I’ve gotten myself down to more lighter shades of pink now, meaning I’m more relaxed and breathing more. Ahh, the color of progress!

I am studying more about the pre-trip inspection, focusing on what I will need to cover, point out and describe during the CDL skills test. In fact, just today, myself and four other students were brought into one of the safety bays (a giant garage for semi trucks) where an instructor went over the pre-trip with us. I hear this is a sign that we are close to… ahem… testing. Oy. I have so much more I need to straighten up before then! But this was a sure sign that there will be a CDL in my near future! Well, that’s if I pass… which I hopefully will the first time! You can bet you’ll be reading all about it on here when I find out when that test will be taken, because I’ll be nervous and will need to spill it somewhere!


A sampling of pre-trip stuff to look for.

I took two more written tests at the DMV last Friday and passed, so when I eventually get my CDL in plastic, I’ll have the Tanker and Doubles-Triples Endorsements added to it right away. The next and last one I need is the Hazardous Materials endorsement, which I need to study pretty hard for.

Oh, one day last week I was checking the brake pads and a few other things on the drive axles, and as I leaned over to look on the inside of the wheels, I bumped my jacket into the fifth wheel, which is the plate that the trailer slides onto. This thing is caked in thick, gooey, black grease so that the trailer can slide on and turn easily with the tractor. When I stepped away, there was a long, stringing goo of 5th wheel grease going from my jacket, stretching about a foot back to the 5th wheel. It doesn’t hurt anything, but let me tell you – it gets freakin’ EVERYWHERE. I wiped some off onto the towelette I used to check the oil, but then that got onto my hand, then my pants, then the pockets of my jacket. Then it spread to my clipboard. I wiped some off with my gloves, and eventually even got a little in my hair. Ugh! What a mess! Now it’s just a big, black, greasy spot on my jacket that makes me look all grungy and tough like a real trucker… or at least that’s what I’m telling myself! Truthfully, that pink Carhartt jacket needed some grease on it. :)


Today I did a successful 90-degree back, immediately followed by a successful offset to the left, and then another offset to the right. It was a series of good backs that made me feel good. I also made an offset late last week without pulling up even once! I just backed it straight in. I still hope to make that happen at least once with the 90-degree back, but we’ll see… that one’s a little tougher to do without using a pull up.


Offset backing practice. Too bad we don't get points for pretty designs!

We got a butt-load of snow today, but thankfully I was able to get out onto the road earlier this morning before it really started to come down. I took a new route and got to go on Hwy. 41. I float-bounced along in my air-ride seat going 60mph in 10th gear, and it felt like heaven. It was a nice break from the constant intersections of my other two routes I’m signed onto. There’s still an awful lot to pay attention to, but at least I got a small break from all the constant shifting. Seriously… my left quad is going to be twice the size of my right quad with all the clutching exercise I’m getting in town! Maybe I should start one-legged squats during my off-time to balance out!

Well, I think that’s all I have to update at the moment. Each day consists pretty much of driving, backing, learning paperwork and progressing. If I can continue to get a little better each day, I just might make a pretty darn good truck driver!

Tonight I love photographs. I took a ton of photos on my PCT thru-hike last year, and as much fun as I am having learning to drive a truck, I think about that hike every day and miss it. The photos that I took are sometimes difficult to look at because I want to be back there so badly, but yet I’m so incredibly happy that I had the opportunity to be in those particular moments able to take those particular photos. I always have a way to go back for a second or two by glancing at a few photos… or a hundred. :)


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