The end and the beginning

The end (of trucking school).

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Our graduating class. I'm gonna sure miss all of these guys!

Well, I graduated from truck driving school at Fox Valley Tech. I’m proud of myself. I really am. I worked hard and learned way more than I thought my little pea brain could hold. The plan is still in motion, on schedule and it’s pretty darn exciting! Sick of hearing that from me yet?

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Tom and Nolly, grilling experts.

On Thursday our graduating class of nine brought in all kinds of food for a cookout. We fed ourselves and our instructors, and it was nice to treat them to a meal and thank them for putting up with us grinding gears and running over their cones. I know we pay to go to school at FVTC, but the things they taught us, and how they taught us was worth waaay more than what we paid to attend this course. We learned to drive a truck, yes. But they also taught us how to drive it safely, and even focused on being respectful and professional in this industry. I will strive to be the safest truck driver I can be, all the while representing the school in the best way I can. If any of you FVTC Instructors are reading this… thank you. You seriously rock.

As we ate our cookout food – brats, burgers, salmon, coleslaw, beans, chips, salsa, oreo fluff, and a bunch of other stuff, we presented our instructors with a gift. We picked up an orange construction cone from Fleet Farm – to represent all the cones we shattered, smushed, pushed and yanked out of our dualies – and we all signed it. They said no one had thought of that yet, and it sure was fun to give that to them to remember us by… the best class ever! :)

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The thank you cone that we gave to our instructors.

On Friday we officially graduated. We’re given the option to rent a cap and gown and go through the whole rigamarole of graduating formally with all the other tech students (probably sometime in June), but I’m going to pass on that. I feel totally content with how we concluded our last week. On the last day I was a co-rider for a couple of Level 1 Instruction Permit holders, and we washed trucks so they’d be all perty for the new Level 3 class. Then just before lunch, we met with Instructor Jim and he called us up to the front of the classroom one by one to hand us certificates and shake our hands. One more “see ya later” and we were out the door.

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Truck wash party in the safety bay!

Right after I left school I drove north to my new place of employment, V & S Midwest Carriers. I took my drug test, got some paperwork, and that was it for the day. I was assigned four orientation videos to watch, given an appointment for a physical capacity test and a list of things I needed to have with me for Monday.

After leaving there, I head right to The Bar in Appleton to meet my classmates for lunch. We all became pretty good friends and just wanted to prolong our experience just a wee bit longer. It was nice to just sit around and talk about our future trucking plans and share fun stories from school while they were all still so fresh in our minds. And I’m not one to turn down an opportunity to eat some hot wings!

The beginning (of my new job).
So this morning (Monday), I went to Appleton for my physical. First I had to get in and out of a truck five times in a row. They had a real truck door and grab handles cut out and mounted at the clinic to use for this portion of the test. That’s pretty cool, hey?

Next I had to pull a stack of palettes using a pallet jack across the room, then push them back. Following that I had to lift a 20-pound box from the floor to head-height 20 times using proper lifting form. Then I lifted the same box with 40 pounds chest-height 5 times, then 50 pounds 5 times – then I walked around the room while carrying the 50-pound box. I broke a light sweat, but it was no problem.

Last, I had to use a machine that simulated the landing gear crank and the 5th wheel locking arm. I had to crank the “landing gear” for 13 seconds and pull on the “locking arm.” I passed all these tests with ease, and the doctor even told me I was one of the more fit drivers to come through and he noticed I wasn’t hardly out of breath. I guess my morning squats and push ups are paying off! Yay!

Adam was with me, so we head back to the office together. I got to meet our dispatcher, and she seems really awesome. I’m looking forward to working with her. I then headed out for a road test. I was nervous. Can’t lie. It was evident when I tried to back the tractor up without releasing the tractor brakes. Hah! No biggie, though. I did a pre-trip of the tractor and checked the lights (just now as I’m writing this I realized I forgot to check the oil. Boy do I feel dumb. Easiest thing ever… stupid nerves!). I drove the truck over to the maintenance shop and backed it up to a trailer and coupled to it, did a pre-trip of the trailer, a brakes check and hit the road. I think I did pretty well. The truck I was driving was newer than the ones I drove at school, and wow, did it ever drive nice! My shifting felt great! Matt didn’t really say much, so I hope that’s a good thing. I drove us to another trailer yard and set up to back into a spot between two trailers. My set up was pretty good and I backed it in without a pullup. Sweet! After uncoupling the trailer, sliding the tandems and doing a post-trip on the trailer we head back to the office.

Then I got on a fork lift. I’d need another day or two to really feel comfortable buzzing around on one of them things, but I got a crash course (thankfully not in the literal sense!), and was able to pass on the basics with some instruction. I’ll stick to the semis for now! I could operate a fork lift if I had to, though. Admittedly, it was pretty darn fun. I wanted to spin in circles but wisely resisted the urge.

The rest of the afternoon involved standard employment paperwork and sitting in an office in Green Bay to apply for my TWIC card, which is an identification card of sorts for being in ship yards. I’m not sure how often I’ll need it, but it’s required, so a couple hours of waiting and $130 later I will be issued a card in the next few weeks. Whew… what a process!

So there ya have it. My first day. I know I was long-winded, so if you hung in there until now, you must be on the toilet or really bored. :) Either way, thanks for sharing in my day with me. I enjoy writing about all of this so I can go back later on, read and remember what it was all like. If you’re following along, then cool. Even more reason to keep jabbering.

Soon. I’ll be in that truck-home with Adam soon. I wonder what tomorrow will bring…


Tonight I love fork lifts. I may not have been super-awesome-pro-like at driving it, but it’s always fun to learn something totally new! And they turn fun.

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Trying out my geeky headset. It works pretty good!

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One of the three certificates I was handed at graduation.

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Tom vacuuming out a truck.

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We were all given a cardboard FVTC truck to put together. Fun!

Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey!

With love,
Toots Magoots
(Robin Grapa)

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9 thoughts on “The end and the beginning

  1. Dear Robin,

    First of all, congratulations in the biggest and best ways. What you have accomplished at FVTC is impressive. But, to me, what you have reported and taught to many others about this particular experience is so educational and unique. I’m really glad you have continued to write in your inclusive and honest style. You do beautiful work. I really would enjoy your writing even if I didn’t know you. However, knowing you, your mom and dad and being familiar with some of your previous accomplishments makes the reading experiences all that much more special. Many, many happy miles sweetheart for you and Adam. Safe travels. Take care. Be well. jim

  2. Congrats! I’m so proud of you! I can tell by the look in your eyes you’re excited to start your new career with Adam and V&S Midwest Carriers. I can’t wait to hear about your new adventures. I had to chuckle when you described the physical part of your Physical, they don’t know my Robin, piece of cake, Luv ya!

  3. I haven’t responded to any of your hiking and trucking blogs before but……just wanted to say how much I have enjoyed all of it. GoalTech got me started on the hiking blog and here I am! I hope you and Adam have a great experience with truck driving and I hope you keep blogging because I want to keep reading!!! Thanks for taking me along on the ventures!

  4. Made it all the through, and no, not bored (and not on the toilet). So please keep “jabbering”, as you call it. I don’t drive a truck, but I love hearing about it. Cheers.

  5. Pingback: The end and the beginning | operation CDL

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