A Lonely Motel Room With Just 13 Hours to Go!

I’ll try to make this short, but wanted to add an update. It’s been a hectic week as I and my Idaho and Washington classmates made final preparations for testing with their states to receive their CDLs (Commercial Drivers License). In fact most of my classmates have already passed their tests in the last couple of days. Among them, my roommate. He, along with the others who have finished their 3 weeks of Academy training, have left the Super 8 to take the next few days off. They’ll be back here in Lewiston on Monday to begin Orientation. All those in Orientation stay at a swankier and more conveniently located motel. It’s a lonely room here tonight and I miss my new-found friend.

As for myself, I’ll finally test tomorrow in Spokane after a couple of delays. The road test and pre-trip are more difficult in Washington than they are in Idaho, but I’m pretty confident I’ll pass them both. No matter what, my plan is to have fun tomorrow and just take a leisurely drive through the streets of Spokane. The skills test should be a piece of cake.

Two of our five Washington students passed their tests yesterday while one of them, who came from an earlier class and failed the pre-trip the week before, managed to fail again. He’ll retest sometime next week and, if he fails a third time, will be sent home without his license. His relationship with Swift will be over. All that remain for testing are myself and another Washington student, a 29 year old married school bus driver from the Seattle area.

We drove the two-and-a-half hour trip to Spokane on Tuesday and again today to familiarize ourselves with the road course. It’s the same one we’ll be required to demonstrate our driving abilities on. I’ve driven the route, which takes about 30 minutes, three times in preparation. With my 12+ hours of driving time behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler, totaling more than 300 over-the-road miles, the Academy instructors have done all they can to get me to this point. So it’s up to me now when we make what I hope will be one final trip up north tomorrow. We have to be there by 8:00 a.m. and should be back to Lewiston by early afternoon.

Our instruction handbook and workbook says, “Many professional driving students will admit shifting gears looks to be the most difficult of all the new skills they have to learn.” I’m no exception and it’s been a big concern for me. My road instructor, whose patience matches that of the biblical Job, finally got me to the point today where I could consistently downshift through the eight gears as we made our way from Spokane back to school. It was a sudden and timely revelation after his repeated hammering away at me to understand what turns out to be a rather simple procedure. It’s a matter of timing and coordination between watching our tachometers, while slipping the clutch into neutral, then quickly, but smoothly, raising our engine speed via the accelerator pedal some 400 RPMs. Then, at that precise range, re-engaging the clutch to make the transition.

As I’ve written before, it’s not as I expected. It’s nothing like driving your car’s manual transmission or even a U-Haul moving van. They say it takes an average of 21 days to break a habit. We did it in just four.

Like my road instructor would say, “This ain’t a car son, you’re driving a big truck! It says ‘Freightliner’ right there on the steering wheel!”

Imagine that. Calling me “son!” God bless truck driving instructors.

Wish me luck as the time will pass quickly.

More tomorrow …


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