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Day Nine: More Progress

December 17, 1999

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A day of milestones and mile sticks.
I passed all endorsement tests for my CDL: hazmat, tankers, doubles/triples.
The DMV officer stamped my permit and handed it back to me with a wish for "Happy Motoring." Motoring is exactly what I did this afternoon, covering 40 miles of New Jersey highways. I negotiated left and right turns, even traffic circles in real traffic on interstates, four lane divided and undivided U.S., state and county highways.
"Flashed" my lights at passing trucks on the I-295 (always wanted to do that). Negotiated a fast stop for a immobile four-wheeler stopped in my lane (on a two-lane).
My biggest weakness: still that pesky downshifting, although it's improving.
The trip took a little more than two hours. It felt like two days. There was that big box trailing my every move, rear wheels at the ready to crush a stop sign, capture a traffic light or climb a curb if I let them out of my sight.
After pulling onto I-295 from a rest area and riding the shoulder because I couldn't find a hole to get into traffic, I felt like that cowboy riding a bomb to earth in "Dr. Strangelove."
By the time I pulled back into the truckstop, shoulder and neck muscles had solidified from stress. Still, I enjoyed it. Kept my truck in its lane, didn't do anything frightfully embarrassing (the worst: losing track of my gears as I was about to enter a traffic circle). And guess what: The world looked better from up high in the air seat.

This morning I joined James and Dennis in practicing reverse serpentines (backing in and out of a three-cone course), more straight backing and review of the air brake test.
This student is seriously reverse-deprived. I couldn't "get" the serpentine.
No way. More I tried, worse it got. Driving instructor Gary Houlis suggested working on backing into a truckstop parking place, starting at a 45-degree angle. "It helps," he told me.
Didn't work for me. By the time Richard Yohrling came to collect me for my trip to the DMV, I was crushed.
Typically, he insisted I would "get" it and not to worry.
I met a potential new trucker today. Anthony is an adjunct professor at a New Jersey college. "There's no money in education. My hours just got cut back again," he said. He has never traveled and would like to see the country before settling down. He hears the money in trucking is good.
"What's double clutching?" he wants to know. Student NJ-0007, who could not double-shift two weeks ago, took him on a demo drive around the one part of the truckstop lot (with an instructor present, of course).
I learned classmate Dennis (the chef) takes his driving test next Thursday and is already slotted for a spot with C.R. England. The driving simulator has been set up to duplicate the transmission for the Century Class Freightliner he will drive for the Utah carrier, and he practices daily.
I am prepared to spend the last part of the course in intense road and maneuver training. My road test is scheduled for January 5, 2000.

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