Tuesday, February 19, 2008

LA Freeway

"If I can just get off of this LA freeway
Without getting killed or caught".
Great lyrics from Guy Clark to one of my favorite songs - have a whole new respect for them.  I spent 4 hours driving from Ontario to Long Beach and back again this morning.  The traffic moves amazingly well, but there is just so MUCH of it.  I just got into the groove and decided to consider it as really intense shifting practice.  With 13 gears to run through, you stay pretty busy working the gear shift.  
Our truck is a Kenworth with a Cummins Diesel engine and it is really nicely set up.  There is the granny gear way over to the left - that one is only used to creep around freight terminals and such.  Then there are the first 4 lower gears - standard "H" pattern.  There is a little flippy thingy (aren't I technical!!!) on the front of the gear shifter.  To shift into the upper set of gears, you flip that up with your thumb and then go back to the beginning of the "H" and you are in 5th.  Once you are in the upper gears, you then have 2 settings for each of the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th gears.  There are different ways to refer to them, but Tony and I have settled on 5/high and 5/low, etc. 
 So...you flip the little front thing with your thumb to get to the higher gears, then, you toggle a side thingy again with your thumb to move between the high and low of each gear.  Are you lost yet?  THEN, you have to add the left foot/clutch program into this mix.  Actually, the right/throttle foot gets into the dance pretty often as well  Now can you imagine what happens in traffic that goes from 55 to 5 to 30 mph all in the space of a couple of blocks.  Very busy.
And when you are truly in the groove, you can do what is called "Floating the gears".  Doesn't that sound great?  It is.  Floating is when you are so tuned into the truck and what's going on that you can shift (either up or down) without using the clutch.  This is really magical and what I strive for when I drive.  I especially feel good when I can float the gears in intense traffic situations.  I have this sense of being hyper-aware, but above it all in a bubble of calm.  That my sound odd, but when driving is your job, there is a real sense of accomplishment there.
So, we got a sweet dispatch back out of LA and headed to Memphis again.  The weather is great, the sky is wonderfully blue and clear and we are looking forward to 2 days of smooth sailing.  Until later . . . 


maewestern said...

Steve and I have certainly enjoyed your emails and now the blogs -- and I'm glad to know that you and Tony are safe out there in that big ol' world. Steve cracked up about the gear-shifter "thingy" terminology, because he's used to hearing such technical banter from me; I'm glad not to be an anomaly -- you go, girl!
xo from Cheryl & Steve

BMc said...

The shifting description is fabulous. You seem to have gotten the hang of bloggin and I am loving reading it. Keep on truckin! (that has a whole new meaning)!