In a hotel in Tucson.  Nick’s CDL skills test is today, plus little dogs’ last vet appointment in the CONUS (they’re not sick, just more hoops to jump through).  Nick and I took yesterday off from training.  It was a wicked cold day, at all elevations — 30 and windy in Flagstaff (the pine needles are back as if they were never landscaped away), fifty and windy in Camp Verde and Cordes, 60 and nice-ish in Phoenix, and back to 40’s in Tucson, in the course of our drive.

Taking the day off was a judgement call — we’d run him through a whole skills test the day before, with great success, and he seemed tired and checked out yesterday.  With the horrendous frigid weather plus getting ourselves to Tucson, I think we both were.  That wasn’t the issue in itself because I’m sure he could have engaged, but it’s easy to have a bad day on a truck when you’re not all-systems-go.  I swear, they’re vibrational boomerangs that give you back, hard, what you put out.  So Nick was just a little low energy, and I’m feeling confident about his progress, plus we purchased two hours of training onsite, today, prior to the test.  That way he’ll be able to get comfy with the truck, transmission, backing range, and test route, PRIOR to his exam.

This is at HDS, by the way, in case anyone’s interested.  Ironically, HDS is the direct competitor of the company I used to work for here in Tucson, Southwest Truck Driver Training.  You’d think I’d hit them up for CDL-related stuff I need, but I actually have a better relationship with Doug at HDS than Sean, my old boss, at Southwest.  Whenever Doug calls me and leaves a message, it’s so fun to listen to: “Hey Hannah, this is Doug Prall.”  He’s got this laid back cowboy sort of accent, never stressed about anything.  Just love that guy.

I was pretty irritated by him when we first met, actually, because he’s got a bunch of taxidermy’d dead animals in his office, and like a Free Mason ring, and his dad was a Mason too, and I’m always kind of ‘hm’ about that.  But dead animals and Free Masonry notwithstanding, that guy’s come through for me on every occasion, and I’ve helped him in little ways too, like I set up his backing range for him at his new school in New Mexico etc., and I just really appreciate him.  I did, back in the day, buy him a faux taxidermy’d pink unicorn head to mount in his office next to all the atrocities but he demurred, because it’s not there last I saw.

Anyway, Nick will absolutely crush his pre-trip.  He got a 96% on our practice test the other day, and frankly I’ve never seen a stronger pre-trip.  He really took it and ran with it, after some initial grousing.  On his backing practice test, he barely passed, which rattled him quite a bit.  Essentially, here’s what happened: he racked up 4 points (it’s negative scoring) on the Offset Left for just stupid stuff.  Not using his GOAL’s (get out and looks), turning the steers the wrong way for a second on one occasion, etc.  So he was frustrated with himself going into the Conventional Parallel.

On that, he established his initial angle, backed it the the perfect spot, started putting the trailer in at the perfect spot with the steers hard right, held the hard right for too long — and we had talked about this, you gotta go hard right, then straight tire, then hard left to avoid this problem — anyway he forgot to go straight tire, held it hard right, realized that put his tractor up against the back barrier, got out and looked which was perfect, but then did a big pull up.  Instead of just fixing the immediate problem — the extreme angle of the tractor relative to the trailer – he pulled the whole trailer back out of the box, which was heartbreaking to watch, and then put it back in too shallow.  He parked and acted like he was done, and I said, “If it were me I would NOT leave it here.  You’re just throwing yourself at the mercy of the examiner right now, hoping he decides it’s half an inch in rather than half an inch out.”

Now, it bears mentioning I did have Nick practicing parallel with no outer boundary demarcation — partially because it’s tough for us to make one with the tools we have, but also because if there’s a chance they don’t have an outer boundary demarcation on the backing range at HDS, I don’t want him handicapped by that.  We just had cones — they might just have cones, I don’t know.

So he was like, “Well goddammit, I already have 4 points from the Offset, and two points on this one —”.  They weren’t encroachments, they were extra pull-ups.  “How many points do I have left?  And I have to start all over?”

“You have six points left,” I said.

“I might eat up those six points if I do it over again, because I’m having a SHIT day,” he said, feeling mad.

“Yeah but if the examiner decides you’re out of the box right now, which arguably you are, that’s ten points right there on top of the four, five, six you already have, and you’re sunk.  Do what you want, but I would NOT leave it here, putting that guy in that position where it’s so borderline.  I’d fail you, if I was him.”

Nick was fairly irate but got back in the truck and fixed it, and passed the backing event with 12 points (13 is failing).  Sometimes you’re in a situation where it makes more sense to use encroachments strategically than to avoid them, based on your increasingly limited options when things don’t go right.  So, not a good day for all smooth sailing there, but a good day for learning how to make lemonade out of lemons with that points system, which is arguably more valuable.

Road test went smoothly, with only one gear meltdown at the very tippy end of the freeway exit ramp.  Nick has race car instincts about shifting, which is not a bad thing per se.  His dad is a big collector of vintage Mustang Shelby’s, and when I say “big”, I mean, he’s got a huge warehouse full of them, mint condition, stacked up two-high on hydraulic racks.  He buys and sells them — it’s an interesting form of speculation, with his target audience being all the older guys who are now in a financial position to afford what was the car of their dreams when they were full of piss and vinegar, and no money to speak of.  I gave Nick’s dad’s number to a guy named Randy two fires ago — he referenced the Mustang Shelby several times in passing, apropos of nothing, and described himself as being into “fast cars, stupid shit” lol.  That would be a great tee shirt or something, right?

Anyway, with zippier vehicles, it’s kind of fun to boss them around with the gears, and honestly it’s fun with 18-wheelers too.  I trend bossy with gears and I love that Nick enjoys that, too.  But we decided that, just for the road test portion of the skills exam today, let’s be more bossy with the brakes and just follow up with a little ‘hell yeah’ from the gears, so as not to spill the examiner’s coffee.  He has the rest of his life to be as bossy with transmissions as he wants to be.

Also, the truck we’ve been training on has a very sticky 13-speed transmission that’s kind of a pain in the ass for him to learn on.  It’s likely HDS’s truck will be a ten, and certainly can’t be more sticky than this one, so he should be good.  It’s just, you know, 99% of missed downshifts are because the road speed is too high, so let’s just regulate that and we should be good.

His turns and trailer management are just fantastic, so long as he’s not distracted by downshifts gone wrong prior to turns — so once again, see paragraph above — but his attention to signage isn’t good.  The examiner will ask him about two signs.  I asked him two, and he didn’t get either (granted, one was a dick move on my part — a mile marker sign just as he was negotiating a tight right, but even that is fair game) so I think/hope that will be more on his radar now.  Sounds simple, I know, but anyone who hasn’t driven tractor/trailer has no idea how much multi-tasking is going on, up in there.  It takes every bit of a person’s hard drive, when they’re new, to navigate the fucking vehicle around in a basic way.  It’s quite a feat.  So Nick is doing very well, and when he wakes up this morning I want us to verbally run through everything once again.

Pretty cool to have banged this Class A CDL out in like two weeks, on top of everything else.  If we don’t find some Class A work on the Big Island (maybe intermodal?), I told Nick we should plan on doing at least a couple fires with these shower guys next summer, regardless, because Class A skills are perishable and it would be really good for him to pull a long trailer for a couple weeks and solidify those neural pathways, as best he can.  I was exhausted, this last June and July, getting our equipment to and from fires for that first little bit while I was re-acclimating, and Nick has been exhausted after our training sessions.  It’s just a whole lot of brain power.

So, fingers and toes crossed for a great outcome, today.  Our little bugaboos will pass their tests too, of course, but they have to be taken from me at the curb and veterinarian’d COVID style without mom in the room, so that sucks.  Milo, particularly, will be very upset.

In other news, I started watching a documentary last night about this whole BLM/Antifa thing being George Soros-funded crisis actors, fomenting civil unrest in a premeditated, remunerated, and coldly calculated way.  I got too sleepy to finish it but I did take a couple screenshots:

There was some interesting footage of talking heads on MSM attempting to reference George Soros and getting shut down hard, on air, from other talking heads.  It is verboten.  Plus people with their cell phone video cameras showing stacks of bricks in apparently designated urban protest locations with absolutely no reason to be there, no construction going on anywhere, basically saying “come the fuck on, this is so pre-planned”.  Quite a few of those.

There’s not much I love more than lowbrow comedy, and I think this scenefrom Hot Rod was hilariously prophetic: it’s the final day of the big stupid whatever, stunt, and there’s this spontaneous anthem from everyone gathering together, following the crew to the arena — people happily marching and raising their voices in song.  And then, spontaneously and for no reason, it devolves to a riot, and the stunt crew is like “wait what’s happening??”  In the midst of it, Danny McBride is suddenly holding a flat screen TV he looted from some store, between one camera take and the next, apparently himself not really understanding how that occurred.

Average people getting caught up in some stupid shit, and the stupid shit is absolutely pre-meditated and has nothing to do with black lives mattering or any lives mattering.  Obviously.

And if you’ll scrutinize the above screenshots, you’ll see that the fomenters of violence are relying on sympathetic law enforcement elements already cued and ready to play their part.  That made me especially angry — just setting up a meat grinder for cops, many of whom have gotten hurt or been blinded by these lasers, with the secret cooperation of elements in their own leadership.  I guess L.A. Confidential was prophetic as well.  There’s always a corrupt commissioner at the top, right?

And, what else.  ACB was confirmed last night and a Twitter search for the phrase “literally shaking” yields some hilarious results.  Snowflakes gonna snowflake I guess.  A bunch of Biden cringe moments, Kamala stumping for votes *at the actual polling locations* and looking like a freaking linebacker — I’ve only seen her as a talking head before, is that woman a dude??  Now that I know what I know about Michelle Obama, I’m not taking anything for granted.  Oh, more and more Hunter Biden laptop trash being posted by a Chinese anti-communist dissident.  Joe should be running for his life, not for the presidency.  Michael Jaco saying something about Chinese soldiers being spotted north of the Canadian border, and having witnessed tank convoys going up there.  A little later on in the video, he shows that the term “cuties” was used by online pedophiles to designate little sexualized girls on the internet, specifically, with several pedo websites with the word “cuties” in the actual URL being established well in advance of the controversial Netflix abomination.  So looks like that was just signaling to a well-understood audience, as a subtext and, hell, outright text.  I’m still glad I cancelled Netflix and I still think the controversy — not the warranted controversy itself, but the controversy ABOUT the controversy; essentially libs telling conservatives they’re overreacting, which I witnessed first-hand on social media — was perhaps the most concerning part of the whole deal, the 650 actresses “auditioned” for lead twerk notwithstanding.

Gah, what else.  So much.  Literally shaking lmaooo.

Well, Nick is awake and our day is starting.  I’ll report on CDL skills test results next blog; I’m sure they’ll be good.  Tomorrow I’m meeting with the wonderful gal who’s buying my car (we used to work together) and she’s got cash in hand.  Maybe best of all, we’ll be visiting my friend Wade.  Wade and I used to play music together, and in the course of this move, my dad’s cache of old CD’s was unearthed.  Quite a few of them were homemade recordings I had sent them over the years, including one of me and Wade running through some songs shortly after we first met and started working on a repertoire.  We just recorded it in Wade’s living room, back in 2011 in Flagstaff, and I hadn’t listened to it since.  My mom was sick and dying and we’d made it for her, really.  Anyway, Nick and I listened to it yesterday, and you know what?  It was fantastic!  I loved every moment of it.  I’m going to see about getting those tracks back into my computer and sharing them for you here, on the blog.  It was a real treat — Wade and I were an excellent duo.  Anyway, I know Wade hasn’t heard those tracks since we did them either, and frankly we’d both forgotten that we’d ever even arranged most of those songs, in the years since.  So I’ll have him give a listen and it will be such a nice reminder of how good we were, even in our early stages.  Nick and I are both excited to see him.

Okay, that’s a wrap.  Got stuff to do!