He told me the company wanted every student to have at least one trip to the northeast and one trip to California while in training. He was going to try to convince them that Maryland was far enough to the northeast and from there he was hoping we could go out west.
OK, I WAS FREAKIN! CALI-FREAKIN-FORNIA?????
We're gonna DRIVE to CALIFORNIA????
I mean, I knew that's what my job would be as a truck driver but dreaming about it and being told you're about to really DO it is two totally different things! Holy cow I should have brought a diaper! No, wait, I'm ok. Ok this is GREAT! Wow what a day!
So sure enough we head out to Maryland. He drove the first hour or so and then pulled into a rest area and asked if I felt like I was ready to drive. I really felt I was. My first REAL time behind the wheel as an official truck driver. Only 21 years old! Wow, what a day!
I took off, went through the gears, aimed for the horizon, and there we were.... gone with the wind! I was smiling from ear to ear. I just couldn't believe it was real. But sure enough it was. Wow.
He was very patient and said very little for a while. He just wanted me to relax and concentrate on the road. It was easy, really. Not much traffic, open interstate, cruise control, and a warm sunny early evening in Northern Georgia in the fall. Amazing.
I drove for a couple hours and as we got closer to Charlotte, NC and the sun went down we pulled into a truck stop to get some dinner. I was really livin it. I didn't stop smiling for a week I swear! But there were going to be a couple of tough times ahead. Not that day, but soon enough. Luckily I had a great trainer.
A new driver was bound to make some mistakes, and I did. But he got us through em like a champ and to this day I really appreciate the way he handled things.
The first mistake came a few days later in Ohio. I was following a state route toward Toledo and he said he was going to take a short nap. He told me to just keep following that route and he'd be up in a little bit. I had no problem with it....or so I thought.
The first minor incident came when I saw an option I was unfamiliar with... the state route or the business route. I took the business route and right away it exited us off the main highway. I was hoping I could get turned back without him noticing but he had great senses. He woke up and popped his head through the curtain.
I explained what happened and he wasn't concerned at all. I turned around and continued on. But about an hour later when he woke up I was cruising down the same highway and he asked, “where are we?” and I said, “still on the same highway”. Well we were on the same highway but we were no longer following the proper route.
The route number I was supposed to be following made a turn in a different direction and I didn't know it could do that!