I stand corrected. According to Tammy, our friendly rental agent at Penske, we've used the same truck for the last three drives. I suspect that Hoss thought I was full of it when I thought the 2nd rental was a different truck than our 1st ("Well, it's kinda odd that the side steps are bent in exactly the same manner as the last truck, don't you think?"), but he was gentlemanly and didn't challenge me on it. Thanks, Hossdaddy. Why, then, did I have trouble with 3rd on our 2nd drive with that truck? I dunno, but it's obviously an issue between my ears and not the gears. ~sigh~
Anyway, our fourth drive went spectacularly well. I didn't freeze during the pre-trip and missed calling out only one thing during the first run-through ("nothing between the duals" on the passenger side). My first parallel park was too far from the curb - not by much, but enough to likely fail. Several subsequent attempts were perfectly nailed. Straight backing, no problem.
We again drove 690 and practiced call-outs, then doubled back a few exits so Hoss could show me a couple of odd off-ramp and lane change setups, in case they were included on the road test. We skipped the tight turn practice entirely, as I seem to be fine with that.
It was cold and snowing, and the roads were potentially slippery in some spots. I kept my speed down and made sure to leave plenty of space between me and the cars in front. There's construction on a section of 690 downtown, on a curved overpass, where cement barriers are up, leaving no shoulders and very little wiggle room. As we drove through that section, a Wegman's truck passed me on the left. Hoss complimented me for holding my lane and not moving closer to the cement barriers, which could have resulted in accidentally sideswiping them. I'm pretty comfortable with my lane space, though. As long as I stay centered in my lane and they stay centered in theirs, there is plenty of room for us both. He chuckled and concurred, but reminded me how many times he's had close calls in the bus. It's true; not all drivers stay centered in their lane, and some situations will make doing so tricky for even the best drivers (such as wind gusts and road hazards, but that's all part of being aware of your surroundings).
Hoss is very pleased with my progress, and said so a few times. It feels good to know he thinks I'm doing well. I'm a very confident driver, and have never doubted that there's nothing I can't drive and drive well, but my progress is as much an indicator of his ability to teach as my inherent skills. He lets NOTHING slip, whether it's a pre-trip component, a call-out, a traffic infraction, a technique, or a bad habit. He knows exactly how to handle me to make sure I'm the best I can be, and I love him for that.
As it gets closer to becoming reality, we're both getting more excited about driving together. Yes, it'll be a big adjustment in our lifestyle. Yes, it'll be very hard work with long hours and numerous frustrations. But we'll be together, we'll be making decent coin, and our successes (and failures) will be ours alone, not due to the whims and cerebral limitations of others. Hoss is, quite frankly, fed up with his current employer, who mis-manages the business to the extent that I don't know how they expect to survive much longer. Yet he works hard for them and continues to represent them well, and I love him for that, too.
I'm having dreams about driving together. Two nights ago, I dreamed that I'd found the perfect place for the cat's litter box in our sleeper - in the stairwell of the rear RV door. And I was putting away two weeks' worth of socks and underwear each, in case we had a very busy period and couldn't take time to do laundry. I guess I'm nesting in my head. It's kinda fun.
The fleet owner we'd talked with a month ago remains "very interested" in hiring us on when we're ready, and at our current pace, we're planning for mid-January. Hoss likes her and from their conversations, thinks she's good to her teams. She's based in Binghamton, only an hour south, so the logistics work out well, too. We'll meet with her after the holidays.
The road test looms less than two weeks away. Christmas week will be busier than usual this year, since Hoss has business in Scranton on the 23rd, and that will take all day. The 24th is the Big Annual Christmas Eve Party for the family, which takes a full day of preparation. If he's going to work at all that week, it'll have to be Sunday through Tuesday -- if there's work. It's slow for motorcoach drivers then since school is out. We haven't yet made a reservation for another drive prior to the road test, but we'll try to work one in somehow.