Like Riding a Bike

I’ve heard it said that once you learn to ride a bicycle, you never forget. I hoped the same rule applied to driving a stick shift car. I learned on an old army Jeep when I was 16 years old. My grandmother quit driving and let me use her car when I was 20, and I was 57 when my brother gave me his older car. All told, I had driven a stick about five or six years. This week I was the only one in the family who could drive son John $’s car from the rental home to our house. Would I be able to do it? It would take an hour and a half, starting on steep mountain roads and ending on the interstate highway.

As anyone knows who has tried it, the tricky part is getting the vehicle to move smoothly when you start up. One foot presses lightly on the gas pedal as the other eases the clutch out. If you don’t get it right, you lurch forward as your car moves like a bucking bronco. $’s driveway was so steep that all I did was keep my foot on the brake until we got down to the road. Because of the angle, I couldn’t see the road on the right, and $ said either “Gun it!” or “Floor it!” Talk about pressure! If a car had come around that curve fast, I needed to be moving. Everything was fine. No car came, and we didn’t lurch down the road.

I didn’t expect the trouble I had. I was used to three or four forward gears, not five. Almost every time I shifted to third, I went too far and ended in fifth. Both $ and I could tell by the sound that it wasn’t right, so I’d press the clutch in as he shifted the lever with his left hand. That’s the way we made it home. One of us would suggest shifting up or down, and I’d say, “Clutch in.”

Sadie was calm, sleeping on $’s lap much of the way. She sat up and was alert when he went in a store to get cigarettes. I’m going to let Sadie rate my driving, and I expect the rating to be “Boring”.

52 thoughts on “Like Riding a Bike

  1. I never did learn to drive a stick shift so only an automatic for me. Hubby’s car is a stick shift so I just never drive it! Well done you. The dog looks impressed.

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  2. What a beautiful dog! I have only driven an automatic a few times. I have driven a stick since I started driving. Our new truck is an automatic and I have only driven it once.

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  3. Well I am wondering why John$ wasn’t driving instead of helping. My husband used to say you don’t know how to drive if you don’t know how to shift a standard shift.

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  4. Driving an unknown car and synchronizing those movements can be challenging. I learned the hard way, the only thing I’d ever done is shift for my BF. One day he had me drop him off at the college and handed me the keys and told me to come back at a certain time. I gulped and sputtered and stalled a few times. I’m sure there were a few irate drivers wondering what the heck I was doing. It was terrifying! I later got a VW bug. The biggest challenge was going up this one steep street in San Diego where I dreaded getting the stop sign at the top, where I had to baby the clutch and gas at the same time so I wouldn’t roll back onto the car behind me. They have since moved the stop sign across the street so that you wouldn’t get stuck. It’s a very weird street, not as long as Nob Hill, the renown street in San Francisco, but just as steep.

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    1. I can understand your terror when driving that car alone for the first time. If I thought I’d have to drive $’s car by myself, I’d practice in the driveway with the engine off. Knowing where the third gear is by feel is what I need to know.

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  5. Well you did it, Anne! Not easy. Even using a different automatic car is a challenge, no? But I am always impressed to know someone drives stick. I cannot do so yet but will give it a try. Lucky Markus is a patient teacher, and so is my father.

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            1. That’s what my son said yesterday!

              Do you know the way to send a message that a young person in the US can’t read? Use cursive writing. Our younger grandson, age 20, was in the last class to be taught cursive writing.

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  6. A couple of years ago I burned the clutch on my son’s car … say no more say no more … give me an automatic any time. Well done for getting home safely Anne 🙂 Sweet Sadie for not passing comment ..

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  7. I still drive a shift now and then when I move my husband’s truck to the driveway. I was lucky…I learned on a five speed years ago. Sometimes I miss that little maroon Datsun wagon…we had it for years. Great car.

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    1. Sadie lived with us before, so she felt instantly at home as soon as she got here. David loves dogs. He is very happy to have her here again. John has never been comfortable around dogs, so the rest of us try to keep Sadie from getting too close to him.

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  8. I admire you! When I was trying to learn how to drive, my father took me to the high school parking lot with his old VW Fastback stick shift. He bought a used car because he worked near a cement factory and dust spewed out all day and was ruining the finish on his car. I had just taken the wheel, then a few jerky movements later (as I did not learn on a stick in driver’s ed) and he yelled out “that’s it – you’re stripping my gears – no more driving by you!” So driving a car, like riding a two-wheeler bicycle was learned with a friend of the family helping me out. My mom didn’t drive. The beginning of this week, I took my car to my usual mechanic to have the A/C charged. OK, a routine job, but that night when I went to get into the car, the person who worked on it, (or drove it out front for me when I came to pick it up) had pushed the seats way back like they were sleeping (perhaps they were). I have spent the better part of a week trying to get the seat position, steering wheel and two mirrors like before. The day I bought the car in September 2011, the saleswoman did the seat adjustments – no one else has ever so much as moved the seat. I am frustrated as I was driving around all weekend and still making adjustments. The manual showing levers, buttons, etc. was not a lot of help.

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    1. Trying to get everything back in place would be frustrating. Right now David and I are sharing a car, though he uses it most. We both have to change the seat and mirrors. The more we do it, the easier it gets.

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      1. Yes, if you do it all the time it would be easier, but I think they moved everything – I mentioned it to Jeff last Monday night when I brought it home … I was in the driveway trying to re-adjust everything. I said the person must have been 7 feet tall and he said “maybe so, but they also have to get in to put the freeon in” … I’m no mechanic but this is not the first time I had A/C charged and they never moved the seats like that. I had to admit to myself I don’t adapt easily.

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  9. You took me right back to the very slight hill where I tried unsuccessfully through three changes of the light to go through the intersection. I even now dream of being unable to go up a hill without first rolling back down it into another car.

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  10. Anne, it must have been fun to learn to drive in an old jeep! 😀 My first car was an old Beetle and driving up steep hills, it was so slow cyclists would overtake! Well done on your outing and it’s definitely easier for one to become used to automatic cars than the other way round!

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    1. I went along when my mom taught my brother to drive. He is two years older than I am. She coached him from the passenger seat, and I sat on the bare metal bench over a rear wheel. I watched and listened. When the Jeep lurched and bucked, I felt it! That’s why I tell people I learned to drive by the seat of my pants. (Is that an idiom in England??? If it isn’t, this won’t make any sense to you.)

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