Monday, September 26, 2011

Learning to Drive

I waited a few weeks to write this post to make sure that it had at least a semi-happy ending.  Good news...I'm still alive!

Over here, manual shift cars are huge.  There are automatic cars, but they're a lot more expensive and harder to come by.  And, when we travel on the continent most rental cars will be manual.  So, that left us with the idea to buy a manual car to replace the American car we left behind.  Just one problem,  neither Dan nor I know how to drive a stick shift!  We've both been driving automatics for the past thirteen years, but just never learned to drive stick.

 To rectify that situation, we decided to take driving lessons in town.  It was pretty reasonably priced at 5 lessons for £50.  I've completed all of my lessons now and Dan is two hours in to his.  The good news is, we're actually doing it!  It is really hard trying to learn this completely new skill--not to mention trying to learn it while driving on the other side of the road and using your left hand!  There is a lot of re-training the brain involved.  I'm so used to doing things a certain way and you just can't do it that way when you're driving a manual.  The gas petal is not the panacea that it is in an automatic.  If you're not moving, you can't just punch the gas and go.  You've got to use the clutch.  Conversely, if you need to come to a quick stop, you can't just slam on the brake.  You've got to use the clutch to make sure you don't stall.  That's something I've never had to do before.

This weekend Dan and I rented a car and attempted our first solo trips.  It was scary!  So far, we've been driving with our instructor who has a clutch petal and brake on her side.  I don't think either of us realized how much she had been helping us to keep us from stalling or shifting into the wrong gear.  I took the first turn driving since I've had more practice so far.  Dan picked a place for lunch that was only a few miles away.  Little did we know that those few miles went straight through the Yorkshire Dales National Park and included really narrow, twisty roads.  It took us almost 45 minutes to drive 13 miles!  But, I didn't stall even once!  I had some rough shifts, but I did it!  And we were rewarded with the most beautiful views and the cutest little village called Bernsall. We even got to see a bride and groom in an old fashioned Bentley!  The driver was wearing an old-time leather helmet and goggles!

Beautiful Bernsall

Dan in Bernsall

We also drove around Harrogate, and to and from the closest big city, Leeds.  On Sunday we even took a trip to find the kosher grocery store in Leeds.  It is only around 20 minutes away.  Even though Dan has only had a couple of hours of instruction, he's picked it up pretty quickly.  We're both having some difficulty starting on hills, parking, and managing traffic, but each time we drive it's getting much better.  I know what I'm supposed to be doing, now it's just a matter of practicing it over and over.

In England they have stickers that new drivers can put on their car to let others know they should leave a bit extra room.  Dan and I already ordered this sticker to put on our car once we buy one.  Hopefully that will alleviate the pressure a little bit and let people know to cut us some slack.  Case-in-point, yesterday when I was having trouble on a hill, a woman rolled down her window to ask me where my learner's sticker was!  Oops!

The adventures continue!  Wish us (and the drivers around us) good luck!

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