I am still vibrantly one with the car clinic yesterday. It was quite something. I'll begin at the beginning.
Hands on the steering wheel at 9 and 3. Just that might save your life. Having your hand on the top of the steering wheel means if the air bag pops out, which it might, your wrist and nose break and probably other unpleasant things happen too. Second, sit 12 to 14 inches from the steering wheel. That way there is some bend in your arms and legs, so if you crash you don't immediately break your arm or leg, and hip and arm sockets. Okay, I thought. I got my $100.00 worth. It is enough. It was cold, and I was ready to go home. I got there early so had walked along the bay, and now had absorbed the information imparted and was ready to go home, and, we had just begun.
I was in group C, so we headed over to the braking area in our cars, helmets on. We had a short space in which to get our car to 35 miles an hour. Cones were set up in parallel lines, and then, to force a turn left or right, and then, straight again. When we reached the cones, we were "to stand" on the brakes, so we didn't hit more cones, which we were to envision as a group of puppies if we were a female, and as a case of beer, if we were a male. After stopping, then, we each went right or left, and stopped again, then, out. That was pretty easy, though getting up to 35 as one approaches even a box of cones, is harden than you might think. After each run, someone talked to you in depth, through the window of your car, about what you did, and how to do it next time. We did this for two hours, with it getting harder over time, so you were to approach the box at 35, not brake, make a short curved maneuver, and then, stand on the brakes. There were lights set up up to tell you at the last minute whether to go left or right and then they added in that sometimes both lights would flash red, and you were to immediately stop. Each time, someone spent a great deal of time explaining what you might do better, and complimenting you. They were very gentle, and usually began with asking you what you thought. It was pretty obvious to me what I could do "better." My foot is trigger-happy for the brake. Learning that the car is more maneuverable without the brake was eye-opening. The idea was to train ourselves to know when it is best to brake hard, or tap the brakes, or just maneuver the car and then, stop. The guy running the lights adjusted them to your speed, so if you went slow, he just waited longer to turn them on. It was quite something to watch and do.
That was good, and so it was time for lunch. We were handed a sandwich, chose chips and a drink, and could sit on the asphalt and watch cars spin around. Not the best ambience, in my opinion, and I admit I was starting to feel interested.
Next was skid pad. They divided us in two groups, two skid pads, which were actually ovals made out of cones. There were eight cars to a group so we each got a great many turns. There was one area that was narrow where you went through the cones, and then, you spun around the oval. An instructor went with you for each trip out. Wow!! Now, I was hooked. You were not supposed to use the brakes. The idea was to steer your car with the throttle. The more throttle, the car goes straight, less it curves. I think that is how it went. They told me I was a natural the first time out, and I just seemed to "get it." You get the car going fast, and you turn the steering wheel so it is upside down, and using the throttle on, and then, off, you go completely round without doing anything with the steering wheel. You never touch the brakes. It is hard to explain the feeling of that, and again, you are doing this at a rather uncomfortable speed, and once you get in the groove, it is just right. Wow!! I really was hooked. Everyone was smiling, though some cars took some rather spectacular spins. I caught my rear end each time, and got applause for one of my runs. It was fun, and we had two hours of that, each time with a difference instructor guiding and commenting on what we did.
Then, it was time for the really fun part, the slalom run. Now, we were to use all our tools, braking, and throttle control, and I think there were others. Oh, yes, always look ahead to where you want to go. Well, slalom is fun. You go on each side of a row of cones, make a turn using the late apex and come back through another row that are spaced further apart width-wise. I loved this and the instructors usually gave me an extra lap because I felt each time it went so fast. I was there until the end, the last car to go. I could have done it forever, and am still doing it internally. There is a rhythm to it, a connection, that is magnificent. Each time an instructor rides with you to comment.
I have a certificate of graduation which may save me 10% on my insurance. I also have an appreciation of my car, of how somehow we became one in using the forces around us. I understand traction, and physics in an internal way.
The trade-off was that I would do this, and, in exchange, Steve would do a day of Sensory Awareness and I realize they are the same. I am in my body. I know focus and presence. When you are driving like we were driving, if you followed the instructions, to go faster than you've ever gone before in such situations, you are really "there for it." I am vibrating head to toe and with the feeling of what it is to be not only one with the car but one with the forces of nature around me.
I also learned how amazing the cars today are. There is something called DTC. I have a little button that I turned off for this course, but when it is on, it means I can't make the mistakes I might make otherwise. There are computers in our cars. Most of us probably have an ABS system at this point, which helps with breaking. I see what might be done with cars as to gas mileage. That intent will make all the difference and it seems to be kicking into gear. What was odd to feel how I, who am so anti-technology in some ways, "got" how this was like equine therapy. Again, I was reflected back. It is a tool.
It is sad how often most of us drive along, unaware of what is really there for us if we really pay attention, and this is always true in everything we do. Every moment is a moment. I also appreciated in this course how much I have driven on highway 1. I think it helped with my understanding the navigation of curves. Anyway, it was fun, as I was told it would be, and I am still feeling the zen of it. When I read Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, I was clearly the romantic, preferring to "float along," not knowing how things work, but yesterday I had guys explaining to me about suspension, and traction, and tires, and I found it fascinating. Presentation is all.
The course is only $100.00 for eight house, with a 45 minute break for lunch included, because it is all done by volunteers, people who believe in it. They have classes for young people 16 6o 19. They believe a course like this may save your life and the life of others. I agree, and I know so much more, internally, as I say, about the forces that surround. Physics, inside out. It works for me.