Stickless Manual Transmission – 1004hrs

Posted by admin on Apr 1, 2010 in Bus / Coach, Where Am I? |

I know avid reader… I know.  I’ve been severely remiss in posting of my latest adventures… yet again!  Been working the “night shift” mostly lately, runs that return late (well early morning)… hitting the sheets, then forgetting to post something the next day.  So, let me remedy that here with a recap of the last two trips.

DC  3/23 – 3/27:

Met the “pick-up” driver at the Kennebunk service plaza, and drove the group over-night to DC, delivering them to Arlington Cemetery when they opened at 0800.  From there I hit the hotel for a few hours of down-time.  We stayed at the Embassy Suites in downtown DC… and let me tell you, they WERE “suites”!

(More images after the jump)

That groups tour of DC (Mountain Valley HS – Rumford), had one of the best schedules I’ve ever had… it was late start (well usually 9am) and early back to the hotel, usually around 7.  And they although they didn’t stick to their schedule much (about half the time, half the group wandered off to do their own thing), it was a very relaxed and casual trip.  The biggest “issue”… which really WASN’T an issue, was one student was in a wheel chair which made it a tad more difficult as I HAD to find clear curb space to off-load for the wheelchair lift.  That was the most challenging thing of the whole trip.

So for my first “solo” to DC, it was an extremely kind, gentle, and easy trip with no issues… and… I got the best tip from that group than I have from any other charter including cruise ships… by at least double!  🙂

Next up was last night’s run… Bates woman’s Lacrosse to Tufts in Medford, MA.  I’ve driven this group before (the last trip to Williams College actually), and the drive down to Tufts being only two hours, it was a pretty straight forward run.  Well… that is once we GOT running!  Showed up at the garage at 1145hrs, my report time, unloaded my gear (gps, log books, etc), then stepped out of the bus to do my walk-around inspection.  There appeared to be a slight issue with the right side tag-axle tire… it was a tad flat on the bottom!  Well, actually, it was completely flat all around, but I digress!

So a quick bus swap later, I was rolling to Bates in our brand new 1409 MCI bus.  This unit is the dedicated Lewiston Mainiacs team bus and is one of the finest in our fleet.  It’s only got 50k miles on it so it rides and drives wicked nice.  All the screens are LCD’s, had a really nice sound system, satellite TV through DirectTV even!!

One of the really neat things about this bus is it has the new ZF-AS  Tronic transmission.  What’s that you ask?  In a nut shell it’s a standard (manual) transmission, 10 speed to be precise.  HOWEVER, there is no “stick” to change gears, and there is no clutch pedal.  There IS a clutch (unlike automatic transmissions that have a torque converter)… this tranny has a computer controlled air-actuated control unit that disengages the clutch, then changes gears for you.  In essence you step on the accelerator like an automatic transmission, but you feel the very distinctive shifting of gears, including the “double-clutch pause” while it goes from one gear to another.  And being computer controlled, it’s smart enough to know to “skip-shift”.  It usually starts out in 3rd gear… in town, it will shift from 3rd to 5th to 7th to 9th.  Only real time it gets into 10th is up on the highway.

One other neat thing about this is “drive-away-assist”.  When you come to a full stop, the computer holds and maintains air pressure to the brakes on one axle, even when you let off the brake foot pedal.  This basically “holds” the bus in place until you start to apply the accelerator pedal and the clutch engages… as the clutch engages, the brakes are computer controlled / released so it creates a VERY smooth take-off, even on the steepest of hills… no roll-back!

Needless to say that baby was a dream to drive!  And of course I forget to bring my camera last night, so I didn’t any pics of that unit… <sigh>  Figures.

Tonight I’m off to Logan airport… picking up a load of Brits coming in, and taking them to Woodwards in Lincoln, NH… then it’s dead-head back to the shop.  Tomorrow night I have a load out of Augusta going to the Garden (pronounced “Gahden” around here) for a game (dunno what type)… then late back to the garage around 0300 Saturday morning… off the rest of Saturday, all day Sunday and Monday at this point!  Whoo Hooo!  Gonna get out with my sweetie and enjoy some nice Maine spring weather!

Speaking of which, got back to the garage around 11 last night… fairly warm, with lots of drizzle from the storm that just rolled through… and what did my wondrous ears hear?  Yup… PEEPERS!!!  Shit-tons of ’em too!

Spring IS here damnit!!

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