• Wisdom sometimes cames with age

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Manual or Automatic transmission?

Most cars nowadays have automatic transmissions. But some passenger cars, SUV, and pick up trucks models still  give car buyers an option of manual or automatic. It has been reported that a car thief was out of luck when the car he intended to steal was a stick shift – which he couldn’t drive.

The change of stick shift to automatic has happened over two or three generations. Driver Ed cars were all automatic way back in the 60s – which probably helped the evolution to automatic as the dominate transmission in passenger vehicles and trucks.

For pulling our small travel trailer we are using a small pick-up truck with manual transmission. Up hills is slow going. I would join the line of big commercial trucks with their hazard lights blinking. Me and the big rigs with our loads. Mountain passes on the west coast are high and steep. I don’t mind taking it easy, it really isn’t safe to exceed the speed limit when pulling a load. There is no chance of taking corners too fast.

This time though, I was driving solo and there are those macho guys in souped up speedster who like to push the limits. Twice on this trip I encountered males who were suffering from road rage. Close to Urban areas there is at least one who does something real stupid. Like deciding they need to pass on the right just as I am easing over after carefully signaling my intention. Stupid guy following too close behind decides that he needs to be in the right lane. Probably some kid who went to a charter school where science isn’t taught.

It is long past time for our little, very old, truck to be retired. So the search is on to find a manual transmission vehicle that can tow our travel trailer a bit faster, up hill at 55 (only 5 miles under the posted speed limit). There aren’t that many trucks and SUVs with good manual transmissions out there – but there are the jeeps. We also do a few sedate rough road trips to see Ancient American Indian ruins. Some of those trails are barely a trace in the earth on some paths we follow.

Seems like the automatic transmission has invaded the off road vehicles. But really isn’t half the fun of the challenging roads – shifting gears? When I’m making a very long uphill crawl I shift gears so often that my feet feel like I walked up the hill.

The beauty of manual transmission is they don’t over heat like the automatic transmission can when stuck behind a caravan of double loaded gravel trucks (truck bed and full trailer). Last Spring we took a two lane road in western Colorado north to Wyoming. I studied the map the night before we left and made note of all the steep uphill grades. I hoped there would be lots of easy pull outs so we could let cars pass. My concern was misplaced. We were part of the long line of vehicles crawling up the steep grades. I lost track of the trucks with automatic transmissions pulled off the road with the truck hoods up and steam pouring from over heated engine. Our little truck pulling a travel trailer never over heated. And the truck never over heated when I went over two high passes on the Cascade mountains.

Automatic transmissions are great for highway driving during rush hour when a lot of urban highways turn into parking lots.


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