August 19, 2005

Truck Drivin' Man

It's been back to school since Wednesday. Before our instructor went out on vacation, we did some shifting and I had a little trouble there.

Wednesday our instructor, Tony, drove us to an industrial park in Pennsauken. There we took turns driving around and shifting. I found that it came easier to me now, by the end of my turn behind the wheel Tony had me downshifting.

Thursday was a real challenge. Tony said we were going out to the same place, but this time I was driving out. "You're ready" as he put it.

I no sooner left the parking lot and was just getting ready to downshift before an off road construction zone, when a flagman jumped out from behind a bush and signaled for all traffic to stop. I stopped the truck no problem, a bit of a skid from the back wheels for a moment...but must have done everything right, because Tony was yelling at the flagman and not at me! Otherwise, the drive went without incident, matter of fact I was downshifting a lot easier.

Today it was my turn to drive back from the industrial park. At this point I'm finding that shifting and downshifting are no problem, now I'm learning to judge whether green lights are about to turn red. We did all this in the rain (it poured all afternoon). I had to stop quickly on a couple of lights where the instructor said he would have gone through, but at no time was the truck in danger.

Each day it's getting easier and I'm picking up on new things. Maybe this is because I've driven big vehicles before (deuce-and-a-halfs, half tons, and straight flatbeds). But the bottom line is that I'm lovin' it!

August 06, 2005

Class Going Well

So far the CDL class is going real well. Last Tuesday we all took our written tests at the DMV (or whatever the hell it's called now in NJ), I passed the exams for all the endorsements no problem.

The rest of this week we practiced straight line backing and angle docking (backing into a straight dock from a 45 degree angle), both of which are part of the physical exam. Straight backing is no problem whatsoever, the angle dock took me a while but now I feel like I've got it down...a little more practice and I'll be rock solid.

Friday afternoon we took turns shifting, which is a bit weird. For one, this truck has a switch on the knob, so you only have to move the knob 5 times (the other half of the time you're just moving the switch). The hard part for me is not depressing the clutch in all the way, like you do in a car. Considering we only went for 15 minutes each and by that time I was getting it into 5th gear, a little more practice and I should have it down pat.

Next week we're off, the instructor goes on vacation. After that, a little more backing & shifting the it's all road time.

August 01, 2005


Recently I've learned that my last name, Gaskill, is directly related (or sept) to the Scottish MacAskill. This is interesting because I've known my mother's background, which goes back generations (thanks to German documents), but have known nothing about my father's side other than we come from somewhere in the British Isles.

I've found data on the MacAskills on several web sites, to include the following:,,, and one or two other sites.

Basically it boils down to we were an important family under clan MacLeod (pronounced "Mac-Loud"), trusted as constables of Dunscaith castle, commodores on MacLeod ships, coast-watchers, and armed bodyguards for the clan chiefs. We hail from the Isle of Skye, which is west of the Western Highlands, a beautiful and rugged island.

During at least one battle, when the MacDonalds invaded MacLeod lands, the MacAskills captured the MacDonald ships and prevented their escape, causing them to be completely slaughtered. Years later during the Battle of Glendale, a MacAskill killed and cut off the head of one of the MacDonald leaders, then raised it on a spear. That MacAskill and three of his brothers were later cut down when Allan of Noidart (another MacDonald leader) fought his way back to his galleys. For this later action, the MacAskills were awarded the honor of having a warrior carved on their tombs.

There is some contradictory information, such as the name originating with Thaisgaill the Viking (circa 1100). Another source says the name originates with Asketil, son of Torquil, the last Viking King of Dublin, Ireland, who died in 1171 or 1172 while resisting the English invaders under Henry II.

At this point, my next step is to find a direct link to this proud line. I'm going to write my aunt Bea, who has done some Genealogy on my grandfather already, then continue on my own.