In the early afternoon hours of Tuesday August 7, the California sun lay heavy on the ripening grape vines along Napa valley’s famed Silverado trail. Birds sang in the olive groves, cattle grazed the baked golden hillsides, and wine enthusiasts talked interest rates over a 2008 cabernet. This fertile and flourishing stretch of land north of the San Francisco Bay has long been a get-away for the elite to relax in the sun and enjoy the peace of the pastoral lifestyle. It was with this backdrop that 15 rowdy journalists in Freightliner hats set out to discover the new Cascadia Evolution.
Last week I had the pleasure of helping at the first press Ride and Drive event for the Evolution. If you’re going to be invited to work at a press event, you could do a lot worse than Napa, so naturally I agreed to once again tag along and blog about my experience. Following the successful unveiling in May, the time was ripe to get the press out of the conference room and into the saddle. My task was simple: ride along with the press and observe their reactions while being mindful of my own impressions.
I climbed into the cab of the Cascadia Evolution behind two trucking journalists and two members of the Freightliner marketing team. As I took my place on the bunk of the enormously roomy sleeper, my first impression was that I was very comfy. Cruelly, the bed had been made with a crisp sheets and a luxuriously soft blanket. Only my two colleagues sitting on either side of me (and my dignity) prevented me from immediately settling down for a nap.
Perfect truck for an inexperienced driver
The route took us south on Highway 29 and then north along the picturesque Silverado trail. There were several tricky maneuvers and opportunities for the press to admire the Evolution’s easy handling. Both journalists agreed that this would be a perfect truck for an inexperienced driver, allowing them to focus more on the road and traffic, and noted that the driver-friendliness made it possible to truly appreciate the views from the cockpit. They seemed to be enjoying themselves, testing the Detroit DT12 Automated Manual Transmission and marveling at the creep mode. At the end of the drive they enthusiastically consented to saying a few words into my camera about how much they liked the truck.
Extended drive experience
The following day I joined another journalist named Steve on an extended drive of about three hours. An energetic 74-year-old and experienced driver, Steve has been nicknamed The Most Interesting Man in the World. Salvador Dali once pulled anemone spines from his daughter’s foot on a beach in the south of France. On the long drive I had time to notice things that I hadn’t previously, like the fact that Steve looked as relaxed as if he were driving the family minivan due to the DT12 transmission: “I love this transmission because it drives the way I drive,” he said as we started up a short grade.
Quiet and smooth ride
At that moment I realized that the cab was so quiet that I could hear every word of the conversation in the front (and “Moves Like Jagger” on the radio) while I was sitting 8 feet away in the bunk. And when I stood to take some video of Steve driving, the ride was smooth and my camera didn’t shake. I also had my first weigh station experience, where more surprises were in store. The small cluster of buildings on the side of the road looked deserted. I didn’t see a single police officer, semi-automatic weapon, or bomb-sniffing dog. Somehow I imagined weigh stations more like airport security.
During a quiet moment along our route between Napa and Sacramento on I-80, I looked out the window at the sprawling corn fields and orchards and couldn’t help but romanticize about days long past. I thought about truckers bumping along Route 66, engine roaring, no air-conditioning, an Elvis Presley song playing on the scratchy radio. Then I leaned back in the cool, dim bunk of the Cascadia Evolution and thought, “Good riddance.”
Some impressions of the ride and interviews with the testdrivers.
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Get more information about the efficiency of the Cascadia Evolution in this video.