Tractor driving training – to Balvi by bicycle

Part of my programme in Unemployment agency was obtaining a driver’s license of commercial vehicles, that is, big machines. I chose tractor. I always dreamt of horses, not machines, but government has not yet such an option in this age of fossil fuel.

I still decided to enter. You never know what situations may be in life. If I get a free machine I might use it, because modern roads are too hard even for shod horses. I sometimes drive a car, still during ten years I forgot the rules, that also got amended a bit, so it would be good for me to study them again for some time. Courses and license are for free, I receive 50 EUR stipendia (2 weeks) and they would pay me back an obligatory visit to a doctor. And of course it is a new experience for me.

Enterprise in Alūksne was not in the list for some reason, so I chose the closest one in Balvi, which is 45 km away from Alūksne. That is a distance I could reach by bicycle easily. I called a manager of courses and he promised me a place to overnight in Balvi. So I packed my bag as much as I could with apples, pumpkin pieces and other food, and early next morning I was on the road.

It was cold and wet. My shoes got a lot of water. Time to time I had to stop to push the water out of my socks, no matter that I was 30 minutes before time. I arrived to an old Balvi manor, which was both an adult education centre and a hostel.

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I had to learn real driving, too, of course. A snake towards and with reverse, and going with a trailer backwards into garage. We also could try out bobcat one day. Tractor was Claas Celtis 446.

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We were some 20 people in courses. All were men, all smoking, I was the only one not smoking. It was kind of strange during breaks – everyone smokes, but I am eating apples. I were lucky to get non smoking appartment instead of a common room.

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They were nice and funny people however. Some were experienced tractor drivers, some were like me, who know no more than a smell of these machines. Manager promised, that if everyone of us passes state exam, then school will arrange a festive dinner for everyone in one of the guest houses of Balvi. I guess he knew it is not going to happen. A person is not allowed to undergo the exam if fines are not paid. Some men had fines not paid. For some it was 50 EUR, for some more than 500, one person even forgot he was fined, but exam commission reminded him about it and (not so) kindly asked to leave the room. Some people had problems, because they visited a doctor only a few days before exam and doctor did not put into database, that persons health is alright to drive this type of vehicle. Of those, who were allowed to do the exam, less than half passed the traffic rules exam. I must admit that traffic rules questions are very tricky and hard to understand, and it is not about understanding the road and signs, but more about psychology and logics of the text, that you need to be a master of, in order to pass. Or simply luck. I was lucky. Those who passed theory were allowed to do a practical part in which everyone was successful.

Manager new that I go by bicycle and arranged that I get my paper with letter “B” on it same evening. He showed his tractor document, which had all possible letters except “G” road building machines, and invited to get some extra letters, too, next could be excavator (C) or forest machines (F).

Some more pictures from Balvi during that days:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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About Pavels Melnis

Independent ecology activist, family farmer, gardener and forestkeeper. Musician: violin, guitar, singing. Hobbies: traveling by bicycle, learning to play different music instruments - accordion, piano, recorder flute, harmonica, drums; languages, theology, prehistory, logbuilding, repairing and recycling. Religious. Ecological. Love all things ethnic and traditional.
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