How to Drive a Manual Transmission

It dawned on me the other day that my son had never driven a car with a manual transmission. My son, Eddie, who is 23 years old and is due to graduate from nursing school later this year in December. He has lived with his Mom since he was 8 years old. I’ve always had a good relationship with my son, though our time together was limited. We had the Tuesday and Thursday evenings and every other weekend that we were together but it’s not the same as living together. Eddie was not really into cars as a kid either………more about video games. Of course about half-way through his senior year he asked to have his time to himself……………….. I understood……… what teenage boy during his senior year of high school wants to spend a bunch of time with Dad. Needless to say I did not spend a lot of time with Eddie during his early driving years……………… It was time to change that. It was time for Eddie to learn how to drive a manual transmission.

The Route

So my quest to help my son learn how to drive a manual transmission started about a year ago when I brought it up. The good news was that he wanted to learn. Now it was time to figure out when we could do it. For my son, his schedule was a little crazy. He was going to school and working at the hospital and his schedule changed every week. We also needed to decide what car we would use? Of course, I have my C7 Corvette Z06 with a manual transmission, but I didn’t think a 650 HP car was a great choice to learn in. We need a plan and a car…………

The Plan

We decided that we would just rent a car. I thought that would be easy and convenient…….. I was wrong. We quickly found out that none of the major car rental places like Enterprise and Hertz offer cars with a manual transmission……….. automatics only……….eeek, now what.

Turo to the rescue. If you are not aware, Turo is like AirBNB, where people rent out their own personal cars via an app on your smart phone. The app is super easy to use. You just punch in a location and a date and a list of cars in that surrounding area show up on the app………….. you just swipe and look. We pulled up about 80 cars within about an hour of our home. When I used the filter option to choose only manual transmissions, it left about 11 cars to choose from.

2018 Mazda Miata RF

I found a 2018 Mazda Miata RF with a six speed manual about 45 minutes from our home…………this would be perfect. The cost was $63.00 for the day. We only needed it for one day. I plugged in our date and the time we would pick it up and drop it off. I had to create and account on the Turo app and provide a copy of my drivers license and upload a picture. Of course, I had to add my credit card information for payment and then my account was set up. We then selected the Mazda and our request for rental was accepted. That is when we also found out that Turo charges and additional fee for the maintenance and upkeep for the Turo app of about $30.00. All in, the cost was about $90.00.
Once the account was set up and the confirmation of the rental we were able to communicate with the owner of the car via text message through the Turo app. I also received email notifications when the owner sent me a text in the app.

Since this was a day for my son to learn how to drive a manual and I had just rented everything in my name…………. should I tell the owner that I am going to be teaching my son how to drive a manual………….maybe not…….. however I did not want to be dishonest…….what should I do? I went back to the app and found an option to add another driver. I was able to forward a link to my sons email address that allowed him to sign up as an additional driver. Eddie had to complete an application similar to what I did and provide his driver license. It always said pending on my side, however my son confirmed that he received an approval. No additional cost or issues by adding my son as an additional driver.

The RF Targa Top

We arrived at the owners home Saturday morning at 10:00 AM. The owner met us and showed us the car. It had been cleaned inside and out and was ready to go. The owner also helped with the check-in process which is on the app. It has you take pictures of the front, back, both sides and picture of the dash to record mileage and amount of gas in the car. The owner takes the same pictures on his app and then all pictures are uploaded to the app. You can also make notes of any damage that the car might already have………….super simple and easy. That is it and then we were off. Much easier and faster than any traditional rental car company I have ever used.

The Car

I remember when the Mazda Miata first came out in mid 1989 as a 1990 model. There was nothing like it at the time. It was a small two seat convertible sports car. Similar cars like the MG B and Triumph Spitfire had long since disappeared. I was about 29 years old back then and the Mazda Miata was the 1st car I ever remember that dealers had an average mark up of over $5,000 over sticker price………….. I had never seen anything like that before. It is a lot more common today to see dealer mark-ups for cars that are in great demand or limited production.

6 Speed Manual

Though I had never driven one, I have always heard what a great car they were and how much fun they are to drive. If you ever go to a track or an autocross day you will always see a Mazda Miata’s zipping around. It’s all true, super easy to drive with a soft clutch and a shifter that locks in to each gear. This was the perfect car to teach my son how to drive a manual.

Fun Car

The first thing we did when we picked up the car was to find an empty parking lot. It turns out that the parking lot we found was were my son Eddie went to school last summer. His school had a “south campus” for the nursing program which was really just a big parking lot with a lot of portable buildings……..but it was perfect for what we needed to do. We spend about and hour in the parking lot starting out and shifting gears. We then went out on the street which was a quiet residential area. Once out on the street, my son was having trouble starting from a start……… once we got going he was fine with shifting…… he was just struggling a little with take-offs. We went back to the parking lot and did nothing but start and stop. We did not take the car out of 1st gear………… It worked and all was good.

The Road

Unlike most of my road trip posts, this was not about the road. Most of our trips are determined by the road we want to drive and the places and destination get worked in. This time, the location of the rental car determined the road. We were in Tracy Ca. Not a lot of great roads here, but we would find a way.

Altamont Pass Road

After the parking lot we found a nice place to stop for lunch (more on that later). After lunch, we took off driving down what was called Grant Line Rd. As we were driving I saw a turn off to a road called Altamont Pass Rd. This turned out to be a perfect road for a new driver with a manual transmission car. It was a nice two lane road that ran about 7 miles and there was hardly any traffic …….. perfect. During the week this is a heavily traveled road as commuters heading to the San Francisco Bay area try to use this as an alternative to the major freeways…………. but today it was ours. It was a wide two lanes with mostly big sweeping turns and short straight aways. Eddie was able to enjoy some turns, with some down shifting and then up shifting and truly learning to enjoy the manual transmission. About half-way through he looked over at me and said “I understand why you wanted me to learn, you are much more engaged and focused with a manual and you can truly enjoy the drive and the road”………..he got it!!!

The Destination

Well, the destination this time was determined by where the car was………… in this case a little bedroom community called Mountain House Ca, which is about 5 miles West of Tracy Ca. This is truly a bedroom community as we did not see any stores or services. We had homes and the most beautiful Grammar School, Elementary School and High School I had ever seen………….that was it. This town was truly developed for people who work and commute to the Bay Area.

Squeeze Inn Tracy

We did find a nice place to eat in Tracy at the Squeeze Inn, Also known as the Squeeze Burger. They are famous for their “cheese skirt” on their Hamburgers. The original store is in Sacramento Ca where they only had 12 stools at the counter and you literally had to “squeeze in” to have a seat. They have expanded and now have other locations. Their expansion was fueled when they were featured on Diners, Drive In’s and Dives” You can see a video of the episode on their home page here.

They had a location here in Tracy were Eddie and I had ourselves some nice juicy burgers with a big cheesy skirt.


On the drive home on the I-5 freeway we saw something I could not believe. It was a Ferrari 250 GT0. The Ferrari 250 GTO is one of the most expensive cars in the world. They only made 36 of them between 1962 and 1964. One 250 GT0 that had a race history recently sold for $70,000,000. This could have been a replica, as those are out there……..but its impossible to say driving down the freeway. Either way, it was pretty cool to see!!

Ferrari 250 GTO

This was just an awesome day!! The whole process of renting from Turo was super easy and everything went smooth. The Mazda Miata was the perfect car to learn how to drive with a manual transmission!! The best part of all was a day spent with my son Eddie!! It is amazing how cars can bring us together and strengthen our bond!!

Please leave comments below.

Wes                                                                                                                                                                                                Exotic Cars and Road Trips                                                                                                                                                  Enjoy the Road

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