Today started with something completely different: my first experience of driving a tank, courtesy of son Sandy and Gift Experience Scotland. OK, a purist might argue that an 18-ton Armed People Carrier (APC432) differs from a tank, but to most people, this was a tank. (If you really want to know the difference, try this entertaining blog.) The APC dated from the 1980s and is ex-British Army.
(Image courtesy of Absolutely Scotland which offers this and other activities in a rural setting near Stirling.)
Driving a tracked vehicle is very different from a wheeled one: steering is by means of surprisingly light touches on two brakes to achieve left or right turns respectively. As in a boat, you need momentum in order to steer at all. As when ski-ing (but unlike in a boat) it's easier to pivot if you are on a crest, much harder in a dip. The driving position is interesting: you are sitting above the front right pivot point with 14-feet of vehicle overhang behind and about 8 feet of tank to your left. Speeds are modest - although we made it into second gear at maybe about 8 mph - but speed isn't the point. It's a whole new type of driving, great fun and curiously exhilarating. Here's how I felt after two complete circuits of the wonderful track in rural Stirlingshire:
The photo was taken by friend Ken who had come with me, as he had on our helicopter trip two years ago. But unlike in the helicopter, one or other of us was driving for the whole time we were in the tank. Instructor Mick had delivered a concise briefing, was sitting beside the driver and giving hand signals as need be. He was wonderfully calm and clear throughout. No wonder this is one of Gift Experience Scotland's most popular activities. And Mick kindly snapped us both before we climbed down, having used about 15 litres of fuel, apparently: