I know some of you are interested in RVing but concerned about driving one. In this blog we’ll share our experience. Before I started driving an RV there were doubts about my qualifications for the task:
I’ve gotten lost running in my hometown, driving while looking at a GPS, in large buildings. Lisa knows if I say go left, it’s more than likely we need to take a right. If there’s a way to get lost I’ll find it.
I don’t like backing up. My driveway in Marlboro was more than two cars wide and only about 35 feet long and in a car I still managed to leave tire marks on Lisa’s flower beds.
I have driving induced narcolepsy. By the time I’ve driven over Lisa’s flowers I’m already getting drowsy.
I have trouble maneuvering large vehicles. I often walk into door jams and slam into furniture.
You drive a car by rote. You can fall asleep because you can practically drive it asleep. An RV is a new experience and you tend to pay a lot more attention because there is a lot more to pay attention to. Our Honda Fit weighs about a ton and a half, our RV with cargo and passengers weighs about twelve tons. Our Fit is about thirteen feet long, including tow vehicle our RV is over fifty feet long. Our Fits height is five feet, our RVs height is almost thirteen feet. Our Fit is five and a half foot wide, our RV is eight and a half foot wide.
When driving an RV there are roads you can’t drive on
roads you don’t want to drive on
there are bridges you can’t drive over
bridges that you can’t drive under
all of these things to think about tend to keep you awake. (In my case, I still sometimes get drowsy.)
The restrictions make getting from here to there in an RV challenging, even if you have a sense of direction. There are a few things Lisa and I do to make it easier. When we are driving long distance we are always together and unless we are on an interstate the nondriver is awake and navigating. That insures one person who can check the GPSs without worrying about driving at the same time and we have two sets of eyes on the road looking for low bridges etc.
Our RV has a “Truck GPS” – meaning it is suppose to keep you off of roads that have low overpasses or weight limits. Unfortunately the companies that provide the maps apparently don’t do a very good job and you get messages on the GPS like “Accessibility unknown”. Than there are always changes caused by construction that mapping companies can’t anticipate.
Caught in traffic on Interstate 81 we decided to reroute. Unfortunately for us our reroute took us through a construction zone forcing us to follow detours that had us winding through narrow roads in an unfamiliar area, not quite sure they were safe for RVs and not sure we were heading in the right directions. We survived, we arrived a little later than expected, but with a little more confidence in our driving skills.
As a precaution Lisa and I almost always use more than one GPS. This has saved us a few times when the primary GPS has gotten confused but our secondary GPS (iphone) was still working.
Street signs can be confusing in that they tend refer to trucks and cars and make no mention of RVs. We tend to play it safe and follow the truck rules. We avoid “Parkways” and if a rest stop says no trucks we don’t stop. (Although we’ve seen states that have rest stops for “cars” that have parking for RVs).
Towing a car doesn’t make much of a difference until you get yourself in a situation where you have to back up. With a toad (tow car) attached backing up is a huge risk and if you try you’re likely to jackknife, break your towbar and potentially damage your RV and your car. When we need to backup we stop the RV, unhook the car, backup the RV, turn the RV around then re-hook the car. It’s a process we’ve had to do on more than one occasion. My role is always to unhook – Lisa’s role is to backup, because as mentioned earlier backing up is not my forte.
In a class A motorhome you have a lot more vehicle on your right side than you do in a car or even a class C (you sit closer to the center of the vehicle in a C) so the tendency is have the vehicle too far to the right. Roads are nine to fifteen feet wide. At fifteen feet you have plenty of room, at nine feet you have six inches to spare – it can feel cramped, more so if you have a drop-off or a jersey barrier instead of a shoulder. On narrow roads I tend to just keep my eye on the center line and avoid looking at the Jersey Barrier or ditch.
Gas stations can be challenging in an RV. You don’t want to try getting into one of these:
always check the height and make sure there is enough room to get into and out of the gas station. We haven’t gotten stuck yet but we know people who tried to get into gas station that was too small, than compounded the problem by attempting to backup with their tow vehicle attached, destroying their tow bar – an experience best avoided.
When pulling out of a gas station or any place where you are turning in a tight space, you have to be aware of the backend of the RV. Most RVs have a lot of overhang behind the back wheels, that overhang can get you in trouble. Our RV has camera’s on each rear view mirror and one directly behind us, but unless we are sure we have the room one of us will get out to guide the driver. (Lisa is better at this also – the only slight blemish on our RV was due to me “guiding” Lisa into a fence.)
We usually switch drivers every two or three hours. If the driving is stressful it makes sense to switch off before the driver gets frazzled. If the driving is easy – it helps with the drowsy driver problem.
After reading this I realize that driving an RV is a stretch for me, but luckily I have Lisa to make up for my weaknesses. Assuming you have a sense of direction, don’t tend to fall asleep while driving and have the ability to backup, driving an RV shouldn’t be much of a problem once you’ve practiced a bit.