RV Driving School

She said… 

One of the things I have been concerned about as we move from the getting ready phase of our adventure to the actually doing it phase is the change I see in my writing style. So far, Shannon has noted that my writing is more about my “feeeelings”, (I like to think of it as “reflective”) while his writing is more about the nuts and bolts of doing this. This is perfectly normal, as he is indeed, the man in our relationship and men tend to concentrate on how to fix things, while I, as the woman, tend to worry about why whatever it is broke in the first place, as well as that thing’s place in the universal order of all things.

After this last weekend and our Maiden Voyage in Wanda the RV, I found myself writing in a sort of “travelogue” style, sort of “we did this, and then we did that” kind of thing. I can see that when we are out there on the road it may be easy to become so busy doing things that I might forget to stop and ponder what it all means. I don’t want to lose that, so when I find myself travel logging, I need to slow down, get un-busy, and get back a little reflectivity.

We don’t need no stinkin’ driving school!

As I stated in previous blogs, RV Driving School was one of those things I thought we were going to have to forgo for now because we had to get home so that Shannon could be back in the classroom on Wednesday. But as it turned out, we were able to mesh schedules and fit it in. Without a second thought we transferred an additional $700 over from savings and signed up. Our instructor, Don Lundby, met us at our rig at 11:30 on Sunday and off we went. Slowly.

I have had some experience with bumper-pull horse trailers, 5th wheel horse trailers and a 28’ 5th wheel travel trailer. Shannon has driven an old Pace Arrow class A and the aforementioned travel trailer. Shannon has done most of the driving since we have gotten Wanda, mostly because he doesn’t mind and I would prefer to be the passenger. The things I learned from Don in two short days have completely changed my attitude toward driving and my confidence level in my ability to navigate this box down the road.

The first day we started out in a big vacant dirt lot. I was first up and did a lot of backing up and driving forward in a straight line just to get a feel for “slow” and “slower” and where my wheels and corners are. Then Shannon and I took turns backing at a 45-degree angle into a hypothetical camping space. In this exercise, we both learned how to do BIG consistent hand signals. We also started learning about where the pivot point (rear axle) of the RV is. The pivot point is the most important part of driving the RV, and I never even knew it was there. This whole exercise reminded me of 6th grade geometry where we all complained about having to learn something that we would never use in the real world. HA!

By the time we were done with backing at angles with each one of us driving and each one of us directing, Don had commented several times on how well Shannon and I communicate with each other. I sort of always thought so but it was nice to hear it from somebody who has a basis for comparison. I also think it has a lot to do with trust.

Next we did corners. We each drove round and round lots of blocks in a residential neighborhood practicing both right and left turns, always aware of where that most-important pivot point is and how much tail swing we have, trying to avoid taking out objects on the other side of the street. This is where I started to get it, that feeling for the vehicle, its boxiness and the way it moves not just down the road but in tight situations. Sort of “Zen of Cornering”.

Enough for one day. Don seemed very pleased with our progress and said that we were making his job really easy.

The second day was all road work. We learned how to stay in the center of our lane (most people hug one line or the other), driving in traffic, negotiating traffic circles, scanning (constantly changing our focus from front to mirror to front to other mirror), and always reading the road (looking as far ahead as you can and anticipating everything). The last thing we did was mountain passes. We each had to drive up Yarnell Hill, a curvy 6% grade, 6 mile pass, and then back down.

I had been a little nervous about this, but it was amazing! I learned how to take the curves with the middle of the RV, keeping my pivot point at a consistent distance from the outside line at all times. Going down I learned how to let the transmission do all the work, and how not to let the people behind me influence how I drive my rig. I am so much more confident and comfortable behind Wanda’s wheel now, and Shannon even thinks Wolf Creek Pass would be a no-brainer, but I’m still inclined to take the southern route around it. Taking the RV over Wolf Creek when there is an alternative seems a little cocky to me. All in all, RV Driving School was everything we hoped for and more, a great bang for our buck.

I want to revisit that trust issue. And here is where I get all reflective again. One of the pictures that has stuck in my mind’s eye is of Shannon standing behind the left rear bumper of the RV, giving me all the information I need to get me into the space. He is all I can see in the top mirror, and he is all I’m looking at. I found no need to double check him in the mirrors or the cameras. I completely trusted him to get me and our house and our pets and our stuff safely where we needed to be.

I was relating this story to our pastor who had come to visit after our return and I watched as a smile slowly spread over his face. I got it, that this is how my relationship with Jesus Christ is supposed to be, complete trust, not double checking Him in the mirrors or the cameras, just going where He guides me and knowing that He will get me there safely. As Pastor Jeff says, “That’ll preach”!

3 thoughts on “RV Driving School

  1. That’s really cool, Mariel! As you said, knowing the rear wheel pivot point is key in a motorhome, as is the tail swing. Knowing that concept even helps when parking a car.

    What method did they teach you to deal with a blowout? I saw a Michelin video online where your first reaction is supposed to be to hit the gas to regain control. I found that interesting, as most of us would either let off the gas or hit the brakes. I’ve never had to test the theory, but it does make sense.

    1. I guess I always sort of worked off of pivot point but I have never been as aware of it as I am now. As to blowout, they used the same video in the Tire Safety seminar, so yes, counter to all of your instincts, step on the gas until you can gain control and then slow and stop in a safe place. You can run for several miles on a blowout without damaging the wheel. Also, if it ever happens, hope it happens when you have cruise on because the gas is already depressed and you have a split second more to make the right move.

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