Wow! 33 comments as I sit down to write this entry. You have brought up great questions and many of you have already shared your experiences, support and encouragement to each other. I am overjoyed that there is this much interest in the subject. It will take quite a while to respond to all your concerns and requests so I am grateful to those of you who are offering great advice to each other. For those who want to get started and can’t wait until I cover all the topics, visit RVing Women for excellent information. Also my writing partner, Jaimie Hall-Bruzenak, and I wrote a book on Solo RVing available at our Web site.
In addition to all the options for a good full-time rig that have been mentioned, I suggest you look at the Safari Trek in which the bed is raised and lowered. The advantage is that in a 27-foot rig you can still have a full living room and a fair-sized kitchen area, and at night have a queen-sized bed. I believe Holiday Rambler makes a similar model. I always recommend that you buy used for your first rig so you maintain the value if you discover (which most of us did) that you really want something else after the first few years.
My topic this week is the importance of driving the rig if you are traveling with a spouse. In the 15 years I’ve been on the road, I’ve seldom seen the wife driving, hooking up, or dumping unless the husband was incapacitated in some way. Why? Ask yourself why this is true if you are one of the people who seldom drives. Particularly with the larger motorhomes and trailers, women say they don’t want to, can’t or are afraid to. Then of course there are those who want to, but the husband does all the driving and is unwilling to give up the reins.
I was that wife. We had a one-ton dually pulling a heavy 32-foot fifth wheel. Before we hit the road we had a fairly equal partnership although he did do most of the driving when we were together. But as soon as we started full-timing, I was the inside person and he the outside. I was “allowed” to help at his direction when needed. I was also “allowed” to drive on the open highway when he needed to rest his eyes. After an hour I would see him fidgeting, trying to be patient, asking if I was getting tired. If I said I was fine, he would fidget some more. “Do you need to drive?” I would then ask.” “Yup.”
Then one weekend we were at Death Valley Days celebration. On Sunday morning I left the rig to attend the closing ceremonies. When I got back I found that he had accidentally knocked the still-perking coffee pot all over his legs. We got first-aid treatment, but then it was time to leave. With his guidance I did the whole hook-up for the first time and secured the rig for traveling. I had to drive up the steep road to leave Death Valley and then drive a curvy two-lane road for several hours. I was a nervous wreck. And … I did it!
I became a believer-and so did he. I learned to hook and unhook and did more of the driving after that. And so can you! Please don’t wait as long as I did. Here are some steps you can take:
Take a Driving Course
This is the best way to get started. It’s the unusual husband or significant other who can calmly and courteously teach you. Go to an expert. At the bigger rallies there are hands-on driving courses. The industry leader is Dick Reed’s School. They offer classes in California and Arizona in addition to rallies. RV Training School is located in Branson, Missouri. Or Google RV Driving Schools for more choices.
Buy a Book or Video
Two of the best books for motorhomes and fifth wheels are Drive Your Motorhome Like a Pro by Lorrin Walsh and The Fifth Wheel Bible by Jerry Brown. Lorrin Walsh now has a video available for his motorhome book.
Some General Guidelines
- Always be aware of the additional weight of your vehicle. You cannot stop as fast as a car. Be sure to shift down when going up or coming down a steep hill.
- Know the height of your vehicle for low-clearance bridges and overpasses or roads with trees or wires above.
- Appreciate how wide you must turn so your rear wheels don’t get caught on the curb.
- Go to an empty parking lot and practice turning and backing up. Use plastic bottles to mark your goals. Backing up a trailer is more difficult than a motorhome because we tend to place our hands on the top of the wheel and thus have to think in reverse. To go to the left we have to turn the wheel to the right. Instead learn to keep your hands on the lower part of the wheel. Then you can turn left when you want to go left. Also turn the wheel more gradually.
- Always check a campsite for low-hanging trees, other obstructions, where the pedestal is for electricity, etc., before you back in a motorhome or trailer. This sounds very elementary, but in the excitement of finding an empty site on a holiday weekend or after a long tiring drive, we can become careless.
How To Handle the Spouse Issue
Be clear about why you are allowing this to go on. In my case, I thought I didn’t want to make him mad. But as I look back on it now, I believe I was afraid, and it was easier to go along with it and blame him because he wouldn’t “let me.”
You will feel empowered once you learn to drive. Know that there are many people out there who have taken the step and overcome their fear. As for your spouse, you know what works best. With some, you can just be logical about the possibility of an emergency situation where you would need to take over. With others, you can be assertive: “I am doing this.” A few will be persuaded by financial necessity: “Do you know how much it would cost if we had to hire someone to drive the rig if, God forbid, something happened to you?”
Use whatever it takes-cajoling, tears, assertion, but DO IT!
Next week, I’ll write about working or volunteering on the road to reduce expenses. After that, the topic will be how to choose a rig.
Enjoy your travels,