in Guest blog, Head Cocked & Eyebrow Up, Not Quite What We'd Planned, On the road

From Hell on Wheels to competence — but still kind of working on that whole backing up thing

Driving an RV is not for the faint-hearted. Driving next to someone who is driving an RV really isn’t either.

Just over two years ago, I survived my very first turn in the driver’s seat — and to my great relief, so did everybody with me, including my husband, our younger son, and our dog.

I’m doing it! I’m doing it!
And OMG get out of my waaaaaaayyyyy!

Severe white-knuckling and breath-holding were involved, but nobody lost their life, lunch, or side-view mirror. Not even that one guy who probably had to change his pants after I merged in front of his teensy little car at a regrettably close distance.

He may have required several sessions with a therapist.

If that guy is reading this: I extend my sincerest apologies to you, sir. I had never towed so much as a utility trailer before, and was made doubly nervous by a heavy traffic back-up we’d unexpectedly encountered at that complicated highway interchange in Dallas. I’m so thankful I didn’t actually hit you! Bet you are too.

I had been hesitant and fearful of taking the wheel of even just our truck, a 2012 Chevy Silverado 3500 we call the BFT (B is for Big, T is for truck, and you know the F), as it was the largest vehicle, and only second truck, I’d ever had reason to drive. It had six tires for cryin’ out loud! The first time I finally drove it solo was more than a month after we’d bought it, but I’d already done some practicing with my very patient husband in the passenger seat.

I knew I could do it, but I really didn’t want to do it, and then we sold our other two vehicles, so I absolutely had to do it. The good news? All went well on that first solo journey, but we got a lot of laughs out of the fact that my destination that day just happened to be… a hospital.

When it came to the idea of driving the truck with The Toad, our 38-foot 5th wheel, attached to it, I was even more apprehensive. That’s ten tires, nearly 13 tons, and about 55 feet of potential mayhem.

But Tim and I were in this for a long-term, full-time adventure, and I knew it was unfair of me to rely on him to do all the driving for us. Plus, I’d been a military wife for more than 20 years, and knew a thing or two about the importance of putting fears aside to learn how to do “scary” things for myself. So…

  • Tim, who had towing experience, explained to me verbally how to pull the fifth wheel.
  • I read instructions and tips on how to do it.
  • I practiced, but only briefly, from the safety of a camping loop in a state park.
  • I even dug out some of our sons’ old toy trucks, taped an intersection on the guest room floor, and pushed those things around corners over and over again, so that I could understand from a bird’s eye view how a trailer takes a turn.

Good ol’ Legos and Hot Wheels provided valuable visual learning.

And all those things came together in November 2014, on our return to Texas from a camping trip in Oklahoma. I climbed into the driver’s seat, adjusted the mirrors, and took a 2-hour shift behind the wheel, ending just south of Dallas.

I definitely learned my lesson during that drive: I should have practiced maneuvering our tow vehicle/RV combo a lot more, in uncrowded areas, before I hit the road for real.

But hey. When I was done? I pulled smoothly off I-35, and parked us right. next. to a starship.

Ta-daaaaaaa!

Starship Pegasus was once a restaurant in Italy, TX, just south of Dallas. Based on this report at Roadside America, it was open from 2004-2006. Obviously, you can still park there!

(Author’s note: a version of this post appears at Heartland RVs. It is printed here with permission.)

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