When I was growing up, I had a doll named “Chatty Cathy.” She was a very popular toy in the early 60s. I loved her. She was almost as big as me, and when I pulled the string in her back, she talked. My favorite line was, “Let’s Play House.”
As I grew up, I realized that there were a ton of things I enjoyed, but “playing house” wasn’t one of those. What does that mean, anyway? Does it mean cleaning? Do you remember the 1960s Mr. Clean? He used to instruct women on how to keep their WHITE kitchen floor clean. My first husband actually ordered a white kitchen floor for a new house we were building. I cancelled
Anyway, I’m not big on cleaning. Thank goodness we (that’s husband No. 2 and I) now have an RV—less square footage to clean. But this blog isn’t about cleaning. It’s about a woman’s role in the RV life. Once we take to the road, all those old preconceived notions about a woman’s place can be thrown out. Men can clean. They can cook. Women can do repairs.
And women can—and should—drive the RV.
It’s time to break the old stereotypes. Women CAN drive an RV, especially if they find themselves pressing that imaginary brake on their side of the vehicle. What if your husband/significant other gets hurt? Mine seems to have developed a recent habit of tripping or sticking his foot in holes. I need to be able to drive our RV.
We have a Ram 3500 dually and a 46 foot 5th wheel—a Jayco Seismic toy hauler. We think we’re going to name it “The Beast” (thanks Judy Pelphrey for the suggestion). We had been on the road for about a month with me never pulling The Beast. I’m comfortable driving the truck. In fact, I test drove several large trucks before we chose the Ram. It was the winner because I could see over the steering wheel and felt comfortable making turns in it. I highly recommend that all potential RV drivers have a say in the purchase of whatever truck might do the pulling. If you’re using a truck you already own, make sure you’re comfortable driving it.
My time to drive the RV had finally arrived. We had signed up for private driving lessons. It included two full days of behind-the-wheel training that started as soon as we finished the annual Escapees rally held this past May in Sedalia, MO. (Escapees is an organization that supports full-time RVers). The lessons were given by a company called RV Driving School. They are not affiliated with Escapees, but they are endorsed by them—and us.
My advice to anyone afraid to drive an RV—take some driving lessons. And you can take lessons at the same time as your spouse/significant other. During the training, your spouse is not allowed to criticize your skill level. They simply serve as a navigator.
The lessons are invaluable. I learned how to set my mirrors so I could tell when it is safe to switch lanes and not hit another vehicle. I now understand what all the gauges, switches, and buttons in the truck do, and when I should downshift. I can back up and I know how to place my hands to make sure the back of the RV is swinging in the correct direction. I know what my rear overhang is. We measured it. Now if I take a corner and hit something, I can’t plead stupidity. I may be careless, but I know better.
We learned how to get The Beast into a camping spot. And that included helpful advice on how to better communicate with each other when it’s time to park it. We were reminded that yelling is not a required element to parking.
My RV’s height also got measured. John had done it previously, but felt he had over exaggerated. He did, but that’s a good thing.
The instruction included three pages of items we must master, but the best part of it was the driving. I was behind the wheel for about three hours, driving hilly country roads with motorcyclists zipping around me. I maneuvered in a mid-sized city, dealing with stop lights, tight lane changes, and left and right turns. I went out to a campground and made tight turns. I even had to deal with traffic circles.
At the end of the day, my hands were tired from gripping the wheel, but I felt confident that I could master The Beast.
Since our lessons, I have driven The Beast several times. Last week, I drove down country roads heading to a new campground in Anselmo, NE. The secret is to keep driving. No, I haven’t backed up into a camping spot yet, but that’s coming. I’ll let you know how I do.
I hope to hear from other women who have faced the RV driving challenge. What was your greatest fear? How did you overcome it? Stories to share?