Since I started traveling by RV, I’ve noticed that for most RVers in relationships, there’s a tendency for one person to do most, or even all, of the driving. Now, that’s just an observation on my part and not backed up by any statistics whatsoever. I mean, who really has time for that? 😆I feel pretty confident in those thoroughly unscientific findings, though – which mainly consists of wandering around campgrounds being nosy while walking the dogs, or trying not to let other drivers notice me sneaking glances at them as they pass us on the road. 🙂
A driving imbalance can happen among friends or family that travel together, too – not just romantic partners. I’ve done my share of traveling with others I’m not in a relationship with.
Gender doesn’t always play a part, but I do notice a higher proportion of women versus men who seem to not regularly be driving their RV. I’m not sure if men just enjoy driving more (I’m biased in that I love driving, so not wanting to seems foreign to me) or if more women want to, but are nervous about larger vehicles. It also seems common for potential solo RVers (especially women) to be worried about driving and traveling alone, and that fear keeps them from taking the plunge into RVing. More on that later!
You don’t have to drive often – but you should at least know how
It’s perfectly fine if someone doesn’t like to drive and prefers to navigate and be the co-pilot, and maybe they’re just better at that – especially when it’s for the sake of preserving their relationships! Some people love to drive and want to do it all the time, so they become the primary driver by their choice.
There are also cases where health issues or past driving incidents may make it hard for someone to get behind the wheel. Even in those cases, there could be a time when the primary driver becomes sick or is injured, and thus unable to drive. The other person should be comfortable enough with driving their RV to assume the driving in that scenario – at least for a short distance – in an emergency.
It’s scary at first – for all of us!
The funny thing about driving an RV is that it often seems like it’s no big deal until you’re the one in the driver’s seat. Getting behind the wheel and firing up a 20,000+ lb motorhome, or a truck plus trailer, is a whole ‘nother experience. But if you’re going to play co-pilot and tell the other person how they should drive, you’d better have at least tried it yourself first!
It can be hard for the drivers out there like me, who didn’t have much experience with larger vehicles prior to RVing. I was a compact car driver before, so I wondered, “Could I ever really be comfortable driving a house on wheels down the road at 60+ mph?”
The first couple times I drove a class A motorhome, I was ready to give back the keys and camp out of a tent. No way did I trust myself driving something that gargantuan with my family and our possessions in it – while towing a car behind it, no less! As with anything, practice is your best friend when learning a new (and scary) skill. Over time it got a little more comfortable each time I took the wheel. Now I barely even think twice about driving an oversized vehicle, unless weather or traffic conditions are bad, or we’re on a narrow or low-clearance stretch of road.
I wanted to get opinions, and from other women in particular, who had a variety of backgrounds, relationship statuses, ages, sexual orientations, types of RVs, and driving experiences. So I nagged…er…polled some friends and fellow RVers about it. We’ll be focusing on women RVers’ perspectives here, since we make up a smaller percentage of drivers, but this advice can apply to anyone! Here are some tips for less-stressful RV driving experiences from the “pros”:
Nikki of Gone With The Wynns –
Nikki says: “I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous the first time I drove a class A RV. It’s a big, expensive vehicle with little room for error, but I knew that much like taking on any new challenge, it would come with its rewards. The reward in this case is feeling like one bad-ass mamma jamma!
My number one piece of advice: don’t let the fear take over. Take a deep breath and start in a large empty parking lot. Schools are typically empty on weekends and make for a great practice lot. Realize how tall and wide you are, make lots of practice turns to get used to how much room you’ll need, and take the opportunity to practice quick stops.
Oh, and good music is key. If you really want a good girl-power song, go for Lily Allen’s “Hard Out Here” (note for sensitive ears and people killing time at work: explicit lyrics, and the video is not safe for kids or work 😉)
Jeanette of JenEric Ramblings –
Jeanette says: “Try to relaaax. It’s not going to be nearly as bad as you think it is. The tighter you grip the wheel/try to micro-control the vehicle, the more it’s going to shake, wiggle & wobble. A relaxed grip is better.
I too would very strongly recommend finding a large empty parking lot for the first behind-the-wheel experience. School parking lots after-hours or on weekends are usually completely empty of cars. Start slowly and get a feel for how the rig drives & turns. Then you can start practicing things like tight turning and backing up. Use a light pole as the “corner” but remember to take it slowly so you can stop if you’re in danger of bonking the pole. And for Pete’s sake, take a spotter with you who is calm and won’t scream “stop” at the top of their lungs. Calm, zen, & relaxed is what you want.
All couples (regardless of who’s driving) should agree upon and practice terms & hand signals to be used when backing or in tight spots. We’ve all watched those entertaining couples who do NOT do this trying to get their rigs into a camping space. “Get the popcorn & beer, Eric – this will be fun to watch!”
Everyone worries about not turning too tightly because you can hit the pole/curb/gas tank on the inside of the turn, but don’t forget that on most Class A’s & C’s the butt end will also swing out to the outside more than it does in a car.
Learn how to properly adjust your side mirrors to help eliminate your blind spots! Here’s a helpful video. Adding a towed car adds almost zero difficulty to driving the rig: just remember to leave more room when pulling back in from passing, etc.
Don’t be afraid to assert your right to drive. Ask to drive early in the day when you’re fresh, and don’t wait months between turns at the wheel. Eric used to drive me crazy by driving until he was exhausted & then asking me to take over, but by that time I was also tired & groggy from being in the passenger’s seat all day. Now if we’re doing a long driving day we switch drivers every 2 hours. Period.
And stay within your comfort zone when you’re starting out (ie: if you know you’ll hit Chicago at rush hour and it’s your second time behind the wheel, pull over & switch drivers). Having said that, I’d also remind women not to use that as a crutch – sooner than later you should starting pushing your comfort boundaries because those formerly scary situations will be easier to handle than you think.
If you know your partner is not a patient teacher then you should try to find someone else to help you learn to drive. Whether that’s another friend with an RV, or whether you pay to attend a driving school/boot camp, you might be better off. I used to teach scuba diving, and when learning new things women are usually more relaxed & confident when they are NOT paired with a significant other. One partner is always more assertive/aggressive and the less aggressive partner will refrain from asking questions and pushing boundaries.
Check out the RV 101 Driving Skills Video Series and the Lazy Days New RV Drivers Confidence Course. You can also take the course in person at a Lazy Days location in Tampa or Tucson“
Kait of We’re the Russos –
Kait says: “My tip is to find a familiar road on a clear day when there aren’t many cars out and go for a drive. Bring a seasoned RV driver that you feel comfortable with. Make sure to scope out height clearance ahead of time so you have one less thing to worry about.
Drive around on these familiar roads until you feel comfortable enough to change lanes, make left turns and maybe even a few u-turns. Just remember to take it slow and go at a comfortable pace for you. Don’t rush it or do something that doesn’t feel right to you. The more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll become, and before you know it you’ll be driving over the Rockies like a seasoned trucker! Can’t wait to see more ladies in the captain’s seat – waving at dudes gets old after a while. ;-)”
Nancy and Betsy of RV-A-GOGO –
Nancy says: “I was so intimidated to drive our 40′ RV that I didn’t even test drive it before we bought it (Betsy was more bold and took it for a short spin). When we were newbies, we kept to interstates and major roads. With confidence and smart planning, we are quite comfortable in towns, on side roads, and in the country. Over five years our confidence has grown and now we are about to pick up a 45′ rig – which seems to put us on the opposite of the spectrum in RV size preference of most adventurers, who prefer smaller rigs for boondocking and access to public parks.
Before we took delivery of our first coach, we bought a DVD on how to drive a motorhome and planned on watching it at the dealership. Turns out our DVD player was not hooked up properly, so no DVD for nightly entertainment in our new – and intimidating – house! Luckily the player was fixed the night before we left, so we watched the video and decided we were ready to drive it home. The trip home was 9 hours in rain, sleet, rush hour New Orleans traffic, and backing into a long, winding driveway lined with bushes. Since we survived that, we felt pretty good about anything else to come.
The how-to DVD was helpful, as was the driving course at Lazy Days. We also took a test drive with the service manager from our dealer who instructed us on how things work (exhaust brake, camera, ICC switch, etc.). Over the years, we have taken many free courses at rallies and from Lazy Days that have been extremely valuable.
One of the best videos to watch is a safety video regarding what to do in a tire blow-out situation: How to Handle a Blowout.
It helps to start on major roads with wide shoulders and no sharp turns or tight intersections. We always tell fearful women that they should let their partner drive it to an interstate rest area where they can take over until the next rest area. Just like sixteen-year-olds, we took our RV to large church or shopping mall parking lots to get a feel for our turn radius, tail swing, and using the cameras. And we plan on doing that with our new coach.
Confidence will also come with proper pre-trip planning so you don’t find yourself on RV-unfriendly roads, bridges with weight limits, in heavy traffic, or faced with low clearance. We drive with the attitude that slower is better. If we “lead a parade” through downtown at rush hour with blaring horns and erect middle fingers, so be it. If we miss a turn, we patiently wait until there is a large, safe area to turn around. If there is a narrow winding road with no shoulder and limited sight, we will unhitch the tow car and one of us will lead the way in the car with a walkie-talkie, so the RV driver can prepare for oncoming traffic. There is a lot of pre-planning that can avoid the bad situations that make drivers nervous and shaky.
With the size of our rig, we try to do a lot of accommodation research beforehand too. We’ll check out RV park reviews and mapping software to get a feel of how accessible a park or overnight spot are and what to expect.”
Robin of Live, Breathe, Move –
In an excerpt from a blog she wrote about driving their truck and fifth wheel trailer, Robin says: “I am lucky to have a very good mentor in my husband. Not only has he let me ease into it by doing only what I am comfortable with, he has given me all kinds of tips and advice, and most important, when I am behind the wheel he trusts me completely. More than I trust myself!
In my mind, I was letting the physical difference in size between me and this giant rig get the best of me. He reminded me that it’s no different than conquering anything: let go of the fear. I had to approach it the same way that I approach anything that is scary (skydiving, scuba diving, public speaking, etc.). I had to convince myself that it is really no big deal and that as long as I believe that I can do it, breathe deeply, and most of all, allow myself to be a novice, everything will be just fine.
I found myself many times in those first seven hours having to loosen my grip on the wheel (my knuckles were turning white), slow down, and take three very deep breaths. That always did the trick to help me stay centered and stop freaking out because that semi came too close, or there is a super skinny construction zone for the next five miles. The more uptight I got, the more the trailer would sway; as I loosened up (both mentally and physically) it would settle back down.
Tight but loose. The tight part is about paying attention – to the many gauges which tell me if my engine is doing okay, to what’s going on in the lanes around me, to the directions that I need to be following, to the clearance marked on bridges and overpasses – some things do need to be monitored tightly.
The loose needs to be my state of mind, specifically my anxiety. If all of the evidence that I am monitoring says everything is okay, then I need to trust in that and relax. I might go slightly over the line on the shoulder, but I’m noticing everyone else does occasionally too. I might be driving too slowly for some, but maybe I’m giving them a chance to practice their patience (ha)!”
Nina of Wheelingit –
“If you need a bit of motivation here’s my own little message to get you started, once again proving that girl power is the way to go”:
Direct link: Girls at the RV Wheel on Vimeo.
Nina also wrote an article here about her love of driving their motorhome, with great tips. She says: “There were a few first-time nerves, a bit of practice getting used to turns, and some freaky initial moments on the freeway, but after a while I got into the groove and started enjoying the road just as much as Paul.
I started on BLM land in AZ, progressed onto deserted and low-traffic roads, and then finally took the wheel for a freeway. Going slow and taking your time is my driving motto, and I still drive that way today.”
Kerensa of Drive Dive Devour –
Kerensa says: “I was able to practice in a fairly empty RV park, which helped me get comfortable, as it wasn’t out on the roads. There was plenty of space and I could even park it. The idea of waiting to start a turn until your wheels are at the turn point is what gets me. It’s so unnatural to have your nose out that far.
Brandon almost hit the eaves on a building soon after we got the beast. He remembered to look at all his corners and sides, but forgot about the height. Know your height and remember to look for trees and overhangs on buildings, etc.”
Marie of Ardent Camper –
Marie says: “Before we started our RVing journey a year ago, we traded in our normal-sized cars for a giant dual-rear-wheel pickup. I don’t scare easily, but I was really intimidated by the prospect of driving a vehicle almost as wide as a lane and so high up I had to use running boards to clamber into my seat. And I hadn’t even hitched up the fifth wheel yet.
But as with anything, just a little bit of practice gave me the confidence I needed to drive like a pro. Of course, it didn’t hurt that it was literally my only vehicle at that point, so I had no choice but to learn!
I’ll pass along the best driving advice I got as we prepared to launch into RVing: “Don’t drive from behind.” In other words, don’t let other drivers’ aggravation bother you. If you’re below the speed limit on a curvy road and a line of cars is starting to build up behind you, don’t sweat it. Just let them pass when it’s safe and keep your cool. You’ll never see them again, and they’ll have forgotten all about you in a couple of minutes.
Keep the good vibes going strong by planning your route and travel stops ahead of time. I usually start with Google Maps, and then double check Allstays Camp & RV to make sure there are no low clearance issues and that there are large enough gas stations along my way. Don’t forget about Google’s satellite view, which I’ve found super helpful for planning how to get in and out of fuel stations.
When it’s time to go, sit down in the driver’s seat and make sure your mirrors are adjusted, your distractions are minimized and your snacks are close at hand. That last one is especially important. 😉
Hit the road at non-peak drive times like mid-morning, and don’t be shy about asking a traveling companion to help you navigate.
Keep your tire pressure high and cargo load low, and in the unlikely event of a tire blowout, remember to accelerate to regain control of the vehicle before slowing down to a safe stop. It sounds unintuitive, but look it up. It’ll take you right back to high school physics.
Above all, remember that you already moved from your house or apartment into a tiny box. You’ve already said “yes!” to a life of travel and adventure. That makes you brave and awesome and totally capable of driving an RV. You’ve got this. Now go hit the road!”
Solo RVers on facing their travel fears head-on
Sue – “One of my favorite quotes is “Fear is essential to survival, but detrimental to living.“
Sue says: “The road has always beckoned. But like many people, finding time with my husband, friends and family, home, yard work, and hobbies – while tethered to a job with a healthy commute – meant I indulged in vacation-sized road trips only as time and finances allowed. And it was good.
But life throws curve balls, sometimes fast and hard. Finding myself widowed and parentless, I went through a period of going-through-the-motions, commuting to work to pay for a home that no longer fit my life and was using much of my energy, time, and money to maintain.
It gave me time to see what I didn’t want. I had just digested a huge plate of “Life is Short”. I was staring down the second half of my life. Play it safe, or take a leap of faith? I leapt.
I love my nomad life. It has grown me. Self-reliance, self-confidence and a kind of fearlessness. And other gifts. A whole community of nomads like me! I meet so many lovely people with interesting stories of their own.
I thought of what tips I might give to a newbie. Like not bringing too much stuff into your rig (true), or purchasing a less costly, slightly-used rig (true) because your first rig won’t be your last (true). And new does not mean problem-free (true)!
I’m still new to this adventure myself with lots to learn. I think the best I can offer is: relax and slow down. Allow your pace of travel to let you explore and get a flavor of a place that you’ll miss if you’re blasting through a checklist of to-do’s. I want to see everywhere, so I was impatient at first. But I’m learning to let the road lead me, and that’s where you find the unexpected.”
Jill of Vespa and a Laptop –
A solo traveler who doesn’t think of herself as traveling alone.
Jill says: “Wonder what’s down that way? This is pretty much the thought that provides my greatest adventures – and my scariest moments. I’m not one for planning and I’m big on taking things as they come, so I often don’t know what direction I’m heading hour to hour, no less weeks or months in advance. I drive a vintage Travco RV that is fairly light and extremely well built. But alas, not a Unimog, like I sometimes think it is! Yet, I am a careful driver who has honed her skills, taking my time and care in maneuvering all sorts of roads – and not-quite-roads, as the case may be.
One rather fearless woman, two tiny dogs and a vintage motorhome often driven on dirt roads. What could go wrong?
Just some of the situations in which I’ve found myself:
- Trapped in a wash at an angle for 2 days after my Vespa rack caught on the back edge…
- Stuck in mud with spinning tires 2 miles down a forest road…
- Engine cut out mysteriously while at a dump station on the busiest time of the week…
- Shredded a tire after crossing a cattle guard that sent the RV into a ditch.
How did I get out of each and every “worst nightmare” situation? My network. I may be the only one driving my RV and the only human in the rig most times, but I am never alone. I’ve built a circle of friends and other RVers that is a wealth of knowledge, supportive and willing. Facebook has been the means for my rescue countless times. I’m just not afraid to ask.
These problems were solved when:
- Another solo woman RVer (Sue, from the interview above this one!) drove 2 1/2 hours to pull me out with her big girl truck.
- A member of a Facebook group talked me through building a ramp with spare wood and using a jack to rock the RV out of the mud.
- The guy who was ahead of me in line towed the RV into a safe space and then gave me a ride to town for parts.
- A friend got on the phone with me to calm me down and researched nearest tire places. We then did a virtual toast when I was all set and safe.
So along with the cliched “feel the fear and do it anyway” attitude you must develop to drive your rig, make connections. Ask for help. Receive it with graciousness and gratitude. And pay it forward whenever you get the chance.
Looking forward to crossing paths someday- and if you need anything at all, please just ask me!”
I hope all these amazing perspectives were helpful, and please feel free to share it with anyone who might benefit from the resources here. As always, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below, whether you’re a driver with more tips to share, or you hope to be!
Thanks- I needed this! Have only driven our 30ft Class C in a parking lot- hubby drives everywhere else. I am a fearless car driver but that feeling of the rig driving the driver freaks me out. East coast driving and traffic is unforgiving! We need a trip to Southwest!
You’re welcome! Traffic is definitely scary, and not a good place to learn. Go hit some rural backroads sometime and build your confidence a little at a time on straight roads. You’re right – the southwest is also perfect for that!
Traffic is intimidating at first, but remember! You’re bigger than they are, and you’re intimidating too! Be courteous but take what you need, and they’ll respect you.
Great tip! When we merge into traffic we do our best to slow down or speed up to accommodate other vehicles, but if they have the room to move over or help us out and don’t do it, we just start moving in. We’re a lot bigger than them and can’t stop or accelerate as quickly, so sometimes you just have to bully your way in a bit. I think everyone should have to drive an RV or box truck as part of their driving test, just to see how hard it is to stop and go quickly, and how much worse your visibility can be. 🙂
Oh, I absolutely love all of this! Bookmarking it, pinning it, tweeting it, hell I might as well make this my laptop wallpaper as I’m going to be reading and re-reading this to finally get myself brave enough to kick Jeremy out of the driver’s seat and JUST DRIVE THE DARN VIPER. Seriously, all of this advice is perfect!
Awe, thank you so much! I’m so glad it was inspiring. You’ll do awesome, and before you know it, Jeremy will have to kick you out from behind the wheel! 😉
What a KICK ASS blog post! Love it!
Thank you, and thanks so much for contributing! We are a bunch of kick ass ladies, aren’t we? 🙂
You sure are!
I can tell you, it’s great to be married to one ( Jeanette, quoted above ) and it’s awesome to have a capable co-driver.
We are kick ass, aren’t we!! Thanks for putting together such a great post.
Love this. We are about to get our motorhome and I was planning on letting the husband drive. The Class A’s are just so intimidating. You are right though we should both learn. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks, Rachel! You should definitely try to learn too, and do it together when you first get it. The RV classes at many dealers are fantastic, and you can practice together in a parking lot or on backroads. Several times on driving days one of us started to not feel well or got tired, and it was so nice for the other to pick up the driving for them. Happy RVing in your new motorhome!
Great Post! Can’t wait to get out there.
Thanks, Doug! Safe travels when you do! 🙂
Thanks for posting this and putting this together. Maybe it will inspire some confidence for others to get behind the wheel. I know my own confidence in driving our rig, while I have gone to bus driving school and do some low speed driving to keep in practice in case of an emergency – is pretty shaken. With as regularly as our rig breaks down, and my own discomfort with driving in general (I don’t even like driving our toad), it can indeed be a scary thing. So instead we just limit driving days to Chris’ comfort level. – Cherie
Thanks, Cherie! I actually thought of you as I wrote this, and how yours is a perfectly valid reason not to drive. 🙂 I was a lot more scared to drive our truck and vintage trailer, because it too had a lot of mechanical issues and nuances that I wasn’t comfortable with. I like driving a car, and the RV didn’t bother me too much, but towing something a lot larger than the vehicle I was in did, and that’s one reason we’re going with another motorized RV next (amongst many other reasons). Good that you learned to drive the bus though, and it’s a good skill to keep up!
More proof that I really never do travel alone- what an amazing group of women with whom to be included. So many practical and emotional/mental tools and tips here, this is a post for bookmarking, for sure. Thanks, Kristin!
Thank you for participating! Your story is so inspirational, and I hope it helps other solo RVers see that it’s a roaming community of people who look out for one another. I’ve been so surprised by how rarely we can go a week or two without seeing someone we know on the road. Hope to see you again soon! 🙂
What a wonderful super informative post! Thanks so much for taking the time to put this together with all of the insights from others. Great job! You rock Kristin!
Thanks, Denise – you rock too! Hope you guys are well and we run into you sometime! 🙂
Thanks, Karen! Happy travels 🙂
Oh no, yet another kick in my pants. 🙁 No really, thanks, I need it. I don’t want to drive our 35 ft fifth wheel; I don’t even like driving the truck; I want to wait until we get a smaller rig. I am such an equality-between-the-sexes type, my fear in this case is an embarrassment. It would be cool to be one of those ‘I am a bad ass for driving this monster” gals. But more important is my husband getting (more) sick of hauling us around all the time and being stuck somewhere if something were to happen to him. Going to check out all the how-to’s. Thank you.
Happy to provide a kick for you! Just take it slow at first, on a road you already know. That will build confidence and you can work up to tougher drives from there. You will be one of the bad ass drivers in no time! 🙂
Kristin, this was a most excellent article! I love all of the contributions from fellow women RVers! There was some new names to me who I will start to follow. A great idea and very helpful info, particularly since I think a Class A is in my future. I am pretty scared/excited about the prospect of driving a “Big Rig,” but hearing these stories fans the excitement (instead of the scared part). I will share this article on http://www.facebook.com/cuontheroadster and http://www.facebook.com/groups/RVHappiness in hopes of giving others a boost of confidence (and to help them find your excellent blog). I noticed that you mentioned a motorized RV is in your future. Have you settled on a size and whether it will be a Class A or a Class C?
Thanks for sharing my post, Chris! They are an awesome group of ladies indeed and there were so many more I wanted to include too, but the post would have been SO long if I had! I’ll be sure to do more interview style how-to’s in the future – let me know if you ever have an idea for one!
We actually are shopping for a class B – we’ve been renting some places lately short-term and enjoying a change of pace and spoiling ourselves with some amenities when the road starts to wear on us. If we’re combining RVing and renting as we travel, we think it would be plenty of space for us for a few weeks at a time between rentals. We’ll have a post up soon about our shopping process! 🙂
Love hearing about all these wonderful, brilliant, strong, driving women! I’ve been in the situation where I had to drive a 4×4 expedition vehicle out of a dry wash where we exploring. Don fell ill and I had to get us out and to a doctor. Fortunately he had always encouraged my learning and practicing BEFORE we needed it in an emergency. I encourage all current non-drivers (female and male) to do the same! Besides, I loved the look on all the men’s faces when they would see me driving that beast 🙂
Thanks, Kim! I’m so glad to hear you were able drive and get Don medical help – that’s a good example of why we all need to know how! I also love pulling up next to a male semi truck driver and seeing them nod at me in admiration. 😉
I have always wanted to get an rv . I had spent days looking for just the right one. I finally found a small light weight camper. My first few tines were short trips with friends close behind. I made a few mistakes, but thats how you learn. Then I took off on a 1200 voyage all by my self, yes it was a bit nerve retching when I would stop and think about it. But with a bit of self talk and lots of prayers, it was acomplished! I face horrible winds, and a snow storm. But I tried to take it easy and took a lot of the less traveled roads. People always comment on how can you do it. My reply is if you want something you just get up and do it!
Thanks for this post. Great information and words of wisdom. I’m a female solo RVer, less than a year out fulltiming. I bought a 30 foot Fleetwood Storm, new, and tow a Honda CRV. One important thing I’ve found is extreme planning – you can’t just reach over and get the maps that went sliding onto the passenger’s floor. Or get up and grab a drink from the fridge. I had never even driven an RV before I bought mine, but had a trucker friend teach me the basics. My first trip heading south no one gave me the finger nor beeped, so I guess I did good! And as Kristal said – self talk and prayers definitely do help, including talking back to my GPS.
Safe travels and see you on the road!
Thank, thank, thank you! Awesome info and encouragement! Drive on!
Awesome advice from my favorite people! Thanks Kristin!
Learning to drive my rig and pull my toad was not nearly as intimidating as learning how to handle the “business end” of the sewer hose! haha!
Learning to drive my rig and pull my toad was not nearly as intimidating as learning how to handle the “business end” of the sewer hose! haha!
YES! That’s the stuff nightmares are made of. A bad experience there is way more traumatic than driving! 😀
What a great post. I watched the mirror-setting video twice, as I have forgotten how to set them. But a wonderful hint for brand new, scared to death drivers, is this: I had worked for a construction company and often would get a pick-up truck loaded and deliver to the work site, as a favor (I was an accountant). When I bought my first motoir home, a 22-foot Coachman Leprechan, I was terrified to get behind the wheel to drive it. My boss solved my problem instantly. He pulled the pick-up truck alongside my motor home, so I could see they were exactly the same length! I knew I could the pick-up with no problems. Then I realized …I can drive this thing! It’s just wider and taller than a pick-up truck. I ever parallel parked the motorhome in a city, so I could run into a store. That was the greatest thing, to get me over my fear. After that I drove everything they make without a problem. I even delivered brand new rigs all over the country as a job. But the price of fuel went WAY up, so that was the end of that!
Good for you – that was a great idea your boss had, comparing it to a pickup truck. It isn’t all that different. 🙂
Being a delivery driver sounds fun, except the gas part. Alaska/Canada fuel was more than expensive enough for us – we’ll never to do that much driving in one summer again!
Thank you for this post! As I am planning my move to RV living the push-back I most often hear from loved ones is about me [a solo woman] driving an RV… My indignant retort is always that there are thousands of people out there driving these rigs day-in-and-day-out… and if they can do it… so can I! But… alas… I am secretly horrified!
We were all horrified at one time, and it still can feel that way now and then! Maybe start with a smaller RV if you don’t have one already? We keep downsizing ourselves because we realize smaller is more fun to drive and easier to park, and we’d rather spend our time and money on adventures than maintaining a big RV. Let us know if you have any questions and best, of luck getting out there!
Awesome topic, thanks so much for approaching it because Jim and I discuss this often. One thing that stands out is that all but one of these women are driving a motorhome (bravo Robin, you get the prize for being the exception).
As a motorcycle-riding biker gal, I’ve always felt a little sheepish to admit that my husband does the driving of our fifth wheel and pickup. But when we started full-timing (2008) we decided it was much better for our sanity and our relationship if he drove and I navigated. It’s worked out beautifully. Yes, I can drive it if I have to, but I can’t hitch up because at 5’2″, the truck is such a beast and I can’t see behind me to nail that hitch. Sure, not the best excuse, but I’ll take it. I keep telling myself I’ll take a class and figure it out. But even when I do, I can guarantee that Jim will still do the majority of the driving, because life is just easier that way.
Not to make you feel any more pressured to drive, but actually have three fifth wheel driving ladies – Robin, Marie (they just bought a Class A a few weeks ago) and Sue, who drives hers alone! 🙂
Don’t be ashamed at all not to drive more – we regularly switch to him driving in congested areas or on complicated drives because he does better with that stress and I’m a better navigator, and we both openly admit that. We’re much better suited to those roles when tension is high! But on long, boring drives I love to take the wheel and help out. Typically on moving days I also pack up inside the RV while he does the outside hitching up and putting things away. We also know that him packing up inside usually results in cabinets left open and things breaking in transit. 😉
Great read, Kristin!
Thanks, Tina! You could get a camper van and do an amusement park roadtrip with us… 😉
Great post encouraging more women to take the wheel. I’m a strong believer that you don’t necessarily have to drive all the time, but it’s extremely important to know how to – as with everything else regarding your rig. Good job ladies and to all the ladies who are now going to start driving their rigs. ~Ching
Thanks, Ching! It’s definitely a necessary skill, even if you don’t do it often, just like knowing how to empty the tanks and troubleshoot common mechanical issues. I hope it inspires some ladies to learn! 🙂
Great advice! I’ve been driving with the “ghost” since my husband passed away 11yrs ago. Even wrote a book about it.
Jeff here (other half of RollingRecess:-). Nice post and props to you women drivers. It is kind of a turn on when we pull up to a challenging camp spot and Deb is behind the wheel of our truck w/32′ 5th wheel, and men congregate to watch,…and she does the cool swoop, backs our rig in lining it up perfectly. Spectators are speechless. Additionally, some of my best naps are when Deb is behind the wheel. – Team Driver
Ok now you have hit my scare spot! I can drive forward, make turns and get into gas stations just fine, but now alone at 71 my panic is backing the fifth wheel into a camp spot. I like to do the smaller Forest Service type campgrounds. I used to drive a 40 foot school bus and have no problem with a straight vehicle but that darn jackknifing thing has me complexed!???!!!! Jeff/Deb help!!!!
I’m not Jeff or Deb, but I can offer a few suggestions. First, always use a “spotter” – a person who can watch where you’re backing and stop you before you hit something! Second, never get in a hurry when backing. Slow is good! Third, if you have access to a large parking lot, try practicing your backing there (when there are few cars around.) Practice backing in a straight line until you’re comfortable, then practice backing in a circle. Remember that when you turn the steering wheel left, the trailer will turn right
Well thank you stranger, I never even thought of trying to back in a circle. That sounds like a good idea. I bought two tall lime green cones to practice with and thought they would be useful in a real situation. I am pretty good at backing straight because I used to do the boat down to the ramp. I have someone who will help me practice at the fairgrounds but when I’m on the road I will be doing it alone. I guess if people don’t look too busy I can ask someone at the campground to spot for me. They will all probably be pulling up a chair and a beer to watch the show anyway might as well put them to work. LOL
One suggestion I forgot to enter is always avoid backing “on the blind side”. The blind side is the right side of your vehicle. In other words, when backing into a spot, your trailer should be turning left. Blind side backing is significantly more difficult because you can’t see where the rear of your trailer is going. In such a case, a spotter is absolutely essential. If you take things slow and easy, you should have no [problems.
Ok got it, thanks again.
When I first set out alone with MY OWN rv, I bought a 22′ trailer and a pick up. I went into a parking lot and just got frustrated. Then I found a state park campground (no trailers over 20 feet), and went in there when it was empty with my 22′. I spent one afternoon backing into every campsite in there (perhaps 30 campsites). I was exhausted from getting in and out of the truck, in and out, in and out. When I was finished, I could back into anything. The only trick was NO ONE ELSE WAS THERE. Oh, the confidence built as I went to the next one, then the next one….fun! Two years later I decided I wanted to drive a tractor trailer over the road. The cost of lessons was the same as a cruise. I chose CDL A school. I failed THREE TIMES on parallel parking on the blind side (which you NEVER USE with a 53′ rig anywhere. I last three months over the road, when I realized that at age 59, those double doors were nearly impossible for me to open sometimes, and I always had to find a stool so I could pop the hood. Enough was enough. I did it. The fact that I accomplished that, a CDL A with ALL endorsements (double, triple, haz mat) was the point. Then i left the big dogs and went back on the porch.
Brenda good for you! I like the idea of the empty campgrounds and right now is probably a good time to do that here in Colorado. Thank you for that suggestion I will definitely do that next week. My neighbor is out of town and I need him to help me get back into my storage place because it is between two poles and I have to go back in blindside.
Forty-five years ago when I met my wife, I drove semis cross country. Forty-three years ago she agreed to marry and I agreed to quit driving and go to college. During the first summer break, I convinced her to go on a truck with me. I taught her to drive a rig and she was driving like a pro all across the country within a few weeks. We only drove together that one summer.
Fast forward some thirty-five years and after a successful career in mortgage banking, I retired. We purchased a class C for summer trips, which she refused to drive. After a couple more years, she retired as a speech therapist and we bought a class A for more extensive travel. In the four years we owned that first class A, she drove a total of about four hours. She likes being “the passenger” and I love being “the driver”. (Old truckers never lose the road fever!)
In August 2015 we bought a new class A which we now live in full-time. She has FINALLY recognized that she needs to get comfortable driving this rig in case I become too sick or injured to do so.
Thanks for this great article that I think will help her overcome her nervousness. Now, if I can just overcome my nervousness about being “the passenger” …
Oh. And just to emphasize a tip several of the ladies mentioned. If you feel exceptionally nervous behind the wheel, whether it’s a car, an RV, or a semi, you’re driving too fast.
One other tip I seldom see is how to keep your rig centered in your travel lane. On a straight road, aim your rig to the center of the lane an eighth of a mile ahead. On a curve, aim as far ahead as you can see – typically 100 feet.
In fact, you should always drive your rig as far ahead of yourself as you can. Watch for road hazards, driveways, side streets, parked cars, deer, or whatever. This will allow you to avoid emergencies and other surprises.
Well, I guess I need to chime in on this one!
I’ve been the only driver of our RV’s for almost twenty years.
My husband is legally blind, so I really am the ONLY driver, which
can be challenging at times.
My husband used to drive big-rig wreckers and just about anything else you can think of, so yes, I learned to drive the “big stuff” from a blind guy. 🙂 Before he taught me to drive the RV, the biggest thing I’d ever driven was a Dodge Caravan.
I started right out of the gate towing a 40′ used Newmar fifth wheel–and my first trip with it was from Sisters, Oregon to the Oregon Coast. Now that was interesting, especially when a little red sedan decided to slam on their brakes in the middle of Eugene. I clearly remember my posterior leaving the seat as I literally stood on the brake, willing myself to stop! Fortunately we did–but that was my first lesson about the importance of trailer brakes.
The smallest RV we’ve had was a 32′ fifth wheel, which I towed with a one-ton Dodge dually. The biggest has been almost 84′ with a Freightliner Sport Chassis, towing a 39′ custom fifth wheel, with a 4-door Jeep behind that! Yes, really. Not legal on the West Coast, and it presented quite a few challenges with just one driver.
So now I drive a 45′ Renegade motorhome, which is like a “Super C” built on a Freightliner Heavy Duty truck chassis. I tow a Jeep Rubicon. The Renegade has a very long turning radius, so again, another set of challenges but we’ve learned to work through it.
We are getting ready to return to full-time travel (Again…we keep buying property, and then selling it!) We travel with two rescue dogs, and soon my husband’s third guide dog will join as as well. I also run a demanding online business as a marketing consultant and direct response copywriter, so I’ve got my hands full for sure.
As for tips…I agree with Dave Dopp about driving “ahead” of yourself. I do that automatically now, and many times have spotted things like wildlife on the side of the road, a mattress in our lane on a tollway, accidents, all kinds of things that could have been disastrous if I weren’t always scanning ahead.
I also recommend “living in your mirrors” by making it a habit to pay very close attention to your side mirrors so you keep aware of what is going on with traffic coming up behind and beside you as well as where you are on the road.
My backup camera is my other best friend–as well as the GPS. I’m always scanning, and the GPS is how I monitor my speed. Yep, I’m a “drive the speed limit” woman–including when we get to cruise at 80 mph in the middle of Texas! It’s another thing I really love about the Renegade, because it is rock solid on the road, even at higher speeds. I’ve driven quite a few “traditional” Class A motorhomes and found it to be like trying to drive a sofa down the road with the “loose” feeling and pillow-like suspension. I just don’t want to have to wrestle the rig for 400 to 500 miles a day, which I do when we drive back from DC area to the West. (Our only granddaughter is in DC area, and another on the way!)
Another tip is to use Google Earth to check out where you are planning to stop for the night. My husband is still able to do this with limited vision, and when I am churning out miles driving “truck driver” style straight across the country, it’s a very valuable tool to keep us from ending up in a situation where that long turning radius is going to get very problematic very fast since you can’t back up more than a minuscule amount when you are towing with a motorhome.
Another tip: install extra exterior lighting and side cameras. We have LED lights that are angled towards the back of the rig on both sides that I can turn on for early morning departures when I want more light to see my way out. Just don’t forget to turn them off again before you hit the open road. We also installed side cameras that look down both sides of the rig. I try to avoid driving at night, but my husband and I are diehard morning people, and we often end up leaving before dawn. But I’m firm on NOT parking in unfamiliar places in the dark at the end of the day. Unless it is an extreme emergency, I don’t drive into the night. I’m not comfortable trying to maneuver into a parking place in the dark after a long day of driving, it’s a recipe for disaster.
And one last word of advice: If you have to drive through a big city or heavily congested area like Dallas or the approach to the DC area, very early Sunday morning is consistently the BEST time to do it. I’ve found this to be true nation-wide, as traffic just stays lighter, longer on Sunday mornings. Since that isn’t possible all the time, the other tip for surviving the metropolitan traffic crush is to at least drive through later in the morning or mid-day, and try to be on the “outbound” side of traffic patterns rather than inbound.
And last but not least, have fun with it! I admit to enjoying the surprised and even shocked looks on folk’s faces when they realize I do all the driving. It’s funny really. We can be talking to someone with Ron holding his blind cane or with a guide dog by his side, and people will still look at us, then the rig, then back to us, and say, “So who does all the driving?” 😉
So women unite! Be the courageous warriors you are capable of being! If you don’t have a great teacher on hand, go to a truck driving school and learn to drive. It really does feel good to know you can do it–and it’s fun too!
Fun to see all the comments on driving your rig. My husband & I bought our 37 foot 5th wheel plus Ford diesel crew cab dually truck in 1990. We ordered our 5th wheel. When it was built, we went to pick it up. Dick made ME drive it the 2 1/2 hours home, in the rain, late afternoon! Scared me to death. But I knew if I could do that I’d have no trouble on a good, sunny day! We full-timed for 2 1/2 years in it. In 1993, we got our first motorhome, 37 foot. Well, intimidation again for me! But I did fine. Never took a class, Dick taught me. He died in 2008 and I had our 39 foot diesel pusher & I towed a car. I have been driving alone since he died each summer. I now have a 30 foot motorhome which seems small but I do love it for my dog, Jake and me. IF I can do this, I think any woman can. But most importantly, as I’ve met women over the past 25 years, I tell they MUST learn how to drive their RV. They have to know how to do it in case….I had many in cases over the years, so I know what it is like. Just do it…..
I am considering my first motorhome purchase (a 32 ft. Jayco Greyhawk 29MV) and I am nervous about being a solo RVer. Back in the 1970’s I did occasionally drive a full size van pulling a 27 ft. travel trailer but always with my husband in the passenger seat when I drove. Now that I’m single and retired, I think I’m ready to go alone. I would love to learn more from other solo women who drive their own rigs. I primarily think I will stay in the west since I live in the southwest but maybe I will get enough confidence to go many other places as well. Thanks for the tips from those you shared with us.
Hi Sandy! You can totally do it! If you can downsize enough, I can’t say enough good things about driving a class B or really small C, compared to towing. It’s a lot simpler to maneuver and manage, if you don’t need a separate vehicle for towing, or towed behind you. Let me know if you have any questions! Happy travels 🙂
Nice post, Thanks for sharing this valuable information about driving training tips.
I am enjoying.
I Love my 34 ft Class A. My husband is no longer with me and I so want to be on the road! I am a confident driver but from experience it’s always good to have a second set of eyes and ears. I feel comfortable driving locally within 4 – 6 hours alone but the thought of driving out to Colorado or to the East Coast for many days alone scares me a little. But I’m determined to get on the road nevertheless. Any comments will be greatly appreciated. Thanks!