After three years of planning, saving and waiting, the rig is finally ours. As I drove out to the dealer to pick it up, I knew two things about myself. The first was that I had over-studied. My mind was saturated with facts, knowledge and opinions about every aspect of RVing, pulled from dozens of different resources. The second thing I knew is that none of this would be enough. I didn’t know anything. It’s like having a baby. No amount of booksmarts will fully prepare you for what you have to do. There comes a time when you just have to get in there and do it.
I have found that many of the techniques in how-to books tend to overlook some obvious points. Like the water pressure regulator. Almost every writer says you have to have one, but no-one mentions which end of the hose it’s supposed to go on. Forehead-slappingly obvious for the guy who has set up camp a thousand times, but not for me. Up until this very moment the only practical, hands-on experience I have had with a rig was climbing in and out of one at an RV show. A pressure regulator might be a small thing, but it adds one more item to my mental pile of important stuff about this 4 ton beast that I don’t know but should.
Oh yeah. That brings me to backing up. The descriptions I have read so far on how to back up remind me of those instructions on how to get a cat into a carry case for a trip to the vet. “Calm her down with a treat and then gently guide her front legs into the case. If she resists, turn your back to show your disapproval.” Those cat writers seem to forget that an angry cat grows extra legs and claws, and gains the strength of ten men when it has to go somewhere it doesn’t want to. It seems my 5th wheel RV has the same attitude.
“Turn the wheel in the opposite direction of where you want the trailer to go,” they say. Or is it the opposite? I can’t remember. But what I do know is a steering wheel is a circle. An RV is a giant rectangle that is oriented perpendicular to the steering wheel. I am looking at the rig backwards while the rest of my body is facing forwards. Even if I could figure out where “left” would be, if the rig doesn’t want to go there, it isn’t gonna go.
That very first day of actual driving, which is just 3 days ago, May 17, I tried turning around in the parking lot of my town’s Humane Society, where I almost got stuck. It seems that both directions on my steering wheel are “left,” and parking lots become incredibly small when RV’s are in them. Fortunately this adventure happened at 11 p.m. while the pound was closed. Otherwise I’m sure I would have left there with two puppies under each arm.
I love my rig, but it’s huge. And it’s full of things that I have to know how to do. I think for now, I will avoid the whole backing up thing by basically driving in a straight line. Then I will only have to deal with this when I get to the coast.