Behind the Wheel of Our Big Rig

Posted by  Brooke Tower on Friday, April 25, 2014

If you would have told me at any point before 2 years ago that I would be able to not only drive a pickup truck, but also tow something that fills our entire driveway, I would have looked at you like you were crazy. I like to think of myself as being open to new possibilities, but because my depth perception while driving isn't always the greatest, I've always been very glad to drive smaller vehicles. In fact, I'm pretty sure if parallel parking had been on my driver's test, I'd still be asking my parents for rides. 

I have always been fascinated by the skills of people who can maneuver large vehicles as far back as watching my grandparents back the boat trailer into the water when I was just 5 years old. A few months ago, watching the plow truck clear my neighbor's driveway had me gaping out the window in amazement. So, when J. suggested that we practice driving with the RV this past weekend, I got a bit of a knot in my stomach. Fortunately for J., his friend Casey had done some trailer and towing practice with him, and we also had time to watch a few YouTube videos together to get a better idea of what to do. I was also thankful that, before trying towing, I had a few months to get used to driving the truck.

J. found a very large empty church parking lot for us to practice in. He practiced first and tried his hand at backing into spots. He definitely has a much better feel for how to do it, but I was pleasantly surprised by my progress in one practice session. On the trip, I don't plan to do much of the driving, but definitely need to be able to know how, just in case.

I think I had kind of expected part of my practice session to include attempting to back into a spot, and was very relieved to find that J. only wanted me to practice going forward rather than backward. So, driving forward and practicing right and left turns was much less daunting, especially with J.'s reminders and encouragement. Just the same, not being able to see out the back window and using the side mirrors meant learning a new way of driving for me.

In Shauna Niequist's book, Bread & Wine, she talks about how a friend taught his wife to drive their boat, and that going 'slow is cheap”, meaning that smaller mistakes can be corrected when there is more time to notice and change.  I noticed that when I went slower, my wheels went closer to where I wanted them to go.  So, my drive home included getting on the highway with some pretty slow turns.  I'm quite sure that the 8 or 9 cars behind me didn't really appreciate my slow pace, but I managed to stay in my lane and to arrive at the farm where we're storing the 5th wheel safely and successfully. I was happy to let J. get back into the driver's seat to back the RV into the parking spot.

All in all, it was a challenge, but empowering to see that I could do something so new and different than anything I've done before.

Lessons learned:

  • When towing, go slow on turns and go as wide as you can to avoid hitting curbs
  • Use your mirrors and watch where your wheels are while you turn (but keep watching where you're going)
  • Learning something new is empowering, especially when it is something you never saw yourself doing. It kind of reminds me of when I learned to use our snow blower. It still kind of intimidates me, but the cost of trying is worth it
  • It reminded me of learning to drive stick shift in that it takes extra energy and vigilance at first, but eventually becomes fairly automatic

Thanks for reading my post. Over and out.