Dear Joe and Vicki: We just purchased a new diesel-powered motorhome. Up until now, we have only had small trailers that we pulled with our pickup truck. The size of this new RV intimidates me. My husband feels confident in his ability to drive the motorhome, but I think it would be a good idea for me to take driving lessons. Do you know anything about the RV driving schools we see advertised in the magazines?
Joe: Not only do we know about the professional RV driving schools, we have taken lessons from one of them. Years ago, we decided to take RV driving lessons after purchasing a new diesel-powered motorhome. Up until that time, our RVs had been gasoline powered and much smaller than our new rig. We felt that professional instruction would quick-start our ability to maneuver this larger and somewhat different vehicle. So we contacted Dick Reed’s RV Driving School (www.rvschool.com).
We had become personally acquainted with Dick and his instructors at RV shows and educational events. Vicki and I had watched them teaching others to drive. We had observed tiny women who could hardly see over the steering wheel confidently maneuver their large motorhomes and fifth wheels through narrow streets after taking RV-driving lessons. We knew the instructors were good at what they did.
Dick assigned John Ward to be our instructor. John spent the next two days with us and he did a dynamite job of teaching us how to drive a diesel-powered motorhome.
Vicki: But as some of you know, Joe and I joke about our traditional “blue” jobs and “pink” jobs. Driving the RV, dumping holding tanks and rig maintenance have always been his blue jobs. Meal preparation, laundry and housekeeping have been my pink jobs.
My occasional RV driving has been limited to open stretches of highway for brief periods of time. Occasionally, Joe has helped with the inside chores (also for brief periods of time).
Well, shame on me. Instead of doing some of the driving each day, as John Ward had instructed, I continued my habit of reading novels while Joe did all the driving. And I lost my confidence in my driving skills.
So, when Joe had knee surgery this year, and it looked like the only way we could get to a work assignment was for me to be the driver of our motorhome, I almost panicked. As it turned out, Joe was able to drive, but I decided it was time for me to take driving lessons again.
Once again, I called Dick Reed’s RV Driving School. This time I spoke with Dennis Hill, a former RV driving school instructor who now owns the school along with his wife, Carol. I explained my plight to Dennis and he said he would assign Jerry Ray to the job.
Jerry, who has been an RVer for more than 36 years, has been with the driving school for 12 years. He holds the title of senior RV driving instructor and, up to that time, had given RV-driving lessons to 682 people. Prior to joining the RV driving school staff he was a tour-bus driver, commercial driving instructor and a driver operations director for a tour bus company.
Jerry began my lessons by performing a safety check of our motorhome. He also explained how a diesel motorhome’s air-brake system works, how to operate it and how to conduct an air-brake safety check. That was followed by a discussion about how to adjust and use the side-view mirrors.
The next two days were spent learning and practicing turns, and backing and maneuvering our motorhome. Jerry showed me how, by picking a reference spot on the inside of the motorhome, to gauge just the right time to start my left and right turns.
I also learned how to use the side-view mirrors to center the RV in the driving lane. Most people have a tendency to drive too far right in the lane and I was no exception.
I drove on residential streets, county roads, state highways and federal interstates. I drove up and down steep, winding mountain grades and encountered roads narrowed by construction projects. I even drove into and out of a busy fuel station. (Joe did the refueling; that’s a “blue” job.)
During all of this, Jerry kept up a steady stream of helpful hints, constructive criticism and enthusiastic encouragement. I was constantly benefiting from his considerable knowledge and expertise.
Finally, after two days of Jerry’s tutelage, I had regained the basic skills and confidence I needed to drive our motorhome. Now, it’s practice, practice, practice. Driving the RV is no longer going to be exclusively a “blue” job.