I signed up for RV Driving School last March. I signed up at the first possible date for the school here in Livingston TX. Tom and I agreed that I would need to know how to drive the truck with the RV attached. Even though we both prefer for Tom to drive, I need to be able to do this and I don’t want the first time I have to drive to be when something has happened to him. We both agreed that it would be better if Tom didn’t teach me. He is a good teacher, but a husband teaching a wife how to do something huge like this could spell disaster. Tom has a tendency of teaching things backward to the way I learn them. Or maybe my learning is backward. Also, I listen to other people better than I listen to Tom.
So for all those reasons I signed up for driving school. Back in March, April, May, June, it was the only place on our calendar of where we would go. Ohio doesn’t have an RV driving school. Texas has one because Texas requires a special driver’s license for RV drivers. The instructors are usually long-distance truckers who are now full-time RVers. They understand the kinds of situations RVers get into, can get into, and need to avoid.
My lessons went for two days, four hours a day. The first day I was really nervous. I’m a good driver – in a minivan! I’m even pretty competent in the truck. But when you take a 25 foot truck and add a 35 foot RV, you have a very long and heavy vehicle to maneuver. My biggest fear was turning into something. The second day I had my driver’s license, back when I was 16, I turned too sharply around a telephone pole and ruined the door of the family station wagon. I could see that happening with the RV only times 10.
I am glad to report that none of the various scenarios I envisioned came to pass. Tom rode along in the back seat but wisely refrained from making any comments about how I was doing. My instructor, Greg Pyke, was wonderful. He was very patient and explained things as many times as I needed. I think all driving instructors must take some kind of “chill pill” because they are all so relaxed as they take their lives into their hands riding with inexperienced students. Greg walked me through all the things I had to think about – clearance around corners, turning radius, clearance overhead, watching for other drivers, staying in my lane, safe stopping speed. He encouraged me to “own” my lane – go the speed I thought was comfortable and safe even though everyone else was tearing along with a 75 mph speed limit. I confess that 35 felt comfortable and safe to begin with. But by my second day of driving I was up to 60, which is a pretty good speed for Texas highways that are not interstates with limited access.
The first day of RV Driving School Greg took me to a church parking lot where we practiced backing up. I never expected to learn how to back up – I thought that was an advanced RV driving class! I never thought I would be able to back up the truck and RV. I’ve never been very good at backing up a minivan! The only car accidents I’ve done in 35 years were backing up accidents. But I was able to back up in a straight line for 120 feet, and then I backed into an angled camping spot. The second day I backed into a right-angle parking spot. Hey – no sweat as long as Greg was there to talk me through every step and I had lots of room to pull forward and try again!
I didn’t hit anything, run into any ditches, or back into any holes. I drove on narrow city streets, narrow country roads, and wide Texas highways. I pulled into a truck stop for diesel fuel, made right turns around several city blocks, and sat and waited through two changes of lights at a stoplight because there was too much traffic for me to turn right without turning into a pole (finally everyone moved out of the way). I can do anything with Greg in the passenger seat! Unfortunately Greg can’t travel with us.
But I think I can do this. I’ll need more practice – have to pry the steering wheel from Tom’s grip – but I am sure I can at least get us down the highway and parked in some fashion anytime I need to. RV Driving School success!