Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Driver's Ed 101-Rally Day 2

Sparky attended a GREAT seminar today at the Gypsy Journal Rally here in Celina, OH where we are for the week...Dennis Hill, of the RV driving school gave a seminar on driving tips. I learned a LOT, even though I have only driven our Tiffin once, for 55 miles...I have a LITTLE more confidence now, so I might try again! And I have a LOT of tips to share with Eldy...(Oh, crap! I knew I shouldn't have had Sparky go to that one! A front seat driver passenger, that's all I need! laments E.) Actually, he had taken Dennis's seminar last year, but forgotten a lot of stuff, so it will be good to refresh his memory. (Sigh!) And, Sparky took COPIOUS notes...In teacher speak, that means a LOT! There are some advantages to being with a school teacher, you know, Eldo....(Yes, don't I know!...sighs E Can we talk about the DISADVANTAGES? ) Another topic for another blog, dear. Now, if I can just make sense out of my chicken scratch notes....It's been a long time since I've had to take notes myself!

All right, listen up, guys and gals. There will be a pop quiz at the end of the blog! Don't say I didn't warn you! The tips are for more inexperienced drivers, but I'll bet there's something in here somebody might not have thought of or practiced. Here's what you need to know, the highlights recapped, in the five minute version:

1. Know your vehicle, length, width, and height down to the exact inch, including antennas and air conditioners. Physically measure it while your MH is aired up (Motorhome talk for air bags inflated). Put it on a 3X5 card and you'll have it when you come to a bridge or tunnel with how many inches to spare?

2. How to set your large mirrors--driver and passenger--You should NOT see sky but just barely the horizon line and below..The mirror sides should be reflecting a thin slice of the sides of the motorhome, then kick it out just a little more. The bottom convex mirror should be set as low as possible so you can see the length of the motorhome. Look at the small mirrors FIRST while driving--they show the traffic on each side of you. Top mirrors show what's coming up behind you. You should be resetting your mirrors to reflect your environment. If you are in a part of the country with a lot of trees, mirrors should be set higher and out more. Traveling out west? Small mirrors should be set inward and down more to see rocks and boulders.

3. Expect every green light to turn RED. Good drivers start the braking process LONG before they ever get to the light. (Hm-m-m-m, Eldo, are you paying attention?)  It's OK to coast, you are in a RECREATIONAL vehicle--TAKE YOUR TIME! Dennis stressed this over and over, that the driver needs to relax and SLOW down...don't let traffic stress get you!  You ARE the traffic jam, everybody will just have to work around you, let the traffic flow away from you.

4. Make lane changes and moves SLO-O-O-W-L-Y....don't think you have to move to the next lane over just because merging traffic is coming on. Even if it looks like you're going to have to brake, anticipate and slow down to let them on. The less lane changes you have to make, the better. For that crazy driver that's texting, eating, and has no clue that the BEAST is right next to them, lean on those Hadley air horns! I LOVE the sound of those! Scare the bejeezus out of 'em!

5. Hand signals--Dennis says women make better back up drivers, but if you have good communication and hand signals, it doesn't matter who does the backing up. Keep the signals simple, open palms and BIG. Communicate before hand what your signals are going to be. Walkie talkies are fine, but that involves picking them up, putting them down, waiting for the other person to talk back. In our case, we have our hand signals down pat. (We-e-e-e-l-l-l-l.....yes and no....) I know just what he means--sometimes I want him to turn the wheels just a teensy bit, and he REALLY turns them, a LOT. So I give him the pinched little fingers signal, and he goes, "WHAT THE HECK DOES THAT MEAN?" and over corrects the other way!

6. Tail swing out---for us, we measure the number of feet from the center of the hub on the rear wheel to the tail end and divide by 3. That's how much swing out there is in feet--a lot less than what you'd think!  Now, on a turn, let's say a right turn, if you think you aren't going to clear the curb with the tow, that's the time to turn the MH even harder to the right. The tow vehicle (car) is going to turn a foot to the LEFT before it starts tracking behind the motorhome, so that will help the car clear the obstacle. Any questions? Ask Dennis! I'm just the messenger! I'm still not clear on that one, the tail swing out formula. Dennis says to practice in a BIG empty parking lot on these kind of things. He suggested having the non-driver stand outside the coach while the driver makes a turn, but I suggest orange cones! Duh!

7. Adverse driving conditions--nobody should be driving in SNOW, FOG, HEAVY RAIN, HIGH WINDS OR BLACK ICE. That's it! 'Nuff said. If you're out in that stuff, use your flashers. Dennis also said when it says "Truckers use low gear" YOU should be following those yellow sign instructions to truckers as well.

8. Play the "What If?" game--what if my brakes don't do the job going down this hill? What if a deer runs out across the road? (HIT it!) Natural driver instinct is to swerve left of the object--right into the opposite traffic lane on a two lane road. Much safer to hit it....

OK, that's it for today, folks...I was just kidding about the pop quiz.....but I was tempted! Hope you learned something today....I sure did! (Are ya gonna drive next trip? E. wants to know....) Well, I really think I need RV Driving School lessons, honey! (To the tune of about 400.00 for two four-hour sessions). Yikes! But well worth it. After I save up for my kayak, I'll save up for the driving lessons, OK? (Guess I'll be the main driver for awhile longer...sigh! And doesn't she have her priorities in the right place???) Maybe I'll win that kayak, they haven't given that one out yet. Tonight we won two tickets to the RV Museum in Elkhart, IN...the place we just went to a few days before the rally! We'll be looking for people who would like to go to it when we get to the Elkhart Campground next month and we'll give them the tickets.  Eldy wants to know if I've finished the blog yet...I'm wired on too much Coke drunk today. (It's gonna be a LO-O-O-N-G night, Sparky can't sleep when she drinks Coke, her beverage of choice, after 2:00 E. explains.)

Sorry for the lack of photos, Sparky was busy at seminars today...besides, it was a crappy day. More rain, and it's supposed to rain tomorrow--60% chance. Glad we are in seminars, learning new stuff and seeing what stuff we need for the motorhome at the vendors. More about that tomorrow!

I love rainy days...just hope we don't get stuck when we pull out of here, we're sitting on soft grass that is getting deeper and plusher each day it rains....glad the fairgrounds has a tractor available! See you tomorrow at some more sessions.


  1. Were going to a FMCA Rally in January. Hope we have good seminars too.

  2. Great tips ... have yet to drive the Phaeton in traffic yet ... but plan to be able to do so for emergencies, if for no other reason.

  3. And remember this; never, ever swerve to avoid hitting some idiot that pulls out in front of you. Run over them.


  4. Sounds like you are really learning. Those are great tips. Thanks and enjoy your week!

  5. Great tips Jeannie. Thanks for posting them. Do you do just one seminar a day? Or was this your "best" ones.

    Twice a winner..........that Sea Eagle is looking more like yours.