Most of the time, life is better when you don’t look back, but doing so sure can spare your motorhome from damage.
By Betty J. Vickers
“Let’s sell our homes, pool our money, and buy a house someplace where the sun shines every day,” I said to my longtime friend, Sandy, when we retired from teaching.
“Great idea,” she agreed. “We ought to have some new adventures before we get too old to enjoy anything out of the ordinary.”
Shortly after we moved to the Southwest, the real adventures began. At ages 65 and 67, with neither of us having ever owned an RV before, Sandy and I pooled funds again and bought a new 32-foot motorhome.
We wanted to travel by our own timetables, and have a kitchen and toilet when we did. We also wanted to include our two schnauzers, Annie and Alex, in our journeys. RV travel fit the bill to a T. We bought a Winnebago Suncruiser in September, and by November, the sleek motorhome had been initiated into the reality of what it meant to be owned by two retired women with adventurous ideas. Unfortunately, one of us landed it in the shop with a $6,000 repair bill tucked under the windshield wiper.
Sandy, an avid golfer, had no problems hooking up the car to the Blue Ox tow bar and setting up and disassembling all the connections. I, on the other hand, was at a definite disadvantage because of long hours sitting at the computer pursuing my craft as a writer, with little time or inclination for exercise.
Since each of us needed to be able to take the RV on trips alone when our separate interests dictated, Sandy suggested I drive the motorhome around town to get used to the feel of it. So drive it I did, with no problems. Feeling especially adventuresome on one of the outings, I decided to pull into a truck stop for fuel. I filled it up successfully. I was feeling great. I was in control. I knew how to drive the motorhome and even gas it up. Wow! What a high!
When my daughter, Lynn, called to say she was flying into Las Vegas for a short vacation, it seemed the perfect time to plan my first real solo trip. I would gas up, then drive to Las Vegas the next morning and pick Lynn up at the airport. Using an RV park as a base camp, we would spend a few days seeing the sights.
I took the RV a couple of miles down the road to the same Flying J truck stop where I’d gassed up several times. I drove in and maneuvered, just so, beside the pump, then jumped out and pumped the tank full. Finished, I took the driver’s seat and snapped on my seat belt. Looking in all directions, I started to ease away from the pump and turn at the same time.
Crunch, came the most dreaded sound. I slammed on the brakes and jumped out to assess the damage. A concrete post had somehow become wedged between the motorhome’s bumper and rear panel, and now the panel bore a tall, jagged tear.
Several huge semi-trucks were parked nearby, so while Alex barked his little black head off, I went into the station and looked around for a driver. Swallowing my badly wounded pride and feeling like the world’s greatest fool “” no, the greatest female fool “” I walked up to a man who was obviously a truck driver and asked him for help. I thought if anybody could extricate the RV from its bad position, a truck driver could. He obliged and came out to look at the damage.
“Oh, boy, lady,” he said. “There ain’t no way anybody gonna drive this baby away without help. You gotta call you a wrecker to lift it sideways and set it over before you can move it. Otherwise, you gonna rip the whole back wall off it.”
Turns out, that trucker knew his stuff. That’s exactly what it took to free the beautiful new motorhome from the clutches of that post so it could be driven to the RV garage in Las Vegas to be repaired.
I felt like two cents waiting for change. I had just given validity to most men’s opinions about women drivers. Plus, I had to tell Sandy that not only had I broken my half of the new motorhome, but I had broken her half, too.
And what was I going to do with the plans I’d made with my daughter? I knew what I felt like doing: ditching those plans, picking her up in my car, and staying in a hotel.
Living on terra firma over the years has taught me many truths. One is the adage about getting back on the horse. You know the one I mean. So that’s exactly what I did.
Once Sandy got over the initial shock of the damage, she unrolled the duct tape and we heaved and pulled and taped the rip closed. I dusted off my chagrin the next morning, attached the car to the tow bar, rehearsed the steps again for attaching and disconnecting in the RV park, and took off alone for Las Vegas, 120 miles away. Aside from one trucker blowing his horn at me on the fast, skinny-laned freeway through Las Vegas, I performed every task, if not like a pro, then to the best of my ability, which turned out to be quite adequate.
Was I scared and unsure of my ability to drive again? Absolutely. Scared pea-green. But I did it, and that’s what was important.
Now I know that gender, fear, or age do not have to keep me from living my life to its fullest and trying fun, new adventures. I decided to bring that “horse” back around and saddle it up just as long as I was able to hold onto it. It’s a great lesson to learn, and I have the motorhome and that post, I guess to thank.