My prayers join everyone else’s for the suffering and grief of the multiple thousands affected by this dreadful pandemic. Our thoughts and sympathy are now part of our lives, but sometimes we need a bit of the lighter side. I hope some of my observations on RV travel may help with that.
Camping and RV travel comes with spring. This year is uncertain, but we hope for the future. Recreational vehicles are aptly named. Yes, “RVing” is fun. It can also be funny, depending on who the funny things are happening to.
Whether the RV is a fifth wheel, tow-behind, slide-in truck model, or a motor home, it is all about dragging your “house” down the road. Pretty simple after you have done it for awhile. Even then some basic rules can be forgotten.
When towing a trailer or driving a motor home, two absolutes must be embedded in your brain: allow plenty of distance from the vehicle in front of you, as it will take longer to stop; and swing wide, really wide, on the corners. There are many other details; some of them get overlooked. Following are some of the “overlooks” we have witnessed or heard about.
There was a couple going to a horse show a long distance from home. The husband was pulling the horse trailer; his wife followed in their car. During their first fuel stop, the husband was paying the bill and the wife entered the trailer to check on the horses. The husband came out, assumed his wife was back in the car, got in the truck, and took off. His mind was on the coming horse show, but after 30 miles or so, he realized his wife’s car was not appearing in the side mirrors.
He pulled over to wait. Deciding to see how the horses were doing, he opened the truck door to hear his wife’s angry, screaming tirade coming from the horse trailer. It continued during the 30 miles back to the car.
Then there were two of our friends, Homer and Elsie. They left Pennsylvania with their motor home and their car hitched to the rear of it. Their destination was Bar Harbor. Before reaching Bar Harbor, they stayed at a Maine campground and went exploring with the car.
The next day, they hooked the car back up to the motor home and continued their journey to Bar Harbor. After 20 miles or so, Homer thought that things didn’t feel quite right. He didn’t have a backup camera in the motor home, there was no rear window, and since the coach was wider than the car, he couldn’t see the car in the side mirrors.
Homer stopped, walked behind the motor home, then shortly returned. He got into the seat and grasped the steering wheel with both hands. For minutes he stared straight ahead and said nothing. Elsie waited, then asked, “Is something wrong, Homer?” Still gripping the wheel and staring ahead, Homer replied in a monotone: “Car isn’t there.”
They turned and drove back down the road, dreading possible injury to someone and/or damage to the car. Some 15 miles later they found the car. When it came loose, it went down a hill that bordered a steep bank with the ocean beneath. The car stopped by the last picnic table, which had been set in cement at the bank’s edge in this roadside picnic area, which apparently had been unoccupied in the morning hours.
The car had only a dented fender, and Homer was able to drive it out easily. He had forgotten one of the vital rules when towing. Hook up the safety chains!
On an overnight stay in a Tennessee campground, our close neighbor had a huge, glossy motor home. While at breakfast in our RV, we saw the owner getting ready to leave. His preparations were as precise as those of a drill sergeant. A perfectly folded coverall was shaken out and pulled on, the sleeves snapped and tucked into gloves. Flexing his fingers, the gentleman attacked the job at hand.
First he inspected all tires, performed gray- and black-water discharges, checked the engine oil, got the ladder out, and cleaned windshield and mirrors. After putting the ladder away in the cargo storage of the RV, he locked all its doors, then went around to check again, to be sure they were soundly locked. He removed the coverall and folded it as meticulously as if it were a ceremonial flag.
When the fussing was finally finished, this fellow climbed into the coach and took off. His heavy electric cord remained connected to the campsite post until it reached its 30-foot limit and then it pulled free, bending the post it was plugged into, and went whipping down the road behind him.
We ran outside, trying to position ourselves in view of his mirrors, and waving our arms. If he saw us, he must have thought we were enthusiastic about saying goodbye. He drove out onto the highway with the 30-foot black cord snaking along behind him.
One year, when we were exhibiting our wind bells at a craft show in Hartford, Conn., we had our truck RV parked in a nearby parking lot with the RVs of other craftsmen. One of our neighbors in the lot had a van that held his product, and connected behind it was a small camper trailer. As he was sleeping in it one night, he awoke to become aware that he was riding down the highway.
Someone had broken into the van, didn’t think about anyone being in the attached camper, and just took off. Our friend was helpless, trapped in his own camper with no way out. When daylight came, he found a piece of cardboard and scrawled on it “Help! I’m being kidnapped!” He held it up to the window, hoping someone in the heavy traffic would notify police. The only reaction he got was people smiling and waving at him. Apparently they thought he was just looking for laughs.
Eventually the van’s new driver had to stop at a toll booth. By then the victim had found a tire iron in the trailer and, jumping out with it, rushed at the driver. The thief was not prepared for attack. He leaped out of the van and, dodging traffic, ran off. The craftsman was many hours returning to Hartford and the craft show.
The RV advertisements feature alluring promises of adventure. There is truth in their claims. In this most difficult time, stay safe, all you fine folks!
(May B. Davidson lives in Round Pond. She is a longtime columnist for The Lincoln County News and the author of “Whatever It Takes: Seven Decades of True Love, Hard Work, and No Regrets.”)