My first thought upon waking up this morning was (no kidding): "Crap. I'm going to be backing an RV up today."
I've been dreading this. In the first place RVs are really big. I don't even like backing my car up. Second? Well...RV's are...big.
We arrived at Carefree Coach and RV nearly half an hour early. Our plan was to get a good primer on RVs. We wanted to know the basics: How to take care of them and how to drive them.
Our instructor was Kent Watson -- a friendly guy who has been working on RVs for 20 years. He has a gift for simplifying stuff so that even your average mentalist can follow it.
We started with a tour of the outside. Kent showed us where the drainage systems would be, how to access extra storage, where the cord for plugging into external power would be.
We went inside the RV to complete the tour where we were shown where many of the operations originate...and how to monitor the status of everything from the battery to water levels. (I have summarized much of this in the post below.)
THEN we took this 27 footer for a spin.
The moment I'd been dreading had arrived.
"It's good to have a back-up camera," hinted Kent. Perhaps he noticed the sheen of sweat on my forehead and the tremor in my fingers.
"We don't have one," I said through gritted teeth.
"Then always make sure your partner is there to direct you. They should stand to the side of the RV so that you can see them."
This sounded very sensible to be, since I absolutely would not want to back over or into Sheree. Both would make her VERY testy.
So Sheree stepped out of the coach and, demonstrating an unexpected but oddly touching trust in yours truly, began directing me as I backed into a spot.
You know the signs: pointing right or left....gesturing straight back.
"There are other hand signs," Kent said. He put his hands far apart and slowly drew them together. "You can do this to show the driver how much space they have left."
He pointed to the left and with his right hand he touched his index finger to his thumb. "Do this when they just need to make a little adjustment."
Sure enough, within moments I was backed perfectly into a spot. Sheree wasn't bleeding. No trees had been taken down. The world was safe.
"Has to be a fluke," I thought.
So we did it again. I moved myself out of the slot and to a sharp angle that would make backing up a challenge.
We did it again -- and again it was perfect and easy. No fluke. Something like a brick wall moved off of me.
It was Sheree's turn to back in and I had thoughts of myself standing there, giving flustered patently wrong signals.
Again -- no problem. It was flawless. It actually looked as though we had done this hundreds of times. Each time the RV was perfectly parked.
Sheree was keen to learn how much space is needed when cornering. Our RV is 25 feet long -- and it would be good to leave fire hydrants, dogs and parked cars intact when we turn a corner.
It's hard to explain the technique. "You really just have to do it," said Kent with a shrug. He was right. You go slowly when you have to (although revving the engine, honking the horn and screaming "AHHHHRRGG! NO BRAKES!!!" when a pedestrian is taking too long crossing the street would be entertaining) and start your turn after you've driven forward a little further than you'd have to with your car.
But we both negotiated some very tight turns. No problem.