WHOA…. That was an experience and it’s not even over yet. We drove up to Connecticut to pick up our 5th wheel on February 27th and stopped in Maryland and New York City. We had our 5th wheel walk-thru at 9am and expected to be on the road by noon. However, the walk-thru ended up taking until almost noon. By the time we were hooked up and ready to leave the lot, it was 3pm. A quick stop for coffee and bathroom breaks and to download a GPS that could route by height, and we FINALLY hit the road a little after 4pm… With a five hour drive to Maryland and having to avoid all those low bridges in the NorthEast, we didn’t reach our destination until after midnight. We were exhausted, but much wiser.
- I have great sphincter control. We had a few situations that would have left a mess in most seats. Props to me. Also, I was petrified.
- Maybe we should have started out with a smaller unit and truck. We are pulling a 16,000 lb., 43 ft long, 13.5 ft high, 5th wheel. In Florida, that’s no big deal. We have flat open spaces, new roads, nice and wide turns, no tunnels, and very few low bridges. That’s not the case in the NorthEast. It’s all old infrastructure with tunnels, tolls, old bridges, parkways, and more criss-crossing roads than make sense.
- Have your GPS and route pre-planned. Yikes. For starters, it took an hour to find and download a GPS that factors in your vehicle’s height. Once we downloaded it we just left and didn’t realize we made a big mistake by having the “avoid tolls” option on. We think that added a big amount of time to our route. Plus, many detours through tight streets of small towns in the dark with very little warning of when our next turn was. That included a near 180-degree u-turn style exit that forked at the end. We almost missed the turn. With warnings of a 10ft bridge ahead we made the last-second turn. It was so dark and lines were nonexistent so we went right of the fork and had to make that hair-raising left turn from a right turn lane. Luckily it was dark and a small town so there were no other vehicles in the way at that time. Honestly one of the more stressful moments of our marriage was in the three-minute timespan.
- Speaking of knowing your route ahead of time. I have a new rule of planning stops. That might prove difficult with three kids in tow, but truck stops are intimidating. Again, these stops were at night so every spot was full. Trucks were everywhere as I guess the drivers were sleeping for a few hours. They were parked in no parking zones and parked in the middle. I had no idea if there were more spots ahead or how to access fuel pumps. So a good satellite image ahead of time would be wise.
- Forge ahead. Maybe not into certain demise, but certainly if there’s just a little friction. I had already accepted my depreciation loss and was ready to pull into the next RV sales site and get a smaller RV. I think I’m better now… Plus we have insurance, so worst case scenario we go buy a new 5th wheel!
- I need to practice. Driving straight is easy. Wide turns are easy. Backing up and hair-raising turns with cars on every side of you is SCARY. Especially with no experience with something that big.
- Knowing what is next is crucial. Knowing how long I have before an exit, what lane I should be in, if the lane ends or splits off. All these things help to know in advance when pulling something so huge.
- Thankfully the truck had no issues pulling and stopping that trailer. It was a smooth ride even in windy conditions. The added length of an 8ft bed and crew cab is long, but we had plenty of room and comfort while we were panicking and holding our vomit bags.
- We are clearly going to need to adjust our route. I can predict some real challenges ahead in tight campgrounds with low trees and tight corners. We are tall. We are long. And we have five slides. We need space. And it will take time to setup and breakdown to leave.
- RV sales sites are not preparing the end user enough. You receive very little training. It is all figuring it out as you go because that’s the fun of it. I think a RV sales company that required some training for first time users would be a real distinct factor. More extensive walk-thrus that actually teach you how to use everything properly and not just show you where things are, a trip out to a lot with cones to practice maneuvering, and repetition on everything. Realistically, if I wanted a RV store I would have that as an add on service that was highly recommended for first timers or people stepping up in size. It would generate revenue and create a more complete client care cycle and lead to happier customers.
So much to learn!
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