As I promised in the Introduction, the following are the expectations and outcomes of our first trip with our “pre-owned” motorhome. Included in this journey are my wife and our three dogs; Jazzy, Peanut and Pipper. Jazzy is a mild, well mannered 7 year old full size champagne colored, female Labradoodle, my dearest companion, as she towers over the other two acting as their “older sister”. Peanut is a 1 year old pitch black with silver streaks female Scotty Terrier who is inquisitive and always getting herself into trouble and has a penchant to stick her long slender nose where it shouldn’t be. Pipper is a 4 year old Morky-Yorky mix, a small and dainty tri-colored female – we call her our little princess, and as anyone who owns that breed knows, they are incessant yappers.
This journey began on a sunny Friday morning as I continued to load up the “coach”, as Class A motorhomes are called in RVer lingo, with last minute items for the onboard fridge. The girls, as I will call the dogs in the future, paced anxiously not knowing exactly what was going on. I knew they sensed an adventure was in store as Jazzy followed me everywhere with that look of nervousness in her brown eyes. I comforted her with a pat on the back as I carried things to the coach. Peanut and Pipper eventually took up their usual positions on the back of the leather couch by the window that faced the coach and watched me closely as well.
I quickly scanned my pre-trip checklist I had put together over the last week to assure we didn’t forget something essential that would be expensive to buy at a campground store. I had checked off everything as I had loaded it onboard over the week. There had been a lot of things that I had loaded that would remain onboard for future trips that had not been included with the coach on purchase. So after this trip, loading time would be minimal comprising of clothing and food items. Satisfied I had loaded everything checked I informed my wife that we were ready for departure. She immediately smiled in her usual manner and commented that I needed to calm down and we would be OK. I admit I was quite anxious to get on the road knowing I would immediately recall the feeling of freedom and independence I always got when I had guided our last 10,000 pound of a beast Class A down the west coast’s Interstate 5…a total pleasure until we entered the vicinity of Los Angeles…then a monumental nightmare driving the 8 foot wide beast on a 6 lane freeway with cars and semis passing you at 70 miles an hour.
My wife vividly remembers when, on our first trip to see our sons in San Diego while on Interstate 5, I had asked her to go back to the coach bathroom while on the road and fetch me a wet wash cloth to wipe my face from sweat that dripped down as I struggled to keep the coach in my lane. I kid you not when I say I could of reached out my side window while traveling at 65 miles an hour and touched the sidewall of a semi in the neighboring lane…a harrowing experience. However, thankfully this trip would entail rural 2-lane road travel until we got into northern New York state and then got on Interstate 87 south.
We gathered up the girls who were by now reluctant to board. We had brought them in several times during the week to let them acclimate to the interior of the coach. Once on board they flitted about checking every nook and cranny. I went outside to perform my pre-flight checklist – everything secure on the bike rack, water hose disconnected, shore power line disconnected and stowed in compartment, all exterior storage compartment doors closed and locked, TV antenna down and a general look at the tires…all hopefully inflated. Check list completed! I boarded, heard the whine of the automatic door step motor retracting the steps behind me and then bent down to flick the coach battery connect switch. I then walked around inside making sure anything loose was secure and there were no pop bottles or cans loose in the fridge to make noises on the road…very distracting to me. All was well and we were ready to go.
I made my way to the cockpit and slid into the driver’s captain’s chair, as they are called in RV lingo, a very comfortable high-backed, reclinable, swiveling seat with arm rests that fold back. As I got comfortable a vision of me sitting in the captain’s chair of the starship Enterprise quickly came to mind as I smiled to myself. My wife was busy fighting off the girls as they jockeyed for her attention knowing something scary was about to happen. They had never traveled in a moving house before. Jazzy was trying to get under her captain’s chair to sneak into the small space at my wife’s feet. The other two were vying for the best spot in her lap. I confidently informed my wife, who was quite exasperated at this point, that they would find their own comfort positions once we got under way.
With engine now running I edged the coach forward up the driveway. One thing I had learned from my previous experience with our older coach was that I needed to plan every move and action in advance when driving this 30 foot long, 11 feet tall, 8 feet wide, 10,000 pound beast anywhere. I checked both sides for traffic before accelerating forward onto the road. The 325 horsepower, 420 pound feet of torque V-10 Ford engine easily moved the behemoth along. Soon we were making our way out of town cruising along at an effortless 50 miles per hour.
Maneuvering the coach along rural highways, which are typically narrower than interstate highway lanes, required my fullest attention. Roads with paved shoulders were OK but those without paved shoulders were a little hairy to say the least. The problem appeared when encountering large trucks and semis coming towards you typically at higher speeds. The wind pressure from the passing semi tended to push the coach towards the road shoulder requiring once again advance planning preparing to counter the off-road tendency by correcting with the steering wheel. After an hour of this I was quite comfortable driving the beast…like riding a bicycle – once you’ve done it, it’s second nature.
The girls finally found their preferred locations and settled down for the ride south. Jazzy snuggled into a comfortable spot on the couch behind me while Peanut and Pipper laid together on the barrel chair right behind my wife’s captain’s chair. Once on the interstate I set the cruise control at 60 miles an hour as the engine settled into lower RPMs while the transmission shifted to an overdrive gear and the rig appeared to float along…as my mind briefly flashed to an image of myself piloting the Enterprise into warp drive. Once up to cruising altitude I settled back, sipped on my Diet Mountain Dew and enjoyed the drive south through the beautiful Adirondack Mountains.
Within a few hours, 167 miles later, we arrived at the interstate exit to the RV Resort where I had reserved a camping site for several days. I maneuvered the coach on several rural roads once again with unpaved shoulders with drop offs were cars and truck had drifted off the pavement. Doing so with the coach could prove to be quite exciting if not down right dangerous so I proceeded slowly hogging some of the center space until a vehicle came along.
At the resort I parked the coach in one of three lanes near the registration building, retrieved my paperwork from the cabinet space behind me and exited the coach. I fully expected the girls, who had now gathered on the couch to watch me, to go into a barking tirade, but to my surprise they remained quiet. I smiled to myself – maybe this was going to be OK after all as this was their first experience to a campground where lots of children, adults and other dogs were everywhere. I entered the registration building and stood in line with others who were also checking in at this large extremely popular camping / RV destination a few miles from New York state’s infamous Lake George in the Adirondack mountains.
I’ll stop here to avoid a too long of a post and return with Part Two of “The Maiden Voyage”. More to follow…
Thanks for reading. Your comments are welcomed.