Winter in the Desert - 2013 travel blog


On a 4th of July weekend back in the early 1990's, we were headed to a dude ranch in Telluride, CO with our Ford Bronco pulling a 24 foot travel trailer. It was a major improvement from the conversion van we had camped in for the previous ten years. The van was easy to drive, but got horrible gas mileage and provided cramped quarters for longer trips. We had taken the more spacious trailer on many trips, the most ambitious being a trip to Alaska in 1989. To make the most of vacation time while we were still worker bees, we drove long days taking turns at the wheel for safety sake. I always felt somewhat uneasy driving this larger and longer rig that forced me to give up the rear view mirror and learn how to use side mirrors. But living was much more comfortable once the destination was reached and it was nice to have a smaller vehicle to drive after we dropped the trailer.

On this particular holiday weekend it was my turn to drive after Ken refueled. A perfect combination of factors almost brought us to our end. I-70 was being repaved and one lane was higher than the other. We were passed by an 18-wheeler and I struggled to maintain control of the wheel as it created a vacuum when it went by. This probably wouldn't have fazed a more competent driver. As I tried to get control the trailer behind me hit one side of the bridge and then fishtailed to hit the other. I braked and braked and eventually the trailer flipped over which flipped the Bronco over and we slid sideways down the highway with the 4th of July crowds of cars stacking up behind us on the interstate. I remember looking out the window at the valley deep below as we slid.

Luckily the passenger window was open and we climbed out as fast as we could , hoping that the recently purchased gasoline would not spill out, ignite and explode the propane tank. It was a nightmare. The traffic behind us had seen my struggle and had time to slow down and no one ran over us. A fire engine was the first to arrive. The interstate was closed for two hours as a tow truck righted the trailer and dragged it to a nearby motel lot. Another tow came for the Bronco and towed it to a repair shop. And there we were in the middle of Missouri, ninety miles from the nearest town on a holiday weekend.

We were physically OK but mentally I was badly shaken. It was hard for me to drive even a small car after that, but when you live in the suburbs you have no choice if you want to hold down a job. We tried living without an RV, but missed the lifestyle terribly. After lots of research we bought a pickup truck and 32-foot 5th wheel trailer and Ken promised to do all the driving. And now we own a 40-foot motor home and tow a Jeep and Ken is still doing all the driving. He loves to drive and was trained by the CTA to drive passenger buses this size in downtown Chicago in his college days and cannot understand why driving our house down the road is inconceivable to me. We both worry that if something would incapacitate him we would both be stuck. I feel helpless, useless, and like a big failure. But when we drive down the road it looks like the motor home is four feet wider than our lane and making turns, especially in busy urban areas is unimaginable. I think I could manage a smaller class B with a narrow cab, but that would not be nearly as comfortable to spend the winter in.

We were pleased to see that Lazy Days where we are camped offers a free driver's confidence course and we took it today. The lesson on how to respond to a tire blow out was informative for us both. The instructor has worked with many nitwits such as me and offered lots of tips and suggestions to help me overcome my problems of perception. He showed us spots on the mirrors and front window where we could put little dots that would help me align myself properly and guide me when to start turning. He also gave us good suggestions so that I can give Ken better guidance when it comes time to park the rig. Since I never drive I don't know how to provide him with helpful information.

While I now own a certificate which says that I successfully completed the RV driver confidence course, I still have never driven an RV on the open road since that fateful day in July, but it would be fair to say that it is more likely that I can handle an emergency. Let's hope I never have to...

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