Picture a handsome, just-retired older couple. She’s a medical doctor and he’s an aerospace executive. They’re trying hard to contain their excitement, but neither is doing a very good job of it. With each new discovery, their dignity cracks a bit and one or the other breaks into a giggle. They’re like a pair of giddy kids on Christmas morning and with good reason.
Meet the Jenkins. They’re doing a dealer walk-through of their first motorhome. Not exactly your ordinary motorhome either. This is a 40-foot diesel pusher. She’s a beauty with an extraordinary silver-grey finish, slides all over the place, three rearview cameras, and too many other bells and whistles to mention. Our motorhome is pretty nice but this one makes me want to go kick my rig.
They are a delightful couple starting out on their three-year plan to see the country, they’re having the time of their lives and I am lucky enough to be there to share the moment with them.
Several weeks earlier, they had called from out of state to tell me they were taking delivery of a new motorhome at a dealer not far from us. They’d heard about me from a friend and wanted to know if I’d be interested in providing some instruction for them. I’ve been a traffic safety professional for longer than I like to admit, have worked with folks in similar situations, and we’ve owned motorhomes for many years. I said I would be delighted to help and we made arrangements to meet.
The day before we met I visited the dealer, explained why I was there and got hold of a tech. We went over the vehicle from top to bottom. I wanted to be sure I was familiar with this particular rig and all its systems. I spent the rest of that day searching out suitable nearby practice areas. I wanted places where we could work on various maneuvers in a variety of conditions and at varying speeds with minimum risk.
As is my practice, I made notes on all this and on anything else that I thought they should know. They had been doing their online homework, but, unlike others with whom I had worked, this was their very first motorhome. It was a big one, they would be towing a dolly with heavy car behind and they would be full-timing. I wanted to be sure we didn’t miss anything.
After we finished the formal walk-through with the dealer and my new friends had disappeared to the inner sanctum to do the final paperwork, we were ready to hit the road. As it turns out our greatest challenge was getting off the dealer lot which had little maneuvering room. Once we hit the practice areas, they took to it like ducks to water. They had both been licensed to fly multi-engine aircraft where the challenges and learning processes are similar.
We worked our way through turning, backing and parking maneuvers both hooked and unhooked, then into some light traffic and, when they were comfortable doing so, on to some highway and freeway practice. We had some of the usual tracking problems to begin with but they soon mastered that. They were quick studies and nailed all my requirements. I was proud of them. After several hours of pretty intense work I thought they were ready to solo and told them so. Before leaving they told me the dealer had congratulated them on their decision to work with an instructor.
“What a good idea,” he had said, “I’ll be recommending that to all my first time RV buyers.”
Before bidding them bon voyage and watching them disappear down Interstate 15 I asked them to call in a day or two to let us know all was good. They did . . . and it was