Our First Time Driving Our RV

The Bolands posed with their Thor Motor Coach RV.

After waiting months for our new motorhome to roll off the assembly line and be delivered to our local dealership, the day had finally arrived. It was prepped and ready to be picked up, and we were anxious to hit the road as nomads. 

Before purchasing our Thor Motor Coach Vegas 24.1 RV, we spent weeks researching models and brands. We visited dozens of dealerships, attended multiple RV shows, read forums and blogs, and watched countless YouTube videos. We even drove from Wisconsin to northern Indiana to tour several factories and watch the manufacturing and assembly of various travel trailers, fifth wheels and motorhomes. Even though we were total newbies to the RV world, we felt ready to start a life of travel. 

At the dealership, we signed the final purchase papers and had the all-important walkthrough. Everything went as planned, and soon we held the keys. It was only a quick 15 minute drive back to our house, and we could begin packing! We felt like two little kids in a candy store. 

As we climbed up in the motorhome, buckled our seat belts and pulled out of the dealership parking lot, we realized it was the largest vehicle we had ever driven. Our confidence held through the first few blocks of driving, until we came upon a major intersection. At a red light, we slowed down and coasted up to the light, but as we neared the stop line, a car swerved into our lane and slammed its brakes. 

Hello, we’re driving here! Surprisingly we didn't hit the car, but we missed hitting it by mere inches. What were they thinking? Didn't they know it takes larger vehicles more room to stop?

The traffic light turned green and we continued on, our hearts were still racing from the near miss. A half-mile later, we signaled to enter a turning lane––and the car behind us cut us off, flying past us on the left shoulder.  Again, time to drive defensively and hit the brakes. We’d only gone a mile, and we’d already had two near misses in our sparkling new motorhome. 

Finally, we made it to the interstate. We’d traveled those roads for years with few issues, so we reassured each other that the rest of our short drive would likely be uneventful, and chalked up the first two incidents to chance. 

We were so wrong!

During the next six miles, we were cut off again, honked and waved at for driving the speed limit, blocked from changing lanes when we needed to exit the highway, and prevented from merging onto another road. With shot nerves and dwindling confidence, we began to question everything. What were we thinking when we bought a motorhome? Would driving always be like this? Was our nomad dream just a beautiful fantasy? 

By the time we arrived home with our brand new RV, we were done for the day. Fifteen minutes of driving and multiple near misses had defeated us. We regrouped on solid ground to reflect on where we’d gone wrong––and realized we had made several errors in judgment that had caused potential problems. 

We had driven an unfamiliar vehicle on a busy route during rush hour. On a Friday afternoon. In summer. And as if that wasn’t enough trouble, we’d been easily distracted by all the buttons, gadgets, dials and lights in the RV. The mirrors hadn’t been positioned ideally for lines of sight and covering our blind spots, and all the new noises the motorhome made had been a surprise. And to top it all off, we had both been hungry and tired.

We came up with a game plan to correct our mistakes, and rebuild our confidence as we embraced the nomadic life. Now, we’re able to relax and enjoy our travel days as our RV proficiency has grown from hours and miles of practice and patience. 

Here are our best tips for staying safe on the road:

  1. Give yourself time to get to know your rig. Find an open parking lot to practice driving forward, backing up, parking, turning left and right, stopping, etc. We spent a few hours at a local park doing just that. It really helps! 

  2. Drive your speed. Don't let impatient vehicles drive your RV. We seldom drive faster than 62 mph, even on 75 to 80 mph roads, because that's the speed we are comfortable with. 

  3. Avoid high traffic times. Avoid morning and evening commute times as much as possible. During the summer months, Friday and Sunday afternoons are also extremely busy on the road.  

  4. Know your limits. Driving a motorhome or pulling a travel trailer can be much more fatiguing than operating a car. Don't push for a set amount of miles and exceed your mental and physical stamina. Plan on rest periods mid-route.

  5. Embrace the “no wrong turn” mentality. Don't fret if you miss an exit or turn down the wrong road. Relax and consider it an adventure. Then find an alternative route to put you back on track. 

  6. Research the route. Check your route prior to traveling, so you are aware of potential obstacles like mountain passes, major metropolitan areas, construction, etc., and adjust or make changes as needed. 

  7. Check the weather. Conditions can vary widely, even across short distances. Prior to embarking on travel, review the weather from your current location to your destination as well as your stopping points along the route. You may even want to build in a few extra hours or days to get where you’re going, depending on the time of year and the conditions in that region.

The Bolands drive a Thor Motor Coach Vegas 24.1.