Based on advice from other full-time RVers, Phil and Jan had decided to enroll in RV driving school ASAP after getting our rig. Although we had gotten some driver training at the dealership, we wanted more intensive training before we headed out on our long road trip. In addition to getting more comfortable behind the wheel, our insurance quote offered a significant discount for having taken the training.
We registered for training that was offered in Nashville. Since the website stated that the training in Nashville was only offered on the weekends and we were scheduled to be at a family wedding in St. Louis on October 24th, we had to schedule it for the weekend of October 16-17. We signed up for the companion class that was supposed to consist of two 6-hour days in which each of us would drive and the other would ride along.
Initially, we received a confirmation that our training would be with Candace Rivero. As the date approached, we learned that our trainer had been changed to Terry McRunnel. We later learned that Terry and Candace are husband and wife who had teamed as over-the-road truck drivers for many years. Terry had only recently had to get off the road due to health issues and was conducting RV driving classes while he recovered. We also later learned that we were the first fifth wheel owners that he had ever taught on his own. He had instructed another fifth wheel owner but Candace had accompanied him during that training. While Terry was very friendly and knowledgeable, his limited prior teaching experience proved to somewhat limit the value of the training.
Terry met us at our campsite at 9 am on Saturday morning. We began by discussing pre-trip preparations and inspections. Then we were ready to hit the road. Since Phil was driving, Terry instructed Jan on how to provide directions while Phil exited the campsite. Terry educated Phil on the importance of focusing on the driver’s side and to make driver side (left) turns wherever possible (rather than right-hand turns which Terry referred to as blind side turns).
We headed out on the highway and Phil drove about 45 minutes north of Nashville. Since it was daytime and the road was fairly straight, this drive was actually much easier than the one Phil had done from Knoxville the previous evening. We stopped at a large truck stop and spent the next few hours practicing pulling into parking spaces and backing up.
As comfortable as Phil was with driving the rig forward, trying to back up in a straight line was a whole different story. Nothing was intuitive. Phil struggled with the concept that he needs to turn the wheel in the opposite direction he needs the trailer to go.
Jan took over at this point and, although she didn’t want to drive on the road, she practiced driving around the parking lot and backing the truck. She was actually somewhat better at backing the trailer than Phil but it was obvious that both of us need more practice. After breaking for lunch, we practiced backing a little longer and then headed back to our campground.
On Sunday morning, Terry asked us what we wanted to focus on for the balance of our lesson. Phil expressed a desire to get more practice driving in more congested areas and Jan wanted some more time behind the wheel (but still not on the road). Terry said he knew of a Kmart parking lot where we could practice driving with more cars around us. Unfortunately, when we arrived at about 10 am, we found a huge parking lot with very few cars in it. Fortunately the stripes on the parking lot were helpful in simulating how to make sharper turns when driving in heavier traffic. We also used the diagonal parking spaces to practice backing into parking spaces at a 45 degree angle as we would need to do when we have back-in campsites. Once again, this was much harder than it looked and will require much more practice.
By about 11 am on Sunday, Terry said he really wasn’t sure what else he could teach us. He advised us to stop at truck stops as we travel and practice backing every chance we get. We drove back to the campsite and Terry spent about an hour giving us a lot of advice on things to be aware of when RVing.
All in all, we were glad we took the class and were more comfortable behind the wheel than we had been previously. However, we couldn’t help thinking we would have benefitted from an instructor with more teaching experience.
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