When I decided to write this article, I thought that it would be addressed primarily to newcomers just starting out pulling a large fifth wheel or driving a class A type motorhome, those campers that are between 12 to 13 feet in height. Then I thought that this should apply to everyone, no matter how much experience that you have pulling or driving a camper. You'll see what I mean as I continue the article.
The first camper that my wife and I bought was a 36 foot Everest by Keystone. Most people don't start out with a camper that large but we didn't want to have to trade up if we found out that we actually enjoyed the RVing experience. I had experience pulling a boat trailer but never pulling anything this large. Naturally I was very apprehensive the first time I got behind the wheel of my truck with the camper hooked on the back. As anyone knows who has the experience, you really have to think ahead while you are pulling. How wide of a turn are you going to make to miss that curve or the car that is in the cross street that you will be pulling into? Will I miss that tree limb hanging over the road or can I get into the gas station under that canopy and get fuel? When I change lanes, will I miss the front of the vehicle in the other lane who has just sped up because I turned my blinker on to move over? These are things you must consider to have a safe and happy trip.
My background is that of a pilot. I flew in the Navy for five years and then over 34 years with Continental Airlines. My last airplane was the B-777, a very large aircraft. You may wonder why I tell you this? It is because I had over 39 years of flying and driving large airplanes around on taxii ways and never running off a taxii way or running into another ariplane. Therefore, I must be able to judge distances very well. Worked okay in airplanes but not necessarily so pulling a camper.
Our judgement can sometimes be clouded by outside forces, such as getting in a hurry or just by being over confident with what we are doing. The being over confident factor comes into play when we have done something for so long that we just know that we can't do it wrong, right?
I have had several incidents with my camper that can be attributed to lack of attention or maybe just not paying close attention to what I was doing. Eventhough I feel really stupid when something happens, I know that I'm not the only one who has problems. I have talked with a number of fellow campers who have had just as bad of experiences as I.
My first minor incident was when I dinged the tailgate of my truck by backing into the pinbox with the tailgate up. Since I just parking the truck and not hooking up, I left the tailgate up. As I backed up the pinbox went slightly out of view but I knew I could judge when to stop. Well, I went about an inch to far back. I put a nice dent in the tailgate and broke the latching handle. That cost me a $250.00 deductable.
My first major incident ocurred on the same trip as the tailgate ding. We left Mt Rushmore and was on our way to Estes Park, Colorado. When we got to Loveland, Colorado, I wanted to fill up with diesel before heading up the mountain to Estes Park. Loveland is not a city that I call camper friendly when it comes to needing fuel. In fact, I don't think there is but one station that you can pull into with a large camper and it didn't have diesel at the time. In my search for a station with a canopy tall enough for me to fit under, we were told of a station just on the western edge of Loveland that might work. When I started to pull under the canopy, my wife got out to look for clearance. I also opened my door and looked up and it appeared to be tall enough. There were several folks working at the station who did not bother to say anything. As I pulled forward, I heard the grinding of metal on metal. Well that ruined my day. The canopy was just about 2 inches too short and in our defense, there was no height posted on the canopy and we found out that others have hit the same canopy. I crunched the front a/c but didn't do any damage to the roof. Believe it or not, we had a new a/c unit on the camper by noon the next day and went on up to Estes Park. Another $250.00 deductable!
That particular camper was stolen awhile back. I tell that story in another article posted on this website, "Trailer Theft... it Can Happen to You". We have another 5th wheel and believe it or not, I have dinged the back left side. This wasn't bad enough to turn into the insurance company but it cost a few hundred dollars to fix.
This video was taken from a bank ATM camera and speaks for itself. I received this video in an email and subsequently saw it on the local and then national news casts. It gave me the idea to write about my incident which thankfully was not as bad as this one. Hopefully this article and video will prevent someone else from having the same type of accident. By the grace of God, no one was hurt.
Happy camping, and be safe out there!
You've Got To Pay Attention or Pay The Price
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