From my comfortable place in the passenger seat, I've often seen women at the wheel of a big rig pulling into parking lots with their partner tending a pet or reading the road map. After speaking to a few women, I realized that they came from all walks of life.
Marie owned a business designing swim suits and travelled the world watching award-winning athletes model her creations. Diane owned a chain of jewellery stores and enjoyed choosing shapes and sizes to match personalities. Bernice was a farmer, and over the years she'd driven dual-wheeled tractors pulling harvest wagons to and from the fields, sometimes from one concession to another with thirty or forty feet in motion behind her.
Drive or Be Driven
I grew up in the days when men took the street side of the sidewalk when walking with a woman. Tradition says that was to protect his female companion from a villain or being splashed by a passing chariot. Similarly, men usually sit at a vehicle's wheel. I don’t think I ever remember my mom driving, with my dad in the passenger seat.
With this kind of experience, driving a 30 foot RV never caused her to question her ability and when it came time to slide on to the driver's seat, she did so with ease.
What really impressed me was when I saw, whom I came to know later, Betsy Meadows from Kelowna B.C. drive a 2009 Ford F350 Super Duty truck into a busy parking lot in Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia with Scott sitting in the passenger seat. I learned later that the 2009 Cardinal trailer was 41 feet long and when hooked to the truck, they were both 52 feet in total. This was no small baby to move around. They told me they’d not taken lessons for driving this unit, but were self taught from their experiences. I suspect they shared other travelling responsibilities as well.
This past weekend with this article pushing my calendar I thought I’d approach the topic with my husband, Doug. “Maybe I should learn to drive this,” I stated as I sat beside him, eating a luscious hamburger he'd just barbecued. “You know, if anything should happen to you when we're out.”
“If anything happens to me when we're out, you take a cab, bus or a flight depending on where we are - don't try to drive this RV home.”
This made perfect sense to me, but what other excuse could I use. I'd been thinking for some time now, that I'd like to drive our rig, if only for a few feet. I'd driven our C unit a decade ago for a short distance and decided I didn't want to practice – at that time.
Over the years, I'd managed to keep on a learning curve enough to satisfy me. There wasn't much in life that had passed me by, including technology, software and complicated crafts. Driving a big vehicle hadn't really interested me until I saw other women appearing so comfortable in the driver's seat and I began to wonder, why not me.
“Maybe I could drive the RV out of the camp, today,” I said. “You know, I'd just like to get a feel of it.”
We'd spent the weekend on a camping member's farm where forty units spread across the vast lawns.
Doug consented, although he didn't say anything, I suspect he wondered why it was so important to me.
I sat in the driver's seat and looked at the dashboard. Small windows of heat gauges, gas needle and switches didn't impress me. After all I was only going to drive a short distance and I wasn't alone. So, I turned the key, checked the control panel as if I knew exactly what I was doing. I looked in the side view mirrors, as if any of the units with awnings still up and lawn chairs beneath, would all at once be lined up behind me. Pushing hard on the brake, I slowly lifted the gear shift, put the motor into drive and gave it a little gas. I began to move forward. It seemed like a huge train was lumbering along behind the driver's seat, as I slowly moved away from our camp site. I got to the top of the field and now had to turn to the right. I checked both windows: wheat field on my left and pig barns on the right.
Looks good. Nothing unexpected. Except looking in the right hand mirror, I suddenly saw a silo. Where had that come from?
The highway looked a long way away, as I slowly began the trek down to the mailbox. I didn't have to worry about anybody passing me on this narrow lane, so I hugged the centre of the road. Afraid perhaps those wheels on either side would somehow find the edge of the ditch, I wanted to stick my head out the window to see if my tires were actually on the gravel. Assured that they were, I heard the crunch of the gravel as the rubber rolled along.
I began to wonder if I could manage to turn the vehicle onto the highway. I'd heard my husband talk about the relatively short wheel base for such a long unit. That sounded like it would be a help to getting around bends. By the time I was to the highway, I felt perhaps overly confident. After all I hadn't had much challenge in driving around farm buildings, well, since the 50s when I drove the Massey 44 and pulled the hay wagon. It also reminded me of when my father had put two chairs in a field for me to practice parking before I got my license. Yet today, I had certain assurance that I'd done something that I hadn’t done before. Maybe that was why my husband sat behind me, and not in the passenger seat.
I was all right as long as I focused directly in front of me – forgetting about the thirty feet trailing behind. But, wasn't life similar on all accounts. Don't dwell on what you can't change. Don't dwell on what might happen. Live in the moment the very best you can. That 30 feet was going to come with me whether it was up a ditch or across a newly constructed area of road. So I might as well think of it exactly where it is . . . and me, where I am.
To drive or be driven? Well for me, it's not a difficult decision.
“Drive on, Macduff and I'll make the tea.”
Page 28/29 Nov/Dec edition of RVTimes 2012
Sheila Tourond, publisher of The RV Times magazine
By RVers, For RVers, About RVing
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