|PARKING LIKE A "PRO"...
by Bob (Ram) Muessig
Recently, at RVers ONLINE, I submitted an article regarding the similarities among pilots, truckers, and RV drivers. While its true that many of already know how to handle our rigs safely (often via the School of Hard Knocks), its also true that a greater number of us dont. Now, if we dont want our benevolent (I use that term loosely) politicians stepping in and telling us that we must take driving courses, get special license endorsements, and, in general, be regulated like the airline & trucking industries, then more of us need to learn.
I keep harping about "using a checklist". The reasons are many and good, but the most basic is this: if you have that checklist in your hand each time you step into that rig, it will tweak your awareness that this is NOT your car, NOT a trip to the grocery store; this is a whole new ballgame. Just that awareness could save your life. So - first, go over your checklist. When everything checks out, head for the nearest vacant parking lot (every town has one) - church, mall, whatever. Pick out a parking space and pull in straight between the lines. Stop, get out, and carefully examine how you are aligned in that space. If your rig is straight and centered in the space, thats good, for thats where youll want to start. This is exactly like a pull-through space in an RV park.
OK...pretend that the end of the line (on the drivers side and nearest the front of your rig) is a tree. When you pull forward and turn left (leaving the space), watch your rear-view mirror or stick your head out of the window and make sure that your trailer wheels on the left never touch that line (hit the tree). If they do...theres a repair bill. If you think of how much it costs to fix it each time you wreck it, youll get real careful REAL fast! For now, just be glad youre in an open lot instead of a crowded campground with everybody watching. If you didnt get it right the first time, do it again. Continue practicing until youre able to do it three times in succession. You may find it wise to have someone with you, on the outside, to laugh...Sorry...I meant "guide you", to make things a bit easier. Figure out some signals that you both understand and then use them.
Once youve got that procedure down pat, practice the same thing while turning to the RIGHT. This is what professional drivers call the "blind side", and its a little tougher. It may take a little longer for you to learn, but you can do it. Just be patient and dont do anything fast. Doing something that hasnt been thought out carefully will get you into trouble very quickly.
Ready for the FUN stuff? Good. Get lined up in that space just like you did the first time and check your position the same as before. This time, however, mark the position of your wheels on the pavement with chalk or tape. Then, get back behind the wheel, pull forward all the way out of the space and stop. Now, if youre in a motorcoach, you can steer it like a car when you back up, but if you have a travel-trailer or a fifth-wheel trailer, the procedures are a little different. From here on, Im going to assume (hate that word) that you have a trailer of some type.
First, put your hand on the bottom of the steering wheel and begin to back up slowly. If your trailer needs to go to the left, simply move your hand to the left. If it needs to to the right, move your hand to the right. Experiment with this technique for a while, making small movements, and youll soon discover that the rear of your trailer will move in the same direction as you move your hand. Once youve got this all figured out, practice backing into the space and parking with your wheels in the same position that you marked earlier. All this practice is going to make the tedious job of backing up MUCH easier in the campgrounds.
Ok. Get back into the space (like you did the first time), pull out and turn left (avoiding the tree), get your rig straightened out and stop. Using the techniques you just learned, begin to move slowly backward into that space. Avoid hitting the tree and position your wheels on your marks. This is the driver-side back-in. Practice until you get it right. Now, you can try the blind-side back-in. Get into the space as before, then turn to the right when you pull out. The procedures for this maneuver are exactly the same. Only the directions are reversed. It may take longer to master than what youve done previously, but dont give up. All you need is patience.
Soon, youll have mastered all the skills necessary in order to park your rig and deprive those in the RV parks of their "Campground Entertainment". In fact, folks may just compliment you on your abilities. Then youll know,
You're "parking like a PRO"! Cool!