Jennifer’s Take: Why I don’t drive our RV very much

Written by on October 3, 2012 in Observations

This is a guest post from Jennifer, Mike’s wife. And it comes after Angie, one of this blog’s regular readers, asked me to share my experiences driving our Roadtrek Type B motorhome. Mike has noted a couple of times that I dont drive it much so I’ve agreed to explain why.

First, let me say that I enjoy driving.  Really, I do. We have a son and his family who live three hours south of Atlanta, GA and I prefer doing my share of driving rather than just sitting. That’s when we take our our 2009 Honda Pilot down there. Typically, we do about two to two-and-a-half hours of driving and then switch drivers. With both of us doing two stints that way, with maybe lunch or dinner in between, we can easily cover 600 miles a day without too much of a drain on either of us.

A couple of weeks ago, we drove the entire 950 mile distance from our son’s home near Albany, GA to our home in the northern Detroit suburbs in one day. No problem. In the Pilot.

When we bought our 2006 RS-Adventurous Roadtrek motorhome RV in March, I figured I’d share the driving responsibilities with Mike as well. We have lots of long trips on our list, with stories and videos to do all across North America. With two people driving, we both figured it would be a breeze.

Alas, it hasn’t worked out that way.

The problem I have in driving our 2006 RS-Adventurous is on the interstates, where stiff crosswinds and the buffeting caused by passing or being passed by trucks really shakes the Roadtrek.  When we drive to Georgia to visit our son and his family the winds that blow across I-75 in Ohio have made me very uncomfortable. Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia stretches of the freeway are loaded with trucks.

Thus, if we take the Roadtrek to Georgia – which Mike wants to do every time – he pretty much has to drive the entire distance. Same with all those RV trips we have to take to do our videos and news stories. As the on-the-road reporter for the Family Motor Coach Association, Mike has a lot of ground to cover over the next year and I feel guilty watching him do all the driving.

I’m fine in handling our Roadtrek on two lane state and country roads. When Mike takes his beauty photos and videos of our Roadtrek in scenic locations, I usually drive it up and down the road past him with the camera tripod on the side of the road until he gets the right shot. But handling the Roadtrek on the interstate is another matter.

On a 6,000 mile trip west this summer, Mike let me give him a break as we were driving across the state of Nebraska on I-80.

I made it just nine miles. He had to take  over because the wind was blowing and a lot of noise was coming out of me.  You could see the dust blowing across the road.  I couldn’t believe he thought I could handle it.  I think he needed a break, but the cost of listening to me wasn’t worth it.  The wind, trucks, etc., don’t bother him at all.  But I find it difficult to handle.

At the recent FMCA gathering in Indianapolis, we bought a stablilization system called Steer Safe that was supposed to help. But after coming out to put it on our Roadtrek, the installers said they couldn’t attach it because the wheels on our 2006 Sprinter van  were too small. They said it worked on later Sprinter models, just not ours.

The sales person where we bought our Roadtrek told me other people have voiced concern over the same things I was saying to him. It may be newer models with the dual wheels minimize the buffeting issue.  I’m anxious to try one of the newer one, like the new RS E-Trek that Mike videotaped last week. I think the dual wheels on newer RS models would stabilize the vehicle.

I have driven a Roadtrek Popular 210 on the interstate and didn’t have any problem.

But – and here’s the rub – we both love the RS and the Sprinter platform. I especially like the side mirrors on it. When I drove the 210, I missed those mirrors!

So, hopefully, I don’t sound like too much of a wuss. It took me a few times to get used to the height of the RS, and the fact that there’s no long hood out there. Its a big windshield and the road. I’m much more comfortable with that that I was initially.

But the buffeting on the interstates has limited my driving a lot.

Mike says he doesn’t care and loves driving the RS. But I would like to be able to share the driving.

I welcome your suggestions.



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About the Author

About the Author: Mike is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, and Norweigian Elkhound, Tai, travels North America in a Type B motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and frustrations of RV life on the road. He is the official on-the-road reporter for the Family Motor Coach Association. a columnist with Family Motor Coaching Magazine and his Roadtreking reports appear in numerous newspapers and publications. He enjoys camping (obviously), hiking, biking, fitness, photography, video editing and all things dealing with technology. His PC MIke TV reports, on personal technology are distributed weekly to all 215 NBC-TV stations. .

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16 Reader Comments

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  1. Gordon Hanebutt says:

    J, It may be that you just need more wheel time. Driving a 2006 RS is a different experience than driving a passenger car. I was a little uncomfortable at first (nervous). Now I prefer driving the RS over our Lexus Sport/Ute. It takes your brain a while to adjust to the new experience. That having been said, here is one hint. Make sure that your tires are properly inflated. I have found that adding 5psi over the Manufacturers recommendations, on the front helps.

    A question, what is the age, tread depth on the tires. We have the Michellins with a lot of tread depth. That may make a difference.

    All that having been said, I still find it sometimes to uncomfortable in a cross wind. This happened in Nebraska driving south in a storm, with strong 35plus winds out of the west. We pulled off of the interstate into a church parking lot ( it was a weeday) and read and napped for an hour or so until the weather cleared.

    Good luck and enjoy!

  2. Stu says:

    Hi Jennifer, We own a 02C190P that we drove from Ky. to Ca. last April. With new tires and the right pressures 65 front 80 rear and brand new bilstein shocks we still fought side winds too. I think these vans and Sprinters just have big sides that catch the wind. I found slowing down a little helped me very much. When we slowed down we even enjoyed the trip better, less stress.

  3. Mike Butts says:

    Before I spent a LOT of dough on a new Roadtrek, I would look into getting heavy duty antisway bars installed. These are installed on the vehicle’s suspension and provide more resistance to body roll. I spotted several in the $300 range by Googling “Sprinter antiway bar.” Larger auto service shops or a spring shop could install these for you.

  4. Tim Ernst says:

    Hey Jennifer, I thought the dual wheels would be just the ticket, and while they do help handling, they don’t solve the problem – it is still a chore to drive across the plains with the high cross winds in a dual-wheel RS. The increased height of the RS catches a lot more wind than a 210, especially that darn awning that sticks up on the top of the roof instead of being on the side of the vehicle like it is on yours (I will probably remove mine before a branch drags it off). I drove our 210 to California and back in the same type of winds you crossed in Nebraska, and it was really bad – so bad in fact that as soon as I got home I started to secretly plan to buy an RS, thinking the very same thing – that the dual wheels would solve the cross wind problem.

    After our recent 5,000 mile trip out west in the new RT (my wife gave in and let me trade), and now LOVES the RS), I will say that the RS does drive better than the 210 in many cases, and I’m sure a lot of that has to do with the dual wheels, but also to the rack-and-pinon steering I bet. In fact, I would say it drives a lot better than the 210 on a variety of roads, including rough gravel roads that I drive a lot on. My wife loves to drive the new RS, although she would probably not drive it in heavy winds so I don’t think you are in luck there. We had the same high winds as you had when crossing the plains (drove through the hurricane in August on the way out in fact) – and the RS got blown around quite a bit – better than the 210, but still not a lot of fun.

    If their claims are true, the steersafe (or some other model) sounds like it would help a lot and perhaps even solve the high wind issue – would be great if someone here that has one on a 3500 chassis RS and could report. Although I wonder – if it keeps the wheels pointed straight, does it take a lot more power to steer the wheel normally? I think high winds across the plains will always be an issue, unless you are driving a corvette or something like that – but those usually don’t come with a stand-up shower!

  5. Shorty Guptill says:

    Jennifer,
    I replied on the RVTips FB page and Mike suggested I transfer the comment to here.
    My suggestion is to practice, practice and then practice some more. Seat time is the only way to learn to cope with the crosswind situation.
    You may never be “comfortable” in this situation but you can build confidence in your ability to deal with it.
    Should you expect to run into this perhaps you could leave earlier and be able to slow down to a speed that you are comfortable with. When my wife drives our rig I don’t expect the same performance that I am capable of achieving! We have a 43 foot Voltage with a 4 door F-350 which gives us about 58 feet total bumper to bumper! She has about 700 miles under her belt driving this thing and “loses” time every time she helps me drive! I have over a million miles in tractor trailers and other large van trucks so I don’t say much and just make up the time.
    I drove a Class C across Louisiana and Teas a couple years ago towing a motorcycle trailer. I had a good 1/8 turn of the wheel to the right all the ay to compensate for the wind, but my experience told me what to do without thinking about it.
    Again the primary suggestion is to safely practice, practice, and then practice again!!
    Good Luck.
    Shorty Guptill

  6. Andrew says:

    My suggestion: Sell or trade in that Roadtrek and get a Leisure Travel Van Free Spirit. It costs less than a Roadtrek RS and is built better in my book. It is very stable. I tried them both and the LTV is a superior product. It has dualies and the ride is awesome. I know this is a Roadtrek themed website but when it comes to Class B vans, I think you’ll be very impressed with LTV.

  7. Lane says:

    Jennifer, We have 65,000 miles on our 06 PW Sprinter. We have driven to Alaska, into Mexico and all over the country, and I need my wife to help with the driving. I joke that I drive until I am exhausted and no longer care if I live or die, before turning the wheel over to her and collapsing into bed for a long nap! But actually, she does a fantastic job handling our Sprinter, and likes to drive it. I will admit that most times I pick good weather, good road conditions and light traffic, before turning the wheel over to her. That’s just being thoughtful, not condescending!
    I will second the advice to slow down a bit in windy conditions, and also drop back if a passing truck pulls over a little too soon in front of you. (Stay calm, it’s just a shutter!) I also run 65 PSI in my front tires and keep 60#s of pressure on our rear airbags. And yes, you need more time behind the wheel to “condition yourself” to the feel of your motorhome.
    If it makes you feel any better, I keep both hands tightly gripped on the wheel in questionable weather. Nobody likes that sudden gust of wind!
    We both say that our Sprinter drives and rides like a dream. Feels like we are floating down the highway!

  8. Lane says:

    In my previous post I used the words “condition yourself” but I meant to say “desensitize yourself” to the movements of your vehicle. Remember, it is heavy and can take more than you think. You just need more time behind the wheel!

  9. Kristi says:

    Hi Jennifer,

    It’s nice to hear from you .. Mike says you’re always right … and he’s right!!

    I’ve owned my 2001 Dodge 190 Popular for about a year, and have taken it on a few extended trips … once, all the way from Michigan to Calif. I often travel solo, so I do most the driving … matter of fact, when someone else is driving, I get really nervous because I don’t think they understand that they’ve got the full momentum of 4 tons of steel going down the road … and I don’t get rested while someone else is driving my RT! So it could be that if you’re not comfortable driving in the winds … Mike isn’t comfortable with you driving in the wind, either. Like others have said, it does get better with more experience behind the wheel … but heck, if Mike doesn’t mind, why not just let him drive :)

    I slow down when I’m not comfortable with the headwinds. One other thing that I recently discovered, when a big truck is passing me, rather than take my foot off the gas (which is my instinct), if I actually accelerate while the truck is passing …. I don’t get near the gusty effect. Has anyone else had that experience?

    I admire you, Jennifer, for being such a good sport and playing tag team with Mike. What a fun way to live!!!

  10. Kathy Shanteau says:

    Hey Jennifer! I smiled when I read the post that you’re not too into driving the RT :) Told my husband – see – she doesn’t like driving it either. You are braver that me. Haven’t driven our 2001 Popular 190 yet, but I LOVE it and I’m loving traveling. Maybe we could have a girls’s class and all of us get the kinks out – LOL! Love Mike and your posts. Maybe see you this week at the Suburban Showplace in Novi?

  11. Bob Murphy says:

    Thanks for the post. First time RV’ers, we rented a 2500-based RS this summer. The RS is SUCH a NARROW HIGH profile vehicle, I was concerned about crosswinds too. But for the most part, we had no issues, even on very windy days – I was actually impressed at its immunity wind as I saw the trees waving violently out the window. Once or twice we experienced a “WHOA, what was that?” impulse that must have been a gust.

    Anyway, if you haven’t checked, maybe the shocks need to be looked at. Its such a softly sprung chassis to begin with, and if they’ve never been replaced..

    And those lead acid batteries on the E-tek may also help plant it more to the road – another advantage!

    Thanks,

    Bob

  12. Diana Cummings says:

    Good for you Jennifer for being willing to learn this new skill. Like others have said….practice when conditions are good. Then catch up with your time behind the wheel on the ‘red roads’!

  13. Tom Butler says:

    Jennifer,

    We drive a class A diesel so can’t comment directly on your experience with the Roadtrek except that you mentioned that the interstate driving and wind is your main problem. Since Mike is working you are always on a schedule and this I can imagine keeps you on the interstate most of the time. Given that, do as Diana mentions, grab the wheel every time you are on smaller less traveled roads. Over time you will get a better feel for the handling. Then move up to the occasional stretches of interstate with few trucks and light or no winds. Yes, there are some interstates like that.

    We are full time in our coach and try to avoid having a fixed schedule and having to be somewhere on a certain date or at a certain time. If you can build even an extra day into some of your trips you may find that you can get off the interstate and take interesting roads instead. You can travel slower and not feel intimidated by faster vehicles passing you constantly.

    Our first trip out in our coach I found a four lane divided highway with very little traffic. On our return trip I turned the driving over to Louise when we reached that section of road. By the time she had driven an hour and a half on that road she was ready for the interstate. She drove about a hundred miles of interstate before giving up the wheel. To this day she loves to be in the drivers seat and will stay with it for hours.

  14. Angie O'Malley says:

    Hi Jennifer,

    Wow! Your post really generated the comments! Thank you so…o much for your detailed answer to my question. I, too, have a 2009 Pilot and enjoy driving it. I also enjoy driving our 190 Popular. As others have noted, slowing down makes a significant difference in windy conditions. I slow down to 55 – 60 mph depending on the wind. Having lived in Oklahoma for 13 years, I am used to windy weather. So… those who live or have lived in windy areas may be more comfortable with the wind.

    If Mike is happy driving, let him drive. Sit back and enjoy the ride….I mainly drive when I travel by myself.

    I will be eager to hear your experience driving an RS-E Trek. We are hoping to see/drive one in January when we are in Florida.

    Angie

  15. Jennifer Wendland says:

    Thanks to all for your encouraging and helpful suggestions to my blog post. I’ll follow them all, though I’m sure there will be occasional white knuckle drives. I hope to meet you as Mike and I travel North America. We’re hoping to attend the California RV show in Pomona in October16-21 (http://www.thebestrvshow.com/), the Florida SuperRV Show in Tampa, January 1-20 (http://frvta.org/rv-shows/2013-florida-rv-supershow/). There’s also the National RV Trade Show, taking place Nov. 27 –29 at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, KY that we may attend. That one is industry only. Winter is coming to the north and Midwest but we hope to make Florida, the Gulf States and the Southwest before spring, as well. Lots of opportunities to meet. Thank you again for your replies to my post! You guys are the best! And Mike reminds me to remind you to also use the forums we have here to offer your collective wisdom (http://roadtreking.com/forum). Thanks and God bless all!

  16. Christine Oberhoffer says:

    Your article was the first I read. (Sorry Mike) I just wanted to say that in my case it’s hard to pry the steering wheel away from the other driver because we both enjoy driving our 190 Popular Roadtrek. We have had two Roadtreks and a host of other class B’s and C’s but seem to put the most miles and have the most fun in the Roadtrek. Now that you have the “New” E-trek I will be interested in how it handles. We bought our second 190 Pop instead of a Sprinter because we liked how it handled so much better compared to the Sprinter especially across the winds of Wyoming, Texas, and Kansas. I’d rather drive than ride. Chris

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