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RV Tales from the Road: Navigation Nightmares

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Jo Naylor

Touring the nation’s highways in an RV is a celebrated pastime, but as RVers–both seasoned and new–know, driving a motorized or towable RV is a skill–one that requires good navigational knowledge. Without safe routing, travel in a large vehicle can be stressful and downright dangerous. And with kids, grandkids, and pets possibly along for the ride, safety is the top priority. Rand McNally recently asked a group of RVers to share their navigation nightmares in hopes that the lessons they learned will enable other RVers to have more blissful trips.

Roads Less Traveled . . . For a Reason

The most critical job in navigating an RV is to stay on roads appropriate for a given vehicle. To do this, you need to know about dirt roads and those with low tunnels, bridges, and other obstacles. You also need to know about restrictions involving vehicle weight, height, and length as well as legal restrictions involving things like the propane you carry onboard. None of this information is available in a GPS device designed for cars, as one couple quickly discovered.

“What started out as a simple trip, quickly turned into a stressful event,” explained Bill Ryan, who travels in his RV with his wife, Laura, and their two Shih Tzus, Honey and Dallas. Starting on a trip one evening after a full day of work, the couple navigated off the interstate, through town, and down a road their old car GPS told them to follow. That’s when things got scary and complicated.

“We turned and started down the road, which soon turned to dirt. We discovered that the road is just wide enough for the RV and not much else . . . we realized that we needed to find a place large enough to turn around.” But that wasn’t possible. After 30 minutes of hair-raising driving (with apologies to the Shih Tzus) and holding their breath (Laura blamed the gasps on Honey), the Ryans thankfully reached “a blacktop road with lines.”

Emergency Management 101

As RVers, you need to be prepared for all types of emergencies. Finding the closest RV dealer or pet hospital for a beloved dog or cat can be a challenge without an RV-specific GPS device. And not every tow truck can manage a Class A or an SUV with an RV trailer. Sometimes emergency situations can take you out of your way–and into more danger. Take the case of Judy Jones:

“We were on the Blue Ridge Parkway and had a flat,” Judy said. After putting on a spare tire and routing to a closed tire store in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, her car GPS directed her back to the highway via Blackberry Road.

“Blackberry was the road from Hades. It had steep grades. It turned into a dirt road for a few miles. Then there was a tunnel, which was narrow and low. A friendly neighbor came out and was amazed that we were on Blackberry Road because no RV should be pulled on that road. He helped us measure, and we slowly made it through the tunnel.”

Nightmares Avoided

Routing an RV successfully also requires having information about RV-friendly places—whether that means finding a place for a quick fuel or propane refill or locating the perfect campsite for the evening. And who else but an RVer needs to think about electrical hook-ups and dump stations?

William Burnett, who travels the highways and byways in a Class A with his wife, Ann, uses a variety of materials to navigate. He recently used an RV-specific GPS to route across country. “The national and state parks function, which includes public and private campgrounds, was one of our favorites. The rest stops and parking areas function was [also] very useful.”