Why This Wasn’t Entirely My Fault

Although the Other Incident Most Certainly Was

Part of the “long story” about still being in Topanga CanyonTree meets rv is related to damage inflicted by a tree. This mishap occurred in the finest Kramer Family tradition, which started a couple of years before my mom gave up driving, and involves an otherwise stationary object moving directly into the path of an innocently passing vehicle.

The reason this incident wasn’t entirely my fault is that I was following Cousin Jeff’s directions. Turns out, however, that my RV is a critical 2.5 feet longer than his, which means I should have taken the turn more widely than I did. Interestingly, two men – Jeff and RV guy Abe – both emphasized the importance of wide turns. The problem is they never explained why, exactly. Well, perhaps Abe said something about why, but at the time it was just part of the all the other overwhelming information coming at me while in midst of abject terror.  (I was driving the RV for the first time.) So I figured, being guys, they weren’t giving me credit for being able to turn the RV more sharply. As I became more confident of my RV driving abilities (BIG mistake, I agree, and one I’m unlikely to make again any time soon), I started making less exaggerated turns.

After the incident with the tree, Jeff was more specific: Wide turns are critical because it takes more room than it would for a car for the back of the RV to clear. The technical explanation, which Jeff also provided, has to do with terms such as wheel cut, wheel base, turning radius, steer axle, drive axle, pivot point, and tag axles. Likely Abe used some of those terms, too. Nothing, however, quite matched the impact that brushing up again the tree made to get across the importance of wide turns.

Now in my defense, I had a reason for turning as I did in the junction where the tree stood. And that incident, which more correctly could be described as a near-disaster, was my entirely my fault. In fact, if you look up the definition of “thoughtless,” you’ll see my picture. When backing up on the Topanga Canyon property I depended entirely on my back-up camera. Better place my picture under “stupid,” too.

So as I’m backing up I spot a cluster of cactus and stop short of hitting it. What I didn’t realize, however, is that I was seeing the top of the cactus. The base was a good 10 feet off the edge of a cliff. That came to my immediate attention as my back right tire went off the cliff and the RV tilted dangerously ­and threatened to topple.

The good news is that even as Jeff was shouting, “Go forward, go forward,” I had automatically put the gear into Drive. The bad news is that my unfamiliarly with the power necessary to apply to the gas pedal left us dangling. As I put more pressure on the gas, the RV lurched forward with Jeff now shouting, “Not so fast, not so fast.”

The jumping tree and low-lying cactus are related because I turned too sharply so as to avoid going off the cliff. True, I didn’t drive off the cliff. Instead I hit the tree.

I took a couple of driving-in-reverse lessons from Jeff, who refused to let me use the back-up camera. I now carefully inspect the area in which I’m reversing, back up  s_l_o_w_l_y,  depend heavily on the side mirrors, and occasionally get out of the cab to inspect my progress and determine my next moves.

And oh yes, I also now make W-I-D-E turns.

Oh Lord, Won’t You Buy Me A Mercedes-Benz


Size pretty much to scale!

Size pretty much to scale!

Many of my followers (2 out of 4) have asked me to provide details about my RV so they can visualize the perch from which I issue curses. I am the proud owner of a 2006 Winnebago View 23H, whose interior apparently shrunk by about 2/3 once I took possession. I didn’t downsize as much as miniaturize. Fortunately, I’ve been steadily reducing the size of my homes and the number of my possessions since 2001 YOD (Year of the Divorce).  Some might call this going steadily downhill, but I prefer to think of it as simplifying my life.

Winnebago introduced the 24-foot View in 2006, noting that, “You know you’ve found a motor home like no other. Whether it’s the exterior styling, cab, lounge or galley, you’ll see innovations that maximize function and style at every turn.” If you want to read more really good copywriting and see additional photos that are basically to scale, go to http://www.winnebagoind.com/products/archive/2006/winnebago/view.html.

My Mercedes-Benz claim relates to the 2.7 liter diesel engine. But unless I drive around with the hood open (a mistake I haven’t made yet, but hey, I’m still new at this), the View displays the Dodge logo.

The one area of the RV that the Winnebago site mysteriously omits relates to sleeping. Virtually all RVs claim to sleep 6, including mine. The adverb I’ve never seen though is “comfortably.”  I sleep in the area over the cab (I call it “The Loft”), which is larger than a twin bed but smaller than a double. It is indeed comfortable – for one person.  The couch in the “Lounge” (Winnebago’s description) folds out and is considered a sleeping area. The dinette can be tortured into a sleeping configuration suitable for two children under the age of four as long as they’re on the small side.

I access The Loft using a step ladder and given my lack of grace I have added grips to the ceiling. That way when I fall I can break my wrists in addition to my legs. I’ve also added a foam memory pad, reducing the headroom from about a spacious 6 inches to a more limited 4 inches. I run into problems only when I lift up my head to locate a blanket. Luckily, the ceiling is well padded and this only occurs once every night. I really need to get a curtain to block off the view into the interior because when I descend The Loft I do so by sliding on my stomach, concentrating on finding the ladder and my balance. My nightgown tends to bunch up and the further my feet go down, the further my nightgown goes up. Anyone in the vicinity of the Dodge logo would see my nether regions – no doubt a shock to the system of innocent passers-by.  

One other area I want to comment on it the bathroom. It’s relatively large for an RV, which probably explains why it’s prominently displayed upon entering. Call me fastidious, but I don’t care for the direct view to the toilet. I’ve hung a white shear curtain to obscure the view rather than close the pocket door (in washed maple!) because the bathroom skylight and window let in a lot of light.

Any day now I’ll leave Topanga Canyon (long story) and hit the road so I can provide my impressions of “cab doors that open nearly 90 degrees” and the “remarkably quiet” 5-cylinder turbo-diesel.

First Day Driving


Recreational Vehicle

Recreational Vehicle (Photo credit: *Grant*)


To prepare myself for my maiden RV voyage from its home base in Ramona (San Diego County) to Los Angeles, I started the ignition, took a deep breath, and said aloud, “OK, grow some balls.” Then I invoked the family tradition of starting vacations by reciting, “One, two, three, h..e..r..e we go.”

I pulled up on the emergency brake to release it and  . . .  couldn’t.

Abe the mechanic had set it. The difference between his strength at 40 after 25 years of manual labor and my strength at 63 after 40-plus years of strenuous typing is significant. Even using both hands to pull up the lever was insufficient. So I had Abe sit in the driver’s seat and release the brake. Then I grew some balls and drove off.

I was terrified. I was exhilarated. I made it a full 30 minutes before swearing.

Driving along a two-lane highway, traffic soon piled up behind me. When the road broadened to four lanes, I signaled right, checked my side mirror, and saw that many of the vehicles couldn’t wait the 10 seconds it would take for me to move. They were zooming past me on the right, making it impossible for me to change lanes. “Damn it,” I yelled, facing right. “Let me get over!” The cars behind me must have heard, or perhaps noticed my right-turn indicator and the circumstances preventing me from changing lanes. They waited and were rewarded by my slow-moving vehicle moving into the right lane.

My language for the following 45 minutes was rated PG before employing the root word “fuck.” By then I was on the freeway, in the far right lane that is, theoretically, for slower-moving traffic. Unfortunately, the far right lane also accommodates vehicles merging onto the freeway. I let as many cars in ahead of me as I could without necessitating any vehicles behind me to slam into the back of the RV.

The stream of merging cars, SUVs, and trucks at one entrance included a small blue car that would need to take its place behind me. Or at least that was my judgment based on physics. Checking my right-side mirror, I couldn’t see the blue car. Looking out my right-side window, I saw him. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me! You’re playing CHICKEN with me?” I screamed. The driver either heard me or took into account the narrowing lane and looming RV on his left, because he fell back.

SoCal drivers won’t be surprised to learn that incidents such as this one occurred with increasing frequency the closer I came to my destination: Los Angeles.

First Challenge Overcome

stock-photo-13308451-colored-plastic-hookI have assured myself that I’m latently mechanically inclined. All I need is the opportunity to develop my skills, which owning and driving an RV most assuredly will provide. This theory did not get off to a good start when, upon my first morning the RV, I could not figure out how to raise the shade. (Place hand under bottom and push up.)

Nor did my inability to hang plastic hooks do anything to reinforce my heretofore untested belief in myself. Try as I might to follow the instructions, I could not figure out what was meant by “slipping” the hook onto the flimsy adhesive. Convinced this step was not strictly necessary, I pressed the sticky part onto the wall, placed the hook up again the sticky part, pressed hard, and waited a good half-hour before placing my keys on the hook. Only to be woken in the middle of the night by the sound of something crashing to the floor. As soon as I asked the logical question, “What was THAT?” the answer came to me. I turned over and returned to sleep.

The next day I purchased a wooden plaque with four metal hooks and had my mechanic affix it to the wall with screws.

Problem solved.