Although the Other Incident Most Certainly Was
Part of the “long story” about still being in Topanga Canyon 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.