Wednesday, January 22, 2014

RV train wreck

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My wife bought me a new GPS for Christmas. It was an expensive, big rig model. It is supposed to have all the latest information to keep me from driving our 40 ft. motorhome and toad into areas that are too narrow, too low, etc... Now I am more frustrated than ever. Not only are we out the money for this “special” device, but it is no more accurate than the cheap one I used prior. Besides that, it just sent me down a dead end street in New Orleans and I left the top hand rail of my ladder on a low tree branch. My wife says I may not be cut out for RV travel, or that we need to downsize. I love this big rig, but I find myself nervous as a cat under a rocking chair when I get this train on the wrong track. Am I just a novice, nervous Nelly? Will it get better once I get a few more miles under my belt? Should I start looking for a smaller rig?
--Train Wreck in Treme'

Dear Train Wreck:
Your concerns are fairly normal. Let’s start out with using a GPS. If this can solve your problem it will be a lot cheaper than taking a bath on trading down. A GPS can be a valuable tool if used properly. Nothing is foolproof. My suggestion on using high-tech navigation is to use everything available. Even after updating my GPS I consider it only 70% accurate. Study your proposed route using other programs that are free. Google maps and free GPS apps give varied formats. You can also use Google Earth to fly into congested areas and get a visual idea of what you will run into. Don’t fall blindly in love with the voice on your GPS and take it’s directions as gospel. If that doesn’t work out for you, perhaps downsizing will. There is a huge difference in maneuvering a 30 ft. rig vs. a 40 ft. It may be worth your while to take a driving course if you haven’t already. Many dealers offer that option to new owners. If you have never driven a vehicle of that size you will discover there is a learning curve. A few driving tips that you could glean from an instructor or fellow campers will make you much more proficient. You will also learn that one size does not fit all (campgrounds). The larger you get, the more restricted you become no matter how sharp your driving skills. Dolly Parton’s dad always tried to convince her that you can’t put 20 pounds of mud in a 5 pound sack. Same can be said for trying to put a 40 ft. motorhome in a 24 ft. space. Everyone has their own comfort level. Find yours so you can enjoy your travels and not have to deal with a case of nerves every time you get behind the wheel. 
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

12 comments:

Dick Wright said...

What the hell are you doing driving a 40 ft rig in downtown New Orleans anyway? Problems not the GPS, it's a lack of common sense.

Anonymous said...

After buying one of the "Advanced" GPS units, I too am frustrated. I tried the map upgrade and it erased everything. I tried and tried to reload, according to instructions on the website. It kept failing. I contacted the company. After a few days "Anup" contacted me and told me my internet connection must be too slow. I finally went to the internet providers office and used their 50GB connection. The results were the same. Next I got a satisfaction survey from the GPS outfit and they have not responded to any other requests for help. I am back to the old GPS and while it doesn't have all the bells and whistles, I haven't had any trouble either.

Anonymous said...

As stated in the answer - never trust a GPS to take the best route - you must study the route the GPS chooses and put in waypoints to force the GPS to take the best route. Many people just put in their destination and head out without looking at the route the GPS sends them on - this will never work.

I personally know of many low clearance bridges that appear on no list of low clearances. You must use you eyes to judge any and all low clearances and you must stay alert at all times. A GPS is just another tool we can use to help us but we must use every tool we have properly.

Always take the time to carefully plan each and every route. No GPS or map can tell you everything so you need to pay attention at all time.

Anonymous said...

I would question why he is driving a big rig on surface streets in an urban area in the first place- that's what you tow a car for.

It might be as much managing your expectations as hoping for a perfect GPS (of which there are NONE)
Think of your big rig as a mobile house- not a vehicle to run around in, and you may find navigating that much easier.

Marvlinda Thomasson said...

Check your GPS settings and preferences, you might want to tell it about your RV and things like "no u-turns" Trees, well no GPS is going to tell you about limbs. Just watch for low ones. Time onboard driving makes things much easier. Hang in there and share the road with your wife, it makes things so much easier if she understands the rigors of driving a big rig. We share driving, 2 on, 2 off. Sharing leads to understanding and harmony.

Deborah Mason said...

Your comment about considering your GPS about 70% accurate after all updates rings a great big bell for me. We were "practicing", running the GPS unit in places we already knew, in western Montana. At one point "Naggy May" wanted us to skip the 2-lane paved route along the river from I-90 to Montana 200 and take the dirt road over a mountain. When that happens we "put her to sleep" until we're past the places where she's crazy. GPS seems more accurate in urban areas. We most appreciate getting through the mazes in city freeway interchanges.

evfancyinoregon said...

I'm sorry you had such a horrible experience! Five years ago in my area a man died of exposure to the elements after getting lost on a remote road plotted out for him by his GPS unit. The locals know to NEVER take this route in inclement weather. Very sad, very avoidable. I would never trust my safety to a GPS unit. I believe in good old paper maps...much cheaper & much more accurate.

USRVLady said...

I use a small (8") computer and Street Atlas USA. I put in my beginning and ending point then check the route. It's easy to change the route as needed, like to stay out of major cities. I can easily place a via on the route I want to use. I can also put preferences in. I also check the route in Google Earth to make sure that the route is OK for the RV and me.

Unknown said...

As an ex-trucker and now rv'er, I use everything available. A simple Garmin is fine but I back it up with maps on my lap-top and my Google Earth. Also calling ahead to your destination can help with how to get there. Jill,(Garmin), likes to mess with me but I find it funny. More of an adventure than a challenge. Keep a good sense of humor, your gonna laugh about it anyway after awhile.

Anonymous said...

We use a normal Garmin for lane choices and speed control. As the navigator I use Microsoft streets and trips with attached GPS on my computer. I do all the projections and check ahead for routes,problems, gas, RV parks etc. We carry a Mi-Fi card if I need additional help from the internet. With all this, we still maintain vigilance to prevent low clearances and other unexpected problems. Such is the life of full time wanderers!

B Smith said...

Wow i am very surprised that many of you do not understand how unreliable GPS “S are! I have taken a number of trips with my cousin who had 3 different gps's one was an old car unit, one was a newer RV unit, and a trucker unit, and if you put the same address in you will always get 3 completely different directions! if you ALWAYS take a correct map with you, if you have a large rv it should be a truckers map, and if you have internet you can further plot your course, BUT nothing is going to stop being put in some bad situation and some point, this is why you must know how to back up, or learn to slow down and look before get there. Also to those who say he is stupid first off he was following the Gps, yes wrong but that is what he was doing, and also How do you thing all those companies in the French corridor get supplies, you have to be able to drive there or it has to be posted with a sign saying (nothing over such a size)! Road laws people.

ontheroadagain from Idaho said...

I also was lead into dangerous territory in New Orleans by my motorhome GPS. When finally at my camp I did some checking and found that I had the GPS set on "shortest route". Had I set it to avoid city streets it would have routed me a much longer but safer route on highways around the downtown area.