We were pulling onto the street in our rented RV to start a three-day excursion through New England. I had never driven an RV before. As I glanced nervously in the mirror to avoid clipping a stop sign, I felt as if I were maneuvering a hybrid minivan-Greyhound bus.
"Daddy," our 3-year-old daughter, Cleo, announced. "I have to go to the potty." I wasn't convinced. From the moment Cleo had stepped into the 29-foot recreational vehicle, she'd been fascinated by its features--the compact kitchen, the scaled-down sleeping areas, and especially the toilet. It made a satisfyingly loud whoosh when we flushed it, and what she really wanted to do, I suspected, was explore the sound some more.
And why not let her? After all, when the hassles of flying prompted us to consider renting an RV, what attracted us most was the thought of setting our own travel schedule. So, a mere 90 feet from our home in Pelham, New York, we took our first rest stop. Sally, my wife, settled Cleo onto the potty for a session that, indeed, turned out to be a false alarm. Meanwhile, I poked around the RV, trying to remember everything the rental agent had told me during my orientation session. The main thing to remember, he'd explained, was to crank down the roof-mounted TV antenna. We knew we wouldn't forget to retract the push-out walls, since they'd block our view in the mirrors. Otherwise, the appliances and the hookups for water, sewage, and electricity seemed almost foolproof.
Only one thing really concerned me, though: handling the rig (I did all the driving). Thankfully, this turned out to be far easier than I'd imagined. After about 15 minutes of constantly glancing in the mirrors to make sure I wasn't taking out road signs or drifting into the passing lane, I found my comfort zone. Soon, I had myself convinced that I could drive an 18-wheeler--provided I didn't have to back it up.