Insider's Guide to Getting Behind the Wheel - Page 2

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Route 66
GET YOUR KICKS: Route 66 has been a major U.S. travel way since the 1930s. (Jeremy Woodhouse)

Getting There Alive
Renting an RV is just the first step. Once you sign on the dotted line, you need to play it safe. Before Pete and Mitzi Kerwin of Camano Island, Washington, set out for a two-month-long RV trip through Alaska in a 37-foot Jayco Designer Fifth-Wheel, Pete spent a month getting familiar with the rig. When they hit the road, he wanted to be sure he could handle what he was sitting on. His advice? Know before you go.

-Treat it like you would a normal vehicle—regardless of what some truckers may tell you, you don't rule the road just because you are larger than everyone else.
-Always drive at highway speed, checking for blind spots and traffic hazards.
-Learn to use the navigation and camera equipment while the RV is parked and before the big trip.
-Familiarize yourself with windshield wipers, blinkers, and climate-control features to minimize distraction.
-Recreational vehicles have a high center of gravity that can affect handling. Get plenty of practice on idle streets before you go.
-Know the exact height of your RV to avoid damage when driving under low overpasses, canopied gas stations, and parking garages.
-Know the exact length of your RV and practice passing, so you leave enough room between you and the car you are going around.
-Remember that your vehicle is heavier than most on the road. Keep this in mind when braking, giving yourself plenty of time to stop. Always pump the brakes on steep downgrades to avoid overheating.
-Be sure you know how to work basic systems like sewage and water.
-Make sure there are smoke detectors and fire extinguishers onboard.
-Practice changing a tire.
-If you are pulling a trailer behind your RV, make sure to get plenty of practice backing up. It's not as easy as it seems!
-Pack spare parts—a water pump, bulbs, special tools, a fan belt—if traveling through remote areas where cell phone service and roadside assistance may be difficult to find.

Go Green When You Can
While fuel costs can be a significant part of the expense of RVing—as much as 25 percent—there are ways to conserve and save.

Look into diesel. Some RVs are outfitted with diesel engines, and fuel availability has increased greatly in the past few years, especially with highway travel. Obey the speed limit. Jackrabbit starts and stops and excessive speed cut fuel economy. Maintain proper tire pressure as well. Travel light. It's tempting to fill your RV with everything you might possibly need, but excess weight cuts fuel economy. Make a list and check it more than twice.

The Roads to Know
Some scenic byways are the stuff of RV legend. From Alabama's Talladega Scenic Drive, to the Kaibab Plateau-North Rim Parkway along Arizona's Grand Canyon, to Appalachia's Blue Ridge Parkway, to the 127-mile Seward Highway in Alaska, some highways have some of the most beautiful scenery in the country for RV trekkers. Pick your poison at's Guide to the Top Five Scenic Drives in America.

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