RV Trip Planning: Situational Awareness

Old school RV trip planning.

It’s crucial to combine your RV trip planning with situational awareness.

It wasn’t all that long ago when social media and the news (western states) were requesting help locating an elderly couple on a road trip – Ron & Beverly Barker and their Class C motorhome towing a Kia sedan. Sadly, it didn’t end well. Ron passed away as they waited for someone to find them.

This is so sad, but it’s also a teaching opportunity or at the very least, a reminder to help other RVers avoid what turned into a life-or-death situation.

Below I am sharing a video that shed some insight as to what might have happened to them. The folks in the video volunteered to recover the RV, tow dolly and car from where they were found.

I have stressed never to put your complete trust in any GPS devices you use to navigate from point to point. They are programmed by humans and we humans are not perfect. In this video, they found in the motorhome printed out pages taken from MapQuest. From this I would assume that to some degree they did some RV trip planning with freely available planning tools.

However, no matter how well you plan you must recognize that you can still make mistakes. Turning left when you should have gone straight. Missed seeing a critical road sign. Or simply selecting the wrong route, one that is NOT conducive with the vehicle you are driving. This is why I and others recommend you have and refer to a Commercial Vehicle Road Atlas. Routes not suitable for commercial vehicles aren’t likely to be suitable for larger RVs either. Also pay attention to the weather, there are places where even improved roads are not safe to drive on under certain weather conditions…snow and wind are a couple.

Know Your Limitations!

It is important to not only know the physical attributes of whatever type of RV you are driving or pulling, you also need to know your own physical and mental limitations. If you are physically disabled or can’t deal with stressful situations…you need to not subject yourself to them by putting yourself somewhere where you shouldn’t be. Once you start to shut down mentally and physically, you’ll make even more poor choices.

But the most important thing you need to do is STOP when that first thought of doubt crosses your mind. Am I going the right way? Do I have enough fuel? This just doesn’t look like the right road. Is the weather changing? At some point this couple must have realized that something didn’t feel or look right. But that thought either came fair to late or they decided to ignore it and press on. The road started getting narrower, steeper and more and more off camber (leaning to the side), their motorhome was scraping, and the dolly was dragging on the rocks. The video shows that one of the rear rims was severely bent and the affect the road/trail had as it was driven out.

Second guessing yourself and pushing beyond that hint of doubt in the back of your mind can have serious consequences. Damage to your RV, getting stuck, lost or as this couple found out… it was fatal for one of them.

When In Doubt

Again, as I said before…STOP! Assess the situation. Check to see if you have cell service where you are. Review your movements thus far turn by turn. If you feel uneasy about pressing on…DON’T. Turn around and retrace your route back to a place where you know EXACTLY where you are. A town, an intersection clearly marked by Federal, County or State authorities. ASK SOMEONE, best if it was the police, fire or highway department. If you can’t find someone, CALL 911. Emergency services would rather get a call from you asking for help than a call to start a search and rescue mission to find you.

Does your RV trip planning include this type of road?

If you’re not aiming for an off-the-grid, backcountry experience, this may not be the road you planned to be on.

In Your Trip Planning …

Don’t simply rely on your RV trip planner apps or GPS. Do your due diligence ahead of time reviewing maps, both paper and electronic. Use Google Maps or Google Earth to see where your intended route will take you from a bird’s eye view. Download and utilize the free apps provided by State DOT that will update you on construction zones, detours and other travel information within their state. Review directions provided by the destination entity…RV park, campground or attraction which can often be found on their website. CALL THEM if the instructions are not clear enough. Many will tell you DO NOT follow the directions provided by your GPS. There is a reason…others have been wrongly routed by their GPS and put in precarious situations. We’ve heard firsthand accounts of this happening…and some of them…well they ignored the hint of doubt and found themselves having to back their RV, not just yards but miles to find a suitable place to turn around!

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Gerald Voigt

Gerald's interests are wide and varied. His work career started in the United States Air Force and since then has worked in logistics management, retail & service management as well as manufacturing. He's an author, photographer, pilot, radio show host and marketing consultant who enjoys RVing which allows him greater freedom to explore, meet new acquaintances and serve his clients.