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That’s How We Roll: Low Clearance

Lest you think that traveling by RV is always calm and relaxing, here’s the little calamity our GPS sent us on this weekend …

We were heading north last Friday, to a campground my sister had chosen in the Delaware Water Gap area of New Jersey. It was her birthday, and we were looking forward to spending a couple of days playing bocce, cooking out, and kicking back. We rolled out about noon from our RV park in Pennsylvania … in plenty of time to arrive and set up before she, her husband, and my adorable doggy-nephew, Strauss, were due to appear.

Strauss

It was only going to be a short 90-mile cruise, and everything went smoothly for the first 70 miles. At that point, my friends, the sh*t hit the fan.

Before we continue, you need to understand that, at best, the GPS and I have a tenuous relationship. We call her “Winnie,” and she’s always yelling “PREPARE TO GO STRAIGHT” or sniping “YOU’RE OVER THE SPEED LIMIT” even when I’m not! I know we need her, but there’s not a snowball’s chance that we’re ever going to be besties. However, I would like it noted that on this occasion I followed her directions to perfection – and we nearly ended up with a convertible.

I should also say that our GPS is the same model that you’d find in a semi truck. It’s programmed with the height and weight of our vehicle – precisely so we don’t end up in these types of situations. Well, in theory, anyway.

So, back to the debacle … we’re getting close to the campground, and Winnie tells me to prepare to exit the highway. We make a couple of turns and she says, “GO STRAIGHT FOR 14 MILES” in her usual, condescending  tone. We’re tootling along and all the sudden I see a road sign that says, “Low Clearance Ahead.” When you’re driving a vehicle that’s nearly 13 feet tall, low clearance signs are enough to make you toss your lunch – so I found a place to pull over so we could debate our options.

You may or may not know that RVs towing cars absolutely cannot back up without first detaching the car. So, now we have our first dilemma. I’m on the shoulder of the road, contemplating the 16-point turn that’s going to be necessary to get the motorhome headed back the way we came, and before we can even begin that, we need to disconnect the car. While we’re researching alternate routes, I’m half noticing the traffic going by: school busses, dump trucks, and then a semi tractor pulling a big trailer of dirt! If they’re making it down this road, surely we’ll fit too, right?! So I tell Rod, “Fasten your seatbelt sweetie, we’re going to check out this low clearance obstacle.”

Low Clearance

Turns out school busses, dump trucks, and semis pulling trailers of dirt are all shorter than us. Fortunately, there was a much better place just before the trestle to pull over, detach the car, and turn the RV around. So, that’s what we did. I made a mental note of the directions … because from here, I was on my own. Rod would be following me in the car, and there was no way I was giving Winnie another chance to betray me that day. I thought the worst was behind us … little did I know …

There is something about driving in New Jersey that has always made me batty. You can never just go around the block –  there are ramps, U-turn lanes, roundabouts, and no intuitive way to get from here to there. I’m always one wrong step away from falling off the face of the Earth, never to be heard from again. Damn you, Jersey – couldn’t you have given me a break?!

I needed to make two rights and then a left into the campground – that was it. I made the first turn and started watching for the next. There it was, Junction 57 … wait! There was no where to go east. They automatically dump you on the westbound side and expect you to maneuver a U-turn (from the left lane, no less.) We don’t whip fancy turns in the 37-foot motorhome, so I made a split-second decision to keep heading west, across the river to Pennsylvania, and then catch the highway north to the campground.

The toll collector at the bridge was smirking when I turned over my five bucks. You see, the bridge was under construction and down to one narrow lane in each direction. Concrete barriers on the right and bumper-to-bumper traffic on the left. I could only bring myself to glance once in the passenger-side mirror to see the nonexistent space between the side of the coach and the evil barricade threatening to obliterate our paint job. Somehow I made it across unscathed, followed the detour through the little town, and finally got on the road that I thought would offer some breathing room.

Wrong again! Turning the corner I immediately saw the “Scenic Route” sign, which is a nice way of saying “tiny little road with an eight-inch stone curb.” And then two semi trucks were barreling down the center line toward me … well, let’s just say it was nearly my undoing. I have no idea how close our mirrors were when we passed because my eyes were closed. Thankfully, the road widened out after a few miles and it was smooth sailing from there.

We pulled into the RV park at 4:00, none the worse for wear, but with a few new grey hairs to show for our adventure. It’s a good thing not all the days are like this one. Now, someone, please pour me a drink!

Drinks

Photo Credit: Krista Bortolato

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