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Driving an RV in heavy winds

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I’ve never been one to worry much about the weather. If I have something planned and the blow-dryed weather guys on TV are breathlessly warning us that a snow storm or some weather situation is about to cause the sky to fall, I usually scoff and just go on with my plans. Weather forecasters like to scare us and keep us tuned in for ratings. I know this from firsthand experience back in my local TV reporting days when they’d scramble “storm teams” and bombard the public with 24 by 7 weather alerts and constant promos about the big storm coming.

Usually, it was much less than what was predicted.

So when we set off on this latest RV trip with weather forecasters talking about a wind advisory and breezy conditions coming in hard with a cold front, I barely paid attention.

The Roadtrek eTrek was packed, we had places to go, and so ... we did, heading straight down I-75 from our Michigan home.

I could tell is was windy as soon as I pulled out of my subdivision. But as we negotiated the heavy traffic through Detroit, the “concrete canyons” nulled the effect and it wasn’t until, just north of the Ohio border near Monroe, MI, that it became apparent that the weather guys had this one right.

This was more than breezy. This was howling.

They said on the radio that the west wind was gusting to 50 miles an hour. I can’t confirm that, except to say that the trip through Ohio, with all that empty farmland bordering the interstate, was a virtual tug of war. And hopes of being spelled from my driving duties by Jennifer went by the wayside as soon as the first gust slammed into the Roadtrek.

The wind blew and buffeted and the drive was two-handed all the way, made worse by wind shear from the occasional semi–tractor trailers that passed me. Most of the truckers, though, seemed to have even more trouble than we did and it was me that did most of the truck passing.

Truth told, it may have been the worst wind conditions I have ever driven in. Weather reports said the winds were responsible for lots of power outages. My Roadtrek, ten feet high on the Mercedes Sprinter chassis, was like a sail.

But I also found myself – I know, this sounds weird – actually enjoying the challenge. It wasn’t that bad, once I adapted my driving to the conditions. The dual rear wheels on the Roadtrek eTrek also helped provide a stability that never caused me any serious worries..

Here’s five tips I learned about driving an RV in heavy winds that you may want to keep in mind if you find yourself in similar conditions:

  • Keep both hands on the wheel. The wind really does want to push you to the next lane. A firm, not too tight grip, lets you easily overcome that.
  • Keep the speed low. I usually tool down the interstate a little over 70. Much of the way yesterday, I kept it between 55 and 60. That seemed to be the sweet spot of speed for keeping it under maximum control.
  • Reduce your speed and correct your steering, especially when moving from a protected area to an unprotected area, like overpasses, or when treelines along the wide of the road vanish, or when meeting large vehicles.
  • Be very aware of traffic and the vehicles around you. Sudden gusts can blow any vehicle off course. Keep your distance from all other vehicles.
  • Take breaks sooner than normal. We stopped about every other rest area. There’s a lot of stress in driving while fighting the wheel. Spelling yourself for 10 to 15 minutes every hour or so really helps.

By the time we crossed into Kentucky and began heading directly west along US-71, the winds began to diminish. When we hit Louisville, they were no longer a factor. I think we just drove out of the weather pattern that hit the upper Midwest.

We spent the night in a neat and clean place called Grandmas RV Resort, right along i-65 in Shepardsville, KY,. The spaces are all pull-throughs, 50 feet wide and 70 feet long, with full hookups except for cable. To the east is a pasture where curious alpacas chew the lush green Kentucky grass and hang out by the fence to watch all the people in their tin can homes. There’s a huge flea market right next door that draws thousands of people on the weekends and many of the spots seemed to be taken up by vendors for that. There was one other Roadtrek here, an older 210 Popular. It was all bundled up last night when I saw it and they left early this morning before I ventured out, so I didn’t get a chance to meet its owners.

The campground was recommended by Stu Kratz, an RVing friend who lives nearby. Stu and wife, Winona, came by after we set up last night and we visited for a couple of hours. I gave them Roadtrek hats and they shared a few local places of interest we should check out.

While here, we plan to take in the Bourbon Trail, a meandering route that takes in a collection of Kentucky distilleries that celebrate the rich tradition and proud history of “America’s Official Native Spirit.” We’ll start with the Kim Beam Distillery near here.

I could have used that place last night after the wind advisory.

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