Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Driving Adventure

I'm writing this more for myself and for my non-RVing friends, than for the experienced RVers who check this blog from time to time.

Sometimes the adventure is in the driving, not in the destination.

When we were first starting as motorhome owners, we lived on a windy, hilly road near a very busy freeway with several downhill curves and narrow shoulders that could be very scary. It was a good but expensive learning experience. 

When we were looking at our options for our drive out of the North Georgia Mountains, US 19/129 was our first choice. We drove it many times, going to various trailheads and attractions. From our park there were about 20 miles of difficult driving conditions, with a section of about 7 miles that had many 20-25 mph "S" curves going both up and down. Not the best choice for a Class A motorhome towing a Jeep. But in the worst places there was an extra lane, and although the shoulder was only a few feet wide, we hadn't seen any large rock walls leaning into the road. We saw some larger trucks going both north and south, but at the same time the traffic seemed relatively light.

We could do this. In particular, I (Merikay) could do this if I was the driver and the weather was good. I am more comfortable behind the wheel than white-knuckling it as the passenger. As the driver, I feel I can go as slow as I want and be in control.

But, after having been parked for five weeks, we had forgotten to tie down or properly stow a few things. On my first turn onto the highway we heard a large crash. Our table will fall over if not locked down. We forgot.  No damage, just a scare!  Craig fixed it while I kept driving. There was another class A towing a car just ahead of us, so my confidence got a little boost and the drive along 19 went smoothly. I'm not sure we would have chosen to go that way if we hadn't driven it by car several times first.

Next up, Atlanta. We were warned about the horrible traffic in and around Atlanta. 

Poo, what could be worse than Los Angeles? Craig is a much better city driver than I so it was his turn.

We had all day, and figured if we got caught in a slowdown we would just put up with it. We did need to stop at a Trader Joe's for essentials like ketchup, wine, and a few frozen items that only they sell.  On our travels we have stopped to shop at stores that have wide open parking lots like Walmart, but of course we have avoided tight lots while towing.  Following the advice of the more experienced bloggers, I looked at the chosen Trader Joe's on Google Earth, and even printed an image of the area. Both of us looked at it and decided we could maneuver through to the TJ's back lot and into to a much larger open lot where we could leave the Alfa with the Jeep attached.

I mentally patted myself on the back for being such a careful planner, but reality took over when we got there. The Trader Joe's was in a very urban area with lots of heavy traffic. We managed to drive the few blocks from the freeway without incident, pull into TJ's driveway and make our way around the back. The lot was very full, and (OMG) the driveway between the TJ's lot and the larger open lot, that I thought I had seen on the image, was blocked by a cement curb. The only way to get there was to make a couple of very tight turns, which I knew would be practically impossible with a 36' rig plus Jeep. 

But we stayed calm.

We ended up unhitching the Jeep and parking the Alfa in a tight corner spot with her rear end sticking out into the aisle.  Other cars could get by us. After shopping we returned and were happy to see several cars that had parked along our exit route had left. With careful guidance, Craig backed her out, got turned around and was able to exit the lot. I followed in the Jeep with the walkie-talkie. He found a larger lot down the road a bit to reconnect the Jeep.

Next challenge: Get out of Atlanta and back onto the freeway toward Warm Springs.

Our Rand McNalley GPS unit told us to turn onto Peachtree and then onto Piedmont. We did, but there was construction on Piedmont that required three lanes to merge into one. Not easy! We were then told to turn right on Buckhead Loop in 300 feet. Yikes, we were still merging. We squeezed over and were about to try for the turn when both of us could clearly see a sign that said this was Lenox Rd., not Buckhead Loop, so we drove straight through the intersection.  At this point we notice a cop waving his hands furiously at us, probably telling us to stop.  We did not.  I looked in the side view mirror and saw him throw up his arms as if in exasperation.  

The next intersection was not Buckhead either, and at this point the Randy was telling us to make a U-turn if possible. (Not !)  It then guided us in a four street turn-around putting us back onto Piedmont going in the opposite direction, again toward Lenox Road (which it insisted was Buckhead).  We were glad to see the cop had abandoned his post by this time, and was yakking it up with some other motorists, allowing us to make the turn without a problem.  I had little faith in Craig's comment of "maybe he won't notice us..." I guess it turned out traffic was so tight that unless we had caused an accident, he let us pass.

A few more blocks and we happily found the ramp back onto I-85 and drove the remaining miles to the Warm Springs area.  

Monday night we were happily settled into our spot at our RV Park for the night.  

It was a harrowing day's drive, but we made it.  Luck and patience were the keys.

Someday I might look back at this post and laugh at myself.  But for tonight, I'm just pleased we made it without a fender bender or worse.


  1. Ah yes, I've had a few of those hair raising journeys myself.

  2. nice job on the driving! you and Craig make a great team!

  3. I know that its nerve wracking driving in congested areas and my RV is much smaller than yours. But "maybe he won't notice us" made me augh out loud


  4. What a deal...... I am laughing, holding my breath, and sighing working my way through your dialogue...... Think I have been in that TJ parking lot.....not sure how in the world you pulled that off..... But believe me I am impressed to say the least !!!! So glad you found your resting spot ......RELAX !!!

  5. Merikay, Merikay, Merikay

    There are two ways from here to Atlanta, the easy way and the hard way. :) Why did you chose the hard way?

    The route we all use, is Hwy 515 through Blue Ridge. It's a wide scenic 4 lane road with gentle grades and no sharp curves. It leads you right out of the mountains to I-575 and I-75. I felt sure I had told you the best way out, but I do know how you like a challenge.

    Your first challenge was when you guys had pulled left out of the campsite instead of right which would have eliminated the sharp left turn with the ditch and rock that you had to work around. Turning right, and driving the circle around the campground is much easier. We're going to put down a big rock to discourage future people from turning left out of the site. It will be easier on them, their rigs, and our grass.

    We've only been to Trader Joe's one time and the parking lot was small and packed. I'm not surprised you had trouble there, especially in downtown Atlanta. Yikes. You're braver than me, but then again, you do like those challenges.

    Glad you made it and have settled into your new campsite. I think maybe Craig ought to take over as trip planner though! Or does he like challenges too?

    We have a written check list for breaking camp. It's too easy to forget something.

    Safe travels to Florida! Try to stay out of trouble.

  6. I can sure identify with your experience in the TJ parking lot. While traveling between points A & B we often slip into various challenging parking lots. Walmart, Cracker Barrel & McDonald's to mention a few. Sometimes OK & often times a nail biter. And can also identify with the stress & strain of getting turned around in heavy traffic areas after missing exits or streets & roads. Never fun at the time but can always look back later with a bit of a chuckle & a big sigh of relief.......

  7. Karen, it was my idea to take US 19/129. It was a beautiful drive because Merikay is such a good driver. Also it was less crowded because "you all use" the other route. It was also my left turn to get out of the campground by the most direct route.

    We have several written lists for leaving a camp site, including one built into the Freightliner dashboard. None of them include checking that the table is hitched to the wall, which is the problem we had. We only detached the table because we were there for such a long time.

    Having to detach the toad is always a possibility when visiting a parking lot designed for cars. We look forward to future improvements in satellite image resolution that will allow us to see a curb-type barrier in a lot. Given all the wonderful things that TJs has for sale, it was a a good tradeoff.

  8. OMG, this is my worst nightmare. :) I totally get the driving and being in control thing, that is me to a T. And while I've gotten into some hairy situations, I don't think going to TJ's while towing will be one of them. Glad you made it, and at least you had some wine to celebrate your successful trip.

  9. For the past three years we have traveled, and I thought this would be the year that I did not have to "un-hook" the tow vehicle due to a parking lot, being led down a street by the GPS, etc. Almost made it, until we pulled into a Cracker Barrel in North-West Arkansas...it had a rear parking lot which only had ONE entrance, which was also the exit, and yes, I pulled into it. Darn!

  10. Thanks for the chuckle, it reminded me of all the trouble I've gotten myself into all by myself while driving our 40' MH and toad. ;c)

  11. I just try to stay out of Atlanta with the RV. The furthest around downtown you go with an RV the better. We took the outer loop at 1 PM when I had to get to Stone Mountain and it was just as crazy.

    I can't really compare it to LA traffic since I've only ridden in 20 min cab rides from LAX, but Atlanta has the most nutso drivers I've ever encountered.

  12. Cities and roads in the East were designed without the rectangular-gird surveying that you see in states in the Midwest and West. In fact, between most cities that were close enough to want a road between them, people simply built such a road, which pretty much travels radially between their centers. So a big city may have as many such radial roads, each named for the city to which it goes.

    Along comes the internet system, and its traffic experts add a new feature to the cities road: beltlines! These are typically circular roads that go around a city, typically at about the same distance from its center. Our hypothetical big city might have several more-or-less concentric beltlines.

    We've all learned that each interchange on a limited-access road causes its own slowdown due to exiting and entering traffic. Some bring traffic close to a halt at busy times, some only slow traffic a little.

    Somehow our driving culture has come to believe that the best way to get through a large city is by driving around it on its outermost beltline. Suppose this beltline has a radius of 30 miles, and there are 20 radial intercity roads and 3 beltlines.

    To go halfway around involves 10 interchanges in 100 miles for intercity roads, but to drive through downtown on two radial roads only involves 6 interchanges (one for each beltline) in 60 miles.

    Which one sounds better?

  13. In Atlanta, speaking from experience, going around sounds better when almost 50 feet long.


Leave a comment, or send an email.