Driving a vehicle that has some weight to it — while also towing a boat — can make driving in the mountains an adventure to say the least. Despite all the breathtaking views, you don’t have many opportunities to admire the scenery from behind the wheel.
On our recent trip to the Alabama state park at Lake Guntersville, I got my first real taste of driving a heavier vehicle on steep inclines and declines. Now, I have driven in the mountains numerous times going back and forth to Wisconsin. But I have always taken those trips in a pickup truck or SUV. I didn’t have too many concerns when I was in those vehicles because they were much lighter. Boy, I learned a lot in a hurry on this first out-of-state RV trip.
I guess the one thing that stuck out the most was just how fast the RV would pick up speed on the downhill runs. I learned to get off the accelerator early and let the RV start down those inclines in coast mode. It didn’t take long before I had my foot covering the brake as we made our way down the mountain. I think my wife was a little more nervous than I was, and she wasn’t even driving.
Going up the steep inclines was much easier. Yes, the RV slowed considerably while climbing, but I can see now why people want a diesel when traveling through this type of country. Without much effort, the RV would pick up speed slowly with just a little pressure on the accelerator. If the speed dropped too much, a downshift would get you going a little quicker again.
I learned to stay out of the way of other vehicles and stay far to the right. Even going downhill, I tried to stay to the right because I did keep the RV at a lower speed than all the other cars and trucks on the road. I basically took my queue from the big semis on the road. I watched how they handled their rigs as they navigated these steep roads and simply followed their lead.
My goal was simply to stay out of everyone’s way and not get myself into a spot where I was not comfortable. With this kind of driving, you need to be mindful of the traffic around you and try to keep yourself a safe distance from other vehicles in case you get caught in a bad situation. Looking far ahead, and even behind, can definitely be to your advantage if a tough situation arises.
Driving anxiety aside, all in all, our first trip was a big success and a lot of fun. The area up around Lake Guntersville is simply beautiful. The sites are breathtaking once you get up to the lodge. The RV sites are all located down by the lake, while the lodge itself sits high on top of the ridge above the RV site.
Once we got the RV hooked up, we put in a call to the lodge and they sent someone down to get us. Looking back down to the RV from high atop the ridge was a pretty cool view. We could see for miles, and we found out just how big Lake Guntersville really was.
Once we navigated the mountain driving and got to the park, we entered and found out we had to wind our way down to the RV site and campground on an extremely narrow two-lane road. I was praying that no one would come past us going the other direction way on this road. When they did it would make for an interesting pass, and one that happened at a very slow speed.
I think those slower, shallower inclines and declines made me more nervous than the mountain driving because of the other vehicles coming the opposite direction. Fortunately, we didn’t have any incidents.
The biggest lesson I learned is to simply be patient when driving in areas like this. There’s no reason to be in a hurry. You have a large investment under you that you are controlling and others around you can cause issues at any time. So being patient was the best course of action. We did have two incidents while still in Florida heading north on I-75, but I’ll save that story for another column when we’ll talk about things that can cause issues even when the road is perfectly flat and wide.
I know Missy and I are going to plan another trip back to Lake Guntersville. The little bit of fishing we got to do has me wanting to more there, and there is a lot of stuff to see and do that we didn’t have time for. Until then, travel safe and enjoy your favorite destination.
Greg Bartz is a tournament bass fisherman based in Lakeland. Greg fishes lakes throughout Florida’s Heartland and enjoys RV travel around the Southeast with his wife and tournament partner, Missy. Contact him at Greg.Bartz@SummitHoldings.com.