After putting more than 6,000 miles behind us, today was the first time I actually felt uncomfortable maneuvering the trailer. OK, I’ll admit it – I was scared. It takes a man to acknowledge his faults, and learn from them.
Call it overconfidence or poor navigation, or blame it on bad signage and a crazy sudden curve. It all comes down to this: when haulin’ 16,000 pounds plus, know where you’re going, stay alert, and never ever panic.
You know you’re going too fast for an upcoming curve when you see the “25 MPH” sign and you’re already into the bend. You know that sign could’ve provided greater warning had it been placed better once you feel your tuck and trailer lean a bit too much into the curve. And you really know you must maintain control once you hear tires and your wife start to screech.
The last thing you want to do at this point is slam on the breaks. The second to last thing would be to let the steering wheel slip. The third worst thing to do in this situation would be to panic. Any of the above could cause your rig to jack knife or go off the road, or cause serious marital problems. Luckily we remained calm during just such an event earlier today, and all is well.
Once I saw the sign and sensed potential trouble, I did my best to remain calm. Though you might not have noticed this from the color of my knuckles. I kept steady pressure on the brakes while doing my best to make sure they didn’t lock up. I took the turn as wide as I could, without going onto the shoulder. And I quietly asked René to remain calm, a few times. Apparently Jerry was the only one not concerned.
Thankfully, I had fine tuned our trailer brake setting over the past few thousand miles so they gripped properly without locking up. And thankfully, we never went into an actual skid – just that eerie precursor with the high pitch groan and intimate sense of centrifugal force. Even more thankful I am for René keeping her relative calm as she started to show her fear making me even more nervous.
While I can’t blame anyone else for causing this fear, I do have to say the signs did not adequately warn us of how sharp this curve was. There was just the one reduced speed limit sign, posted far too close to the curve. And I also must say that we were not going that fast, not even 40 MPH. But we sure felt it as we banked that turn. With that said, I will admit that we could have avoided the situation with a little better communication about whether or not we should be taking the turn in the first place.
I’m probably making this event sound a lot worse than it actually was since I am here to tell it. The worst thing that came of it was that we ended up on the Ohio Turnpike, which is what we were trying to avoid. At least this driving lesson only cost us a dollar.
Maybe I have been spoiled by all the wide open farmland and long straight roads we’ve driven over the past couple months. But it just seemed like we had entered the East Coast rather suddenly. Within one day the farmland had turned into rolling wooded hills and the country roads into crowded freeways and turnpikes. And once we did get on the backroads once again in rural Pennsylvania, it seemed like no one else slowed down at all. The roads were windy and tight just like when we started this trip back in the Sierra foothills. But there were a lot more drivers, all going a lot faster. Except for the Amish in their horse-driven buggies, that is. They may be onto something there.