Day #1 of the West Trip: Don’t let it smell your fear!

We woke up at 5:00 a.m. today in a flurry of excitement. My mother is a saint, and not only is she watching my animals for me the entire time I’m away, but she also got up with us and sacrificed her truck to help us get our supplies to the RV. I do, however, have to rat her out for being a smidge mean to me (In the most loving way possible). She’s been very nervous about us driving a twenty-six foot RV when neither of us have ever driven a RV before. I came upstairs this morning, and one of the first things she said to me was “I’m extremely nervous about you driving that RV.”

To which I rolled my eyes for the millionth time and told her that we’d be fine.

“No,” she said, “I’m worried about you driving the RV.”

So, there ya’ go. A girl can’t run over her own sister in her own driveway just one time without being labeled a bad driver forever.


My uncle also got up before the sun to help us, and we are also in his debt. We had the last of our supplies loaded up by 6:30 a.m. (The photography gear. Yay!), and we were on our way to North Atlanta RV Rental around 7:00 a.m.

I have nothing but good things to say about North Atlanta RV Rental. They’ve been so incredible! We found them way back in October, and they had the nicest vehicles at the best prices by far. Not only that, the employees and owner are the nicest people ever. I spoke mainly with Mandy and Jennifer, and they were always available and always extremely pleasant, even when we were calling them in a panic about the government shutdowns potentially ruining our trip. Mandy and Angie were at the site with the RV ready to go at 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday, and they did it with smiles on their faces. They were just as excited as we were! I think they even had a little heart-to-heart with my mom when we weren’t looking. She was so nervous!

Angie's picture
Angie from North Atlanta RV Rental was very excited for us!

We had the paperwork done and the RV loaded by 9:00 a.m., and after hugs goodbye to my uncle and mother (and yet more reassurances that we would come back intact and healthy), we were off.

Debora, RV, and me
Our last photo in Georgia before we set off for the West! 

Now, here was our first mistake. My partner drove first, and the plan was that I would begin to unpack and organize our supplies once we were confident that she would be okay without a co-pilot. We put the produce on the counter, and it took one turn about five minutes into our trip for the Blueberry Apocalypse of 2019 to occur. I’m happy to report that that was the only mishap of the day, but I can tell you that I did not expect to be kicking blueberries out the door of a RV when I woke up this morning. If you don’t want your item to go flying when you start driving, put it away!

Anyway, the blueberries suffered an undeserved fate, and we miss them.

We crossed the Alabama line at about 11:00 a.m., and that’s when things got a little interesting. As far as days for learning how to drive a RV go, today fell just barely short of being considered “Trial by Fire.” The weather was awful in the South today. As I type this, I’m checking to see if we’re still under a Tornado Warning (We are.). By some miracle, the torrential rain kept missing us, but the wind was really incredible. We’re in a tall, twenty-six-foot-long vehicle, and you can feel every gust, especially as you move back toward the end of the RV. Remember how I was supposed to be unpacking? Guess who got tossed in the closet after a particularly strong gust of wind?

Sweet Home Alabama
We put State #1 behind us!

The good thing is that the RV is rather loud when it is in motion, so me flailing across the RV and smacking my head on the DVD player half a dozen times went largely unnoticed by my partner, who was trying to keep the beast under control. I gave up after the closet fiasco and co-piloted from the passenger’s seat, where it was safe. We finally had to stop about forty-five minutes from the Mississippi line because a strong line of storms was coming at us, so we got to eat lunch and hang out with a bunch of 50+ foot trucks for two hours. It was actually pretty fun.

My turn to drive came in Mississippi at about 5:00 p.m. Not too long after we crossed the state line, my partner finally felt like the wind had died enough that I wouldn’t have a panic attack the moment I started driving the RV for the first time.

Welcome to Mississippii
Followed quickly by State #2!

It was a good choice, because good lord, this thing can wiggle. The only thing I can compare it to is when I used to ride horses frequently. Sometimes, you get a bull-headed, arrogant one who doesn’t want to listen. About the only thing you can do in either situation is maintain calm and make slow, calculated movements to correct problem behavior. When a gust of wind hit the first time, it was almost like being punched. It really startled me. When I finished driving about two hours later, correcting for wind felt pretty natural, so overall, it’s something that you get used to pretty quickly. Semi-trucks were also a pain in the rear end. I could always feel one coming up behind me because they create a sucking sensation, which is pretty much the opposite of a wind gust. Also easy enough to correct but also really annoying.

All in all, today was a good day to learn how to drive a RV. My partner and I both did very well, and even with the wind, the scariest moments still only equated to briefly gripping the steering wheel a little harder. We’ve stopped for the night at a rest station with a security presence, so we feel really safe. Tomorrow will probably be another solid day of driving, and I expect us to reach Big Bend National Park in Texas sometime Monday.


Published by Alyse N. Steves, Ph.D.

Alyse N. Steves received her Ph.D. in Genetics and Molecular Biology from Emory University. She is also graduate of Kennesaw State University, where she received a B.S. in Biotechnology. Alyse is a published author, with her first book making its debut in August 2016 ( Outside of science and writing, Alyse is an avid traveler who also enjoys the company of her family, friends, and pets.

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