With so many Americans embracing the RV lifestyle, there’s bound to be a learning curve on how to drive and manage a large motorhome.
Holiday Rambler® has partnered with Spencer and Kristi Blu from the Adventurtunity Family to share their experiences as they travel the United States in a 2017 Vacationer® 36H from Holiday Rambler with their four-year-old son Kade and puppy Ruko Blu. The family purchased their 37-foot RV in July 2020 and started living on the road full time that September.
Holiday Rambler is an award-winning brand within REV Recreation Group, Inc., which is a subsidiary of REV Group, Inc. The Holiday Rambler 2022 line includes four diesel and three gas motorhomes, including the Vacationer model that the Adventurtunity family owns.
Dad Spencer does the majority of the driving of the family’s Holiday Rambler and recently shared his tips and advice for handling a Class A motorhome in a blog post.
Learning to Drive a Class A Motorhome by Spencer Blu from Adventurtunity Family
There is something about learning to drive a Class A motorhome that gives some people pause when they are trying to decide what type of RV to buy for their family. It was one of the most frequent questions I got when we brought home our Vacationer. Friends and family alike would look at it and say, “That’s a beautiful motorhome…no way I could drive that!” Or something like, “That’s gotta be so scary to drive. How did you learn?” If I’m honest, Class A’s were not at the top of my list when we started looking for an RV because I had never driven anything nearly that big! But, the reality is that it’s not all that daunting. And, like anything else, the more you do it, the better you get!
So, to help put nerves at ease for those considering a motorhome purchase, I’m going to be talking about the aspects of driving a Class A motorhome to give you a better idea of what it’s like, how it differs from driving a passenger vehicle, and ideally give you the confidence to go take that test drive!
To be clear, I am not an expert or an instructor. The ideas and thoughts are based on my experience driving our Holiday Rambler Vacationer with a gas engine. I have not driven a diesel pusher, and, while I understand there are some fundamental mechanical and operational differences, the concepts below should by and large apply to either platform.
The First Drive
“So, you want to take it for a drive?” Those words hit me in the face like a right hook from Mike Tyson. My family and I were standing in the living area of a beautiful Holiday Rambler motorhome. It was the very first RV we went to look at when we started our search. We had been given the tour and were honestly a little giddy with the thought that it could possibly be our new home for an incredible journey to come! And then the seller asked that question and I was snatched right out of my daydream. “You mean right now?” I said, as if his question was poorly timed. I mean I knew it was coming, we were there as potential buyers. I certainly wouldn’t buy a car without driving it, this shouldn’t be any different, right? So, after about a 15 second internal pep talk, and the realization that, if I was going to drive this thing across the country, I had to start somewhere, I said, “Let’s go!” And you know what? It wasn’t nearly as big a deal as I had made it out to be in my head! So now I can say with confidence that if you’re hesitant about getting a Class A because you lack the experience to drive it, don’t be. You can do it, and you’ll be glad you did!
The Basics of Driving a Class A Motorhome
Let’s get the obvious out of the way off the bat. Regardless of what length the coach you decide to get is, it will be bigger and heavier than what you’re used to driving. By a lot. I had driven a few rental box trucks before. But none of them even came close to the size of our 37-foot-long Vacationer. Time and space will be your biggest allies as you pilot your coach! So, as long as you keep these fundamental things in mind every time you turn the key, you’ll be in good shape.
- Know your height and weight (fully loaded). Write them down on a sticky note and place it on the dash where you can see it. Better to know you won’t fit under an overpass before you get to it than to find out while you’re stuck under it.
- Take left turns wider than you think you need to, and right turns even wider. As nicely as these machines can handle being on the road, they will not turn on a dime.
- Allow yourself additional space to get up to speed with traffic. More importantly, leave plenty of space between yourself and the vehicle in front of you to slow down. Acceleration and braking distances are greatly increased in a vehicle this size.
Another thing that you will realize is that there are a lot of road signs that now apply directly to you as the driver of a large vehicle. You will start to pay attention to all those signs you ignore when driving a passenger vehicle. Those suggested speed signs for off-ramps and sharp curves you always thought were comically slow will all of a sudden make perfect sense when cruising in your rig. You’ll also want to be aware of height and weight restriction signs that may now apply to you when approaching bridges and overpasses. A quick glance at that aforementioned sticky note will be quite helpful!
When travelling in mountainous or hilly regions you will want to keep an eye out for signs that tell you the grade percentage of an upcoming steep climb or descent. You’ll definitely want to slow down when approaching a steep descent. Manage your speed by gearing down and braking intermittently to save your brakes. The “Runaway Truck Ramp” signs you see on steep downhills are there for a reason and you do not want to have to use one of them!
What it boils down to is that you’ll now need to take note of all the signs that are there for truck drivers. While you may not be driving an 80,000 lb. tractor trailer, you are closer to their level than you are to the Honda Civics buzzing around you on the road. So being aware of those signs will go a long way in helping you arrive safely to your destination!
And there it is my friends! I knew nothing and had zero experience the first time I drove our coach. But I took my time and made sure to be very aware of my surroundings. It really is enjoyable once you get comfortable and familiar with your coach. Hopefully this information helps give you some confidence to go find that Class A you and your family have been dreaming about! You’ll be rolling down the road to adventure in no time! By the way, we ended up buying that Holiday Rambler Vacationer. The very first one I drove is the one we own, and I couldn’t be happier!
CELEBRATE LABOR DAY VISITING MANUFACTURING SITES THROUGHOUT THE U.S.
Curated by the Holiday Rambler® Brand
The long Labor Day weekend is an ideal time to sneak in a warm weather road trip before temps begin to cool off. For RVers and travel lovers looking for something different, try visiting a few manufacturing sites suggested by Holiday Rambler.
While many traditional manufacturers haven’t reopened their factory tours, there are still plenty of interesting (and tasty) companies to visit for a behind-the-scenes look. Think potato chips, baseball bats, whisky, cars, hot sauce, and more. The ten sites on the Holiday Rambler travelogue start on the East Coast, dip into the South, wind through the Midwest, head into the Mountain states, and finish on the West Coast. Each stop is paired with a recommendation for a local establishment that’s a bit different from the norm, along with an RV park.
While Holiday Rambler has temporarily suspended its factory tours, the brand has released a series of four videos showcasing how its motorhomes are made at its manufacturing headquarters in Decatur, IN. The exclusive tours deliver a peek into a few of the steps involved in manufacturing a 16,000 to 30,000 lb. Class A motorhome. To watch the factory tour videos, visit Holiday Rambler’s website, select the About tab, click on Factory Tours, and provide an email address.
Holiday Rambler RVs are known for their superior functionality and luxury design amenities that allow travelers to explore far and wide with confidence and in comfort. The 2021 Nautica model from Holiday Rambler earned Best New Model from RV Pro and Top RV Debut from RVBusiness. Nautica is a Class A Diesel motorhome that is less than 40′ and built on a Freightliner Custom Chassis®. While the Nautica is shorter in length, it still boasts a roomy interior with lots of storage. Amenities include an electric fireplace, stainless steel appliances, pantry storage, master bedroom suite with a skylight shower, and an exterior entertainment center with a 50″ LED TV.
Please note: each manufacturing stop has been researched but be sure to call ahead to confirm hours of operation, advance ticketing requirements, and other relevant details. Be sure to travel safely by following the CDC guidelines related to COIVD-19.
10 Manufacturing Stops from Holiday Rambler
Cranberry Bog Tour – Harwich, MA
The U.S. is the world’s leading cranberry producer and MA is one of the leading cranberry growing states. Take a scenic drive to the largest organic cranberry bog on Cape Cod. During a 90-minute tour, learn about the 12-month operation of a bog. Before or after the tour, visit the farm stand for all things cranberry – fresh and dried cranberries, cranberry sauces, cranberry bog honey, and cranberry cookbooks.
Daily tours are offered throughout the spring, summer, and fall, reservations are required, and tickets are $15 each.
To experience the local culture, grab a bite to eat at Mooncusser’s Tavern or Brax Landing, which offers waterfront dining on the Saquatucket Harbor. RVers can stay overnight at Adventure Bound Camping Resorts.
UTZ Potato Chips – Hanover, PA
For snack lovers, the Utz Potato Chip Trip is a must. In 1921, William and Salie Utz began making potato chips in their summer kitchen. 100 years later, the company continues to be family managed and has expanded to make a number of other brands, including Bachman, Zapp’s, Dirty, TGI Fridays Snacks, and Good Health.
This free, 30-45-minute self-guided tour lets visitors see (and smell) the process that starts with farm-fresh potatoes and ends with crispy Utz chips. An observation gallery, closed-circuit monitors, and audio program deliver interesting details about the production process. And, of course, the tour ends with a bag of Utz potato chips and a coupon to the factory outlet store – the perfect place to stock up on road-trip snacks.
The tour is open Monday – Thursday but call ahead to confirm the hours since the daily production schedule is subject to change.
Staub’s Landing Restaurant and Pub is nearby and offers lunch and dinner options, including the area’s best burgers and a selection of more than 60 craft beers. RVers can stay overnight at Gettysburg Farm RV Campground.
Maker’s Mark Distillery – Loretto, KY
Visit one of the most picturesque production sites in the country to learn about the history of Maker’s Mark bourbon whisky. Watch the fermentation process, see the charred oak barrels used to age whisky for five to seven years, and don’t miss the bottling area where workers hand-dip the top of each bottle in Maker’s Mark’s signature red wax.
The origin story of Marker’s Mark is relatively new, dating back to 1953. It began when Bill Samuels, Sr. purchased an existing distillery in Loretto, KY, and began making whisky based on his family’s 170-year-old recipe. Maker’s Mark is unusual because it uses red winter wheat in its mash bill instead of rye. And, instead of the American spelling of “whiskey,” Samuels chose “whisky” to pay homage to his Scottish-Irish heritage.
All tours must be booked online in advance and all guests must be 21 years of age or older.
Visit LaGwen Drive In that’s known for its home-made chili sauce, hamburgers, and hand-dipped cones. RVers can stay overnight at Elizabethtown Crossroads Camp.
Louisville Slugger got its start in 1844 when 17-year-old Bud Hillerich played hooky from work to take in a Louisville Eclipse baseball game. When the team’s superstar hitter broke his bat, Hillerich offered to make him a new one. 177 years later and Louisville Slugger remains family owned and proudly produces 1.8 million wood and aluminum bats a year.
The fun begins outside with the world’s largest baseball bat that stands 120 feet tall and is a replica of Babe Ruth’s 34-inch Louisville Slugger. During the factory tour, walk through the production line to see a few of the 22 steps that turn raw wood into a sleek bat. Each visitor walks off with a better understanding of this iconic brand, along with their very own souvenir mini-bat. After the tour, check out the baseball museum that’s dedicated to the game and some of its legends.
Tickets for the museum and factory tour range from $16 to free and reservations are required.
Ford Rouge Factory Tour – Dearborn, MI
The Ford Rouge Factory dates back to 1917 when Henry Ford first began developing the site. His vision was to achieve “a continuous, nonstop process from raw material to finished product.” At its peak in the 1930s, more than 100,000 people worked at the expansive industrial complex, and one new car rolled off the line every 49 seconds. Today, the Rouge Factory is an example of engineering and modern manufacturing coming together to create one of the country’s most popular trucks – the Ford F-150.
The self-guided tour includes two high-tech theater experiences. The Manufacturing Innovation Theater combines “floating” 3D laser projection mapping and exciting behind-the-wheel footage to take visitors from concept to highway. Top off the tour with a visit to the observation deck to see a remarkable display of industry in motion as Ford F-150s are assembled on the plant floor below.
Tickets to the Henry Ford Museum include the Rouge Factory Tour and are currently limited due to a reduced daily capacity. Tickets should be purchased in advance online.
To continue the “Ford experience,” grab lunch at Ford’s Garage that’s designed to look like a 1920s service station with vintage Ford vehicles, gas pumps, and fixtures. RVers can stay overnight at Haas Lake Park RV Campground.
Wisconsin Foamation Cheesehead Factory – Milwaukee, WI
For a “cheesy” factory tour, look no further than Wisconsin. The tour begins with everyone taking a “Wedge of Allegiance” and continues from there with plenty of groan-inducing jokes. From start to finish, see how cheeseheads are made in a small production facility in Milwaukee. On the deluxe tour, everyone can make their own cheesehead or other style of cheese-inspired hat. FYI – cheesehead was originally coined by Chicagoans as a derogatory term to describe Wisconsinites.
Ralph Bruno started the cheesehead craze in 1987. While reupholstering his mother’s couch, he took an extra piece of foam, cut it into a wedge, added holes, and made it the color of American cheese. He then wore it to a Milwaukee Brewers’ baseball game and, based on the attention and interest from fans around him, began making and selling cheeseheads. Today, cheeseheads are known around the world and can be found in various styles – top hats, visors, sombreros, and more!
The tour that includes a cheesehead hat is 45-60 minutes and starts at $25.
Visit Sobelman’s for a true Milwaukee bar/restaurant experience and be sure to take a look at their Bloody Mary offerings. RVers can stay overnight at Wisconsin State Fair RV Park or River Bend RV Resort.
Budweiser Brewery Tour – St. Louis, MO
Adolphus Busch was a German immigrant and U.S. Civil War veteran who joined his father-in-law, Eberhard Anheuser, in the brewery business after serving in the Union Army. In 1876, thanks to Busch and a friend, the brewery introduced a light-colored beer called Budweiser that Americans loved. Before Budweiser, many were drinking heavy, dark ales so a palatable, crisp lager was appreciated. In 1879, the company’s name was changed to Anheuser-Busch Brewing Association, and in 1880 Busch took over as president after Anheuser’s passing. Busch pioneered the use of refrigerated railcars and pasteurization in the brewing industry as part of his efforts to create the first nationally selling beer in the U.S.
Visitors can choose from a number of different tours. The Beermaster Tour lasts approximately 120 minutes and visits exclusive locations on the Anheuser-Busch campus. The Clydesdale VIP Experience lasts approximately 45 minutes and includes a visit to the stables and time with a Clydesdale handler who will share in-depth information about their lifestyle, training regimens, and mannerisms.
Tour tickets range in price, depending on the experience selected. When booking online, note that some tours are for guests 12 years and older while others are open to all ages.
Hammond’s Candies – Denver, CO
10 million – that’s how many candy canes Hammond’s Candies in Denver hand makes each year. In addition to that signature cane-shaped candy, the company also produces chocolate bars, rainbow lollipops, and lemon drops. Take a free, 30-minute tour to see how this company that’s one of the oldest candy manufacturers in the U.S. makes its sweet treats.
Hammond’s Candies was founded by Carl T. Hammond, Sr. who quit high school in 1913 and got a job as a candy maker apprentice. After serving in World War I, Hammond returned to Denver and picked up where he left off in a candy factory. With several years of experience under his belt, he ventured out on his own. Early on, Hammond did everything. He developed the recipes, made the candy, sold it, and handled all the tasks required of a fledging business. Today, the company sells its handmade candies worldwide. In the U.S., its treats can be found in Whole Foods, Nordstrom’s, Dean & Deluca, Cracker Barrel and specialty shops.
Tours run every 30 minutes and online reservations are required to ensure availability.
Avery Island, the location where world-famous TABASCO is made, is unique just like the sauce. The island actually rises above the marshes found along coastal Louisiana and sits atop a deposit of solid rock salt that is believed to be deeper than Mount Everest is high.
The TABASCO tour is self-guided and features nine stops including the TABASCO Museum, Pepper Greenhouse, Barrel Warehouse, and TABASCO Country Store (the bottling line stop is currently closed). The Country Store shouldn’t be missed since visitors can taste a variety of TABASCO products, including Tabasco-flavored ice cream and “Original Red” that’s sold in more than 195 countries and territories. The original recipe was created by Edmund McIlhenny in 1868 and has been used by the McIlhenny family for more than 150 years. Most visitors are surprised to learn that only three ingredients are used in the sauce – aged red peppers, salt, and distilled vinegar. Once the three ingredients are combined, the pepper mash is placed into oak barrels, topped with a layer of salt, stored in the Barrel Warehouse, and aged for three years.
Tickets range from $12.50 to free and the tour is open daily.
Tillamook Creamery – Tillamook, OR
Tillamook Creamery is the largest tourist attraction on the coast of Oregon and one of the most popular in the state. The creamery offers a free, self-guided tour that shares details about life on a dairy farm, allows visitors to watch milk being made into cheese, and, most importantly, provides complimentary samples. For those who would like to learn the secrets behind Tillamook’s extra creamy ice cream, make a reservation for the small group Exclusive Ice Cream Experience. Get a hands-on look, and taste, of how extra creamy Tillamook Ice Cream goes from milk to market.
Tillamook County Creamery Association (TCCA) was founded in 1909 when several small creameries each contributed $10 to start the cooperative to ensure all cheeses made in the Tillamook Valley would be produced with the same high level of quality. Today, the TCCA is owned by almost 80 farming families, and is proud to make award-winning cheese, yogurt, sour cream, ice cream, and butter.
The creamery recommends visiting during the week to see employees working in the facility. Tickets to the Ice Cream Experience range from $15 – 20 for children and adults.
About REV Group, Inc.
REV Group® companies are leading designers and manufacturers of specialty vehicles and related aftermarket parts and services. Our companies serve a diversified customer base, primarily in the United States, through three segments: Fire & Emergency, Commercial, and Recreation. They provide customized vehicle solutions for applications, including essential needs for public services (ambulances, fire apparatus, school buses, and transit buses), commercial infrastructure (terminal trucks and industrial sweepers) and consumer leisure (recreational vehicles). REV’s diverse portfolio is made up of well-established principal vehicle brands, including many of the most recognizable names within their industry. Several of our brands pioneered their specialty vehicle product categories and date back more than 50 years. REV Group trades on the NYSE under the symbol REVG. Investors-REVG