My First Time Towing A Fifth Wheel

By:  Emily Rohrer

7th Dec, 16


Who remembers the very first time they drove an RV?

Just over two years ago, I survived my first turn in the driver's seat — and to my great relief, so did everybody with me, including my husband, our younger son, and our dog.

Severe white-knuckling and breath-holding were involved, but nobody lost their life, lunch, or side-view mirror. Not even that one guy who probably had to change his pants after I merged in front of his teensy little car at a regrettably close distance.

He may have required several sessions with a therapist. 

If that guy is reading this: I extend my sincerest apologies to you, sir. I had never towed so much as a utility trailer before, and was made doubly nervous by a heavy traffic back-up we'd unexpectedly encountered at that complicated highway interchange in Dallas. I'm so thankful I didn't actually hit you!

I had been hesitant and fearful of taking the wheel of even just our truck, a 2012 Chevy Silverado 3500, as it was the largest vehicle - and only second truck - I'd ever had reason to drive. It had six tires for cryin' out loud! The first time I finally drove it solo was more than a month after we'd bought it, but I'd done some practicing with my very patient husband, Tim, in the passenger seat. 

I knew I could do it, but I really didn't want to do it, and then we sold our other two vehicles, so I absolutely had to do it. The good news? All went well, but we got a lot of laughs out of the fact that my destination that day just happened to be a hospital!

When it came to the idea of driving the truck with our 38-foot 5th wheel (a 2008 Heartland Bighorn 3670RL) attached, I was even more apprehensive. That's 10 tires, nearly 13 tons, and about 55 feet of potential mayhem.

But Tim and I were in this for a long-term, full-time adventure, and I knew it was unfair of me to rely on him to do all the driving for us. Plus, I'd been a military wife for more than 20 years, and knew a thing or two about the importance of putting fears aside to learn how to do "scary" things for myself. So…

  • Tim, who had towing experience, explained to me verbally how to pull the fifth wheel.
  • I read instructions and tips on how to do it.
  • I practiced, but only briefly, from the safety of a camping loop in a state park.
  • I even dug out some of our sons' old toy trucks, taped an intersection on the guest room floor, and pushed those things around corners over and over again, so that I could understand from a bird's eye view how a trailer takes a turn.
Our sons’ Legos and Hot Wheels provided valuable visual learning.

And all those things came together in November 2014, on our return to Texas from a camping trip in Oklahoma. I climbed into the driver's seat, adjusted the mirrors, and took a 2-hour shift behind the wheel, ending just south of Dallas.

I definitely learned my lesson during that drive: I should have practiced maneuvering our tow vehicle/RV combo a lot more, in uncrowded areas, before I hit the road for real.

But hey, when I was done, I pulled smoothly off Exit 386 from I-35, and parked us right. next. to a STARSHIPTa-daaaaaaa!

Starship Pegasus, formerly a restaurant in Italy, TX, just south of Dallas. Based on reports at http://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/10087, it was open from 2004-2006. Obviously, you can still park there!

Emily Rohrer

Emily Rohrer


Own Less, Do More

Goodbye suburbia. Hello, 2008 Heartland Bighorn! Rolling by the seats of our pants, searching for home.