GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The first thing I noticed about the Diplomat model RV built in Indiana by Monaco Coach was the mirrors. They were bigger than my head.
The Diplomat is not the biggest recreational vehicle you can take on the road, but it’s big enough: 43 feet long, 53,000 pounds, 8 feet 4 inches wide. And two generators. I have only driven one thing bigger: a U.S. Air Force Thunderbird F-16. But you can’t drive one of those on the highway.
My motor coach was Chad Neff at American RV, located just east of US-131 off 76th Street. His instructions were simple: sit down, buckle up, push in the air brake knob, and don’t run into anything. To assist in that cause, he showed me the sweet spot on the dash board: keep the lines on the road lined up with that spot to the left of the instrument panel, and you’re in the middle of your lane. Good to know.
I didn’t do anything to embarrass myself or get arrested, which is setting the bar a little low.
The experience is hard to describe: It’s easy, but very different. When I drive my minivan, I don’t have to make wide turns, because the rear of the vehicle isn’t 35 feet behind me. And I was sitting forward of the front axle, so turns were very weird for another reason entirely.
Using the passing lane on US-131 was interesting. We had a bit of a side wind that I could feel a little bit in the handling, so I paid special attention when I passed semis. Well, you should pay special attention anytime you pass a semi.
I could have gotten to Tennessee on a tank, but I have a job, and a family, and a dog. All of which would have fit comfortably in this Diplomat.
(Video shot and edited by James Baetens.)