HAVE A GOOD CO-PILOT
The sandstone formations in Utah's Monument Valley are stunning, but the reality is that you'll drive through sections of road that are monotonous and-thankfully-free of gusting winds. During these parts of the journey a good co-pilot is essential. The co-pilot's job is to keep the music playing and the driver alert with interesting conversation. The co-pilot can also ease lane changes when glare keeps the driver from adequately seeing out of the sideview mirrors.

When you first operate a large RV, you'll be on guard as you attempt to keep the vehicle in one lane and sustain a decent speed. The loose and imprecise steering recalls those 1950s TV shows in which a character saws the steering wheel back and forth while the view out the back indicates a straight road. Driving an RV can feel the same way, especially in the beginning. Focus is required to drive smoothly enough that few passengers will complain, which leads us to another suggestion.

DON'T GET COCKY
When our foot wasn't pressing the gas pedal to the floor trying to climb a hill, our speed ranged from 55 to 80 mph. After some smooth cruising, it's easy to become cocky about your driving skills. Maybe your attention will wander, or you'll start to accelerate too quickly on a stretch of road with a 75-mph speed limit. This always seemed the moment when a strong gust of wind sent the top-heavy RV into the next lane or onto the shoulder-karma, maybe? Needless to say, our three drivers completed the trip with more respect for the challenges facing other RV owners and big-rig truck drivers.

On our way back to California from the Grand Canyon, we encountered an older couple from San Diego in a 40-foot RV heading toward that famous site. We were humbled once we noticed they were also towing a first-generation Saturn Vue SUV, effectively lengthening their RV to more than 50 feet. They lived in the RV for many months in 2009, reflecting its potential function as a movable second house.

With seven people onboard, we didn't sleep overnight in our RV, but most of us had no problem falling asleep on the full-length bed for a quick nap after a 3-5-hour driving shift.

TAKE IT EASY
Just because you think the RV can handle a simple right turn at 20 mph doesn't mean you should try it. In congested city and suburban areas, drive at a slower, yet still safe, speed. Other drivers can move around you. Besides, you'll probably want to avoid propelling an unsecured passenger from one side of the RV to the other.