When a Simple RV Maneuver on a City Street Goes Horribly Wrong

A 3 a.m. alternate side parking move ends in serious carnage.

Los Angeles Times
Gina Ferazzi—LA Times via Getty Images

Last night, I destroyed the Thor. Not completely destroyed. It still ran perfectly well, it still provided shelter for the most part. All three of the wide-screen TVs were operable. But the event itself was most certainly one of worst moments in the shared history of alternate side parking and recreational vehicles.

The park in Queens I'd found that evening has an alternate side time prohibition from 12 a.m. to 3 a.m., so I set my iPhone alarm for 2:45 a.m. to switch sides and land that primo spot the following night. I liked this park. It's leafy and quiet and seems pretty safe. I wanted to set up camp alongside a line of flowering honey locust trees and watch the hummingbirds.

So when the alarm went off, wearing only my driving shorts, I fired up the Thor's mighty Triton, slipped it into D, and eased the coach forward, turning slightly left into the street. Here's where the problems begin. I failed to realize that the furled awning running the entire length of the right side has a mechanical extender that wasn't quite tucked in flush to the side of the RV. As the coach rotated into the street, the extender caught a light post—way, way up, 11 feet in the air. I thought I heard a noise. That couldn't be me, I reckoned. But I was delusional. Of course it was me. It was 2:45 in the morning; no one else was awake. 

A little more throttle, and in just a couple seconds the entire extender arm, along with the electric motor that powers it, and the majority of the massive and quickly unspooling awning—were torn from the side of the vehicle. Around 300 pounds of polyurethane and canvas spilled loudly onto the sidewalk, blotting out the street light coming into the right side window.

Yeah. It was me. 

This Thor is the smallest of the big boys, a Class A. It is also, as I've mentioned, fresh off the factory line at Thor Motor Coach in Indiana. It is 25’ 2” long. In addition to the Ford engine, refrigerator, three widescreen TVs, microwave, shower, toilet, and 30-amp generator all all the bells and whistles that powers, it also has a magnificent electrically-operated side awning that extends 7 feet or more from the side of the coach, offering protection from a blazing afternoon sun.

I slipped on a pair of pants and some sneakers and went outside to assess the damage. It was severe. The awning, which is anchored to the top edge of the RV, had unfurled onto the street and the sidewalk and would need to be re-rolled. I gathered the pieces of the extender arm and tossed them onto the floor of the Thor.

For the next two hours, I wrestled with the awning. After contemplating cutting it off the roof and stuffing it into the living room, I ultimately climbed to the top of the towering roof with three rolls of Gorilla tape and gathered the awning like a waterlogged sail onto the roof. Muscling it into something like a roll, I used all three rolls of tape securing it to the rooftop.

What a mess.  

I really love this Thor. It is tall, roomy, efficient, handsome, understandable, and—under almost every condition—easily maneuverable. Exhausted, I sat on the roof as the sun came up over the locust trees, and a tremendous sadness swept over me. The awning, a simple instrument meant to make my life just a little more pleasant, was destroyed. And I did it, wearing my underpants, driving carelessly just to get a good parking spot.

It's no way to treat an RV. If this happens to you (and I hope it never does) check out GoRVing.com to find a local dealer that can repair the mess you've made and get you back on the road.