Grey nomad Andrea Quinn couldn’t have been happier as she and husband Harry cruised along in the giant Fifth Wheeler they had bought just a few hours earlier … but that was before her serenity was shattered and a medical drama put her abruptly in the driver’s seat!
The couple had travelled to the New South Wales Central Coast to pick up their new rig and were heading south through Sydney when Harry – a former bus driver well used to handling heavy vehicles – began to feel rather unwell.
“Harry was beginning to feel much worse but he carried on though through the heavy traffic not having any choice,” said Andrea. “As we pulled clear of the southern suburbs he finally pulled over onto the shoulder and asked me to drive as he couldn’t continue … I nearly fainted!”
Luckily, Andrea had some experience, having previously practiced towing – at Harry’s insistence – both their previous rigs, a 17’ pop-top caravan, and their recently sold 25’ Jayco.
While Andrea had eventually felt confident with the 25’van, the Fifth Wheeler was another proposition altogether.
“I really had no choice as we were 300 kilometres from home and there was no van park anywhere near,” said Andrea. “We needed to get home, and what if Harry was having a heart attack or something really serious!”
Andrea says the fact that Harry had complete faith that she could get them home gave her real belief in herself.
“So, with a sense of bravado and a rapidly beating heart I got into the driver’s seat,” she said. “I cautiously pulled out onto the road … our BT50 is a manual drive and I slowly bumped up the speed and the gears and before you know it I was cruising along at 85km/h!”
After passing Wollongong and stopping at traffic lights, Andrea’s confidence grew.
“I pulled into the rest area at Kiama and got some admiring looks from two grey nomad couples,” she said. “Feeling quite clever I drove through traffic and all the way down the south coast to Mossy Point … the Fifth Wheeler was so easy to handle it felt like one big vehicle and I was hardly aware I was dragging something behind.”
Nonetheless, Andrea was delighted when they safely arrived home and she thanked her lucky stars that Harry had insisted she got used to towing a caravan in case of emergency. She says she will now continue to drive the Fifth Wheeler to keep her hand in … and her confidence up.
And what about Harry’s health?
“Oh, he was not seriously ill but was just knocked about by a 48-hour virus which has not recurred,” said Andrea. “But at least we are now both confident that if one of us does get sick the other one can take over and this gives us peace of mind.”
This incident was a few years ago now, and the couple went on to enjoy many amazing adventures in the rig before selling it, but Andrea will never forget her baptism of fire behind the wheel of a Fifth Wheeler.
* Have you ever had to take over driving duties in an emergency? Would you feel confident if you had to? Email us here to share your thoughts?