Tag Archives: hauling

7 Stages of RV Travel – Our First Big Drive

DisconnectedSeveral people have asked: What it’s like to drive this 35-foot long fifth wheel trailer? Reflecting upon my first driving experience, I’ve detected at least 7 specific emotional “stages”, described below.

Stage 1 – Exhaustion: It took a Herculean effort to get through our last week in the house. The “perfect storm” of new RV, packing for the trip, preparing for house-sitters, and dealing with 170 boxes from our China shipment proved to be overwhelming. There was a lot of unpacking/repacking, along with numerous trips from basement to attic and house to RV. On our last night, Jen was up until 3:30PM with the final push. Needless to say, we were both pretty foggy… not ideal such a momentous launch.

Stage 2 – Trepidation: The moment of loading into the truck was exciting, but also filled with many questions: Have we done enough practice driving? Will we be able to avoid low overpasses? Will our tires hold up under all of the gear we loaded in? Will our fuel be sufficient to get us from one diesel station to the next? Will we get stuck in a bad situation, like trying to do a K-turn in front of a long string of angry commuters? All of these questions were swirling around in my mind as I smiled boldly for the family selfie on the front lawn. Were we really this insane?

Stage 3 – Fear: Not a minute into our drive on the highway with the big rig, and a huge piece of scrap metal (looked like aluminum siding) appeared in the middle of the road. With no way to swerve out of the way, I knuckled down and drove straight over it. The moment of relief that followed, however, was short-lived, as my next glance at the dashboard was one of sheer terror: Trailer Disconnected. What?? Disconnected!!

Thinking it through, I realized that the metal must have dislodged the cable that sends power to the trailer (it’s near impossible for the trailer to accidentally unhitch). Still in crisis mode and without trailer lights or power brakes, I scanned the road frantically for a place to pull over. Unfortunately, we were in the middle of Hartford, which had few good options (remember that K-turn question?). Knuckling down again, we crawled our way through the city, across the Connecticut River, and into East Hartford, where I knew there’d be plenty of space to maneuver at the exit for Cabelas and the UCONN football stadium. Upon inspection, our suspicion about the dislodged cable was true, and we seemed to have made it through the ordeal just shaken, but unscathed. Without another thought, we plugged our trailer back in and resumed our course. Crisis averted.

Stage 4 – Uncertainty: Our first destination was the Travel America truckstop near Willington, CT. I wanted to weigh our rig on a CAT truck scale to see if we were within the limits of our towing capacity. Our combined vehicle weight turned out to be 20,000 lbs, which prompted me to start second guessing our earlier calculations (and the 16K hitch). After a few calls to Ford’s customer service line, we determined that all the numbers – axel ratios, towing capacity, trailer loads – were within limits. Re-assured once again, we were soon back on the road.

Stage 5 – Acceptance: Routes 84 (CT) and 90 (MA) had a good bit of traffic, so although I was feeling better about our weights, I also had to pay close attention to the road. In many ways it felt like being a new driver again, slowing down for every bump and hyperaware of each sway. I cursed all of those RV salesmen who told me that hauling a fifth-wheel was so easy that I might even “forget that I was pulling anything”. Ha, what a load of bull. Still, the more I inched along in what was now becoming rush hour traffic, the more settled I felt behind the wheel. I was making my way around the greater Boston area, and I hadn’t wrecked it yet.     

Stage 6 – Excitement: It wasn’t until we made it through Massachusetts that I actually started to enjoy the ride. At the NH border, the song “Happy” came on the radio and we all started butt-dancing and singing along. The traffic had thinned out, the roads widened and improved, and we were zipping right along. For the first time that day, I appreciated the gorgeous New England scenery of bright blues, deep greens, and late-summer sun. A few other good highway tunes came on – Going Mobile by the Who and Roadhouse Blues by the Doors –  which added to the thrill. We were finally making it happen.

Stage 7 – Relief: Rolling into that KOA Campground, I could feel my back muscles relax. It had been just a 4 hour drive, but it felt like full day’s journey. While the campground (just across the border in Maine) was little more than a stopover, it felt nice to be nestled amongst the tall pines and listen to the sounds of nature. Evening gave us time to test more of the systems and appreciate those creature comforts that we’ve hauled all this way (OK, I admit it. This really is glamping, not camping). Comforted by my home on wheels, I fell quickly to sleep. It was a successful first day of towing… a success that I hope to repeat many times over this year.

Being a truck owner again

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July 30, 2014   This isn’t my first time owning a truck. Those of you who knew me way-back-when may remember “Jake”, my 1981 white Ford F150 that I drove while I lived in Atlanta. Jake used to belong to my great-Aunt Alice before I took the wheel and Jake was about as basic a vehicle as you could get – I’m talking no radio even. Despite that, we made a good (well, interesting, at least) pair cruising down Peachtree Road! And now, here I am again (as a co-owner this time) with a Ford truck in the driveway.

What a process this has been – truck-buying, I mean. I thought this might be a pretty simple task, one we could check off of our to-do list right away but….not so much. I’ll give credit right up front though – Rob did the majority of the legwork on this task. And we’re finally done – we now have a truck that can safely pull a big RV all over the country!

We looked at Chevys, Fords, Dodges and, as expected, each had their pluses and minuses. We took test drives, asked tons of questions (that clearly showed our inexperience with all things associated with hauling an RV), spent time with numerous salespeople, and surfed the web endlessly for the perfect truck. We read up on what to look for in a tow vehicle, we talked to RV salespeople, and we surfed the web some more. Who knew all the things that had to be considered? Used vs new, long bed vs. standard, crew cab vs. extended cab, diesel vs. gas, and so on. And the other thing we had to keep in mind was resale – because we’re planning on selling the truck next summer and we’re really hoping for it to hold it’s value (alas, our budget counts on it). So, that meant also considering what other people want to buy so that we can sell it quickly and for a good price.

Who knew that once we finally honed in on what we wanted, it wouldn’t be available on this side of the country? Argh. But it all turned out alright in the end and we now have a shiny, silver 2013 Ford F250 Super Duty diesel truck. Crew cab (which means the boys have a full back seat) and with spiffy running boards so that we can actually get into it without looking ridiculous.

So now we’re working on naming this  beauty of a truck b/c every big truck should have a name, right? And Rob has come through again – two good suggestions. “Burl” (or Burly) is option #1. Try to follow along while I explain…If you’ve ever watched the claymation TV Christmas special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, you may remember a certain song sung by folksinger, Burl Ives. No, not ‘Holly Jolly Christmas’ – but one much more fitting for our situation… ‘Silver and Gold’.  Get it?! The truck is silver and our last name is Gold so it works, right?

Ok, so here’s choice #2.. “Vin” (or Vinnie) because it’s a diesel truck so it’s like calling it Vin Diesel, and he’s a truckish kind of dude, right?

We haven’t presented these options to the boys yet and we haven’t gotten their suggestions (which I’m sure they’ll have) so who knows what this great, silver, beast of a truck will finally be called. Feel free to give us some suggestions and I’ll keep you posted on the final decision.  🙂

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Our new truck – yet to be named