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Old 11-04-2013, 09:05 AM   #1
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NewB Towing Anxieties

Ok, so I have 1.5 weeks until pickup of my 30' AS.

I am in the process of creating a number of checklists (kinda like my ol' dad uses when flying) to keep me and the wife straight.

I am a cautious driver...in my 14 years of driving I have not had a single accident - avoided many - lived in philly, northern VA, southwestern VA, and Birmingham, AL.

I have towed my 17 foot bass boat for 5 years now.

Backing it was tricky to get used to - single axel - its hyper-responsive to turns, tracks like crap. As such I am not too worried about backing...no more than any reasonable person would be...I will be taking my time, will rely on wife, get a bakup camera for the AS, and again, inspect the area, TAKE MY TIME...I dont want to make this thread too much about backing as this is not where most of my anxiety lies (but if you have some things to say about backing, by all means, I am aware of the marital stress about communicating that way )

My real "anxiety" (I put it in quotes as it is not that dramatic or pronounced, rather I suppose just some healthy anxiety on the subject) lies in manuevering the AS when needing to stop somewhere unknown...say gas stations, parking lots.

Recall this one time (and I stress *ONE TIME*) that I pulled into a cracker barrel with my bass boat and pulled back into an area of an empty parking lot that I thought had an exit....ended up trapping myself in (I know, STOOOOPID) and then having to unhook - turn trailer around by hand (it is obviously quite light and this was flat pavement) then leave....very frustrating.

Of course pulling a 30 footer I will be in no way as thoughtless as that (I hope) - but my anxiety lies in this basic concept...getting a feel about where I should and should not pull into...thinking about things like inclines that I would bottom out...or looking at the place and knowin that getting in and out would be too questionable...

I have read that many many insurance claims take place in gas stations where folks pull out and graze their trailer/moho against those barriers or something like that....im less worried about that because I think I know how to easily prevent that sort of mistake....

I think my purpose of this thread is a bit vague as I continue to ramble on....but largely I suppose it has to do with the fact that I am so new to towing such a larger object...

I have recieved tons of great advice on this site already on this subject and feel more confident and will be appropriately cautious...its not that I am the type once on the highway to have "white knuckles" .....that is not for some reason as much what I am worried about...its the thoughts of tighter spaces that worry me...

Any useful advice appreciated....

I am really excited about pickin up soon...my excitement and confidence greatly outweight my anxieties luckily but I figure asking for some more pointers on this front could prove helpful both substantively and reducing any bits of unhealthy anxiety.

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Old 11-04-2013, 10:01 AM   #2
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I think you know, but a few

Stay in the middle of your lane.

Leave lots of space to the car in front.

Swing corners wide, watching you RH mirror for wheel/curb clearance.

Never, ever back up without a spotter, watching top and bottom.

Move bottom of steering wheel the direction you want back of trailer to move.

Use a check list when hooking up, and check/adjust brakes as you pull away.

Back into same horizontal angle, and set vertical angle (use small level) and height to match truck receiver to your ProPride hitch and it'll slip right in.

Drive defensively.
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Old 11-04-2013, 10:07 AM   #3
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Someone on here once said that you have to have a plan to get out before you go in; they may have been talking about military operations of course but it's good advice and applies to getting your Airstream into (and out of) any relatively tight space, gas station, parking lot, whatever.

Getting that plan sorted might even involve stopping (in a safe place) before entering the area and going to have a look on foot. Although I've not had to do that I have aborted entering places, gas stations usually, when I don't see a suitable exit route. The killer at a gas station is when you know you have room to get out and then some idiot goes and parks in front of the pay kiosk and blocks your turn. That's not too critical because they won't be there forever, but it can be frustrating.

I stopped at a diner in Meridian in Mississippi a few years back and parked safely in the corner of the lot, backing in, keeping out of the way of other customers and leaving a clear route out. Of course, we were in the diner eating when an old guy in a white pick-up came into the lot, turned towards the deserted corner where I was parked and promptly backed into a space in front of me. He wasn't actually preventing me from leaving but my straight run out now involved a tight turn. Hoping the guy was watching, I left that lot as fast as I could and getting as close to the pick-up as I dare; it would have been nice to see him panic a little.

You'll get into some tight situations but the key is not to panic and be patient; it's amazing how quickly people will move out of your way in a gas station when you turn 30' of Airstream towards them.
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Old 11-04-2013, 10:11 AM   #4
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Just my experience and my experience only plus real life situations shared by others:

It's all about pre-plan, plan and plan your trips well in advance.

Division of labor btw you and wife and no yelling on each other when mistakes show up.

Accept mistakes fast, learn from them and document to avoid more of same mess.

Try and carry two-way radio (his/hers) during trips and leave power/vol on all the time for 10 - 20 trips & see how it goes when pulling in & out of all stops and starts.

Avoid unplanned gas / restroom stops - Use AS bathroom for kid's #1&2 emergencies.

Google map (zoom on entrance & exit) most stops and park on the street if not sure & walk in.

If feasible, try (temp or permanent) auxiliary gas tank to reduce desperate gas stops and use Flying Js or equivalents with RV drive thru set up.

Once bathroom, food and gas situations are under control, driver's nerves tend to be under control as well hence less prone to obvious mistakes.

If you get to a campground late and dark, staying happy in the parking lot overnight is not the end of the road. After couple of trips, we become more perfect at night backing up.

Remember, safety is not your partner's responsibility but just a free help/labor so no force, otherwise, more & more uncontrolled mistakes. I didn't fully grasp that till lately. Happy trail and see you at Topsail (3 sites away from you)
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Old 11-04-2013, 10:23 AM   #5
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the gas station I most often use down the road has an incline on one entrance that is I presume too steep....I once saw this person in a Uhaul try going up this bit of a hill (this is btw a shell station on the corner of columbiana and highway 31 in hoover, AL if you are local and know it)...the tonge of the trailer just absolutely dug into the concrete....
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Old 11-04-2013, 10:31 AM   #6
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all signs are still a go for top sail...looking good...see you there! good advice so far about (if in doubt) even stopping, geting out, and inspecting on foot...

I am a planner...I think I will just get to know my fuel use and plan using smart phone fuel stops and thus no surprises as best I can....and when unable just take my time and be sure before pulling in...

ok, to use the psychology terminology (I carpool to work with two clinical psychologists that treat PTSD) - I am "habituating" to the idea here folks
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Old 11-04-2013, 10:45 AM   #7
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All Alone and backing up

I'm a freewheeler - and I've had to invent a few tricks to back up without help. My new tow vehicle (Ford F-150 ecoboost) has a backup camera, which took me about 10 seconds to fall in love with when it came to hitching up - especially after I found out it has two zooms and guideline options. I like it so much, that I MUST have one for "Eddie" the Airstream.

HOWEVER all that aside, let me give you two techniques I use to back up. One is an empty dish washing detergent bottle. Fill with water, and DRAW a line from your back drivers side wheel to where you want that wheel to end up when you're parked. It will quickly get you to see whether you're going to jackknife because you haven't pulled forward far enough - and it should help you avoid obstacles on the far side of the trailer - like trash cans, picnic tables, etc.

A couple of weeks ago when I went to Ohio I stayed in a Western Branch state park that was DEAD dark when I pulled in and tried to park. Plus half of their spaces require a street side turn to get into... grrrh! I stopped saying bad words and in a rare flash of brilliance used flashlights instead of a water stream. I laid them down in the grass pointing forward to my rear streetside wheel but allowed an extra foot or so because I wanted to ride next to the lights, not over them. No problem... got in with one attempt. But DARN, the spot was so shallow that parking the tow vehicle and keeping the wheels on the asphalt (camp requirement) was almost impossible. This is a beautiful park but if you go there with a 30 footer, reserve one of the few long pull through sites!

Side note, I raked the tire marks out and threw down some winter rye & fescue after I pulled off. I carry about 5 lbs of grass seed with me. I hate muddy spots where people have put down mats for so long that not a sprig of grass remains. Often I stay on a site for 28 days - and get a good little crop going before I leave. It's a pay it forward thing I guess.

As far as towing.... Practice in an empty parking lot of a big store or factory that's closed. Don't get over confident but don't be too fearful either. Gas stations. I'd rather carry a Jerry Can of extra fuel than get trapped in another questionable gas station. Generally WAWA and RACETRACK to a good job for gassers, but truck stops are the safer bet for diesel trucks. I LOVE to see a station with 16 pumps on a big CORNER intersection. It's easy to fill your tank before you hitch up... and in your situation you CAN unhitch and leave one spouse to guard the Airstream while the other gets gas, in mine, whither I go, the Airstream follows.... so when in doubt I have to find another station.

I loved the old Chevy Silverado diesel - but they do hide diesel fuel in the darnedest places. If there is NO sign saying diesel... assume there is NO diesel. If you have two islands... look for the third one between the two with two light poles, two trash cans, a soda machine and one lonely diesel pump. In big stations with 12 or more pumps, diesel will normally only be available on the two end pumps... Sometimes though it's in a completely separate location which is never marked. I've found them behind gas stations... 100 feet down the road in a gravel parking lot, or around the corner. And SOME truck stops do NOT want you using the high capacity semi pumps (which don't take credit cards) they have other pumps for RV's often off to the side somewhere.

(I always ask any guy with 9 or fewer teeth where to find the diesel pumps... for some reason I always assume they're locals.)

Paula
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Old 11-04-2013, 10:51 AM   #8
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Don't sweat it. You'll do fine.
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Old 11-04-2013, 11:02 AM   #9
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My towing experience prior to the airstream was with a bass boat as well. In many ways you will find that the AS is easier to maneuver. We had a basic checklist when we started out and have refined it over time. When entering a gas station we usually have to stop before entering so my Wife can shut off the pilot light to the fridge. I use this time to evaluate how I will get in and especially how I will get out. We have a pair of radios so Lisa can talk me in when backing. Also, I always have the window down so I can hear her if the radio should fail for some reason. (cell phones work to but I get concerned that there might be some lag time) Anytime Im backing in, I get out and check out the area. That way I am better able to visualize what I'm doing. Someone mentioned putting you hand at the six o'clock position and turning to the direction you want the trailer to go. I started doing this a couple of years ago and I won't do it any other way. Another thing is that we have a deal that if either of us thinks or senses that something isn't right, we stop, check it out and resolve it to both of our satisfaction. I'd rather take an extra five minutes than have an accident or a very expensive repair.

Take your time. Don't be in a hurry. Drive defensively. Remember that it does get easier with a little experience.
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Old 11-04-2013, 11:08 AM   #10
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don't let the kids get out when moving the trailer. they won't understand how the trailer swings.

watch the path of the tail as it swings out.signs are often mounted just behind a curb.

watch for overhead tree branches since the tree canopy well past curbs and only seem to get trimmed up to about 8' high.

practice your parking signal codes'. "move it more over there" is not acceptable.
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Old 11-04-2013, 11:10 AM   #11
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I have seen this discussed before in another thread...and pardon me for being a tad slow.. even a dullard....but I am not entirely sure I totally grasp the "draw a line" point...please elaborate or restate perhaps....somehow it is not clicking and this is the second time I have seen a version of it....
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Old 11-04-2013, 11:19 AM   #12
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"watch the path of the tail as it swings out."

With the bass boat, you had no lengthy butt sticking out to swing on an outside turn and hit things when pulling away from the obstacle...is there a rule of thumb here...like when the obstacle is next to your wheels (or where) that the tail of the trailer will not swing out and hit the object as pulling away from it? Hopefully that makes sense...

Yes, I have heard that form others about the bass boat in various ways being more tricky...I am a quick learner, and though it did not take me long, it always is tedius backing my boat into a tight landing with two docks boarding fairly close...there is a landing on a local lake that is tight and after having to do that a bunch of times I am good with backing...and probably the most challenging was backing my boat into the two car garage with car parked in other spot and my driveway is on a steep grade...ill be careful with backing but feel ready and less anxious to take my time and tackle that learning curve...

It is otherwise unknown gas stations, restaurants, or other parking lots that in my mind conjure up some mild anxiety producing thoughts....had a weird dream a couple weeks ago of backing into a lot, then there was no way out...had to tediously back out the same way I came in with alot of people pissed off...was kinda like the RV version of a dream where you are naked standing in front of a bunch of people..have not had that dream however...
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Old 11-04-2013, 11:25 AM   #13
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Go to a big empty parking lot and practice backing the trailer as this is a important thing to learn and you must feel comfortable when doing this.It is easy if you just take your time and relax.
A long trailer is easier to back than a short trailer (bass boat)if you take your time and don't get flustered.
Make sure that you have adequate large side mirrors on your tow vehicle this is a must before you practice.
A set of walkie talkies may help when backing into a wooded campsite.
Whenever you are puling into a place of business scan for a escape route or exit as nothing is worse for a newbe than coming to a dead end and having to back around a building.But as you learn to control your backup your confidence will increase along with your ability and it will become second nature.
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Old 11-04-2013, 11:31 AM   #14
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your butt always sticks out more than you think, lol. i don't know if there is a method to calculate but with your helper guiding you, stop the trailer when it has the most swing and look. that overhang gives me a lot of room to u-turn if i can hang over the curb behind me.
i have about 10' from tires to bumper.

try to do sharp turns when at least rolling slightly. it makes it easier for the tires to squirm sideways.
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