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Old 09-07-2012, 05:06 PM   #1
1 Rivet Member
Los Angeles , California
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Posts: 6
Oh Know! The reality of backing up, and driving, and parking

I was so excited about the reality of an AS and then it hit us like a rock on the windshield: driving, backing up, parking (leveling, etc.) would be an everyday reality and I wanted to ask the forum what the learning curve is for this "reality" and how time intensive the process of parking and setting up REALLY is ...

Welcome also are funny stories from the road, and from the learning curve.

Also, how do you deal with difficult parking situations, do you typically "scout" lots before you pull in, or ???


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Old 09-07-2012, 05:16 PM   #2
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1970 23' Safari
Columbia Falls , Montana
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Practice makes perfect. Hubby had no learning curve, but towing her at first always turned me into a ball of nerves. Now, I can pull her through the coffee hut's drive thru and back her into our garage with only inches to spare!

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Old 09-07-2012, 05:20 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by MTsafari View Post
Practice makes perfect. Hubby had no learning curve, but towing her at first always turned me into a ball of nerves. Now, I can pull her through the coffee hut's drive thru and back her into our garage with only inches to spare!
You are my hero!
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Old 09-07-2012, 05:21 PM   #4
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1966 24' Tradewind
Placerville , California
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Yup, it's a learning curve. Learn the basics then practice, practice, Practice. I've towed many trailer for almost 60 years (and watched my dad with our family travel trailer) and I can tell you that towing IS easier than backing up the rig. I find that is much easier to back up a long trailer than a short one. Actually once you begin the experience you'll wonder why it was so scary to think about. My first rule is...'Take your time'.

Neil and Lynn Holman
FreshAir #12407

Kirk Creek, Big Sur, Ca. coast.

1966 Trade Wind

1971 Buick Centurion convertible
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Old 09-07-2012, 05:36 PM   #5
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1972 31' Sovereign
Lexington , Minnesota
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We definitely scout the gas stations for easy access in and out. It's no fun to get in there and get trapped by others or have to back out. Hubby can put any trailer anywhere on a dime; me not so much. I can definitely drive it anywhere, though, even through those **** awful construction zones and Chicago rush hour. I need to practice backing.....

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Old 09-07-2012, 06:25 PM   #6
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1987 32' Excella
Knoxville , Tennessee
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Not as big a deal as you might want to make it. Over nighting when we are traveling we seldon even unhook. Most places have pull throughs. I takes maybe an hour to check in, scout out a site, back in, un hook, and hook the water and electric, cool down the trailer, walk the dog, etc. Could probably do most of it in 15 min on a good site if rushed, but I do not like to rush. Leveling with a set of Links blocks and the jack. I leave the big thing (hitch receiver) on the back of the truck for the duration of a trip. Actually it is on there now and we are at home. I do not do really difficult sites very often.

Not sure the learning curve or when I became "learned". Still learning after 6 years with the Airstream and 30 with a popup. Go on some short trips. Join WBCCI and go on a couple weekend rallies. Watch other folks. Talk to them (When they are not hitching or unhitching). Folks in their late 70's go on the caravans and do fine. Got to learn to do anything you do. Airstreaming is one of the easier things. It took me longer to be comfortable putting the awning up and down than it did to hitch and unhitch.
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Old 09-07-2012, 06:53 PM   #7
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1988 32' Excella
Robbinsville , New Jersey
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How long to setup and break down depends on how involved you make it. Could be 5 minuets in a drive through stop find out your already level, hook up electric, lower rear stabilizers an your done. Could be back into site try to level the trailer for an hour, get unhooked, lower all the stabilizers, put out a rug, the awnings, hook up water, electric, sewer, cable or satellite dish, lawn furniture, bikes, ect., for a total of over 5 hours.

Backing up and parking well some people take longer then others, for backing up practice find a large empty parking lot to practice, a rope on the ground to follow with the tires can be a good guide.
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Old 09-07-2012, 07:21 PM   #8
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Cedaredge , Colorado
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Best advice is practice. And don't pull in a 11 pm with you lights shining and spend 20 min trying to back in while blinding your neighbors..

Yep some guy at Zion did this to me last year. I finally went out and asked him to turn his head lights off. And it was a smaller 5 th wheel. He needed plenty of practice and I guess he decided to do it at 11 pm in the dark, in the camp ground..

Find a parking lot and put out cones or friends. Practice straight and angle backing up. it won't take to long to get the hang of it..

May you have at least one sunny day, and a soft chair to sit in..

2008 5.7 L V8 Sequoia
AIR # 31243
WBCCI # 6987
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Old 09-08-2012, 12:29 AM   #9
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Los Angeles , California
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Thanks to everyone. It is helpful to read that it is a matter of practice. The local dealer also suggested that we take our practice to a parking lot and really figure it out. I should know that considering I drove a 25ft stepvan through LA for my last business, and by the time I was done could parallel park with only an inch at the front and back. Buuuuuut a stepvan is prolly a lot easier to park than a truck and trailer who each have minds of their own
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Old 09-08-2012, 12:42 AM   #10
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1976 31' Sovereign
Bothell , Washington
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My suggestion is this: don't be afraid to get out and walk around the TV and TT when you are part of the way backed into a site, even if people are waiting. Hop on out and make sure you are getting the trailer where you envision that you want it to be.
Did you want fries with that?
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Old 09-08-2012, 07:45 AM   #11
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Fenton , Missouri
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One other piece of advice is to watch out for too much help. My wife has always been my parking helper and I even equipped her with a radio so that we didn't have to yell at each other or have the wildly waving hands.

My only mishap was at a WBCCI rally where one of the well meaning attendees came over to help me back into a site. Well he stood by my door (and I told my wife to stay in the car) and was talking to me telling me everything was okay as I pivoted into the site. Unfortunately standing by my door drew my attention to him and I neglected to watch the right side of my tow vehicle and came way to close to a tree and crunched the passenger door. Last time that ever happened.

The other piece of advice that I remind my backing assistant (assuming that we aren't using the radios) is to stay in sight of my mirror. How many times have you seen people go to assist others and disappear somewhere behind the trailer? I usually tell my wife that she needs to concentrate on watching the side that I can't see from my mirrors. That obviously is the back of the trailer and the blind side depending upon if I'm backing in from the left or right side.

The last piece of advice in doing a back in is to pull sufficiently past the site before you go to back in. Lots of folks pull up so that the bumper of the trailer is at the edge of the site. Problem is at the start you have to start turning at extreme angles in an attempt to pivot the trailer into the site. This is especially important when you are dealing with a narrow roadway. Pulling far enough away from the site allows you to back in at a gradual angle without to turn the tow vehicle at extreme angles.

I learned to back using taller plastic indoor trash cans with brooms in them. I used to go to a parking lot over the weekend that was unoccupied. Much easier to hit a plastic can than a tree.

Jack Canavera
AIR #56
'04 Classic 30' S.O.,'03 GMC Savana 2500,'14 Honda CTX 700
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Old 09-08-2012, 07:56 AM   #12
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1967 30' Sovereign
Los Lunas , New Mexico
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My half-blind eyes couldn't locate mention of this yet, so maybe I should now: If at all possible, back in from the proper direction. Seen from the driver's seat when you are prepared to put the vehicle in reverse, the site should be to your left rear, visible from your driver's side rear view mirror. (Backing from the other direction is possible, but very difficult, because you won't be able to see anything of your destination in your mirrors.)

In addition, keep this in mind: Your task is to back around a curve, in most cases a 90 degree curve. One very helpful trick, then, is to reduce this curve to less than 90 degrees before you ever put the vehicle in reverse. Shaving off even 10 degrees or so of curve will make your life significantly easier while backing.

To accomplish this, just visualize. When you stop forward movement, both the tow vehicle and the trailer should be situated not parallel with the sides of the main road, but rather at an angle across the main road. (Note, too, that when you stop forward movement, your tow vehicle and trailer should be straight, not angled with respect to one another.)

Further, give yourself lots and lots of space, if possible. Pull further forward. My rule of thumb for helping people park is to have them pull forward until their trailer axles are more or less even with the divider between the far side of adjacent, neighboring site and the subjacent, non-neighboring site.

I've always wanted to do a practicing workshop here at the park for a rally. And the plan would be to use not trailer and tow-vehicle for practice, but rather my garden tractor and attached garden trailer, the combination of which behaves very much like a TT and attached tow vehicle, but tiny and slow, making it easy to observe one's mistakes.

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Old 09-08-2012, 08:12 AM   #13
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Cat City , California
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I definitely agree that outside helpers are "no help" and can distract you from your normal routine. I politely send them on their way. Likewise, be careful about gabbing to people while setting up. That's an easy way to forget a hitch pin or a connection.

I think "checklist" is the word of the day. Make a good one, use it. Our hitching routine is about 10 minutes. And we do it exactly the same every time. Our un-hitch goes fast too. We each have specific jobs and it goes very fast. To prevent the problem of forgetting stuff, I keep two large tubs that carry all the hitch parts, handles, gloves, hoses, and all junk needed for setting up. That way, I just put the tubs in the back of the 'Burb when ready to go, and I know I won't be missing the water filter or something when we get there.

We prefer hand signals to radios or talking. We have exact signals that mean exact things and we do NO TALKING on backing operations. My wife is excellent at this and we get into any spot in a jiffy this way. Some people prefer radios. I think the main thing is this: Know what it is you are trying to do, and figure out the right communications that will get you there, then be consistent.

There is no magic to backing up. You go this way, you go that way - that's all. When I have observed people having trouble, it seems that the trouble is they don't know what the communications mean to each other, and they keep over correcting and under correcting. Next thing you know, they are yelling! It could be my brain, but when sitting behind the wheel, "Go left" can mean a few different things. A hand pointed to the "streetside" however, means only one thing. Work out your system, then practice!

Airstreams tow easy. They are snug up and low to the ground and they track like a backpack. So, driving becomes effortless very quickly. If you have a decent hitch that is set correctly, driving will be easy.

The aluminum skin apparently can be dented by a twig, and is the price of gold. So, if you are anywhere near trees, get your partner out to watch for branches.

Remember, it can't be all that hard if 80 year old ladies can do it! (That's a joke).

Have fun!
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Old 09-08-2012, 08:23 AM   #14
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1972 27' Overlander
Venice , Florida
Join Date: Dec 2010
Posts: 180
I went out in the country to a road with no traffic. I found an abandoned drive way and practiced for 3 hours backing in. I did it from both sides -passenger and driver's. When I was done, I could back up like a pro. As far as turning, I always swing as wide as possible. I have never jumped a curb this way.

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