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Old 11-13-2012, 04:44 PM   #1
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1968 26' Overlander
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Help-I don't think I can drive this thing

We've made plans to camp at Jellystone in Gatlinburg for Thanksgiving and now my husband cant go. I've been so looking forward to it and we are meeting friends and have all coordinated. I've never pulled the airstream and frankly, it scares the crap out of me. Pulling it through the mountains-I'm a Florida Girl- sounds like I'd just be digging my grave. Do any of you women pull your 29' trailers with 3 kids in the backseat through the mountains for 12 hours? If so, I'd love some tips. I'm inches away from cancelling the trip, but don't want to if I can help it. I figure it just may take us 18 hours b/c I'll be driving 20 miles per hour through the turns and up hill. I have an extreme amount of anxiety about it and don't even know that I'd feel comfortable if my husband was driving.

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Old 11-13-2012, 04:58 PM   #2
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You can do it, one foot at a time. Think about breaking the trip into two days. Take the stress off.


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Old 11-13-2012, 05:06 PM   #3
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Just a thought...

Maybe you can tow it most of the way (I-75 and I-40) and when you get close maybe one of your friends could drive for you through the mountains, if at that point you are still uncomfortable...
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Old 11-13-2012, 05:08 PM   #4
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Search this forum for silver sisters and you'll find many women who pull their own rigs who will, I'm sure, give you both support and advice.
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Old 11-13-2012, 05:12 PM   #5
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Im a solo Airstreamer. Just went to the So Cal Rally in Kern River and was the only solo girl RV'er..felt sooo cool hehe! I took lessons from Uwe at Area 63 Productions in Orange. You can do it and you need to learn anyway...what if there was a emergency?? Hire someone to give you lessons. PS for some reason I can barely parallel park my VW hehe
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Old 11-13-2012, 05:13 PM   #6
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Please dont cancel! Just take it easy. The mountains are not your enemy. Wind and trucks and sway are your problems. If your rig is well matched (driven before many times) and you can keep an eye out and give yourself extra space --dont cut anything close --you will make it and you will gain confidence. Confidence comes in time --and the confidence comes only with time behind the wheel towing --learning what feels "normal" --Please go carefully and gain the confidence you need. We drove 400 miles through official 40-50 mph cross wind gusts within our first 6 months of towing --now we can go anywhere! Be very careful --but go forward!!
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Old 11-13-2012, 05:26 PM   #7
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i am a solo mom to 2. so i back, hitch and tow alone all the time.
you will feel better if you can get some lessons. i would say look to see if there are airstreamers /members of your unit or sisters on the fly who will give yo a lesson or 2. even the aistream dealer might be able to help. it is intimidating but worth it. for me the freeway is easy, the city driving and mtn passes more intimidating. but so worth it.
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Old 11-13-2012, 05:30 PM   #8
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Thanksgiving is still a few days away. Go for a drive this weekend just to take the edge off. My wife will load up and go with our two girls and the 31 footer. Im sure you can handle it.
Have a great day!

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Old 11-13-2012, 05:30 PM   #9
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Any chance of getting a cabin at Jellystone? They have them. Or a cabin at a nearby park. Or a motel? Lots of stuff close there. You will probably save enough on gas not pulling the trailer to cover most of it. And eat with your friends at the campground?

How do you plan on going, I95 and I26 or I75?

It is a much easier trip if you can leave a day early and go back on Monday instead of Sunday.

We used to go to St. Augustine at thanksgiving. Worst time of the year for traveling both those routes. Particularly the Sunday after. It is going to take a while to drive it.

If you are comfortable pulling the Airstream in Florida and have a good TV the mountains do not add all that much difficulty. You will be on 4 lane roads all but for a couple of miles to the campground. The mountains are a strong test of your TV in terms of cooling and brakes. If you are not comfortable with the TV and the trailer that would be a good reason to cancel.

I would not be comfortable trying it in one day. I would get a campground with a pull through about 10 slow hours out from home.We go to Dade City now for the winter. My preferred route is I75 but Atlanta is a problem. You have to get to Atlanta by about 3:30. I go straight trhough. Long slowdown on the north side as you come into Marietta.

Coming that way you turn off of I40 at Cosby before you get to the mountains. Pretty much a flat drive on the interstate with some grades but no real curves. We stay around Warner Robbins (a bit south of there) if we stop.
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Old 11-13-2012, 05:31 PM   #10
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Why not hook up the trailer this weekend, and pull it around in familiar territory. Take a short run down the highway. Then, you'll know if you can, or if you can't. I'll bet you can (if you want to). We were in Custer State Park in Sept and ran into a group called Women on the Fly. It was a gathering of about 40-50 women from all over who get together, towing their campers wherever. Many of them are vintage units. The rules were "No husbands, no children, no pets" and they were having a great time. Many were all the way from California. If you do this, then you'll be ready to go anywhere.
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Old 11-13-2012, 05:35 PM   #11
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Please Don't Do It

Your instincts are good.
This is no way to learn to tow.
Towing is something best learned under safe, non-stressful situations, a little bit at a time.
What you describe is at best a very stressful, not very fun experience.
You can imagine the worst case scenario for yourself.
Just take full advantage of every opportunity to learn how to tow an Airstream between now and Thanksgiving 2013.
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Old 11-13-2012, 06:00 PM   #12
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Okay, you live in Orlando. Hook up and take the Florida Turnpike up to Ocala Saturday and spend Saturday night at one of the KOAs there. Return home Sunday. If you feel like a nervous wreck on that short, easy trip, cancel the big trip. Your friends will understand.
If you don't want to cancel, is there a law that says you have to tow the Airstream? Simply drive up there and spend the nights with the friends, if they have room for you.
Meddle not in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy, and taste good with ketchup.
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Old 11-13-2012, 06:18 PM   #13
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The first time you tow a trailer, it's normal to feel a little anxious. If your husband has been driving your rig, and you know everything is set up and works OK (hitch, trailer connector, electric brakes, etc.); then, it's just a matter of getting a few miles under your belt to build your confidence.

Have your husband set up the electric brakes, then memorize or write the settings down. They will be a little grabby when cold, but after a few stops, they'll warm up and you won't even feel the trailer behind you when you stop (unless you are in a panic stop). Make sure to leave about double the space (or more) between you and the car you're following, than you do when driving without the trailer.

You need to re-calibrate your personal acceleration and braking rates to allow for the extra length and weight of the trailer. Until you get used to how the rig handles, try accelerating and braking like you are driving on ice. This will leave you a safety margin, if you have to stop fast or swerve.

If you have time, take a short preliminary drive accompanied by your husband or other experienced driver that has towed a trailer before. They can provide guidance and help avoid an accident. Even if your husband can't come on the trip, he might be able to drive a few miles with you when you start out and then catch a ride back home.

Make sure you've got the mirrors set up so you can see well to the sides and rear, then just start out slow on some side streets where there is no traffic. Until you get used to the turning radius, delay the start of a turn (go a little past the point where you would normally start turning) and swing a little wide so you don't clip any parked cars or drive over the sidewalk. Allow extra time for turning left across traffic, so that your trailer will have time to clear the intersection, too. Caution and safety is your primary concern. If it looks close -- wait for a larger break in traffic or for the light to change.

At first, you should do everything in slow motion. Slow speed will allow you to stop or correct your driving line to avoid an accident. Then, you can speed up a little as you build confidence. With a little experience, you'll learn where the trailer is tracking when you go around corners; and you can tighten up your turns a little.

Also, blind spots on the sides and in your mirror will bite you in the @$$. Until you know where your blind spots are and have figured out how best to make sure no one is in them, have a copilot in the passenger seat to help you check to see that it's clear before changing lanes and while turning. When changing lanes, click your turn signals on and wait a second or two before starting the transition. That will warn a vehicle in your blind spot that you are preparing to change lanes and give them time to honk their horn and let you know that they are there (or get out of the way). This allows a courteous driver to drop back and make space for you to change lanes when traffic is tight.

After you get the feel of things, move onto some regular streets where the traffic is light. Just take it slow, and don't make any fast maneuvers. Other drivers will see that you have a trailer in tow and give you extra room if you are off to one side in the lane or cut a corner a little close. While they probably won't actually get out of your way, if you make sure they see you coming, they will give you a little slack just because of the size of your rig. However, don't always count on this; as some people are just idiots.

Use the mirrors to see where the trailer is positioned in the driving lane, and try to keep it centered. When it's centered pretty good, look out front to see where your tow vehicle is in the lane; and pretty soon you'll be driving like a pro.

When you get on the highway, don't try to keep up with the faster traffic. Until you become more experienced, 5-10 mph below the posted speed limit with 55-60 mph as an absolute maximum, will help you to gain confidence while allowing a safety margin that will avoid most potential accidents. Stay in the slow lane; and if you are passing other cars, you are going too fast.

Regarding driving in the mountains, just take it slow and don't worry about the cars behind you. Just be courteous and stay in the slow lanes on grades. If there are pullouts, you might consider pulling off the road to allow a line of cars to pass. However, only do this if you can do it safely. You have just as much right to the roadway as they do. You don't have to risk your rig or your life to pull over; and if you can't find a safe pullout, they can just wait.

On long upgrades, your tow vehicle will probably downshift appropriately on its own. However, on long downgrades, downshift to hold your speed down; and avoid using the brakes as much as possible. This will save the brakes for when you really need them in an emergency, and will reduce wear and/or damage from overheating.

If necessary, slow down and use a gear that will hold your rig at a safe speed without touching the brakes. If your rig speeds up in a gear without you touching the gas, you are not geared down low enough. A safe speed on downgrades is probably 55 mph or less, even if the speed limit is 65 or higher. Excess speed on downgrades can lead to loss of control, sway or worse.

DO NOT STOP OR PARK IN RUNAWAY TRUCK RAMPS! These usually contain deep gravel where you will become stuck, and you do NOT want to be blocking one of these ramps when a truck needs to use it.

At highway speeds, it is usually not advisable to swerve wildly to avoid objects in the road. This can lead to over correction and loss of control. In some cases, it might be best to just attempt a normal lane change maneuver and possibly hit the object, rather than over correct and crash.

Try to drive during daylight hours and avoid rush hour traffic, if possible. If you must drive at night, don't do this on the first day; and slow down 5-10 mph at night and in anything less than perfect weather conditions.

Within an 20-30 minutes, you'll start to relax a little; and in an hour or two, you'll wonder why you ever worried about towing your Airstream.

However, remain cautious; as overconfidence and inexperience are a formula for potential disaster.

Good luck and best wishes for a safe trip!


Note: If you have kids and this is a 12-hour drive, I suggest that you split the trip into two days of driving. Undoubtedly, it will take longer than 12 hours, if that is the normal driving time without your Airstream in tow. And, if you haven't towed before, 12 hours will be exhausting. 6-8 daylight driving hours the first day, and 4-6 hours the second will get you there in better shape; and your kids will probably appreciate not sitting for that length of time in the car/truck. A DVD player really helps keep the kids occupied and lessens distractions caused by them.
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Old 11-13-2012, 06:34 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Alumaholic View Post
Your instincts are good.
This is no way to learn to tow.
Towing is something best learned under safe, non-stressful situations, a little bit at a time.
What you describe is at best a very stressful, not very fun experience.
You can imagine the worst case scenario for yourself.
Just take full advantage of every opportunity to learn how to tow an Airstream between now and Thanksgiving 2013.

I think there is a lot of merit to this advice.

I'm only about 3 years into this and I have pulled up into NC going up to Cherokee and I think that was an easier section than up to I-40 from I-26.

Might be best to get the experience then tackle the trip to Gattlinburg or a plan B driver. At the very least, increase your space cushion around you. This is the distance in front and as best you can, behind you.

Good luck.

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