Some people see life as a highway or an opportunity. I see life as an education. There are always lessons to learn along the way. Transitioning to life on the road in a fifth wheel is no exception.
Bob and I packed Gulliver and our trailer over a two-day period. We had to ensure everything fit in a secure spot for the nearly 200-mile trip ahead of us to Northern Arizona. Because it marked our first lengthy journey, preparation took much longer than we anticipated. We didn’t end up leaving the Phoenix area until 1 p.m.
Here are five lessons we learned along the way:
1. Don’t worry about the cars behind you.
We settled into a comfortable pace going between 60 and 65 miles per hour on the freeway and watched those who wanted to go faster pass us by. And it didn’t bother us at all.
As we neared our destination, though, we had to cross a cattle guard off the beaten path with metal fence posts on either side. The cattle guard sat maybe 50 feet from the main road, and a couple of people were behind us. Because our rig is long, we were concerned about those other vehicles sticking out onto the main drag.
That concern led us to make a tighter turn than we should have, and we scraped our new home along the metal fence post on the right side of the cattle guard. Ouch! Thankfully, the damage was only cosmetic and should be relatively easy to fix. It could have been much worse.
Next time we encounter something like that, we’ll take our time to get through it carefully, clear of any obstacles, regardless if vehicles behind us are sticking out into the road.
2. Arrive at your destination with plenty of daylight.
Because we got a late start on this first leg of our journey, and we had to stop along the way to fill our fresh water tank for dry camping (meaning no hookups), we didn’t arrive at our destination until about 6 p.m. The sun still stood high enough for us to park and set up, but the unlevel ground led to some setup challenges that resulted in multiple moves. We didn’t finish parking and setting up until after dark.
Had we arrived earlier, we would have had plenty of time and sunlight to get situated just right, even with the challenges we encountered.
3. Leveling blocks don’t have to be reserved for tires.
The major issue we encountered was that the uneven ground caused our stabilizing jacks’ auto-level mechanism to extend the back jacks all the way, leaving no room for further adjustments. As a result, the rig couldn’t complete the leveling task.
We had some interconnecting leveling blocks with us and had only ever used them under tires on our former travel trailer (which didn’t have stabilizing jacks). It didn’t dawn on us until close to 8 p.m. (mind you, we arrived at our destination at 6) that we could use them under the stabilizing jacks to prevent overextending the jacks. Another lesson learned.
4. Make sure you’re communicating on the same page.
A phrase such as “straighten out” may not mean the same thing to you as it does to your spouse. Does it mean “straighten the steering wheel,” “drive straight in the direction you’re headed,” “straighten the truck to the trailer,” or something else?
Be sure you discuss ahead of time the terminology that will help you communicate best. That will avoid frustration and could save hours of time.
5. Be prepared for the temperature at your destination.
We transitioned from an elevation of 1,700 feet to 9,000 feet — and a temperature difference of at least 30 degrees. We traded 90-degree, shorts and tank-tops weather for 60-degree temps that quickly fell as the sun neared the horizon.
In situations like this, it’s a good idea to have a jacket handy because you may not have time, or stability, to get into your rig and get warmer clothes right away.
5/14/2020 01:57:14 pm
Ouch! The first ding is the hardest!! One helpful tip--always, always, always have one person walk behind your rig while the driver pulls away. It's amazing how many times we have avoided small disasters. Have fun and be safe.
5/14/2020 03:13:12 pm
Sorry to hear of your educational jaunt to your very first destination. Maybe this will make you feel better. I once pulled a tractor trailer into a hospital circular driveway that had a block wall to fill the diameter. It looked like a small opening, but I figured if the regular driver could fit in there, I could too. Got the trailer hung up on the wall. Destroyed 6 out of the 8 bays on the trailer. Couldn't get the trailer loose from the wall. I had to beg a real truck driver to drive my rig to maneuver it loose. Then I had to finish my route by climbing through the middle of the trailer to get the product from the other side. It was a 21 hour shift as I recall. BTW...that's where they accepted deliveries from small trucks. No one updated our delivery instructions in 20 years. There now, don't you feel better? I had only been driving an 18 wheeler for a few weeks when this happened. I didn't stick with that job very long. LOL
5/14/2020 05:16:28 pm
Wow! That's quite a story. I'm sorry you had to live through that. I bet it took a long time to get over. Thanks for sharing.
5/14/2020 06:19:20 pm
Glad you are settling in. Thanks for the Life lesson on preparation and communication, much need tools!
5/15/2020 12:32:11 pm
Wow! You had to find a lot of silver linings in that experience--5 of them, it seems! I said "Ouch!" when I read about hitting that cattle guard rail--i must have been channeling Marianne! Glad you finally got there and got set up. Now I hope you can stay there awhile to make it worth all the lessons. Be safe!! Stay happy.
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This is the travel blog of full-time RVers Bob and Lana Gates and our truck, Gulliver, and fifth wheel, Tagalong.