There were three things I knew going into this #VagabondLife gig:
(1) I was doing it solo.
(2) Some days would probably suck, for various reasons.
(3) I was going to make a mistake sooner or later that would rock my world, and not in a good way.
What I didn’t count on was all three of those things happening all at once, which made for a very bad Saturday. So bad, to be honest, that after I got my trailer parked for the night, I unlocked it and then sat inside and cried. A lot. I felt like the world’s biggest screw-up and failure.
So let’s rewind the time-clock about 48 hours and explain how I got here…
Leaving Ottawa/Renfrew, I stopped about a half hour north for gas. There was a guy getting gas facing the wrong way, but I figured he would leave before I was done, so I pulled up to the second pump and starting gassing up. I finished, washed my windows, and he still wasn’t back to his car. So I thought, well, I’ll just back up a bit and I can go around him. What I didn’t check (and didn’t think to check) was that my trailer was not right behind me, because I hadn’t finished my turn. So when I went to back up, the trailer reversed at an angle, and that turned out to be not a good thing at all. I didn’t go far or fast before I heard a clunk and stopped. Got out and realized I had just done one of the things my excellent Safari Condo trainer had told me never to do: back up with the weight distribution bars on. Things looked OK, though, so I got back in my car, and just waited out the jerk who was blocking my way. (OK, he wasn’t a jerk, but really, who leaves their car sitting for 15 minutes at a gas pump!?).
When I stopped for the day and unhitched, I realized there was a definite oops to the hitch setup.
How bad? I don’t know, but I went almost 300 miles on it. And I couldn’t budge it at all, so I think the tension of the WD bar really just shoved thinks out of kilter. The top bolt has some play in that hole (it is bigger than the bolt) so that the hitch can be adjusted, and I kind of took all that play and used it, but not in the manufacturer-recommended way.
I didn’t watch my dad weld things on cars and valves and stuff my whole childhood without learning something and I couldn’t see anything wrong except that I had rather forcibly moved the top bolt from its original position. I examined all the welds and compared before and after pictures blown up on my computer screen and decided to continue with the next day’s drive, and check the hitch at every stop. So that’s what I did, measuring the gap every time. Not a millimeter of movement all day.
And what a day it was, the worst day of driving yet, with or without trailer. Rain and fog after the first hour, that lasted for 2 more. Slowly the sun broke through about the time I hit Sudbury and turned due west for the border town of Sault Sainte Marie. Ah, I thought, finally, a break in the weather. Sort of, as it turned out. The next 3 hours were crosswinds and overly aggressive big rig (18-wheeler) drivers. I have to say, that weight distribution (WD) kit with some anti-sway as part of the deal was worth its weight in gold. I saw other trailers (both RVs and work ones) fishtailing around in the wind and every time, as we passed each other, I could see there was no WD kit on theirs.
Every time an 18-wheeler blew by, I braced for a push but never felt much at all, thanks to those lovely WD bars. And the 18-wheelers blew by in both directions, with one guy earning my “asshole of the day award” for not only tailgating me for miles at a time (and I pulled into the slow lane every time there was a passing lane on this one-lane-each-way road) and then almost causing an accident with a diesel truck because he tried to pass him without having enough room to clear. I swear, I could hear my Dad muttering about truck drivers. Oh, wait, that was me, sounding just like him.
By the time I got to the campground, I was well and truly done with the day. But the day, alas, was not done with me.
The KOA owner led me to my site, then told me it wasn’t that level, so “just back ‘er up a bit” and I might have freaked out at the thought of backing up. I explained I had WD bars, and he said just go straight. And then proceeded to tell me to crank the wheel this way, then that, don’t stop, keep going, now pull up, and by the time he was finished, I was a wreck. I can see why two person back-up teams sometimes have fights; if he had been my husband, he’d be lying on a slab right now, trust me. And if that wasn’t enough, he then stood over my WD bars and hitch and told me it was bad, I would probably have to replace the whole thing and I needed to get it checked out before I drove any further. And then he got in his little golf cart and drove back to his little office.
And 30 seconds later, I was in my trailer, in tears, feeling like the failure of the universe. I had my trailer 5 whole days and I broke it. Who was I to think I could do this? And by myself?
So I took the night off, had a pizza from a local joint and a glass of wine, and watched a movie and kept the heat cranked (shore power can be wonderful sometimes) all night so I felt like a cozy little bug in a rug in an Alto.
Today, after two long-distance consults with trusted advisors (people with more experience towing than me, which is most of my trailering friends and relatives!), I think my assessment is still good, but just to be sure, I will visit one of the local RV repair shops tomorrow and ask them to inspect it, and reseat that bolt (it needs an air compressor, because it was installed with 250 foot/pounds of force). And then I will go on my way, back to the USA, winding my way home.
But not before I slammed my finger in a door this morning, and now I have a lovely mess of a knuckle; it’s on my middle finger, so there you go. What’s that saying? Oh, yeah…