Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Learning to Hook up a 5th Wheel

Today was a productive day for me.  Since my truck was delivered yesterday, I decided to take time today to get acquainted with a few things in my truck - the shiny new Reese hitch and the Sirius XM radio my brother put in for me.  I also loaded all the safety gear from my car to the truck. 

I got out the instructions for the radio, tuned to the FM station as instructed and started playing with the buttons.  It was so easy to find the ones I wanted to put on the preset buttons - they made it pretty easy to figure out how to get around in their program.  So now I have music, comedy, or whatever else from the extensive list of channels they have on there.  OK, that was easy - let's hope the hitch is just as user friendly.

I had a general understanding of how the 5th wheel hitches worked.  In looking over the book, I found that mine doesn't have the jaws I've seen on most of them.  Instead, it has a heavy bar that pulls back with the handle, when your king pin goes in there completely, it clicks into place.  Makes sense to me.  There's a padlock that goes on the handle to keep it in place,  so I decided to give that a little squirt with some T-9 so it won't rust up. 

Later in the day, I met a friend of mine over at the storage unit where my 5th wheel has been incarcerated until this weekend.  This would be the first time in my life that I have ever attached any kind of trailer to any kind of vehicle  - in my whole life!  I had not driven this truck much, and in truth, I am very used to cars and very rarely drive a truck.  Not any more!  So, I put tailgate down and pull in front of the 5th wheel and prepare to back up the truck to put that king pin into my shiny new hitch.  This is just practice, to see how close I can get it - we're not planning on going anywhere.

I start backing up, trying to line up that small pin with the hitch I can see in the back of my truck.  I go slowly, trying to keep them in line, and when I get close - I can see that I'm only an inch or two off to one side.  OK, I pull forward a bit and back up again, not coming closer, but now about 3 inches short of success.  My friend explains that I need to pull further forward than I did, since the minute changes I made in steering don't work when I'm too close because the hitch is right over the axle.  So, I pull way forward and start my slow trip back again, lining up the pin with the hitch.  This time, it works and the king pin is in perfect position to jump right into the hitch.  We closed the tailgate because it looked SO close, and I backed up just a teeny bit and heard the hitch lever clunk into place.  Success!!   

Since it was solidly on, we decided to hook up the power cord; we checked the lights and they all worked fine.  I retracted the forward landing gear and we could see the weight of the 5th wheel settle into the bed of the truck.  OK, great, things are working nicely!  It was late in the day, so that's all we planned to do.  So, we put down the landing gear, unhooked the power and pulled the truck away from the 5th wheel - yes, remembering to lower the tailgate again.

I feel better about hooking up now, since the first lesson is usually the worst (I hope).  We'll see on Saturday when I hook it up again and take it up the road about 20 miles or so to get her roof cleaned and coated and get her some new tires. 

More fun to come!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Utah - Goblin Valley State Park

I haven't been to the Goblin Valley State Park, although I have seen many pictures of the rock formations in this area.  They are amazing.  People should be in awe of these rocks perched on edges of rock formations - etched by millions of years of wind, rain and storms.

After all these years, a few people come along and decide they have the right to push over one of these giant boulders, thereby destroying something that has withstood time and Mother Nature.  If you have seen the video, they look like a couple idiots who have had one too many drinks.  These guys are Boy Scout leaders?  So says the news - unbelievable that these guys are allowed to be leading anything, including themselves.  What makes them think they are allowed to destroy something that belongs to the State of Utah and get away with it?  What makes them think they were right??   I believe that they were just showing off - their You Tube video sure confirms that fact, as far as I'm concerned.

Now that they have realized they have made a gigantic blunder and face charges, they are claiming they did it because they expected it to fall over on someone.  They are claiming they were saving someone's life.  I don't buy it.  Sorry, that does not make sense.  Lame excuse for being stupid.  If it was dangerous, I'm sure park rangers would have been in the area and cordoned off that particular rock formation.  I'm sure the park rangers wouldn't have pushed it over - that's not the way to handle a natural treasure that has been centuries in the making.

I'm beyond mad, I'm planning a trip out there and was planning to see this area.   Yes, there are still lots of rock formations in that valley, but now there's one less.  If nothing happens to these vandals, and that's exactly what they are,  the state and national park treasures will be fair game.  Will graffiti show up next?  How about cutting down a redwood, or maybe a sequoia instead?  We could all take bits and pieces of the Petrified Forest for souvenirs too, until it's all gone. 

This has had too much national attention to let these vandals get away with it.  They need to be sentenced with the strictest punishment allowed by law.  If they receive just a light sentence, the message will be that it's not a problem if you vandalize fragile national treasures.  Everyone will be watching the outcome of this situation.  Let's hope it will be a warning for everyone to protect our environment and respect what nature has given us.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Getting Ready

While I'm waiting for my truck to be delivered from up in New York, I've been buying things for my new home.  Most of it is small stuff, to make it safer and more comfortable.  I ordered some LED lightbulbs that will save on electric when I'm not plugged into a campground.  I had them on my last boat and they were terrific.  They hardly use any power at all.  Now that I know the ones I ordered will work and emit enough light, I'll order another batch to put in all the rest of the fixtures. 

The biggest purchase has not been made yet, but I have tracked it down and know exactly what I need.  The tires that are on the 5th wheel now are new - only a year old and they haven't been very many places.  But, in doing research, I'm finding that the "load range" of tires, for my unit, should be a step higher than the ones on it now.  This means that I'll have tougher tires, capable of carrying more weight, thereby being safer.  Also, I'm getting a different brand that has been rated quite good on some of the forums I've been searching on.  These forums are strictly RV people - some with decades of knowledge.  I don't know how many hours I've spent researching this, on the internet, visits to tire shops and reading pages of forum comments.  It's great to learn all about this in the beginning, and not out on the road after there's been a blowout.

Most of the other stuff I've purchased,  have been small items.   I got a fire extinguisher, flares and reflective triangles for the truck - just in case.  My theory is that if I have them - I won't need them - I hope it really works that way.  I ordered a nice cutting board cover for my stove, since the previous owner tossed out the metal stove cover.  The CO2 detector should have been replaced last year, so I have one on order -  these things only last a few years and it expired last year.   

I have an anode for the water heater - if only I can get the old one out.....   I have penetrating oil on it now and will find someone with more muscles to try to get it out. All these systems keep reminding me that this is very similar to living on a boat.  I found a website where I can enter all my maintenance tasks and the dates they need to be done - it will send me an email reminder a couple days before. 

Things are moving along nicely and when I get my truck, I will take the 5th wheel in to get the roof cleaned and coated and the furnace checked out.  Then it goes for the tires and at the end of the month, I plan to move it to a campground and move in completely!   Then I'll need someone to buy my car and house and I'll be ready.   Oh, yeah, and I have to practice driving, and backing up, and hooking up and unhooking and........

As in sailboat cruising, I'm sure these plans are written in the sand at low tide.....

Thursday, October 3, 2013

My New Home

Wildcat will be my new home - it's a 5th wheel, Forest River Wildcat.  It's only 26' long, but tons of storage space for that size - way more than any other unit I've seen in that size.  The floor plan is perfect and it has been meticulously maintained by it's previous owner, who was the only owner. 

A thought just hit me - a 26' boat would be TINY - it would be cramped to live aboard - but this is totally different.  Even my 47' boat didn't have this much room, and storage space!  About 15 years of my life has been spent mostly on boats so I know how to live in small quarters.  This should be a piece of cake. 

I had been looking at 5th wheels for about 5 months, any size, make or model up to 30'.  A few days ago, I took a trip to Ocala and Gainesville, Florida to see what was available over there.  I spent the first day looking at units that either weren't in my price range (but they were very nice) or units that had lots of water damage and/or other problems - some I just didn't like. 

At the end of the day, I looked at a unit for sale by a private owner and as soon as I walked in, I knew this was a well cared-for unit, and I really liked it.  I could tell the owner had enjoyed the trailer, he indicated he was reluctant to sell, but his wife was done with traveling in it - and that was final.    He had made multiple upgrades to the unit and I could tell he was attached to it.  I really liked the layout and felt it would be a good match for me.

After looking around and talking to him for well over an hour, I left and found a place to stay for the night.  I sat in that motel room and planned my next day, deciding what RV sales lots I'd visit and seeing what they had available.  Most of them were units similar to ones I had seen in other locations, I had seen the layout and it was just a matter of condition.  There was really nothing new that I hadn't seen in other places.  While I was contemplating this, I went through the pictures I had taken of this unit - going over the pictures that had been on his ad.

During the night, I woke up and couldn't get back to sleep, so I got on the computer to look at the pictures again, and pictured myself living in it.   The more I looked at it and remembered the feeling when I first walked in the door, I started to think it was a waste of time to look at similar units I'd seen before and wasn't that impressed with.  With only 2 hours of sleep, I convinced myself I needed to go back to sleep and decide in the morning.

In the morning, I checked my list again - ho-hum.   And then I checked the pictures I'd taken the previous day.   Yes, definitely, I did like this unit, it was clean and well maintained, even the tires and battery were only 1 year old  -  why should I look any further?  So, the decision was made - I would call the owner and set up a meeting to discuss the purchase. 

The rest of the day was spent discussing the deal, having him get the title and meeting me at the bank where I'd do the wire transfer.  I decided to go to the tag office then and get the title sent in to be transferred to me and get the registration and the plate for it.  While I was waiting for that to happen, I called my insurance company and got the insurance set up.  By that time, I was ready for the three hour drive home.

And so a new chapter in my life begins.  I'm excited and apprehensive at the same time.   It's another big learning curve, possibly not as big as when I went cruising.  In any case, my gypsy spirit requires travel and adventure, and I bet it's gonna be great!

Sign up with your email in the upper right hand corner of this blog to follow my preparations and travels.  I will be posting videos of places I'll be visiting also -    Hope you enjoy riding along with me.

Betty Karl

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

5th Wheel Delivery

Wow - what a day I had.!  A friend took me to Gainesville to bring my "new" 5th wheel home.  Since I don't have my truck here yet, we drove over in her truck.    Actually, she made me drive part of the way, to get used to the truck.  I had a feeling I knew what she was up to.

We got there a little early, so we had a quick breakfast/lunch and then met the owner at the storage lot where my 5th wheel was.  A quick walk-around, the previous owner giving me tips on the unit he really didn't want to sell, but his wife was done traveling in it.  Same story I heard while I was cruising by sailboat a few years back - boat for sale - wife wants to go "home".   I was always happy being "home" wherever the boat was.  Obviously, I was not made from the same mold as these wives!

I've never towed anything, so I watched while the previous owner and my friend hitched up the 5th wheel and brought in the landing gear, connected and checked lights, etc.  We got in the truck, waved goodbye to the previous owner, who stood at the gate gazing sadly at us going down the road.  I felt bad for him, I had the same feeling when I sold some (most) of my boats. 

Not only have I never towed anything myself, I don't think I've ever been in a truck or car hauling anything larger than a small boat or utility trailer.  I was a bit nervous at the noises it was making and kept looking back to be sure everything was OK.  In a short time, I got used to the fact that it was following us as it should - after all, hundreds of people do this daily, things would be fine.

We drove out of town and the road home was a nice road mostly through less populated areas, not much traffic,  a few curvy parts, a few little hilly parts  - hills in Florida can be 25' and we're impressed.  In a short time, my friend told me it was my turn to drive and my anxiety level went up a few notches.   She found a shaded area to pull over and we switched places.  I adjusted the seat, put on the seatbelt, took a big breath, looked in the mirrors to see what I could see.  I slowly took off and after a while, I realized that towing wasn't that hard - at least on a nice road with little traffic!  Oops, someone passed me and I noticed that I had a little parade going.  OK, I had adjusted to 40 MPH, I added a little more speed and finally got up to the speed limit.  0-60 in about 8 minutes!

We drove on and we came to a more populated area where I had to make a few turns and get into a parking lot.  Thank goodness I had a general idea of how it should be done, plus I had input from the passenger seat veteran.  I had been reading lots of information about towing, and You Tube is wonderful for instructional videos about anything you need to know about.   Really, I'm serious - I had watched videos about driving an RV, making the wide turns, backing up and all sorts of things - even dumping the black tank, which I'm sure will be another story later.

We pulled into the parking lot, made a loop through and parked way out in the lot, taking up numerous spaces - I can see I'm going to love huge parking lots.  My time at the wheel was done, I would get in my car and my friend would follow me to my home town.  What a sense of relief when I turned off that truck motor!.  My first time towing was over, but there's still a huge learning curve - on towing as well as everything else that goes with this lifestyle. 

There is a lot of knowledge out there about RVing and the more I read and talk to other RVers, the more I'll learn.  They're friendly and helpful, very much like the cruisers in the Caribbean that I had known and learned from, and in some cases they learned from me.   Maybe someday, some new RVer might learn something from me.