Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Travel Lite Trail Cruiser

Tenting has been an integral part of my life. From as young as I remember we tented as a family. When I left home I tented. Canoeing I tented. Bicycling across Europe I tented. Driving across Canada and the United States I tented. Hiking in the mountains I tented. 4x4 ing I tented. Fishing and hunting I tented. When I was younger I rarely stayed in campgrounds. As I got older I found myself gravitating to KOA. I liked the showers and flush toilets. Mostly I blamed my increased appreciation for civilization on my partner. She liked the comforts. Obviously I liked roughing it. Obviously.

When us kids left home Mom got Dad to get her a motor home. Together they travelled across Canada and United States. They joined Good Sam Club. They made Good Sam friends and participated in Good Sam activities.

Laura told me that when I'd leave pre dawn to go hunting or fishing, she'd worry about bears as she lay awake waiting for dawn. I'd taught her how to use a little shot gun and left her with that and bear bangers. She only told me about her mornings after I bought this RV.

I told some of the guys I know who hunt and fish about that. Phil said, "That girls' a keeper."

Luke and Sammy and I have been planning a moose hunt since last spring. It seemed like a good time to have a motor home. I figured Laura would enjoy the trip better if I had a motorhome. Not to mention that I might enjoy having a furnace, shower and flush toilet. My back with age prefers a bed to roots and branches. Then there were the killer mosquitoes our last camping trip this spring. They were definitely encouragement.

Craig's List had countless trailers for sale. It's a good time to buy. I have a Ford Ranger Level II V6 4x4. I had to look up the Maximum towing capacity to learn that 5000 lbs was tops though some blogs on the internet said this particular Ranger might go as high as 5800 lbs. It's better to have an automatic transmission and to take it out of overdrive. The hitch I had installed was good for 600 lbs. I had a cooling system added to the transmission and had my brakes checked. I have drums and the bigger trucks have disc brakes. Disk brakes are better. I had an electric braking control added to go with a 7 prong plug.

The only trailers I could get were in the ultralite series. These trailers are made to be pulled by a V6. Roger in Mission had this 23 foot Travel Lite Trail Cruiser for sale. It was a great deal. Laura loved it. Laura liked the combined bath and shower. I liked the furnace and the ability to live aboard it. Everything was there and everything was well thought of. I bought it.

Then terror struck.

Roger lived up on a mountain. After you left his house there was a downhill turn.
I imagined myself rolling down the mountain trailer straight out behind me, Laura, Gilbert the dog and I inside doing some sort of painful and humiliating washing machine thing.

Laura's son in law Ryan has a mega truck and an RV that's a bout the size of what the Mars Mission might use. It's called a 'toy hauler'. His dog Gage is a Great Dane. By comparison, Gilbert is a cockapoo. With age I've been scaling down.

Laura talked to Ryan. He offered to pick up the trailer and take it to his house in the flat land of Chilliwack. I've never hauled a trailer. The day for the move torrential rain struck Vancouver. After doing the transaction with Roger and getting the insurance at Mission Superstore we met up with Ryan and Shannon at Tim Hortons. They'd actually brought their new baby, Kingston.

In my mind this was a military expedition. High risk. Major event. The moving of a trailer. Ryan brought a baby along. Laura had said the day before, "Ryan wants to know what size your balls are?" I'd taken that rather personally until I realized that he was talking about the hitch ball. Roger and Ryan talked all kind of greek before Ryan hitched the trailer to his truck and off we went in the dark and rain. He didn't roll down the hill. Nothing untoward happened on the highway either.

He even parked the trailer backing up with Shannon out behind the vehicle doing some weird cheerleader number with lots of pointing and swinging of her arms. I was humbled.

All week Laura and I were excited that today we'd actually be taking the trailer out ourselves. At the storage locker we loaded the camping gear we usually took without the tent. Then on the way we stopped at Canadian Tire and Sears for the rest of the outfitting. New Carelle unbreakable microwavable dishes and new sheets, pillows, towels and comforter. Of course Gilbert got a new toy.

At Ryan and Shannon's we loaded the stuff from the truck into the trailer and I began to study the hitch and tension bars. See one, do one, teach one was the medical school motto. Thankfully Ryan arrived to oversee my work before heading off on his quad with the baby Kingston on his lap. He wasn't as serious about this whole pulling a trailer behind a truck as I was. He has a certain nonchalance around vehicles. The moment for leaving had arrived.

I'd unchocked the tires, locked every door and walked around the trailer several times. With all this obsessive concern I'd only forget to check if the brake lights and turning signal were satisfactorily connected. A road stop confirmed this later.

I pulled the trailer forward and was ecstatic. "You've only gone two feet." Laura said. "But the trailer didn't jackknife with the truck. We could have been sandwiched." She was not impressed with my catastrophizing.

Wide turns. We made it to the church parking lot in Rosedale. The electric brakes weren't working. We decided to go on anyway.

60 km/hr. 80 km/hr. Braking. Up hill 3000 rpm. Temperature guage steady. No smells. Entering the freeway. 90 km. Many cars and trucks passing.

I'd become one of those. After hotshotting on my Harley here I was an old man with an RV going 90 km on the 100 km highway.

Hope Valley RV Campground. Labour Day Long Weekend. We arrived. They had a 'pull through' spot for us. My secretary had talked with the owner and forewarned them. I didn't squash any small children. We'd come about 80 km. I walked through the park to our spot and thought just maybe I'd be able to handle the turns. Trailers the size of space ships were parked her and there in the woods. I returned to the truck and drove the final distance to the campground.

I even got the trailer disconnected from the hitch and put out the struts. Nothing collapsed. No hole opened in the earth. The truck was fine. Laura loved being inside. I even hooked up the water and electricity thinking this was just the same as a boat in a marina.

I loved the airplane like toilet. Sitting in my bathroom taking a dump I felt like I'd finally arrived. This was my home and I was surely King of the Castle.

After his sniff and piss walk around the park, Gilbert has been all over the bed and couch. His new squeaky toy is competing with Bach playing from the state of the art sound system. At times he's even in rhythm.

Outside people have fires going. There's the smell of wood smoke in the air. I made coffee in a stove top expresso maker. Laura is about to microwave chunky stew. We were going to stop at the grocery but once the trailer was on we decided to settle for food we could get in the Husky gas station market. You can't just park anywhere with a trailer. I have to think ahead and not go anywhere I might have to back up. Not yet. Laura has to do a workshop with Shannon and Ryan on the giving of directions. That is until I can get a rear view camera built onto the truck.

I'm fairly happy with my accomplishment. I phoned Dad. He's 92 and laughed at us having a trailer. I got a Good Sam Club membership too and got a 10% discount already.

All that's missing is a brass band playing and the prime minister pinning a medal on my chest. I can see that in my mind. Laura's smile and Gilbert's glee at being out in the country is good enough for me.

What is tenting? Why do people tent? Whoever would want to tent? I can't imagine anyone who would consider such a thing.

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