November 6, 2016
Several of you have asked what it was like to travel with a giant trailer in tow. I could easily say, “No problem, Joel does all the driving.” Well, a bit more goes into it than that. Now that we have been traveling for close to three months, I would like to believe we have a system down. I’ll try to describe what the day looks like on a travel day.
Our day really starts the night before. I found it less hair-raising if the trailer and campsite is picked up early. We make it a point to possibly fasten the bicycles down, fold up the camp chairs and mat, and be sure to put away the table, toys, and whatever project Joel was working on.
Then depending upon how far we plan on driving, I start my morning off a little earlier. I ready myself for the day and wake the boys up. They eat their own breakfast while I finish getting ready. Then I typically have two hours to homeschool them. Yes, this is a “crunch-time” experience. Fortunately as my 13 year old is in high school level curriculum, he is more self-directed this year. I do have to correct his work and answer his questions to keep a good idea as to how well he is learning the coursework. As for my 10 year old, he still has the privilege of listening to me teach him.
By 10 am, we finish up what we are working on for school and turn our attention to breaking camp. One of the boys makes a sandwich lunch for everyone and washes the dishes while the other one joins his dad outside to finish up any last minute details. Meanwhile, I buckle down the chairs, bungee all the shelves, and refrigerator. I push the rest of the furniture into position and ensure everything is unplugged and stable. The boys pack up their homework and place it all in the truck.
Once everyone else is outside, I quickly vacuum the floors one last time and pull the slides in. Meanwhile, the guys work on disconnecting the sewer, electric, water, and sometimes cable. They also hook up the truck and raise the jacks. It still throws me off to feel and hear the jacks being raised while still inside. When I finish the interior work, I lock the trailer up, raise the stairs and return the gate key, if necessary.
The time between schooling and ready to leave is around one hour. After the last couple of walk-arounds Joel and I do, we all pile into the truck and set the GPS system up with the next address. We do not have a high trust level with the system due to a few past experiences, so we also compare it with google maps on Joel’s phone and the good ol’ fashioned atlas. I also take the time to check with http://www.aitaonline.com in search of any potential low bridge clearances and tollway fees.
During the drive, I follow along on the atlas looking up questions that arise. “Where’s the cheapest gas?” “Is there a rest stop near?” “When should we stop to eat our lunch?” Thinking about it, I don’t really remember the “How much longer?” question coming up often. When we start off, we tell the boys about how long to expect and tell them to get their homework done during the driving time. I do alert them if something neat to see comes up, then back to work they go. If it is dark outside and their homework is all done, then we allow them to play a movie on the computer, but we typically do not have to travel that long. Also, I believe there is value in the travel time together and do not want the kids to zone out in gameland. Many wonderful, thought-provoking conversations would have been missed if that was the norm.
While we are on the road, we see the good, the bad and the ugly. I do appreciate those truckers who flash their lights to signal us to come over. We return with the “thank you” double flash in response. We have seen the double-handed texting driver with her head down and no hands on the steering wheel in rush hour traffic. Also, we have slammed on our breaks causing our trailer to jerk us forward as we quickly slowed down to avoid an accident as well as witnessed a wheel fly off a car. With over 8,000 miles put on already, I am thankful for the prayers for safety.
In addition to specific incidences, we have our share of road construction zones and regional differences. Joel is excellent at judging width distances with only an inch or two on each side to spare. I am thankful for that. We both nervously laugh and begin breathing again once we are through the tight areas. We only shake our heads at those little cars that seem to have issues staying in their own lane. Also, we find people out east are more passive merging compared to midwesterners. They would rather stop at the bottom of an entrance ramp than attempt to reach highways speeds. Once we figured this out, we watched for this both being behind those vehicles as well as in the traffic lane on the highway.
When we arrive at the next campsite, we have learned to visually check the site beforehand if it looks potentially tight. Afterwards, Joel pulls up with the 5th wheel, I stand near the septic hole and give direction as to alignment. Once the trailer is in place, everyone goes into action.
Joel unlocks the storage compartment, the youngest grabs the leveling blocks, the older one sets out the electrical and sewer connection equipment. I help distribute the leveling blocks among the jacks too. Meanwhile, my older son stabilizes the tires and starts hooking up the connections. Joel lets down the front trailer jacks while my 10 year old climbs up into the bed of the truck to disconnect everything. Once all is clear, Joel drives the truck forward. My younger son rolls out the bed cover to lock the truck bed.
After disconnecting, we continue on into the next phase of camp setup. Joel alerts everyone to stand by watching out for the auto leveling. My older son watches to make sure the tire stabilizers do not fall out. My youngest son and I observe the lowering of the jacks to make sure they are centered on the blocks. When the system alerts us with the final “I’m finished” beeps, the guys continue to work on the connections. In the meantime, I extend the slides out, unfasten and set out our desired items once more.
It probably took more time to describe to you everything that occurs during the setup that it takes to actually do it. I think we complete this part in around 20-30 minutes. The boys still get excited to see a new camp and they go off exploring their new environment while I start thinking of supper preparation.
These travel days are beginning to feel more routine the longer we go on. No matter how far we end up going, it does still seem to take a full day once the process is completed. Sometimes we leave with just minutes to spare before the check out time, and sometimes we arrive an hour before check in. All in all, I am delighted how the family has learned to work together so well during these transitions.
Until we meet again,