Maybe USACE Engineers Don’t Own Airstreams

We’ve stayed at only a handful of campsites built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE; the campgrounds are called, for short, COEs), but they have a great reputation: well-manicured campgrounds on lakes, mostly waterfront sites, and little things like wooden staircases up inclines that make a difference when you’re spending a week or more there.

This campground in southern Georgia is a perfect example. I mean, look at that deck. We just back the trailer into the site and step out onto a deck any homeowner would be thrilled with, and with a lake view you’d pay a gazillion dollars for in other circumstances.

The deck on our site has steps down to a platform closer to the waterfront for grilling, that of course we took over with our outdoor living room furniture.

We’ve sat out there just our first night here so far, but already we were treated to a pair of osprey building a nest on a platform right in front of us, plus lightning bugs up high in the early spring trees.

There’s a footpath down to the water that would be great for stashing the kayaks, but we can’t get them off the truck (explanation below).

And this is our evening view. Not even kidding.

The campsite has it all: the view, the spacious deck for entertaining (too bad we’re one stop short of where we actually will have friends to our campsite), and privacy as well as direct access to the water.

So, Where’s the Rub?

At another COE campground we stayed previously, the driveway to the campsite was at a 90-degree angle from the road. So we had to cut the trailer angle while backing in a little, then pull up and cut more, then pull up and cut more, forever it seemed like, until we finally got the trailer and the truck both straight in the driveway. Maybe trailers with simple ball hitches can make that turn backing up easily, but our hitch is long and we can’t. Made us wonder if the engineers who designed the site had ever backed up a long trailer.

Here the driveway is at an easy angle for lining the trailer up for backing, but it immediately angles down steeply. You can see from this pic the elevation change from the road we drove in on at the right directly down to the left where the platform is for the trailer. That’s steep.

Tracy did a great job backing the trailer down the incline slow and straight, which he had to because that’s a narrow area, and the awning arms missed the deck edge by about two inches. And, thankfully, the trailer itself is level on the pad.

But the incline starts right at the hitch, which means the stinger on the truck part of the hitch angles down, whereas the receptor on the trailer part of the hitch faces straight forward.

I’ve described our weird hitch in probably too much detail before, but suffice it to say there’s a very long stinger that has to fit into the receiving sheath (it’s quite sexual) exactly so. I can get the trailer end to angle up some by changing the amount of weight the weight-distribution bars are set to hold, but I can’t work miracles, and this site requires a miracle.

So, what did we do?

We left the truck hitched to the trailer, is what we did. We were afraid we’d never get it hitched back, so we simply didn’t unhitch it in the first place. We were able to level the trailer fairly well by adjusting the weight-distribution bars (yeah, that still confuses me, too), and we could get some items out of the back of the truck.

The bummer parts though:

  • We couldn’t pull the slider out of the truck bed so couldn’t get the grill out, and the grill has become our go-to cooking method these days.
  • There’s not enough room on either side of the truck for us to get the kayaks down, so we can’t take them out on the lake here where the conditions are perfect. Heck, out on the water we’d be able to pull the kayaks right up to the bank here at our campsite and embark from there, too.
  • And the obvious: we can’t drive anywhere while we’re here! Tracy was going to fuel up the truck while it was unhitched, but that plan is shot. We’re also short on beer (gasp!). And we would have enjoyed buying wood for a campfire.

So, do engineers own Airstreams? I’m sure some do, but maybe not the ones who design these COE campsites. I’m sure a small trailer could fit in here fine, but that detail was left out of the long description of the site that we read before we booked it. And maybe at our previous COE site with the 90-degree driveway a different kind of hitch would have made that easier. But with all the planning and work the USAC put into these campsites, you’d think they’d make small changes so that more types of trailers could fit in the spaces.

Complaint over. We really are loving this place; we keep catching each other just staring out at the lake or in the trees, appreciating the signs of spring we haven’t seen because we’ve been in Florida.

Final Segment, or No?

So, I like to post video of my uke playing to give you another view of where we are, but I know my playing can be painful to hear. Do you watch with the sound off? Do you just skip over that? Or does that add to your impressions of our locale?

I could post updates of my model house building (people surprisingly dig that), but it has nothing to do with our travels, and this is a travel blog, after all.

How about something new, like a quick video tour of the campsite, or a Banjo photo each entry?

Let me know what you’d like to see at the end of posts, even if it’s just my cheerful “missing you” sign-off.

Thanks, guys! I do miss you.

8 thoughts to “Maybe USACE Engineers Don’t Own Airstreams”

  1. We had that issue in opposite with the horse float, though in a simpler way. Luckily we were able to stand on the hitch and because it’s light we got it down onto the ball. It was a sweaty and slightly panicked couple of minutes though! Personally I’d LOVE to see updates on the tiny house! It’s just as much about travelling as posts on what stuff you’ve bought and where Banjo likes to sleep. Also yes to your ukulele videos which I listen to with the sound on

    1. We had a simple ball hitch with the Frolic, and it was so much easier, but as Tracy pointed out, it’s also easier to jackknife than what we have. And I can’t get used to “horse float” – I always think about teeth. Isn’t there a procedure where you float a horse’s teeth? Okay, tiny house and occasional ukulele videos for the future. Thanks for the camaraderie!

  2. Oh and what an amazing campsite, hitching issues aside! Bet you’d never want to leave if you had use of the truck. Do all the waterfront sites have that problem?

    1. We saw one guy get the bumper of his trailer actually wedged into the driveway – he must’ve been backing up really fast. Some sites seem more level, and the pull-through sites (where you don’t back in) were all level.

  3. Tiny house progress, yes please! And all the rest, living vicariously goes in multiple directions 🙂