This entry is part 2 in a new personal series about my life on the road; part 1 is here.
Ta da! Above is the decided title for this blog series, and, heck with the fact that only one segment in it is about being lost. This title is more succinct than that long-winded one about the way in which I’m unsuited to RV life, and it’s more accurate for me than the one I came up with for Shana and Marcus: Our Minds Wander.
That’s a good one, though, right? If you’re going to talk about neuroplasticity and the nomadic life, those three words are your album title, baby. Thing is, I’m not talking about nueroplasticity (I’m still learning what that even is), which is why I’m going with a spin on the Aragorn saying: Not all who wander are lost. (I unpacked that sucker in the last post.)
Part 2: My Enemy, the Trailer Hitch
In the first part of this series I explain how I’m especially terrible at RV life because I am the queen of getting lost. But, there’s more. Much more.
I cannot express how much I am unsuited to hitching the trailer. It’s like the hitch is my arch nemesis, the bane of my new life, the Big Bad in all my adventures. Behold its horribleness in anecdotal form.
Okay, so the basics we do get right here. When we pull into a camping area, we get near the campsite and stop the truck and get out to assess the possibilities. Is it level-ish? Are there overhanging branches? Has lighting stuck the power pedestal?
Then, we call each other on the phone so I can tell Tracy exactly how to back into the spot. The simple fact that we aren’t yelling STOP at the top of our lungs throughout the campground (like everyone else) speaks to our experience here.
The problems start when we’re without cell signal, which seems to be all the damned time. We do have walkie talkies, but I have mine on the wrong channel, or it’s running out of batteries, or I forget to wait a second after I press the button before speaking, so all Tracy hears is, “ON THE DRIVER’S SIDE!”
Let me tell you, that is not helpful.
I have not actually directed Tracy to back the trailer into something that’s poked a hole in the trailer, but give me time.
Then there’s the task of getting the trailer hitched back to the truck when we’re ready to leave. We have a special brand of hitch called a Pro-Pride, and it redistributes the weight of the trailer so the tires contact the road more securely, and it prevents trailer sway even when you’re being passed by a semi. It’s super strength, super secure, and super fiddly to get connected.
Hitching for us is, well, it is exactly like having sex with your spouse—while strangers watch. And judge you. And, if you’re not successful, your truck literally rams into your home.
I’ve described our fancy hitch before, how there’s a long stinger on the truck and a long receiver on the trailer, and I have to stand by the trailer to guide Tracy in the truck so the truck’s stinger goes in the receiver exactly right. I literally stand straddling the receiver, lifting my skirt up so I can see the exact angle, and tell Tracy to hold on, we need lube.
That damned hitch. I have to guide the stinger straight in, while adjusting the angle of the receiver using a power drill to move the weight distribution bars up and down; while adjusting the height of the trailer with a lever that you press up when you want the trailer to move down (I’m serious); and I have to make sure the weight-distribution bars are loose in their settings on both sides so the pivoting part of the hitch will sway enough to catch the stinger when it’s all the way in.
I feel like, by now, I should have multiple honorary degrees in mechanics and physics and marital harmony. Instead I have a scar on my lip, two bent weight bars, and a direct phone line to the VP of the company that makes our hitch.
The first time we were stuck, completely unable to rehitch the trailer, was luckily (or consequently) at a brewery. This was early on in our adventures, and we had a lot to learn. See how low the front of the trailer is compared to the truck? That prompted my first call to the hotline, which is really the VP’s cell phone, and he explained how high the weight distribution bars should be to angle the receiver so the stinger will go in. Bingo. (Plus. I needed to raise the trailer.)
The first injury I inflicted upon myself was in Utah, where I was watching way too closely that exact measurement for raising the bars. See, once the stinger meets the receiver and we start latching everything together, Tracy holds the wooden ruler next to the vertical bars (these things have names but that is beyond me) so when I’m using the drill to lift the bar, I can see how far it’s going up.
Except, if your face is right up against the drill so you can see the ruler, and the bar suddenly hits as far as it’s gonna go, and the drill snaps backwards with the force of your own damned finger on the power button, you’re going to smack yourself in the lip with that drill so hard that three years later you still have a scar.
And that’s injury #1. I’ll leave it at that; this description is getting so long and pitiful that I’m risking you not believing me.
Things People Say to Us
While I’m Doing the Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done
When we’re in a campground and trying to back into a campsite or hitch back up, some bored, retired guy is invariably standing right there because he’s been waiting all day for someone he can talk to. Plus, we’re weird-looking.
Difficult questions I’m asked while I have the walkie talkie in my hand (or drill, or raised skirt):
What part of Texas are y’all from?
Where to start with that? If I say our mailing address, Livingston, he’s going to have a brother-in-law from there. If I say we’re fulltimers, he’s going to have LOTS of questions. What do I say? I’m from Virginia; Tracy’s from Iowa, we met in Maryland, and our plates say Texas. Seriously, what do I say?
How many days did it take you to get here?
I don’t know, dude; I don’t even know where I was last night. Stop asking me questions while I’m trying to back the trailer into our spot.
You’re far from home!
Only Canadians say this, because they’re polite enough not to ask where we’re from but inquisitive enough to make an observation anyway. I actually want to respond to them because they’re so polite, but I’m backing the trailer up!
Do you like your Airstream?
Is that a rhetorical question?
Is that StarLink? How does it work?
Oh boy. I leave this one for Tracy. Which is hard to do when he’s aiming that stinger.
As They Walk by Our Campsite—That We Can Hear
Father to son: That trailer costs more than our house.
Son to father: It looks like a space ship!
Dude from Mississippi: That’s Money, right they-ah.
All dudes: That’s fun on wheels!
It is indeed fun on wheels. Be sure to have multiple degrees before hitching it up, though, plus a direct line to the hitching company, a cheat sheet for how to set up multiple leveling blocks that you’ve edited over the years and now can barely read on your phone, and an ice hockey mask.
Stay tuned for additional thrilling episodes to Some Who Wander Are Lost, such as, How Many Things Have I Broken? and, Yes, We’re Still Married.