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How to Become a Global Citizen

It is absolutely the most bizarre thing we encountered while preparing for a life on the road. We intended to live nowhere; flitting from place to place according to whim. We’d be residents of the world with no fixed address to call home. There was only one small problem. Read More…

7 Lessons From a Year on the Road

Cadillac Mountain

One year ago today we set out on a grand adventure. At the time we had no idea how things would turn out. Whether we’d take to the road or return home with our tails between our legs was a complete mystery. Well, a year later we’re still going and have no plans of stopping anytime soon. But as much as we’re enjoying ourselves, no life altering change can happen without learning a few things along the way. Here is my list of the seven biggest lessons from a year on the road: Read More…

Fit To Be Towed

The convoy has rolled to its final stop. We traded in our Audi for a Jeep in New Jersey, and got our tow assembly installed in Washington, D.C. For those who’ve asked us, incredulously, over the past several months why it’s taken us so long to set up, it’s because the whole thing is a bit of an ass ache. You can’t just throw a couple of bungee cords on the bumpers of any two vehicles and head off. The list of stuff needed to make this work reminds me of an earlier “Reality Bites” post. Things are never as easy as they should be, or as they seem.

To get ready to tow we needed to trade in our car. Call this “Ass Ache Number 1.” We liked our car and didn’t plan on parting with it for a long time. So running off to get a new one wasn’t something either of us was excited about. And our choices of new vehicle were severely limited. Most cars can’t be towed with all four wheels on the ground; even fewer with automatic transmissions can be. So we had to give up a car we liked for one that we were lukewarm on, at best. Yay! Our choices were further constrained by weight issues. The trailer hitch and the motor home itself are only rated to tow so much weight.

Height also ended up being a limiting factor, and one that we almost overlooked. Tow bar manufacturers recommend a vertical difference of no greater than four inches between the motor home trailer hitch and the tow vehicle base plate connection. After some research, we discovered that the base plate pegs for the Honda Fit, our original tow vehicle of choice, were 13.5 inches off the ground whereas the tow receiver on our motor home is 22 inches. Math is hard, but even I can figure out that 22 minus 13.5 is quite a bit more than 4. It is more than 4, right?

A robotic breaking system for our Jeep

Keep in mind that there isn’t anyone who will tell you this. You have to figure nearly everything out on your own, and hope you don’t mess it up too badly. Had we bought the Fit as originally planned, we probably wouldn’t have been able to tow it without a dolly. That would have qualified as a bad hair day.

After we side stepped that landmine, all we needed was a tow bar, base plates, safety cables, wiring to connect the tail lights of the motor home to the tow vehicle, a supplemental breaking system, and a mechanic to install it all. Piece of cake.

Setting this all up adds about thirty minutes to the front end and probably fifteen minutes to the backend of our travel time. It adds 20 feet of driving length to our 35 foot motor home and raises a whole host of potential problems, limitations, and hazards while in transit. But somehow this still seems more sensible than driving across country in tandem. Not by much, though.

Fit or Fun?

Jeep Image

There is something about this Jeep that has me rethinking our plans.  As I mentioned earlier, our existing car isn’t suitable to tow, so we’ll eventually have to replace it with something else.  We had pretty much decided on getting a Honda Fit for a whole host of really boring practical reasons.  It’s inexpensive, light weight, has plenty of cargo capacity, gets great gas mileage, Zzzzzzzzzz.

But lately we’ve been running into a fair number of unpaved roads, which I didn’t really expect in the North East.  I’m wondering what we’ll encounter when we head west.  So we’ve been thinking that the dainty little Fit might not get us everywhere we want to go.  And how practical is that?

And then today we see this bad boy, tricked out for serious off-roading.  It even has the requisite mud splatters to prove it is legit.  But there is something else here that I can’t quite put my finger on.  I’m not sure exactly what it is, but for some reason I really want a Jeep now.

Only on a Jeep Image

Inaugural Voyage

Point A is the location of the dealer where we bought our RV.  Point B is our storage facility in Saugerties, NY, where we’ll be keeping it for the next month.  The blue line represents the one-hour, 23 minute, 74.5 mile drive, I needed to complete to get the rig from Point A to Point B.  Piece of cake . . . except I’ve never driven an 18,000 pound, 35 foot, Class A motor home before.  Conceptually I know how to drive it; it turns wider because of the length; the back end swings out to the opposite side when turning because of the shorter wheel base; it’s wider than a car so I need to mind the right hand side; it stops much slower; etc. etc. etc.  But as any college professor understands, knowing and doing are two completely different things.  Nonetheless, today’s the day I needed to saddle up and take this puppy for a spin.

A couple of things surprised me about the trip.  One, I didn’t wreck it.  That was pretty cool, and an important first step in our plans.  The second is the great visibility I had of the road.  Not only in front, but also along the sides, and to a certain extent, in the back.  Because of the large double mirrors and the high vantage point I actually had a better sense of where I was on the road than when I’m driving my car.  But that high vantage point has a drawback . . . bridge overhangs look looooooow.  Passing under bridges, even when the elevation is marked, feels like a leap of faith.  I keep picturing the top of the rig getting sheared off by a low bridge.  But not on this trip.  Ship and crew arrived safely at their appointed destination with nary a scratch.  So far, so good.

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