Monday, December 14, 2015

Where Are We Going?

After visiting our daughter and her family in the Big Spring, Texas, area immediately following closing on our house, we will head towards Laughlin, Nevada. If you've followed our blog over the years, you know how much we enjoy that area. Laughlin has a climate comparable to San Angelo; that is, the winter temperature is roughly the same, though it is noticeably more arid in Laughlin. We plan to make Laughlin our base for the winter months, with occasional forays to Las Vegas, Death Valley, and other nearby areas.

It's a long way from Big Spring to Laughlin, roughly about 1,000 miles. By car, we usually make that trip in about 18 hours or so, normally spread over 2 days. Pulling a trailer will take us longer. We plan to take the better part of 3 days to get there. We will average about 350 miles each day. Yes, we could knuckle down and make the trip in 2 days, but pulling a trailer for a 1,000 miles is much more challenging than simply driving a car the same distance. As a rule, I try to limit trips pulling the trailer to 250 miles or less per day. I can go farther, of course, but I prefer not to. My longest day towing a trailer was about 3 years ago when we pulled our Rockwood from Laughlin, Nevada, to Santa Rosa, New Mexico, a distance of about 600 miles. But that was a long day, and one I don't care to repeat. We left Laughlin in the dark and did not get to Santa Rosa until after dark.

Several things make pulling a trailer more difficult. First, you have to stop more often for gas, and that slows you considerably. With my current trailer, I average about 11 miles per gallon. When traveling out West where distances between towns are greater, I generally try to refuel when my gauge gets to about half a tank. This can result in refueling every 2 to 3 hours or so. As a safety precaution, I always carry at least 1 spare 5 gallon tank of gasoline. In the West, I often carry 2.

Second, most trailer tires are rated for driving at 65 mph or less. You'll see people on the highways zipping along faster than that pulling their trailers, but you get careless people everywhere. As a rule, I try to keep my towing speed to 60 mph or less. Not only is it safer, but I get better mileage at a slower speed, and I enjoy the trip more. You know the old adage: "Slow down and smell the roses".

Trailer sway, especially with bumper-pull trailers like mine, can make towing a bit nerve wracking. If winds are high and especially if they are blowing crosswise into the trailer, a trip can turn into a stressful white-knuckle affair. Especially on interstates, 18 wheelers passing at high speeds can create fish-tailing on the trailer. I find that by staying alert, I can move over to the far right side of my lane when I see trucks moving up to pass and this somewhat diminishes the fish-tailing effect. I do have sway bars, and they certainly help, but they do not entirely eliminate trailer sway.

In a car, it is easy to turn on your cruise control and have a somewhat relaxing drive. You can't really use cruise control when towing as it would over-stress your engine. As you go up and down hills, you are constantly working the accelerator to build speed as needed. And on two-lane roads when cars stack up behind you, things get a bit stressful. So many drivers tend to become impatient, and they often pass in dangerous stretches. You have to be constantly alert.

When pulling a trailer, it takes time to build speed from a standing stop. So when you pass through towns and reduce your speed, stop at traffic lights, or pull off for fuel, food, or other reasons, it takes longer to return to your top cruising speed than it does when you are in a zippy car.

So, a somewhat relaxing 300 mile trip that may take 5 hours or less by car can turn into a stressful 7 hour trip or longer when pulling a trailer. And at the end of that time, I find myself to be more worn out than if I had driven the same distance in a car.

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