Saturday (a week ago now), and back to the story…
So I’ve now loaded the trailer in haste because 1) I’m in a hurry to get the heck on the road, 2) Kitty is hanging out in the truck cab, and I’ve never traveled very far with her, and 3) because I’m so fried by now that I’m just putting things where I see space. Makes sense, right??? Apparently not. The problem is I am towing a large trailer with a medium-size pick-up. The bigger problem is the trailer is weighted wrong. This matters because, as I am about to find out, the trailer can and will have intentions of its own!
Just as I’m getting on the road, I realize I yet need another part (a small cotter pin) for the trailer’s “sway control”. For now, since I’m just driving it around town as I have been, it’s fine to tow without. So I Google Map an Ace Hardware, and there’s one right on my way. Pop in, pop out, I get a couple of them and also another “u-bolt” to better secure my bike rack. Now, with all parts installed, off and running!
Next turn puts me onto C-470. It’s now around 4pm, and all sorts of folks are doing their normal speeding around, going wherever the heck they’re going! I’m just cruising along when my new best friend hanging onto the back of my truck starts acting up. In this case, acting up is akin to “wagging the dog”, or swaying somewhat wildly. In just a nanosecond, my mind flew away to a distant memory of seeing some jackass with a small SUV towing a big travel trailer. Well, that’s what I remember thinking of them at the time. Now the jackass was me, only I was in a light truck. Not sure how this differs, but if I had white knuckles, that was an understatement, so what was the dude in the SUV doing later besides throwing his soiled underwear over his back fence into the alley…wait, that was another random memory! Ok, time to move on from this shhh…sound (local joke).
If all of that wasn’t enough, Kitty was finding her way into my lap, first two paws with just the right pressure to annoy, and with her tiny little head now in harm’s way of the steering wheel and my hands’ wild attempts to regain control. At this point in my memory of the incident, I can’t honestly be certain where she ended up, but at some point she was considerate enough (ha!, ya right!), ok scared enough that she actually crawled into her carrier. How scared must she be to now consider a place she’d only enter after a series of convulsions, a safe haven?! At some point I realized she was there, and felt sincere gratitude for her new sense of calm and for one less distraction.
I now pull off the freeway and tighten the hitch’s “sway control”, get back on the freeway, and continue on my “merry” way. Well, it was better for sure, but not great. I just kept at it, and now I’m in traffic between Denver and Colorado Springs, which is always a treat under any circumstances. I’d drive for a bit, get some more wagging action, slow down, kinda pull off the freeway, then keep going. I kept the speed at around 60-65 max despite the 75mph speed limit which nobody was adhering to. I “feathered it” until south of Colorado Springs where I decided again to stop and see what I could do. I again tightened the sway control, this time as tight as it could go. Then I did a nice u-turn, which in most vehicles wouldn’t be possible, but I’m in a Toyota Tacoma 4WD, built with off-road capabilities like a tight turning radius. Awesome!!! Uh, not really. As I’d find out later, it is very likely the combination of tightening the sway control too tight combined with a tight turn apparently bent the hitch where the sway control ball sits, and I’m talking about 1/2” of solid steel. Oops. Oh well, at least it still kinda works!
Now I’m back on the road and night has long since graced me with its dark presence. Every time I pass a highway sign board, even prior to the Springs, a flashing “high-wind advisory” or “dangerous conditions for high-profile vehicles” keeps reminding me why my palms are secreting what little water my body may have contained after countless days of poor hydration. Then I think of all the trips to Cheyenne in my truck without a wild animal attached to my bumper, and how hairy even that could be with the constant crosswinds they live with every day. Well, nevertheless, I hung in there, but only as far as Trinidad. My plan was to make it all the way to Albuquerque, but after so many days of running non-stop and this particular day having started at 6am, I was in no position to argue with my exhaustion. “Google Maps, find me a Walmart, so I can park and sleep!”
For those of your who would never have thought of living full-time in an RV much less to ask why I would be happy to find a Walmart, well they free parking for RV’s overnight. The name of the game for me was simply to roll out the slide on the back of the trailer which constitutes our queen bed, turn out the lights, and sleep in peace. Well, for the most part, this was well thought out. In other ways, naturally it was not! On the positive side, the bed is super comfy and the down comforter was well worth the minor weight penalty. On the down side, the parking lot was right next to I-25, so it was noisy with traffic, and it may as well have been high-noon, the parking lot lights were so incredibly bright. Slightly worse, Kitty woke me in the middle of the night with the sound of vomiting and the horrific odor of diarrhea…yuck! I have to admit though, I was so damn exhausted and it was so damn cold in the trailer, that I didn’t bother to get up in the middle of the night to clean up the mess. Instead, I get up around 7am, after minimal rest to take care of it while shivering uncontrollably. “Damn”, I think, “how cold did it get last night?”. My watch is hanging next to the bed and has a thermometer on it (yes, I’m a geek!), and it is reading 27 degrees! No wonder Kitty crawled under the comforter and slept against my chest!
I clean up the mess, cram some food in my gullet, and head across the freeway overpass to recharge my extremely thirsty truck with some more of earth’s processed decomposed dinosaur remains. Mind you, I was only getting 8mpg through the mountains (or hills, as compared to Colorado’s real mountains), so I was tying off a vein for the truck quite often. As I was refueling, I looked up an RV campground, as I knew the black tank on the trailer was reading 2/3 full, and the grey tank was reading 1/3 full. With 28 gallon tanks, this equates to about 28 gallons of “stuff” and more than 225 pounds of weight. It’s liquid weight, too, which means it likes to move around and is probably playing a role in the trailer sway. So the lady tells me it’s $18 to take a dump, or leave a dump, seemingly more appropriate. I ask her if there is a water hose by the drain so I can rinse out the trailer’s drain hose when I’m done. She tells me there probably isn’t (weird) and that I can use the hose in front if it works. She’s nice enough to walk out there with me to check it. Oddly, despite the freezing temps and the fact that the hose looked like it had more than once been run over by a lawn mower, it actually worked. So, off to the drain location in the back to “leave” a dump.
I had never before emptied RV tanks before, so this is new, but not at all exciting. As it turns out, it was actually a major let down…no happy ending, well not entirely. As I said before, the black tank was reading 2/3 full, but when I opened the valve, nothing. So, as I’ve read before, certain “scale”, or “sludge”, as they call it (but should be called crap) can mess up the gauge, causing it to read something when there is nothing. Now I’m thinking I just gave $18 for nothing, but thankfully the grey tank came out with a whoosh, giving me some satisfaction. Since it was only grey water (for those of you who don’t know the term, it’s water from anywhere except the toilet…so shower and sinks), and since it was frigging cold out, I just stuffed the hose back into its new compartment, inside the welded steel back bumper. Stowing it there was a recommendation of the guy who did the solar install, and for which I am grateful. There is not much outside storage on this trailer, and adding the solar components took up a considerable chunk of this prime real estate, so though it may seem like a small thing, having that dirty thing in its own place is nearly a god-send!
Prior to leaving the office to leave the dump, I had asked the lady what the terrain is like between Trinidad and Albuquerque. She said right away is the “easiest pass” in Colorado called Raton Pass, and at its worst, it climbs a 6% grade for a mile. From there to Santa Fe, it’s nearly flat. Hurray!!! From there, she continued, there may be a few hills around Santa Fe. So off and running I went up and over the pass without too much trouble, then out on the open plains with a mild cross wind. Well, the trailer was acting up again, but understand that other than just “leaving” the dump at the RV campground, I had also moved a bunch of heavier items from the back of the trailer to the truck to lighten the trailer load and even it out a bit front to back. Evidently, this hadn’t been enough. I now decide to move things from the truck cab back into the front of the trailer. Ok, now I’m back on the road and honestly, it’s like a whole new ball game. It feels like my previous trailering experience on the open road, joyful!
Kitty and I covered lots of miles (maybe like 600) with no sway or bucking from the trailer, but after passing through Flagstaff, the sun had gone down, we are higher in altitude again, and so the cooling temps mean wind again. Google Maps tells me I’m only 2-1/2 hours away, but I’m now thinking I won’t make it in time. I really didn’t want to pull into a campground so late and not be able to see to park the trailer, and I didn’t want to make a bunch of racket “after hours”. What’s worse is there is a fairly significant amount of traffic on the highway, and I’m not really stoked to be pulling the trailer in the dark. Maybe I’m just tired, but it feels increasing like an effort I’m not wishing to extend any longer than necessary. I’m not even sure what I said when I called Emily for assistance, I just know it was bordering on gibberish. She attempted to locate free camping for me other than Walmart, as this time Walmart was 12 miles off the freeway via two-lane roads in the opposite direction.
So, Emily sends me some info on a national forest area. Well, seemed like a good option. The ranger station was of course closed, and the road leading back to it seemed to be more of a backwoodsey residential street. After a little ways, I couldn’t find anything resembling a road to a campsite, and I’m getting edgy because it’s the kind of area in which the owners would come out wielding a shot gun for no other reason than to justify having them. Moreover, as I’m stopped and looking for a way to turn around, some random large dog starts sauntering my way, and I’m thinking, “Great, I can’t get out of the truck to spot the trailer if I turn around here”. I instead continue on and find a house with a relatively large lot next to it with some earthmoving equipment, and in near total darkness I somehow manage to turn around and head back out without getting bit by a dog or shot by one of Trump’s henchmen!
I get back on Google Maps and type in Walmart, and the ETA is only 16 minutes. “Screw it”, I think, “I’m heading there, it’s all the mojo I’ve got left!”. After the short jaunt to Cottonwood, where the Walmart is, I pull in and don’t see a single RV or truck parked there. Oh well, I’m parking! I actually found a nice spot in the far front corner with virtually no lights and no freeway!!! Set up the bed, slept, well kind of, again. This time, it’s comfortably warm(er), nice for sleeping, but poor Kitty’s gut still wasn’t liking: 1) missing mommy, 2) being in the truck for 12 hours today, 3) not having any clue what the heck she’s doing in the truck all day if she’s not going to see Dr Hemerson, and 4) what is this new place she’s sleeping in that has wheels and all these internal moving parts?. Suffice it to say, it was another “crappy” night for Kitty with vomiting and diarrhea, but I’m not complaining in the least, for she is an absolute princess to travel with all day.
Cottonwood is a nice area, so Walmart was evidently forced to be a better neighbor, too. Monday morning I broke two long-standing boycotts in only only a half an hour. Unlike Kitty, my gut hadn’t been so “flowy”, but this morning I had to go take care of business. “Well”, you say, “you have an RV, poop in there!” In this case, you’d be wrong. Since Emily and I are so fond of the environment and since we intend on “dry camping” as often as possible, we purchased a composting toilet. And, since I only just got my hands on the trailer Friday night, the toilet was still in a box, and as requested by me of the solar installers, the chemical toilet was removed and “disposed of”. Now even though I’ve been pooping proficiently now since oh toddler years, I’ve never attempted and never plan to attempt pooping into a 3” hole on the floor, because at this point that’s what was available…or there was Walmart.
Now I’m not saying pooping at Walmart was breaking my boycott, it was just that I felt some degree of responsibility to offer something for two night’s free camping and now a place to poop. In truth, I really just needed some things and I was there, so I broke my nine-year streak in that moment by purchasing a gallon of spring water and I don’t remember what else…maybe trash bags. But since I was also not interested in making breakfast, but I was hungry, I broke another long-standing boycott by stopping at a McDonald’s inside a Walmart! Really, I had no idea these two giants in the world of conscious living had hatched such an evil plan. Well, I didn’t contribute much, but at that moment all was good by me…but I hope somebody somewhere felt a disturbance in The Force.
Otherwise, all is good for travel that day other than some gusty winds coming down from the high country to the desert. The trip was only about an hour and a half, and once I arrived, wow what a sight! I had no idea this place existed, a huge lake with mountains all around. Jackpot! This is the desert, where did all that water come from? Answer, same place you just left. That’s right, this giant lake and the aqueduct I just passed is all fed by the Colorado River. Oh well, maybe some of these water molecules, like me, are just happy to be in a warmer place with sunshine and palm trees. Ahhh, safe and sound, Kitty is now back on track after only two days at rest, and I can relax for a bit. Well, kind of…