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Old 02-09-2019, 03:52 PM   #1
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First Time Trailer - Counseling Session Needed

Id love to get some feedback from anyone that can remember how they felt the first time they pulled a trailer. Ive been planning for a year and am picking up my 21 in May and couldnt be more excited. Now that the time is approaching, Im starting to focus on what could go wrong (not great for the psyche). Im a planner and a list-maker, so I know I will be intellectually prepared, but I have this vision of the "Escape guy meeting me at some parking lot after crossing the border and handing me my new trailer and waving goodbye. Im doing this alone and will drive away to the closest camping location to start the learning journey. It just feels huge to me! I will be stopping and starting quite a lot over a week-long trip back to the Bay Area (California), so, hopefully, I will become more comfortable with that experience. Any words of wisdom - perhaps its not as difficult as Im imagining? Thanks all!

Leslie
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Old 02-09-2019, 03:56 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Leslie View Post
I’d love to get some feedback from anyone that can remember how they felt the first time they pulled a trailer. I’ve been planning for a year and am picking up my 21’ in May and couldn’t be more excited. Now that the time is approaching, I’m starting to focus on what could go wrong (not great for the psyche). I’m a planner and a list-maker, so I know I will be intellectually prepared, but I have this vision of the "Escape guy” meeting me at some parking lot after crossing the border and handing me my new trailer and waving goodbye. I’m doing this alone and will drive away to the closest camping location to start the learning journey. It just feels huge to me! I will be stopping and starting quite a lot over a week-long trip back to the Bay Area (California), so, hopefully, I will become more comfortable with that experience. Any words of wisdom - perhaps it’s not as difficult as I’m imagining? Thanks all!

Leslie
Once you've learned a few basic skills, and have a little experience, towing is pretty easy Leslie. There are a few new skills you'll need to learn. You will need to tow at a little slower speed than when you're not, allow a little more room for braking, your turns are going to be wider, and backing up is something we all learn and are always improving on. If you have never towed before, I might suggest you attend one of those towing classes. They offer one in Chilliwack I believe. Those who've attended such a course as a first timer have reported back that it was quite valuable, and helped their confidence level.
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Old 02-09-2019, 04:11 PM   #3
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Leslie, I was pretty nervous when I first started towing but, like anything else, it does get easier the more you do it. Like you, I am also a planner and list maker. That helps but nothing suffices for actual behind the wheel experience. The suggestion to attend a class is a good one. I’ll add, once you take delivery in Sumas, head to the nearest and largest empty parking lot you can find and practice maneuvering and backing.

Lastly, try to avoid arriving home during the commute! Best wishes,
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Old 02-09-2019, 04:12 PM   #4
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There are a limitless number of U-Tube videos about towing, backing up, etc.
Just do a search.
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Old 02-09-2019, 04:20 PM   #5
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When I bought my 16' Scamp in 2002, I had never towed a travel trailer either. I had to go from the west side of Portland to the east side in rush hour traffic! Also crossing Portland's tallest bridge. I got into a lane and stayed there. Nothing was going to make me change lanes, nothing. White knuckles and I made it home just fine. I think in my case, "baptism by fire" actually helped. It gave me confidence I may not have gained if traffic would have been light... maybe. I do remember I burned through enough adrenaline that I was starving when I got home. So watch your blood sugar level, truly. Eat healthy! And good luck. No one is born with a towing gene.
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Old 02-09-2019, 04:23 PM   #6
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Leslie,
Why not rent a Uhaul trailer and do some practicing. Other than the length and weight, pulling a smaller trailer will help you gain some confidence. You may also want to practice towing while in traffic rush hour to get the feel also. Backing up will also help you.
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Old 02-09-2019, 04:44 PM   #7
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Cp Charley's idea is good if you have current tow vehicle. Trailer should be same size. Start with an empty parking lot and, ideally, a friend who can get you safely there. Graduate to the road, working up to construction sites, gas stations, getting passed by semis. I took a two hour trailer towing lesson from an outfit close to the factory that was helpful.
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Old 02-09-2019, 05:01 PM   #8
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All the advice given so far is great. The biggest hurdle is figuring out how to back up. The rest will be rather easy once you drive for a few miles... you'll see... just be careful with your turning radius. The biggest thing that helped me get the backing up process is putting my hands at the bottom of the steering wheel that way you turn the wheel in the direction you want the trailer to go. Also once you initiate the trailer backing up in the direction you want to go start bringing the steering wheel back around. This will avoid jackknifing the trailer. I found a good video that explains these two things very clearly but I can't find it. I'll post it if I do. These two things are what got me intially. Also your first night try and get a pull thru camp site so you don't have to worry about backing up on pickup day. One less thing to stress about on day one. Good luck and you'll get a lot if great advice here.
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Old 02-09-2019, 05:15 PM   #9
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First of all, congratulations on your upcoming Escape!! You're going to love the 21'. Second, we feel your nervousness. Prior to purchasing our 19', my dear husband (DH) had never towed a trailer and I had never been a "co-pilot" (aka. back seat driver). Our neighbor had us over to practice pulling his horse trailer around and that certainly helped; however, had we known about the classes near Chilliwack, we probably should have opted for one of those as well. Nonetheless, Dennis (ETI) drove our trailer into the parking lot at Bob's in Sumas, showed us how to hook it up, and off he went. Nervous? Nah ... Yeah, right. What I did do on that trip home was make reservations at places where NO backing up was required. It was enough getting used to the feel of the trailer behind the truck, changing lanes, turning, stopping in traffic, etc. (At one point, I even asked members of the forum how our truck should feel pulling the trailer up over the Siskiyou Pass and received very reassuring answers.) When we got home, DH had to back up into our back field which was challenging for the first time but he made it (and we only lost one tail light ... ). He's still not crazy about backing up (other members here can attest to that) but doing it again and again certainly helps (we think he may be missing a 'backup gene' ... ha!). One thing we've learned -- don't be afraid to ask other RVers for assistance/tips/help/whatever. Most are more than happy to share their knowledge. There's no shame in starting out with, "Hi, this is my first trailer and I was wondering ..... "
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Old 02-09-2019, 05:32 PM   #10
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Congrats on your new 21! We know the Bay Area well and just wanted to remind you that when pulling a trailer, you need to stay in the right 2 lanes on freeway travel....unless of course there’s a freeway merge or split. Then it’s easy to find yourself all of a sudden in the 3rd or 4th lane but don’t sweat it and just try to get back into the most right 2 lanes as soon as you can. From what I hear, Escapes seem to be very nice and easy to tow so for your 1st trailer you chose well! Just take your time, don’t be in a hurry and let people pass you when it’s safe to do so....an easy way to make others happy!
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Old 02-09-2019, 05:34 PM   #11
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Here's a site that has tips and links to simulators and games: https://www.outdoorsy.com/blog/pro-t...g-up-a-trailer

(The game is at https://www.ukcampsite.co.uk/games/reverse.asp )
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Old 02-09-2019, 06:00 PM   #12
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Fortunately when you leave Sumas you'll be driving straight and won't have to back up. Depending on which way you head out of there, you will have back roads (lots of farms to drive by) to drive on which are curvy and single lane each direction. Just take it slowly around the sharp curves and don't worry about what's behind you.


It took me a long time to get past the worry of who all is behind me.


Regarding doing it yourself - that's what I do. Except for two weekend trips with Dirk along, it's been me, myself and I on the trips. We got the rear view/back up camera on the trailer, which has been invaluable. Make sure you have good mirrors. I also have a back up camera on the Tundra which really helps for hitching the trailer. ETI put a strip of orange reflector tape on the ball of the hitch and that really helps in lining it up for hitching. It took a bit to know where that line was in the camera for perfect alignment, but now I can usually do a better job on my own than when Dirk is helping me at home to hitch up before I leave for a trip. I've also impressed a few guys (and women) at campgrounds with getting it lined up without any help from someone waving and/or shouting at you as to which way to turn to line it up.


I picked up the trailer in November and drove it home, after taking a nap at the first rest stop past Bellingham. A neighbor put it down the steep driveway for me; I can now do it myself. When I was ready to start using it, I took a two-day driving course through RV Driving School. They use contractors that give lessons for motorhomes (vast majority do that) and travel trailers (not as many). I took them through a fellow in Sequim; they now have someone else doing them part of the year in that area. I thought about the school next to ETI but decided I wanted the two day course instead of a few hours as it was all new to me. they have instructors in different parts of the country so there might be one that will work for you. I found the videos to be worthless as I'm not the type to learn that sort of thing that way. Some are; I'm not. You might be.


Once you get the backing up figured out, find a big parking lot without any traffic and do lots of practice. I take it back out at the beginning of the season to refresh my skills and that really helps.


When you plan your route, if googlemaps says it's, for example, a 5 hour drive, add several hours to that for rest/food/pee/gasoline breaks. Plus you probably won't be driving the speed limit of 70 or whatever it is. In CA you'll have a 55 mph limit for towing. Which is fine by me.


Depending on how many exit/entrance ramps there are on the highway, I tend to drive in the middle lane if there's lots of them as it can be tricky slowing down/speeding up for traffic coming in, especially all those semis. If there aren't very many of them, I'll stay in the far right lane if there are 3 lanes. Everyone else will want to get around you, to put it mildly.


There are websites that will tell you where the rest stops are. I print that information out so I have reference as to when I want to pull over, as my GPS is pretty worthless at telling me even though I have it set up to point them out. The northern OR rest stops are nice with lots of room. Some even have extra space in the back where you can pull over away from most of the semis and take a nap. Farther south they're lots smaller and some times I didn't always have room to pull over for a while. And for the trucks and trailers, it's just a long row where you pull over to the curb on either the right or left side. Not pull through sites. Let's just say you might have to pull off on an exit ramp if you really need to pee and the rest stops are full. And that can be tricky at times too.


When you come through Seattle be sure to stop at the rest stop in the Everett area (north of Seattle), which is the last one for a long time. They separate out the semis (they stay in the truck weight station area) from the RV area, so it's nice if you want to take a long break or a nap. You won't find the next rest stop until you're way past Seattle and down past Olympia. Traffic can get really boogered up around both Seattle, Federal Way and Tacoma; so yeah, pee when you can!


Coming through downtown Seattle you don't want to be in the far right lanes as they eventually get siphoned off for another highway. I get in the next to the far left and that works just fine through downtown. That way you'll be in the proper lane to stay on I5.


Going around Portland, I take the 205 bypass as the bridges in downtown Portland have always majorly freaked me out and even more so pulling the trailer.



South of Portland there's this one exit that a lot of truckers use to fill up. I forget the exit, but someone from around there could probably chime in. Many times the far right highway lane will get wadded full of RVs and semis pulling off to get gas. It's not very well planned at the end of the ramp so traffic backs way up, including the shoulder of the highway. Before you get there, don't be in the far right lane if at all possible. It's dangerous. I got gas once there when I was heading north and holy cow, never again!


Have fun with your new trailer! I thoroughly enjoy using ours. It's "me time" as Dirk says, when I take it out.
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Old 02-09-2019, 06:05 PM   #13
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Hmmmm, while I had towed small trailers before picking up our 19 last September, I had never towed anything approaching that size and weight. When we went through orientation, the Escape folks demonstrated the hitching and unhitching process in great detail, right in the bay where the trailer was located, with our truck. I think that's because we had purchased the weight-distributing hitch, and they wanted to make sure we knew how to install the bars. Then when delivery happened in Sumas, they went through it again, actually he had us unhitch from their vehicle and hitch to ours while he supervised. After that, we had the hitching process down pretty well. But then I insisted on driving the first time, and when we pulled out of the parking lot and onto the highway, my first thought was wow, that thing is HEAVY. And big. Like a barn door riding flat to the wind in your rear view mirror! I was white-knuckled. We drove for about 4 hours before finding a campsite and made multiple wrong turns in the process, which forced me to have to pull into all manner of parking lots and turn it around. Yes a bit stressful, but I learned fast. Use your mirrors to watch where the trailer is and what it's doing when you're turning, and don't be afraid to stop and get out and look if you can. And don't worry about going fast or upsetting other drivers, they can and will deal with it, and you can always pull over if there aren't passing lanes. The brakes on the trailer will help you stop pretty fast, but you still need to allow for additional stopping space. For us, months down the road, having had it out a few times, I will say it has become much easier. Not quite second nature, but definitely easier and nowhere near the white-knuckled experience of those first few hours. My husband hadn't towed anything in decades, and he's comfortable with it as well. Neither of us has taken a towing course, but undoubtedly it would have helped that first experience not be so stressful. Either way, have faith it will be OK, and it will get easier! Go slow, use your mirrors to keep track of traffic, maintain a good distance behind other vehicles, and if you're changing lanes on a highway, be sure to know exactly where the back of the trailer is in relation to the closest vehicle. And swing WIDE on tight turns and watch where the trailer tires are tracking. You'll do fine!
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Old 02-09-2019, 06:20 PM   #14
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If you havent already, try to plan on registering the trailer on the way back -- depending on which route you took.. the ones in the north are way better than any of the bay area DMVs.
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Old 02-09-2019, 06:34 PM   #15
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Old 02-09-2019, 07:00 PM   #16
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If you havent already, try to plan on registering the trailer on the way back -- depending on which route you took.. the ones in the north are way better than any of the bay area DMVs.
Really good idea!!! Many people said that the DMV around Shasta City was good but what we did this time was stay at Durango RV in Red Bluff and then go to the Red Bluff DMV (with an appointment). It's easy to get to and the street in front of the DMV is wide with lots of parking. They will make you, eventually, park in front of the DMV (there's a spot) so they can go through the inspections; however, you can go around the block to get there. Once you're through, you go back down the way you came until you hit I-5 and you're almost home.
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Old 02-09-2019, 07:07 PM   #17
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Excellent advice from everybody.Just one more thing that I see way too often.
People passing tractor trailers and cutting in too close in front of them.They need lots of room and will blow those big air horns at you.Make sure you got the whole rig with you and use your mirrors, step on the gas so you get lots of space before changing lanes,
Just my two cents worth.
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Old 02-09-2019, 08:28 PM   #18
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I was going to suggest that you reach out to Laura (NW Cat Owner) as she took an RV course. But I see she has already posted with some excellent information.

As a former transit operator, my main suggestion is to drive with your eyes a 1/4 mile or more down the road. Too many people keep their attention focused on the taillights in front of them. Your peripheral vision will see the car in front just fine. Focus far down the road and you will have time to plan for changing situations instead of reacting to them. Maintaining a good following distance also gives you plenty of time to adjust.

Also get in the habit of checking your mirrors often for the same reason. I was taught a 4-point rhythm for my attention:

1. Forward down the road
2. Left outside mirror
3. Dash board, speedometer.
4. Right outside mirror

Rinse and repeat ...

Good Luck!!!

Edit: These are skills that you can practice now, trailer or no trailer behind you. If you practice now until you pick up your trailer, they will already be a habit.
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Old 02-09-2019, 09:13 PM   #19
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I first towed a small trailer 12 years ago. it was 3 hrs from the rv place to home on I-5 and I white knuckled it all the way. Like Donna, I picked a lane and stayed there. I would recommend one lane over from the slowest lane. Many people who are merging on don't pay attention to your length and it can get a little hairy. you will only need to move once after you enter and once when you need to exit. If you miss a turn or exit, no biggie. There's always a way to get where you want to go. Are you getting the camera? i find it extremely valuable, and it would be even more so if i were new to towing.

I would seek out street parking or really large parking lots at the beginning. A couple times I've pulled into places that LOOKED like they had another exit but they didn't. It was some pretty fancy maneuvering. Even getting gas sometimes necessitates special attention to entrances and exits.

Camping people are really nice. Don't be afraid to ask folks nearby for help/directions when getting into a camp spot.

Lastly, if you can manage it, I highly suggest attending the rally at Osoyoos. Besides meeting a lot of really nice people, you'll get a ton of good ideas and advice.

You will love it!
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Old 02-09-2019, 09:44 PM   #20
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Thank you all so much

I loved the stories and the great advice. This info and positive thinking really helped. I am getting the backup camera and having the WDH installed on my new F150 when I'm up there for orientation. I plan to register in Red Bluff to avoid the Bay Area DMVs. I love the idea of taking the trailer directly to a big parking lot for some practice. Thanks again!
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