Thursday, August 2, 2018

RV History

So far, we’ve towed the 5th wheel trailer 12,722 miles. This is my first experience towing a 5th wheel trailer and the most notable thing is how stable it is. You can barely feel crosswinds but headwinds are very noticeable. After all, it has the aerodynamic profile of a brick. The 2005 RAM 3500 seems to pull it fine though the added weight of the trailer has introduced some unexpected repairs. More on that in a future post. We've made lots of mods and changes since it was purchased and is fairly roomy and comfortable especially when compared to other RVs we've had.

But for background, here is a summary of my RV history. The next three images are from the Internet as this was all in the film days. You didn't take a picture unless there was a good reason. And there was rarely a good reason to take a picture of your vehicle. At least until blogging...

The first RV owned was a 1978 Chinook built on a Toyota chassis. Single rear wheels were cheaper at toll booths. Not too bad. It was sort of self-contained with a kitchen, bathroom (no shower) and you could walk through from the cab. The icebox needed blocks of ice and it could not pass up a gas station due to the minuscule gas tank and mediocre gas mileage. It made several round trips to the lower 48 and was very convenient for traveling especially compared the minivan we used for the prior trip.

The next RV was a Grasshopper travel trailer that I bought from my parents after they decided that they weren't going to be camping anymore. This was more self-contained as it had the predecessor of a cassette toilet, a 3-way refrigerator and fresh and grey tank. It had a rear door so the setup was more camper-like but it made it easy to carry bicycles. Only used for one trip north. Less convenient than the Chinook but much more livable space. The lack of tandem axles meant that it took a real beating when towed up the highway behind a 1-ton crew cab. Lots of things needed to be screwed back together after getting it up to Alaska. It was sold to a local dog trainer as she really liked the convenience of the rear entry.

The next "RV" I couldn't find a picture of. It was an older 11' cabover camper. This is 3' longer than the bed of the truck and didn't include the queen size bed over the cab. It weighed a ton and was carried on our '91 Ford F350 crew cab which carried it fine until you tried to go up a mountain. The truck was a naturally aspirated (no turbo) 7.3-liter diesel. On its first trip down the Alaska Highway, a frost heave caused the wood for two of the camper tie-downs to fail. In Watson Lake, I drilled through the floor of the camper and the bed of the truck and just bolted the camper to the truck. That worked really well.  So well that even after rebuilding the camper frame, I still used the bolts through the floor. With this old camper, we were back to an ice-box, a porta-potty, and a freshwater tank. It did have a propane furnace, which was a first for us, but only used it once. It made a couple of round trips and was used for several trips within the state. To me, the main problem with a camper is the hazards associated with putting it on and off of the pickup. Especially something tall like that F350.

The next RV was a Wilderness travel trailer. I was looking for something towable by a 1/2 ton Suburban and this sort of qualified. The Suburban didn't do a very good job as a tow vehicle contrary to what GM advertising may claim. This trailer was also our first foray into fully self-contained. 3-way refrigerator, furnace, A/C, water heater and a full bathroom including a tiny tub. With this trailer, I learned how fast a furnace runs through propane and that a single deep cycle battery won't run the furnace through the night. But we used it for two round trips to the lower-48. And for a couple of summers, we used it in our driveway during fire season as it had air conditioning. It was sold to be replaced at some future date by a fifth wheel trailer. 

17 comments:

VStar Lady said...

How things have changed! I remember camping with my parents in the cab over camper. It was a Coachman because my uncle sold them. I borrowed it later to live in while my husband and I built our first house. It was fully contained and I recall my Dad had a Ford pickup with a second gas tank to carry it as the beast got about 8 miles to the gallon. Glamping has come a long way.

redlegsrides said...

Quite the history....I'm hoping ours will last us a while, it basically does everything we want. Except of course, get good gas mileage....

RichardM said...

Things really have changed over the years. These are only the RVs that I've owned. We started out with a borrowed tent trailer back in the mid-60s.

RichardM said...

For now, I'm pretty satisfied with the fifth wheel though it would be nice to be able to carry a motorcycle or even a scooter. For now, the priority was enough room to easily travel for a couple of months at a time with two dogs. And we already had the truck.

Bluekat said...

You've had some interesting rigs. We had a $300 camper which we later traded straight across for a camp trailer. You can imagine their condition. 😝 We once borrowed my mom's 28 ft fifth wheel. What a luxury camping trip. They are much nicer to tow than a regular trailer. Now if we get the camping bug (which I won't) we have a Vanagon "project car" or our minivan. Maybe down the road we'll look at an RV, just not ready yet.

RichardM said...

I didn’t include the two Westphalia VW busses (one running, one parts) since I never took either of them on a trip. The one that was running needed bodywork. The camper I mentioned was a $500 camper.

Bluekat said...

I think every VW person I've met has a "parts" vehicle. lol

SonjaM said...

Actually, I really dig the Chinook, Richard. It's something that would have worked perfectly for European roads. A travel trailer was never on our wish list, although it remains the cheapest option for a mobile home. Ah well, we always had the hots for the VW camper van.

RichardM said...

The Chinook was pretty cramped for us and the lack of 4WD was a limitation for a lot of places in Alaska that I camped. Plus little to no ground clearance. The only benefit of a trailer is more living space for a given length. And no engine or driveline to maintain and insure.

RichardM said...

The one vehicle that I almost bought new but didn't was back in 1987. A Westphalia Synchro VW pop top camper van with a 6 speed manual transmission. 1st gear was a granny gear.

SonjaM said...

The Westy would have been worth a ton by now. There is a big fan community around the world.

Bluekat said...

This is how we got caught up in VW fever. Our son was a fan back in his high school days. We had 6 around the house at one time. 3 squarebacks, and 3 busses. 1 bus ran and 1 squareback ran. Lol. We all got away from them for awhile, but then our son (and his enabler friend) rescued some out of a field. Then Ron bought the vanagon from my cousin - also a rescue from a field. Son has 2 busses and we have the vanagon. That's what we do now. Rescue VWs from a lonely death out in a field.

SonjaM said...

Kari, if I had just one glimpse of talent restoring such a vehicle, I'd gladly rescue one, too. Hope you get one roadworthy again.

ToadMama said...

That little Chinook is adorable. Blocks of ice? LOL. I haven’t seen an icehouse in years and would have no idea where to buy a block. You can probably make them in your own backyard. :-)

If you had that today, hipster clampers would be all over it!

I enjoyed your RV evolution report.

Lynne Goebeler said...

Wow, what a camping history! We are the opposite...we rented a Class C in 1999 for a 3 week trip, rented a 37' DP in May 2015 for one week, and bought a 43' DP that same month! 3 years later, we are still 'all in"! 😀 Oh and Jerry had a 71 VW van for 11 years many moons ago and would love to have another one!

RichardM said...

You can still buy blocks of ice up here in the grocery store. Especially during the summer...

RichardM said...

Any sort of RV is way more convenient for traveling up and down the Alcan. To me, hauling suitcases in and and out of hotels is a real pain. We are thinking that a class A may be the way to go. Easier to get around and you can haul a trailer. But for now, we'll use what we have.