Very first trip – learning opportunity number one

The trailer was loaded with 26 gallons of water, sleeping bags, hiking gear and the like.  The Xterra tow vehicle had the food, canopy and our clothes.  The A-frame was hitched up and we were off for a three-night camping adventure with friends in Colorado National Monument near Grand Junction.  I double-checked the hitch, fired up the engine and we began pulling out of the driveway.


It was the sound of metal on concrete.  Dianne gave me that look that bordered between concern and panic.

“Probably just the chains hitting the cement,” I assured her.  “After all, they are so long, they almost drag the ground.”

We heard it again when we crossed over a small speed bump going into our supermarket parking lot.  Chains again, I thought.

It finally occurred to me that it might be something more serious.  While Dianne ran in to mail a letter at the post office, I checked the hitch.  The sound we heard was the bottom of the front jack hitting cement.  I had only cranked it up part way.  I thought it was far enough away to clear the curb, but alas, it was not.

The bottom of the post had been scraped and instead of round, it was now oval.  I pulled out the caster wheel, and of course, it would not go on.  We now had a problem.

We immediately drove back home for redneck repairs.  I got out a hammer, and with blow after blow, I straightened it out to where the wheel would finally fit on.  I then cranked the post into it’s maximum up position and we took off again.  Lesson learned.

Back home after our trip, I ordered a new jack from Amazon.  It could have been worse.

Very first trip – learning opportunity number two

On the trip home from Colorado National Monument, we stopped in Clifton for fuel.  When we stopped there on the way out, we found a Sinclair station where fuel was a good 20 cents a gallon cheaper than anywhere else.  Of course, we wanted to stop there on the way back.

On our first visit, I simply pulled into the first outside pump, filled up and exited straight out.  Not a problem.

The outside pump was occupied on the second visit, but pumps on the inside were empty.  Unfortunately, that required me to make a U-turn to get in.  No problem.  Lots of room.  I pulled close to the first inside pump so that anyone else coming in could get around me and drive to the forward pump.  Tank filled, we fired up the engine and started to take off.


I looked back.  The trailer, which was still angled when we got to the pump, hit a post that the gas station people had wisely installed to keep people like me from hitting the pumps.  Although the Xterra cleared it with no problem, the turning angle of the trailer had kept it from clearing.   I now had red paint on the water heater panel cover and slight sheet metal damage.

I started to back the trailer up in an attempt to straighten it out and get out of there.


The Xterra bumper hit the post.  Fortunately, the bumper is rubber and the damage was limited to some minor scraping.

Now I had a problem.  I needed to back up the trailer without hitting the post, which was now nicely centered between the back of the car and the front of the A-frame.  With a few back and forth maneuvers, I finally got the job done and we were free of the pump post.

Back home with some paint thinner and fine steel wool, I was able to remove the red paint.  Now only a small square of slightly crinkled metal remains as a reminder of the incident.

Next time, I’ll hit outside pumps only, pull in straight and don’t pull in close unless everything is definitely in line.

Cheyenne Mountain

Dianne and I scored hard-to-get reservations for a full-hookup spot at Cheyenne Mountain State Park in Colorado Springs.  It seems someone had the spot reserved for the weekend, but suddenly cancelled after one day.  I went online at just the right time and was able to reserve it.  We had two nights, three days at the base of Cheyenne Mountain, home of NORAD’s big nuke-proof mountain cave and alleged target for a North Korean missile.

It’s a back-in site, which meant we got a little practice at backing in straight and on target.  Of course, we had an audience.  It seems that everyone else in the campground loop, about a half-dozen units, were having lunch at the neighboring site.  And presumably watching.

After about 10 minutes of trying, we made it.  It’s straight and close to the water/electric hookups.  It looks like a pro did it.  Best of all, I think the neighbors ignored us.

Side to side, the concrete pad we parked on was dead level.  We had the top up in 90 seconds.  Chocks placed.  Unhooked the car.  Front-to-back leveling took another minute or two.  Jacks down.  Water and electricity hooked up.  Gray water line and tank connected.  Car unloaded and stuff moved in.  About 15 minutes after arriving, we were at home.  If we were tent camping, we wouldn’t even have had the car emptied and tent unpacked yet.

After a bite of lunch, it was time to explore the neighborhood.  Across from us in the campground circle was a couple with a Trail-Manor lift-up trailer.  We chatted with them for an hour or so and got a tour of their unit.  Much bigger and fancier, but definitely more complicated to put up and take down.  It’s a matter of compromises.

We continued around the campground, visiting the other circles.  In the last one we discovered our neighbors who own a motor home.  I’m not sure who was more surprised.

One of the nice things I’ve always found about campgrounds is how friendly everyone is.  People talk to each other.  With a friendly hello, one can meet locals as well as other travelers.  You don’t get that in a motel.