Not to say that I didn't do my homework but as they say "necessity is the mother of invention" and "where there's a will, there is a way". These proverbs embody the sheer grit that drove me as I embarked on this solo journey of hitching and hauling a trailer, destination unknown.
I realized how much this future dream meant to me as I became consumed about everything I could put my hands on that had to do with trailers. Just as I had fallen in love with Open Space Technology years ago as part of my consulting work, now I was totally smitten with everything having to do with trailer life. The learning curve was steep and joyous, with lots of funny incidents along the way.
“I never doubted my capabilities. Nor was I deterred by my lack of mechanical skills. What I discovered is that when you want something enough, persistence and determination surface in ways you never could have imagined. ”
The night before my first time behind the wheel was a sleepless one. I had bought my trailer without doing the typical test drive that you do when you buy a new car. How would it feel I wondered? And what about backing up? I'd heard that was quite difficult. I had reached out to my garage mechanic hoping we could schedule time for me to practice. Our schedules never seemed to work out so I did my first run with my brother-in-law, seated next to me and my sister following in their truck behind. It took me back to the days when I was a teenager learning to drive with my dad. I joyfully discovered it wasn't that scary. Yes it did take some getting used to when those big transport trucks whizzed by you on the highway. You could definitely feel the sway of your trailer as they pass you by but now at least I don't white knuckle my steering wheel like I used to.
Cautious and Deliberate
Safety was uppermost in my mind from the beginning. As I pummeled people with questions, I furiously took notes, detailing everything and taking pictures of what they described. I scoured the web for articles on how to back-up a trailer and laughed my head off when I came across an article titled: "How to back up a trailer like a man." It redoubled my resolve to get really good at this so that one day, I could retitle that article to "How to back a trailer like a kickass woman.".
Hitching the trailer without a back camera on my Jeep as a solo driver was challenging. Luckily with these tall hitch rods, I soon mastered the task. A bit like learning to parallel park when you're a kid. Funny to hear the women on the campgrounds saying it's something they wish their husbands had. But they'll never go for it, they'd say. Too proud, like not wanting to ask for directions. Alway made me smile.
Ritual is how you learn
What I enjoy most about hitching and hauling are the rituals of the steps done in sequence. Yes to be safe, you have to be extremely mindful. But what I discovered is the inner satisfaction of routine, noticing everything as you do each task, checking once, twice and even three times just in case. Granted it is a lot of work, and requires more time than I had ever expected (takes an hour or more to set-up and/or pack-up) but somehow there is a peacefulness in doing this that feels supremely rewarding. Both physically and mentally. No wish to cut corners or be more efficient. I just love doing it right and getting better at it every day.
Departure and Set-up Checklists
More than 40 steps for each. Got some expert help from experienced campers to start me off and because at the beginning, you don't know what you don't know, the list got refined over time, with each step more detailed. Struggled quite a bit in those first few months, again because I was not that technically inclined and had zero experience. But now I'm proud to say, I don't have to refer to my paper list anymore. It's engrained in my brain.
There are many firsts when you embark on a nomad life like mine. Just reserving places to stay can be a bit overwhelming. I love State and National Parks most of all because they are in nature and because they are so lovingly attended to by staff. Not always easy to get a spot especially on weekends. So many times, I'm only staying a night or two at each one which requires a lot of hitching and unhitching, plus driving. In the early days, I often had my heart in my throat wondering how difficult it would be to back up and park in each new place. The thing I learned is to never feel rushed or become panicked. You never know what can happen and you have to learn to take it in stride.
Somebody's gotta do it
Emptying the gray (household) water and the black (poop) water can seem like unpleasant chores and yes, many people have smelly stories to tell when they mess up (I did a few times), but when you like trailering as much as I do, no task is too big or small or unpleasant.
Mastery through practice
Interestingly enough, I prefer doing things on my own. Easier to concentrate on what I'm doing plus learning as I experience each new thing. So often, when people see I am alone, they offer to help me back up. More than once I've had husband and wife teams wanting to guide me through. Often one will say one thing, the other something else. And I can't help but laugh when I watch couples guiding each other, often with stern words or a bit of annoyance. That too seems to be the loving ritual of teamwork in camping life. The frustrations always short-lived and soon forgotten. Being in nature does that. When these offers of help come my way, I often just say, I'm ok but if I run into a problem I'll not hesitate to ask. Other days, after very long drives, I take the help and appreciate it very much.
A New Dawn, a New Day, a New Home
Whether a pull-through site or backing up in a really tight spot under branches and trees, there is such joy in the work. Making sure the trailer is level; setting up electrical, water and sewer (if available) and a bunch of other stuff too. Not unusual to have greasy fingers in the process. It's the price you pay to discover and enjoy the new place that you'll call home for a few days or weeks.
On my Open Space on the Open Road journey, I discovered the inner satisfaction of routine and repetitive work, noticing everything on every task, checking once, twice and even three times just in case. Granted it is a lot of work, and requires more time than I had ever expected (takes an hour or more to set-up and/or pack-up) but somehow there is a peacefulness in doing this that feels supremely rewarding. Both physical and mental. No wish to cut corners or be more efficient. I just love doing it right and getting better at it at bit more every day.
How rarely we are given the chance, to value excellence and quality of the task in our jobs and at work. Forever rushed, with lists of things to do that seem endless and rarely the satisfaction of seeing the results of our labor. And yet, if we eliminate what's not necessary and focus on what's more important, life takes on a special glow. With my nomad life, I've learned the value of Less is More, realizing how precious that minimalist feeling of MORE really is. Multi-tasking is so over-rated.