Alumafiesta 2015 participants hiked, biked, painted, shopped, drank, and ate (and ate)—but the week in Tucson was packed with more than just fun and games. Presenter Jon Gold, Lazydays Safety and Training expert, shared sobering and valuable tips on braking, emergency procedures, towing, and trip planning for maximum safety on the road. (But even that was pretty fun.)
“The minute you’re in a vehicle while towing, your perspective must change,” said Gold. “You’re familiar with driving a car, a pickup truck or an SUV, but once you hook your Airstream up to it you’re now driving while pulling a house. And once you realize that, towing safely becomes easy.” The following safety basics will save your house on wheels in an emergency—and could even save your life.
Do you know how tall your Airstream is?
“And how low the McDonalds drive through is?” asked Gold, after screening a similar shocking video.
Always, first, know how tall your Airstream is—including the antenna, satellite dish, solar panel, and anything else on top. “Take a tape measure, hold it up alongside, and measure it,” advised Gold. “Then take a magic marker and write that number on a 3×5 card. Then multiply it by point three.” (That converts the feet to meters; essential when you’re towing in Canada.) “Then tape it in your tow vehicle where you can glance at it when you approach a bridge.” (Inside the glove box is a handy location.) When you’re towing, look for low hanging trees, eaves, roofs, and signs.
Always do a walkaround.
“This is the most important rule,” said Gold. “Always. Every time, before you drive. Walk around your rig and observe.” Look up and around, and check for surrounding obstacles. Insure all cords and hoses are secured, doors are closed, the step is up and the awning is in. “Make sure everything up is down, down is up, and everything you started with is back in your rig—including your dog, wife and kids,” he quipped. Look at the path ahead for potential obstacles.
“Is there a post or tree right next to your Airstream?” he added. If a post is on your right and you’re turning left, here’s the formula for skirting around it: measure halfway between axles to the farthest point of the back of your trailer. (Single axle owners, start from the center of the hubcap.) “Measure straight back, and divide by four,” stated Gold. “That will give you the maximum tail swing that your Airstream can do when you’re turning.” When you fuel, “park that distance away from the yellow post near the gas pump.”
Slow down there, speed racer.
The best towing speed—for peak fuel economy as well as safety—is between 55 and 62 miles per hour.
Murphy’s law is true.
“The worst possible thing will happen at the worst possible time if you’re not prepared,” warned Gold. “Don’t leave common sense behind.” That means preparing an emergency escape kit, knowing how to test and use your fire extinguisher, and practicing with your emergency window.
Stock a little tote with items you’ll require if you’re stranded, need to evacuate, or abandon your trailer. “What if you lose your Airstream a thousand miles from home on a Friday night at 10pm?” said Gold. “What do you need to make your life bearable?” For most Airstreamers that includes eyeglasses; insurance ID card; phone numbers of friends, family and your bank; a four-day supply of prescription medicine (and copies of Rxs); spare cash; a photocopy of your driver’s license; copy of your proof of citizenship (for travel in Canada and Mexico); and one emergency credit card—a duplicate or one from a different bank—in the event your trailer is stolen and your wallet is taken with it. Toss in anything else that will make you more comfortable. Keep the items with you in your tow vehicle, and near your phone by your bed at night. (Pet owners, include a pillowcase with a zipper to contain your small frightened animal in the event of a loud scary emergency. “That will prevent them from running away or getting lost,” said Gold. “Puppy’s feelings will be hurt, but he’ll still be there with you.”)
Before each trip, open your emergency escape window to break the tight seal—you’ll need to take screen off—and close it again. At least once, practice sliding out the back. “Everyone traveling must learn,” said Gold. “If your Airstream is full of smoke in the middle of the night, you won’t be able to see, but you’ll know by feel how to open and close it.” Remember Mr. Murphy and his law: “If you do this,” said Gold, “you’ll never have to use it.”
What if you do have to use it? “Throw everything out the window—your emergency kit, cell phone and charger, pet in the pillowcase—then drape the bedspread out of the window sill,” said Gold. “One person stands on the end to steady it while the other one slides out. The bedspread makes getting out much easier.” It will keep you from getting hung up on the window, and you’ll be able to wrap up in it while you’re standing outside the Airstream at 3am in your underwear.
Plan your trip for fun and safety.
Consult the map to keep your road miles down to 300 or so per day based on where you want to overnight. You’ll leave plenty of daylight and have your pick of the best campsites. “When you stop at nine o’clock at night you’re spending forty bucks to sleep behind a dumpster,” said Gold. Leave wiggle room for unexpected weather. “If a hurricane is nearing the area, leave,” advised Gold. “If you’re at a campground and a storm is passing through at your next destination, stay an extra night. Don’t drive in miserable weather.” In winter, opt for the I-10— not the I-40.
– By RG Coleman
How will you face your “OMG” moment on the road? Look for the answer in ‘Streamer Safety, Part Two in your next issue of Outside Interests. (Know an RVer who can benefit from these tips? Share this subscription link. Once a month we draw a name from our mailing list and the lucky winner receives a free Alumaevent T-shirt!)