When I’m all hooked up to drive down the road, my setup is 52 feet long. That’s 34 feet of rig, almost 15 feet of Honda CR-V, and a few feet of tow bar.
As most of you know, when towing a car with an RV, you should not back up. Some tow systems allow it for very short distances, but most (Roadmaster, for example) advise never to do it; you will void any warranties with them. It’s not an equipment or skills issue; it’s a physics issue. If you have experience backing trailers, you know that trailers move opposite to the rear of your tow vehicle; you can end up in a jackknife situation very quickly when in reverse. But, here’s the critical difference between a trailer and a toad: a toad has a steering wheel, and the toad’s tires can turn in all directions! You simply cannot back a toad the same way as a trailer. It will end up turning “Every Which Way But Loose,” as Eddie Rabbitt sang for that Clint Eastwood movie.
Since you can’t back up, it’s important to know your turn radius. When I finally screwed up the courage to try towing the car for the first time, I practiced doing circles in a school parking lot. My friend observed to see if the car or tow bar would impact the back of the rig, and the good news is that they did not, even in the tightest of turns.
Armed with that knowledge and a beginner’s understanding of the motorhome’s turn radius, I was able to turn around without unhooking during a particularly hairy drive through Winona, Arizona. There have been a few other tight turns since then, but nothing beats yesterday.
Driving through the Northern California mountains, I could not wait for a pit stop and opted for a break in the Mount Shasta area. A sign up ahead announced two gas stations and at least four restaurants, leading me to believe there would be wide open spaces with lots of asphalt and parking. Instead, I encountered a ski resort area, with narrow roadways and low-hanging trees. There were no other RVs and certainly no semi tractor-trailers in sight. Street parking in front of a closed restaurant afforded me the chance to pull over.
I took Olive for a short walk and sussed out the situation. I was parked on a road parallel to the interstate, which was to the right. Up ahead the road looked even narrower, and it did not appear that there was access to the interstate. The freeway entrance was behind me. It did not seem safe to go around the block to the left, as there were lots of low-hanging trees and power lines.
I thought the best solution was to turn around behind the restaurant, utilizing the road and the mostly empty restaurant parking lot. Turning left onto the road next to the restaurant, I swung out as wide as I could to my right, then made a hard left, entering the parking lot and continuing to turn.
Ladies and gentlemen, since returning from Baja I think I have become a little too fearless when it comes to narrow passageways and tight turns. I will admit to some hubris on my part, that’s for sure.
My front end was going to clear the huge tree on the perimeter of the parking lot, but the passenger mirror was not. I wish I had some photos to show you, but I was a little busy at the time. I decided it best to unhook the toad and back up, but that was not going to be an easy feat; the toad was at a 90-degree angle to the rear of the RV. When the toad is not lined up behind the RV, it can be very difficult to remove the tow bar from the ball.
I stood there with my hands on my hips, shaking my head at the ridiculous situation I had gotten myself into. Then, it dawned on me – the mirrors pivot! With all my might I pushed and shoved on the mirror until it moved closer to the windshield. At least four times I inched forward, then jumped out of the rig to look at the clearance. I completed the turn with room only for parchment paper between the mirror and the tree.
Knock on wood, thus far I have been able to turn the rig and toad around in sticky situations. I have no idea when or where I first heard this song, but whenever I turn around I hum it to myself. It has become my good luck charm!