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Backcountry Travel Reality Versus Romanticism

This post is aimed at convincing travelers, especially newbies or armchair travelers, that taking heavy motor vehicles or trailers into the backcountry is expensive and troublesome.

But it all looks so beautiful on You Tube channels!  Pure escapism.  Why not just accept those videos as part of the entertainment industry, while being more cautious personally? 

After nine years of heavy use, my trailer's axle bearing fried in the backcountry. 

Fortunately the road was smooth, so my insurance company was finally able to find a towing company willing to come out to me.  I told the insurance company to emphasize, when talking to the towing company, the road smoothness and my location at a junction where the tow truck could turn around.

My cellphone amplifier was a real lifesaver.  So many phone calls were necessary to get the job done.  While waiting for the tow truck I called different shops to find trailer axle parts.  The moral of the story is to stay within reach of cellphone connection with your RV, and go off-line exploring with the mountain bike.

The other lesson is perhaps to stop greasing the axle bearings the old-fashioned way (every year or two), and to take advantage of the EZ Lube design of new axles by squirting in some new grease every couple months.

Let's talk about other people's rig.  Do you know that your trailer or motor vehicle even fits on a flat bed tow truck?  (My 6' X 12' has external wheels, and only had 4" of clearance on the width of the tow truck.)  It would be worth measuring a typical tow truck before naively buying a too-large trailer or doing an ambulance conversion or buying a dually pickup.  I'll bet people new to RVing are only thinking about comforts & "features", floor plans, and color schemes of a new rig, while clinging to romantic escapist notions about visiting the backcountry with a sheer monstrosity.

Over the years I have sometimes yearned for a four-wheel-drive vehicle to get up rougher roads.  Even I, brutal utilitarian that I am, feel the siren call of romantic escapism.  But a 4WD rig is likely to get you into an area where you lose cellphone coverage and where a tow truck won't be willing to come for you.  Does your insurance company even owe you a recovery if you are on a steep jeep road in the mountains?  So I feel vindicated in staying away from a serious 4WD rig. There is a reason why 4WD enthusiasts travel in a club, with other people.

Another good thing about this debacle near Hamilton MT is that I stopped worrying about grizzlies.  I was so pissed off that I feel sorry for any grizzly that showed up.

Postscript: loading a travel trailer onto a flat bed trailer is difficult because the 2" diameter jack digs into the ground:  it doesn't slide well on the steel diamond plate of the flat bed either.  It helps to have a foot plate or caster wheel for it:

Curt is the brand.

A board or two will help.  Don't assume that the tow truck driver will have everything.

Maybe somebody has seen a Fifth Wheel trailer being hauled away by a tow truck, but I haven't.


Ed said…
I stayed at Black Rabbit RV Park in Hamilton for a month during June-July 2012. The town was being Californicated at that time; I can only guess what it may be like now. The black rabbits which gave the park its name have probably all been eliminated by now also; they were on their way to extinction when I was there.
Ed, so Hamilton MT was being californicated back in 2012, eh? That explains the unfriendly reaction I got from a couple people in the grocery store. At the time I thought, "Must be some asshole from a metro area or California." Guess I was right.