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Navigating a travel trailer


Cool Ghoul
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My wife and I are considering purchasing an Oliver.  I have never pulled a travel trailer or driven anything larger than my pickup truck.

We're wondering if people would mind sharing any troubles or hassles while towing such a large footprint.  Just routing travel could seemingly be difficult.

  • While on the road, how often do you encounter turns in which you can not navigate?  It would seem that some mountain roads or rural areas could be troublesome.
  • How does one explore new territories on one lane roads not knowing if there's a turn around spot?  Have you ever been "trapped" and needed to literally back out of a long road? 
  • What's it like to drive during routine travel?  Getting gas?  Pulling into a fast food parking lot?
  • Is it difficult to find parking when you want to stop in a small town for dinner or spend an evening?
  • Is "bottoming out" a common occurrence?  I've seen large RVs bottom out pulling into gas stations.  

I know I'll need to be extra careful switching lanes or pulling out into traffic due to the extended length.  But are there any other points to consider?

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--Brendan

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Brendan - 

I'm sure that you are going to get a fair amount of comments/answers to your questions and many of the answers that are applicable to you depend on where and when you will want to tow.  However, to get things rolling:

The only places that I've encountered difficulty in navigating have been out in the boonies.  There are times that forest roads simply get more and more narrow, bumpy or overgrown.  Or the terrain becomes more difficult than I want to deal with.  However, since the Oliver is the same width as my truck it is "normal" for me that almost anywhere I would want to take my truck - the Oliver will simply follow.

Google maps in satellite view is a good tool.  However, if that is not available (lack of WiFi or cell signal).  As you gain experience you will develop a sense as to when you are getting in a tight spot.  You learn to look for ways out or around a situation before you get into them.  For instance - when pulling into a gas station it is good practice to chose a gas pump that has more than one exit just in case someone pulls in and blocks you.  When exploring unfamiliar places, many people simply un-hitch in an open area and then explore to make sure the road ahead is passable and/or to find a suitable camping area without having to worry about towing the Oliver behind.  This approach also makes that job faster.  Only once in five years have I had to back out of a spot and that was because someone else blocked the road.  Thank goodness I only had to back up a few hundred yards, but, as long as you take it slow backing up is really not that difficult.

Routine travel is actually relaxing for me once I get into the rhythm of the road - learn to slow down!  I put tunes or an audio book in the player, sit back and enjoy the ride in the slow lane.  Since the Oliver is under 10 feet tall I've never had a problem pulling into a gas station.  However, note the answer above - always look for more than one way out.

Most "small towns" are no problem and I can always find a place to park - either on the street or in a lot.  Again, the Oliver is the same width as the truck, therefore it is only the length I have to be concerned with.  Obviously, there are places in some town that you are not allowed to tow and/or you really don't want to tow.  Really narrow streets, congested traffic, etc. are to be avoided even without the Oliver AND, certainly know the height of that parking garage BEFORE you even think about entering.

I have never "bottomed out" my Oliver.  Particularly out West where and other places where the roads have a deep crown to the road or deep gutter it is best to approach these areas at an angle - not straight on - and take it slow.  This might mean that you have to wait for traffic to clear before entering/exiting but so be it - what's the hurry?

Even after RV towing now for over thirty years and boat towing for something like sixty years I still get a touch "keyed up" for the first ten miles or so.  Making sure that I can see behind me, is the unit I'm towing following properly, are the brakes working as they should, is everything attached properly, etc.  But after I've convinced myself that all is well the entire process is no big deal.  Get a good checklist and follow it - always.  If you have a friend that tows, ask them to show you the ropes.  Get yourself in a large open space (parking lot) and practice turning, backing up and parking.  Remember that your stopping distance and acceleration will be slowed, therefore, allow more room for everything.  Slow down, relax, enjoy the world and have fun.  We were all where you are at with no "special" skills and have learned to tow safely.  

Bill

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2017 Ford F150 Lariat 3.5EB FX4 Max Towing 2016 Oliver Elite II - Hull #117 "Twist"

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Thank you Bill for some great pointers.  The google satellite view is an excellent idea!  

I imagine there's some sort of lock or theft prevention mechanisms when un-hitching the trailer.  I'll be searching via google for some ideas there.

I'll try not to jump too many curbs when making those turns!

--Brendan

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1 hour ago, Cool Ghoul said:

My wife and I are considering purchasing an Oliver.  I have never pulled a travel trailer or driven anything larger than my pickup truck.

We're wondering if people would mind sharing any troubles or hassles while towing such a large footprint.  Just routing travel could seemingly be difficult.

  • While on the road, how often do you encounter turns in which you can not navigate?  It would seem that some mountain roads or rural areas could be troublesome.
  • How does one explore new territories on one lane roads not knowing if there's a turn around spot?  Have you ever been "trapped" and needed to literally back out of a long road? 
  • What's it like to drive during routine travel?  Getting gas?  Pulling into a fast food parking lot?
  • Is it difficult to find parking when you want to stop in a small town for dinner or spend an evening?
  • Is "bottoming out" a common occurrence?  I've seen large RVs bottom out pulling into gas stations.  

I know I'll need to be extra careful switching lanes or pulling out into traffic due to the extended length.  But are there any other points to consider?

Thanks

--Brendan

1- Navigation has not been an issue on public roads - campgrounds and boondocking - it can be - you just need a little foresight. If in doubt I'll go look - but honestly the  Oliver is pretty easy to shoehorn in some small spaces. I got applause in Glacier once - the guy behind me was sure it wouldn't fit - nailed it first time.

2. Many apps available - you'll learn very quickly what to do. It has never been an issue. If in doubt - check it out.

3. Routine travel - just make sure you can see your exit - whether its a gas station,  store, or whatever. I usually park in the out lot - take up 2 spaces. You certainly don't do drive up - but I suppose you could in some places. Gas - fuel- is usually really simple - diesel takes a little more looking at the pumps......

4. See 3, but not an issue. I love the fact I can stop and stay almost anywhere its not illegal. 

5. Never bottomed out - which I think you mean a steep entrance/exit angle. Even with the bike rack hanging way off - no. But then you should look ahead and evaluate -  if in doubt...

No worries  you will soon become comfortable. You can always find a big lot - go practice doing stupid  stuff - and your confidence will grow. 

Honestly - I think the biggest risks are other drivers - not paying  attention (cell phones) and that is towing or not - People are too preoccupied most of the  time. I love telling my SO - watch this nut.....look what he/she is doing - duhh.  (A Hold my beer moment) 

And if you notice a vehicle  or two - following you into the gas station, or the wally world - relax - they just want to look at your Oliver.  It happens - a lot.

RB

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Cindy,  Russell and  "Harley dog" . Home is our little farm near Winchester TN

2018 Oliver Legacy Elite II - 2018 GMC 2500 Duramax 

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A lot of great questions. I’m sure you’ll get your answers here. To sum it up simple. ( Experience)  just like when you first learned to ride your bicycle you were wobbly at first then ride no hands or on one wheel . It will take time and practice, then you won’t give it a second thought. Always scary at first.

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We were nervous at first and I am still very cautious.  We had very limited experience towing a 22ft boat.  Never towed a camper.  The advice already provided is terrific and accurate.  Try some short local triplets and practice backing up locally in a large parking lot with some cones.  Follow the advice, take your time and just plan ahead.   Cold luck.

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I can only echo what’s been said.  For some reason on our recent trip, other people were determined to trap us in gas stations, but the Ollie triumphed.  It’s remarkably nimble, within reason.  I’m sure that I’ll get in trouble someday, since my initial reaction to any size limit sign is “...except for Ollies.”

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4 hours ago, Cool Ghoul said:

We're wondering if people would mind sharing any troubles or hassles while towing such a large footprint.  Just routing travel could seemingly be difficult.

I don’t have much to add to the comments above.  I’ve been able to get into some pretty tight spots and navigate some narrow roads.  Remember that the Oliver isn’t any wider than your truck, so if the truck can make it through so can the Oliver.  Sometimes gas stations take careful observation before and during pulling in.  I like end pumps that allow turns to get out.

As far as towing “such a large footprint” I think it is towing a fairly small footprint.  Once you size up most of the other trailers out there it’s clear the Oliver isn’t large and is easy to maneuver.  Mike

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Texas Hill Country | Elite II #135 | Ram 2500 6.7L

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One gas station trick, when the lanes face the building, is to drive around and pull through facing out.  That way you can get a sense if the trailer can make the turn before you’ve committed yourself, and you’ll be less likely to get pinned in later by other traffic.  Just be sure when you pick a pump that you can pull through to the farthest one so that you don’t leave your trailer in the traffic lane.

Edited by Overland
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I certainly agree with everything above. I would reiterate what I believe is the most important point made: the width of the OTT is narrower or near the same width as your truck. This makes towing much less stressful than most other trailers.

As far as traveling down rural roads or even in traffic, I constantly remind myself that 40ft school busses use the same road and they don’t bend in the middle!

For what it’s worth, I took mine through a Hardee’s drive through line the other day. I ordered, then pulled into the parking lot so I didn’t go under the canopy for the delivery window. It was an open parking lot with painted lanes so it was easy to do. But, as mentioned above, we looked on Google maps beforehand and saw there was a huge mall lot so we knew before we got there we had options! 

 

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David and Vicky | Burns, TN | 2020 LEII #686 | 2017 Ford F-250 4x4 6.2L
 

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As far as gas stations, I really recommend Costco and Sam's,  if you have the memberships. The lanes are clearly marked, one way in and out, and kind of a cattle chute entry, but easy and wide exits, for the most part.

Not to mention good prices. No diesel, though.

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All the above are great replies, just a little experience will soon have you confident.  Just taking your time and not rushing is always the best way.  I have found the most nerve racking time is really backing into camp sites.  The first five feet of backing up for me is the test.  Once my brain kicks in with turning my tires to steer the Ollie in backward I do great.  But sometimes I have to just stop for 30 seconds and reset my thoughts.  Backing up will be second nature once you get the hang of it.  Also use your phone or walkie talkies and the second set of eyes are very helpful

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Erv & Sherry  Hull # 650

2020 Tundra SR5 Crewcab 4X4

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I always recommend that a towing virgin with zero experience simply rent a small U Haul open trailer for a long weekend and just drive all over, and on Sunday morning practice backing and tight turns in an empty shopping center parking lot. Get a skilled friend to teach you a few tricks like S turns while reversing. You will feel a whole lot less scared on delivery day and can focus instead on orientation and enjoying your new Ollie. Some of those twisty secondary highways around Hohenwald are more than a little intimidating...

https://www.uhaul.com/Trailers/5x8-Utility-Trailer-Rental/AO/

The base rate around here is just $19 per day.

John Davies

Spokane WA

 

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"Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II NARV (Not An RV) Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

Tow Vehicle: 2013 Land Cruiser 200, 33" LT tires, airbags.

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Two things we have found: 

In backing up; Put one hand on the bottom of the wheel. Which ever way you want to trailer to go, is the way you move your hand. It becomes second nature eventually, after you figure out mirrors.

Carry plenty of referral cards. People have followed me for over 20 miles wanting to see what kind of trailer it was. After gassing up, I had to pull to the side of the lot. There was that long a line of people wanting to take a peek!

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A lot of great information is already posted here.  I am a relatively inexperienced and I probably worry too much about planning the route...

I recommend;

Know the range of your TV while towing.  Choose a few fuel options before you start the trip (use google maps to preview as others have stated). Keep in mind that you may need to make adjustments for the amount of climbing and/or wind.

Don't overdue it.  At first you may find that towing is stressful and it is better to have shorter drive days, if possible. You might consider stopping at a few rest stops along the way to help prevent fatigue if you are feeling a bit stressed.

Edited by mjrendon
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On 12/6/2020 at 6:00 PM, Overland said:

One gas station trick, when the lanes face the building, is to drive around and pull through facing out.  That way you can get a sense if the trailer can make the turn before you’ve committed yourself, and you’ll be less likely to get pinned in later by other traffic.  Just be sure when you pick a pump that you can pull through to the farthest one so that you don’t leave your trailer in the traffic lane.

That is a great bit of advice... 

 

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Mark & Deb..2020 Elite II..Dearie..Hull #685..2016 Tundra

 

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On 12/6/2020 at 5:00 PM, Overland said:

One gas station trick, when the lanes face the building, is to drive around and pull through facing out.  That way you can get a sense if the trailer can make the turn before you’ve committed yourself, and you’ll be less likely to get pinned in later by other traffic.  Just be sure when you pick a pump that you can pull through to the farthest one so that you don’t leave your trailer in the traffic lane.

 

13 hours ago, Mcb said:

That is a great bit of advice... 

 

Yes it is great advice.  When pulling into gas stations always check out your exit route before committing to a pump.  If you can position yourself so you do all or most of your turning before fueling you’ll have less chance of being boxed in.  Also check out traffic flow and if your trailer will be blocking any of it as you fuel up.  Mike

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Texas Hill Country | Elite II #135 | Ram 2500 6.7L

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