"We like camping better!" --Raymond Alexander Kukkee

view of the north shore Critter Pond, KOA Canandaigua NY [c] 2009 jcb

Travel trailer towing tips: Ways to improve safety on the road

by Jim Bessey editor  Part Two of Two

See Part One "Safety Checklist", here 

When you're towing a travel trailer on open the road, drive like your grandmother would.
camping tips also on Jim's portfolio
All of your normal bad driving habits are amplified when you're towing a camper. Leave your regular "late for work" self at home when you head out on vacation. Adopt an over-cautious attitude for piloting your little big-rig. You won't be able to lead-foot it when the light turns green anyway, so change the rest of your approach at the same time. Furthermore, even with electric brakes on your trailer, your braking distances will be significantly magnified.

If your truck or van offers a special towing gear-ratio, be sure to select it. Your camping trailer can double the weight-load on your transmission. Slow, smooth acceleration will reduce wear and tear on your vehicle and save on expensive repairs later. Never tailgate when you're towing, no matter how good your brake system might be. Allow for longer stopping distances and lower turning speeds. On the highway, forget the fast lane and the supposed buffer-zone above the speed limit. Long uphill or downhill runs call for even more caution.

Be wary of weather and fatigue:

Bad weather makes towing even more dangerous. You may want to consider taking a break from driving if heavy rain or high winds overtake you. Your risk of hydroplaning is higher, due to your camper's basic tires and poor handling characteristics. Never drive after drinking, even a little. If you're tired, it's time for a different driver or a stop for the night. All of the "minor" inconveniences you feel you can overcome in ordinary driving conditions can lead to extreme consequences for you and your camper. Don't risk it - always err on the side of caution.

Earn a passing grade:

When you tow a travel trailer, you are a menace to the other drivers around you. It's not your fault; it's just a fact. Camping trailers are wider than all but the largest passenger vehicles, and taller than all of them. They block the view of drivers following directly behind. Heaven forbid your brake lights fail to function properly. If you are towing a camper on a two-lane road with limited passing, you WILL pile up other vehicles behind you. Typically, the closest driver will be invisible to you, even if you have wide-view side mirrors.

Why do car drivers follow towed rigs too closely? Perhaps it's human nature and impatience. Travel trailers are heavy and cumbersome; nobody wants to get stuck behind yours. Since your tow vehicle and trailer are much longer than a single car or truck, you are more difficult to pass even under the best circumstances. This puts the burden of road courtesy on you.

Watch for a developing line of cars behind you.

Be considerate. Your slower acceleration and longer braking distances, combined with your need to more closely adhere to the speed limit, will lead to lines of cars behind you. Accept it, and act accordingly. If the coast is clear and passing is allowed, move slightly to the right and slow down just a bit. No need to wave followers around you - they'll get the hint. Take advantage of uphill "slow lanes" and let faster vehicles get past you safely.

Towing a travel trailer puts a lot of responsibility on your shoulders. ... keep reading
  Reprinted from the original hosted on Helium. Copyright 2009 -- Jim Bessey, all rights reserved.

See this story as it appears on Helium.com

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Celebrating Indendence Day: Ten tips for a safe holiday camping trip

Tips for a safe and fun camping weekend on the July 4th weekend  

By Jim Bessey
KOA Canandaigua camping on the north shore of the big pond
Camping on the north shore of the big pond at KOA Canandaigua
The Fourth of July weekend rings in official summer, and marks many campgrounds with No Vacancy signs. Despite the recession, Americans will be on the move during this holiday in large numbers. Some of us will be staying closer to home than usual; but we're going camping nonetheless. July 4th is also a popular time to put together groups of family and friends at adjoining campsites, since so many people schedule their vacations around the date.

It's a dangerous time for driving, with traffic statistics showing a shocking spike in alcohol-related fatalities during the holiday. Smart campers know that drinking and driving never mix well; that's why they go camping -- so they don't have to leave after the party. Even when you stay put, however, trouble can track you down at the campground. Here are ten tips for a safe holiday camping trip for you and your family.
  1. Check and re-check your vehicle and camper before you leave. Make sure your signal and brake lights are working, and that your hitch and braking system are ship-shape, if you're towing. Kick the tires and check air pressures, too, while you're at it. Blowouts while you're hauling a camp trailer or fifth wheel, or driving a big motorhome, can be disastrous.
  2. Carry a good first aid kit. Campgrounds don't always have medical help handy, especially at night; so bring your own. Bug bites, minor burns and sunburns, and small cuts are all easy to handle if you're prepared.
  3. Be careful with perishables. Most of us have experienced at least a minor case of food poisoning while camping. Don't risk it. Use double-insulated coolers and plenty of ice (or ice packs). Use your camper's refrigerator (if available) for foods that don't suffer heat well -- use coolers to store drinks and watermelons, not the mayonnaise.
  4. Keep a close eye on your dog. Crowded campgrounds and noisy kids make for nervous canines. Who needs the hassle of a dog bite incident when you're among strangers and miles from home?
  5. Keep your kids in check, too! Sugary soft drinks, too much junk food, and new friends at the rec center can lead to unpleasant results. We can't watch our little devils all the time, so be sure to set some limits. Use walkie-talkies to keep in touch with and check up on your wandering offspring.
  6. Remember you're playing with fire. Nighttime at the campground is all about gathering around the campfire. It's a mesmerizing ritual we all take for granted. Don't use gasoline to jump-start your fire. Keep the burn within the fire ring, and don't compete with your neighbors for the "tallest flames" award. Airborne sparks can destroy tents and camp chairs, even hair! And don't leave your fire unattended; that's rude and dangerous.
  7. Should you drink the water? In theory, drinking water supplied by reputable campgrounds should be fine. In reality, water quality varies dramatically. Most camping resorts are, by nature, in remote locations and rely on well water. Almost all non-municipal water contains an assortment of other "additives" -- most of them completely harmless. However, we vote for "better safe than sorry" and recommend BYOW.
  8. Beware of cheap fireworks. It doesn't have to be Independence Day at the campground for the low-grade fireworks to show up. Sparklers and bottle rockets are fairly tame, but can lead to trouble for smaller kids and for campers who've over-imbibed. Larger munitions can be far more dangerous. Be wary of strangers bearing explosives, and keep a tight leash on the teenagers after dark.
  9. "Hey, that kid has a knife!" All the cool kids do, apparently. Perhaps this is so they can set to whittlin' when they get bored, which seems to happen about two hours after you finish setting up camp. Regardless, be aware of whatever weaponry your own kids are toting; and warn them to be cautious around their new campground friends when the cutlery comes out.
  10. Know how to identify poison ivy. Bring 8 by 10 glossies if you have to. For whatever the reason, campgrounds always seem to have plenty of poison ivy on hand. If your kid is half as allergic as mine is, you know exactly how important this final safe camping tip really is.
The best camping trips always end with the whole gang arriving home safe and sound. That way, the stories that begin "remember that time...?" can be funny ones, rather than horror stories. Save those for the late night campfire gatherings.

copyright 2009/2010 - all rights reserved * Reprints upon request

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