|The RV park outside Portland. Freya Too (the Airstream) and Vanna.|
I was pushing my weather luck by waiting until mid-November to head south, risking slippery roads from rain or snow as I crossed the Siskiyous at the Oregon/California border. But the morning I left Portland the skies were clear, not even the occasional fair weather cumulus or feathery cirrus. It was as though the Pacific Northwest had given me an all systems go for take off. I set about getting ready to hit the road. Because I was on my own with no one to direct it took about fifteen minutes to line up Vanna’s tow ball to the Airstream’s tongue. I’d back up Vanna, get out and check distance and angle, pull forward, back up, get out. The trailer looked closer to the van than it was. Okay, back up some more. Shit, too far. Finally, it was just right. I lowered the tongue onto the hitch then raised it a little to make sure it was firmly attached.
Next I went down the checklist of “hitting the road chores” like unhooking the television cable and electricity and battening down the hatches. Everything went fairly smoothly but I couldn’t get the chocks out from between the wheels. Just when I needed help, one of the neighbors who had never spoken to me showed up. After a bit of a struggle he managed to wrestle the chocks free from their bed of tires.
It was time to leave Portland.
I pulled out of my space very, very slowly. Remember, I had only towed Freya Too once before. The park was rather maze-like so several turns were necessary to get to the entrance on the top level. The trailer followed like a well-behaved dog on a leash. Good girl. I crept over speed bumps. Finally at the gate I turned onto the frontage road, stopped at the red light at the intersection, waited. At the green light, more creeping. I now knew why old fart RVers drove so slow. I’d probably never flip one off again. I looked in my rearview mirror. It was disconcerting not having a view of the traffic behind me. Seeing the silver trailer caught me off guard, as though some huge semi-truck was tailgating me, riding my ass. I couldn’t see around her. Oh yeah, the side mirrors. On the freeway entrance ramp my foot shook as it hovered over the gas pedal. Jesus, what in the hell had I been thinking? Can I really do this? Fortunately, traffic was light. I felt tremendous relief after merging onto I-84 without merging with another vehicle. I crept over to the middle lane and stayed there, constantly checking the rearview mirror to make sure the trailer was there because I didn’t feel her. There was no pull. Vanna didn’t seem bothered by the additional weight.
That first day I didn’t get too far, stopping at an RV park just off the highway a little south of Roseburg, Oregon. I was worried about the drive facing me the next day - the climb over the Siskiyous with the subsequent descent which would drop me into California. How would the van do, towing that trailer up a four thousand foot climb? What scared me more than the idea of going up was the coming down. Van brakes, trailer brakes – would they hold?
A trick I learned crossing the Siskiyous was to stay with the semi-trucks. When they pulled over to the far right truck lane, I followed. That way I could go as slow as I wanted without worrying about holding up traffic. Coming down the mountain, I stayed with the trucks, dropping the van into a lower gear.
Making it over that mountain, not encountering snow or rain, not burning out my brakes or having the trailer come unhitched thus reaching California before I did, I figured the worst was over.