Mary stole my camera, so my posts aren’t as visually gratifying as hers. That’s ok. We’ve been spending a lot of time lately reading other people’s blogs. We’re on a fact finding mission. It’s slow going. There are a lot of other things that we both have to do to get us through our days. Right now I’m in Norway, and Mary and the kids are in Albuquerque. I’m on a rig offshore and we’re getting a new system up and running. Even if we weren’t, it seems like my days are busier than before. That’s ok, I guess. It makes me feel like I’m earning my money.
There are a lot of things that I want to write about. I have three different drafts going of things I want to put on the blog. But, after considering some of the other blogs that we’ve been reading lately, I feel sort of obligated to get something in here about the day to day mechanics of how we live. After all, that’s what we’re concerned about in the research that we’re doing.
So, even though it may seem kind of dry to some of the people who are following our blog, I want to make sure that there are still entries in here that other people may find useful if they find our blog on their own research mission.
So, with that in mind, I think I’d like to get a little more information in writing about how we manage to do things.
Let’s start with our RV club. We found Escapees on the internet. I’m fairly certain that there was someone else’s blog out there that mentioned them, and even did a nice little comparison write up about them, and a few of the other clubs out there. And, I think I’ve written a little bit about them before, but I want to get it all down so that I can do justice to how much we appreciate them. First of all, the main reason we joined was for the mail forwarding service.
Well, that’s not entirely true. We joined them because we were living in North Carolina, and paying North Carolina income taxes. The issue was, once we got on the road, I don’t agree with paying state taxes to a state that we don’t live in. Escapees was able to give us a legitimate Texas address. That’s important, because Texas doesn’t have a state income tax. So, instead of paying North Carolina several thousand dollars per year in income tax, we pay Escapees right around $100 a year. That savings is important to us, and truly the MAIN reason why we joined.
The next biggest issue, was their mail forwarding service. Figuring out how we were going to get our paper mail was a pretty big obstacle for us. Starting out like we were, we had no real idea of how to get it done. We didn’t even know at the time that there were mail forwarding services like this available. It kind of makes sense, now that we’ve found it, but without knowing about it, the whole situation was a bit worrisome.
So, now, all of our paper mail gets sent to their post office at Rainbow Park in Livingston. We have to keep some money banked with them to cover postage, but it’s not much. We have it set up so that if our balance goes below $25, we get an email alert. Then we just call them up, get the balance up to about $50, and forget about it again until the next email alert.
When we’re expecting something in the mail, we find out from the campground that we’re in if they accept incoming mail (and most do – we haven’t found one yet that doesn’t), and call Escapees with the address where we will be. They package it all up for us, neat and tidy, and it shows up about 4 days later.
We also just used another service that Escapees offers, and that’s their SmartWeigh. We can get our trailer and rig weighed at any truck stop weigh scales, but, the problem is that those scales only weigh each axle. With the SmartWeigh system, we’ve weighed each individual tire. Again, there’s a good reason for that. First of all, if you go to a truck stop, all you’re going to get are your weights. And then you need to move out of the way for whoever else is in line. And if you have any questions, you’re certainly not going to get the fuel desk attendant to answer them for you.
Before we could weigh at the SmartWeigh station, they gave us a DVD to watch, that covered a lot of information. They also gave us a list of websites where we can check the manufacturer’s recommendation for tire pressure based on load. In other words, I’ve been filling the tires incorrectly this whole time. I assumed that I should fill them to the max value listed on the sidewall. But, depending on the weight of the trailer, this may not be the best pressure to set them to.
I have to say, I was truly impressed. Aside from what I learned there, there’s also a pretty open-ended question and answer period right at the scales. The girls at Rainbow Park that weighed us were fantastic! After we weighed everything (first the truck – fully loaded – without the trailer, and then the truck with the trailer), they spent probably a half hour talking to us. The things that they explained to us made perfect sense, but were things that we didn’t even consider until they pointed them out. For instance, our truck is heavier on the passenger side than the driver’s side. We’re pretty sure that’s because of the firewood (we keep a bit of firewood on the passenger side, up by the cab). And we found out that our trailer is heavier on the driver’s side than it is on the passenger side. And we’re pretty sure that’s because we keep our paper plates over the sink (passenger side) and the canned food in the pantry (driver’s side). We were also a bit overweight on our “total” weight too, which again, is good to know. All of this information is useful, but in particular, we were concerned with our tires.
Now, the tires that came on the trailer have been a worry spot of mine for quite a while. When we beat feet from Myrtle Beach to Key Largo, we just about lost one of them. The driver’s side rear tire looked like an inner-tube with chunks missing out of it when we got there. We put the spare on it, replaced the spare with a new one, and have been kind of limping it along until I could sort out what to replace it with.
The trailer had ST 225/75R15 tires on it. And if I haven’t said it before, I’ll say it now, I’ve learned a lot about tires since these issues came up. One of the things that I’ve learned is that trailer tires are only rated for 65mph. Anything over that, and you’re taking their longevity into your own hands. (which is why U-haul trailers all say “55mph” – they know you’re going to push the limit, they just don’t expect you to push it more than 10mph)
Anyway, being limited to 65mph really affects our travel times. It may not be much, but it feels like it.
The problem that we encountered first, was that I couldn’t find any LT (Light Truck) tires that would fit our rims. (I wanted LT’s because I wanted to get away from that 65mph limit) The wheels on the trailer are 15″ in diameter, but the only tires I could find that fit on a 15″ rim (and that had the load index capable of handling our trailer) were ST (Special Trailer) tires. And ST tires are limited to 65mph. I was going in circles.
Finally, after calling a dealer that sold Fleetwood trailers (Fleetwood no longer makes trailers, or offers any support for trailer owners), I asked what the dangers were in increasing my tire size. See, I could easily find an LT 225/75R16. I just wasn’t sure if this was going to cause any clearance problems in the wheel wells on the trailer.
After talking to him, I’ve decided to take the risk. I ordered a set of 5, with 16″ rims. My biggest considerations were the load range (number of ply’s in the tire – which determines the max air pressure you can use), the load index (which is what tells you how much weight each tire can handle), and the speed index (which tells you how fast you are able to go with them).
What I decided we needed were LT 225/75R16 LR E, load index of at least 113 (2535#), and a speed index of at least L (75mph) (which most passenger vehicles are).
The load index requirement I came up with by finding the GVWR in the camper, and adding the weight of full waste tanks. (the GVWR – or Gross Vehicle Weight Rating – already takes into account full propane bottles, and a full fresh water tank, as well as a certain amount of cargo). GVWR is NOT my dry curb weight. This all took me quite a bit of work to get sorted. But, basically, I wanted to make sure that the tires I put on the trailer could handle the max weight I could put on the trailer. And since we’ve had experiences where we weren’t able to dump our waste tanks, I had to consider that added weight. I’m pretty sure that’s what caused the damage when we left Myrtle Beach… we drove to Key Largo with a full grey water tank, and an almost full black water tank – not something you’re supposed to do – and certainly not good for old tires.
Hopefully, this post is in line a bit with the things that we regularly scan other blogs for: research information!
I’ll post an update about the performance of these new tires the next time I’m home, and we move to the next stop.