Thursday, July 2, 2015

Jesus Take The Wheel: Adventures In Learning to Trailer (Part Two)

Practice makes perfect.
In a previous post I shared that I'd bought a trailer and was learning to drive it, and was relying on the help of friends to help get me road-ready.  The second time I took the trailer out I asked Dad to help, as he had lots of experience trailering boats and motorcycles and other stuff.  Plus the man had once taught me how to drive a car, so this seemed like a logical idea. We'd already been there, done that, so to speak. Clearly I'd forgotten how some of those early driving lessons had played out. More on that later...

My parents live across from a church. So I figured I'd drive out there on a Saturday afternoon, get some more highway experience on the way over, and then Dad and I could practice backing up and three-point turns in the empty church parking lot.  You know, since there was a lot of room to maneuver and all that.  I don't mind sharing that I was hoping for a little heavenly guidance as well. Jesus take the wheel in the literal sense and all that.

Saturday morning Dad called and told me he was worried about me negotiating the turn at the bottom of the highway's off ramp.  "Ummm, okaaaaaaayyy," I said, thinking I'd practiced a few the week before and it was a simple stop at the light at the bottom of the ramp and go left after you get three-quarters of the way through the intersection kind of thing.  "I think I should come to the barn and drive back with you," Dad told me.   Here's the thing: My Dad is the wonderful kind of person who lives to help people.  He loves to feel like he's been instrumental in making someone's day better. What am I going to do, say no to making my Dad happy?  Nuh-uh.  "Sure Dad, Noah and I will get the trailer hooked up and be ready to leave when you get here."

He called me from the road 15 minutes later. "I spoke with Father Chester," he told me. "He says it's fine that we use the church parking lot and he wishes you good luck and God bless."  Well, alrighty then. Not only did we have a special dispensation and a blessing from a priest,  we were going to be in God's parking lot.  I'm thinking that in terms of good mojo it doesn't get much better than that.  Confidence was high.

Trailering over from the barn went well.  Dad was a font of helpful advice and info such as what to watch out for when stuck next to a tractor trailer, what trailer behaviors/sounds were normal, and how certain things would feel once the trailer was loaded.  That all changed when we got to the church and started working on backing up.  It was then that I remembered something about learning to drive with Dad. He tells you what to do, and if you don't/can't do it he loses patience quickly. (I started flashing back to the catastrophe that was him teaching me to do hill starts in my Mom's manual Jetta.  It took years of therapy to get over that.)

It was 85 degrees and even hotter on the blacktop.  Noah, Dad, and I were all sweating like hookers in church. I had to pee, and Dad was yelling at me, "You gotta get the feel! You gotta feel the wheel!" In all honesty, I couldn't get mad at him.  It was hot as hell and he'd had open heart surgery 4 months prior. But I can't concentrate for shit when I have to pee, nevermind when I have to pee and someone is yelling at me.  I made an executive decision to take a brief break. I jumped out of the truck, told Dad to sit in it with the AC on while I ran across to their house to go to the bathroom. When I was done using the facilities I grabbed one of my parent's jumbo travel mugs and filled it with his favorite summertime adult beverage, apple cider and vodka, and brought it back to him. 

Confused Labrador face
While Dad happily worked on hydration, I asked him to take on a supervisory role while Noah gave me instructions.  The Boy actually understands the whole backing up thing and can explain it pretty well, so I figured we had nothing to lose.   I was ready to start again when Noah came up to me and said, "You understand how this process works, right?  It's basically a pivot.  The hitch ball is the fulcrum, or central point in the rotational system."  Bless his heart, he actually pulled out a piece of paper from the glove box and began drawing a truck and trailer on it. I took this all in with a blank look on my face.  You know the one, looks kinda like a confused Labrador? That was what I looked like. "Sweetie, that's great," I said,  "Here's the thing, though. Right now Mom doesn't need a physics lesson, Mom needs to know which way to turn the damn wheel."

So we persisted. Dad was initially a bit put out about being replaced as Advisor in Chief but Noah buttered him up by very strategically  "consulting" Dad before giving me advice.  Plus Dad had his libation, which certainly helped make taking a managerial role more palatable.  I'm not going to lie and say I did well. There were a lot of failed attempts, a lot of backing and straightening and backing and straightening some more. There was a lot of cussing and several appeals to my Higher Power for assistance. (None was forthcoming).  Several times I got so creative with my language I half expected to be struck by lightning, especially given the fact that this was God's parking lot.  (That may have been why the aforementioned assistance was not forthcoming).

I was finally able to manage a smooth 3-point turn and we decided to quit on that high note. Noah and I took the trailer back to the barn and then headed home, where we met my parents and I made a nice dinner to thank Dad for his assistance.

I've since practiced trailering several more times, taking longer and longer trips on back roads, state routes and interstates.  I've driven over to the local horse park,  practicing backing and three-point turns between the large farm equipment parked there. (That might be worthy of a post. I haven't decided yet).  The kids keep me company, and we're having fun with the whole experience.  Pretty soon I think I'll be ready to actually haul a live animal. I'm thinking maybe a guinea pig or something small.  You know, baby steps and all that.


  1. haha omg that sounds intense - good call on re-hydrating the father! i got my driving lesson from the trailer dealer, meaning he's taught these maneuvers to loads of ppl and has it down to a science: when backing, turn the bottom of the steering wheel in the direction you want the trailer to go. good luck and happy travels!

  2. Ha! Hilarious. My dad taught me how to haul a trailer too, he grew up driving farm trucks and trailers around and didn't understand why I found it so complicated.

    Best advice I got: put your hand on the bottom of the wheel. Move your hand in the direction in which you want the back of the trailer to go.

  3. You'll get the hang of it! Luckily most of the time we horse girls have to park in big open fields so many times you won't even have to put the rig in reverse once! I can't wait for our adventures to start up again.