For those who were following our journey last May and June, you will know this is a big deal for us. If you do not know what we are talking about in this title, it all has to do with driving a motorhome and towing an automobile behind it.
Our home is 40′ and is on wheels. When we park in a new location, we need a vehicle (referred to as a dinghy or toad) to drive around in, such as to the store, to church, to go sightseeing, etc. We bought our motorhome in May and until we came to Myrtle Beach in October, we couldn’t find anyone to hitch us up! So I’ve followed Bill while he drove the motorhome for about 2,200 miles: from Cocoa, Florida; to Troy, Alabama; to Red Bay, Alabama; to Jasper, Tennessee; to Bristol, Tennessee; to Waynesboro, Virginia; to Milford, Virginia; to Florence, North Carolina; to our current destination, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. That means we put 2,200 unnecessary miles on our car.
There are several ways to tow a vehicle: Trailer Tow (i.e. put a car in a utility trailer), Dolly Tow (two front tires on a dolly while back wheels spin) and Flat Tow (our choice to have all four wheels down). There are many professional and good quality articles on this subject. Trust us, we’ve read them all and watched many YouTube videos on “how to.” We did our research. We knew what we were getting into…but until we actually did it, we didn’t know what we didn’t know. (Understand?) So we hope by sharing our experiences, it might help someone else. We hope you’ll laugh with us, now that it’s over. During the process, a few tears were shed. 😂
We also watched a number of videos which helped us learn more about towing. We also have talked to so many people about their hitches and how they like how they are towing their vehicle. But no one shared a story with us like what happened to us. One thing we have learned in this RVing lifestyle is that everyone has a story of something crazy happening to them. This is one of our crazy stories.
First, just to let you know how the name “toad” came about: Tow-ed = toad. And dinghy is affectionally what little boats are called. So it’s a play on words.
Once we knew we were buying a motorhome, we formed an opinion, we would “flat tow.” That means we would have an (ugly) tow bar on the front of the car, attached to a hitch on the back of the RV. By flat towing, we probably would have to make modifications to our car. But the downside to a dolly or trailer, is that you have to “store” them and possibly have to hoist around, park and stash when you are on a campsite. Not every campsite has the room for them. But somehow, everyone makes it work. Bill has a back issue, so we just decided we couldn’t handle having to hoist either around. Yes, Bill does the heavy lifting in our family. Plus, I have a few back/neck issues, too.
We did test drive a few jeeps (probably one of the most popular Toads) a few months earlier when we first thought about changing from a truck and 5th wheel RV to the motorhome. We loved the Jeep Grand Cherokee. It was everything we needed and more. Spacious (we wanted to carry four adults and two children), comfortable and more than anything, easy to flat tow. BUT, we later learned, they don’t get the best gas mileage and for long trips (which we’ve done three times since owning it), and it’s really not “luxury” comfortable. With our back issues (and aging bodies), we need a comfortable ride. So we compromised. The vehicle we bought, a crossover SUV and car, Cadillac SRX, will only fit four adults and one child. Or three adults and two children. But we first eliminated all the other flat towable vehicles before we even thought about the SRX. There is a yearly on-line publication that says which cars are flat towable. The slogan for our motorhome is “Roughing it smoothly.” And that fits us with our little Cadillac!
We stayed in Myrtle Beach for a full month, not only to enjoy a month at the beach but to get our car and RV “hitched.” Parts have to be ordered but we learned, no one wants to hook up a used “hitch.” Except Camping World. And Myrtle Beach was our first location since buying our motorhome that had one. We also needed to have our washing machine replaced, which they did. We were very happy with that install, so thought the hitch would also go smoothly.
Well, we were a bit concerned when it took twice as long to rig the car up to tow. We had “face plates” installed, modification to the bumper and grill, installation of a bracket for the “invisi-brake,” made connections for the air brakes, installed a wiring harness, and probably a few more things I don’t know about (or understand). In the end, it took a day and a half on the car and 1/2 day on the RV. So all in all, we spent four days of our 35 days in Myrtle Beach in the waiting room at Camping World, which includes the washing machine install and then to fix that which didn’t work properly on our car. And that is what this post is about. Something had to go wrong, right? Or this would be boring – although it probably is unless you want flat tow one day.
We have learned a lot from other full-timers, but especially one young couple. They not only live in an RV full-time, traveling all over the US and Canada, they are also working professionals. In fact, they inspired us to give ourselves a catchy nickname: The TumbleLees. They are Jason and Nicky Wynn or “Gone with the Wynns!” Here is their video to learn from my (Jason’s) mistakes, and “How to Properly Connect and RV Tow Car.” We watched these several times, when we started our education on what we were going to do and then while we were getting our hitch set up.
So we now have the set up we’ve wanted. We’re educated. Bill is confident in his ability to hook the toad up. I’m learning and watching….and praying all goes well! When it took them so long to rig the car, we both had a few misgivings. But Camping World guarantees their work.
We do try to travel without pressures and for this to be adventure travel, right? Well, not all adventures are fun. It was time to leave and our daughter has made a lot of preparations for us to come visit. She has our grandson counting down the days (he’s learned to count to 10! Smart guy). And we are ready to go.
So once we are all hitched and rigged to go, we tested the lights. Humm, the blinkers are not working. But the lights are on. Then we tested the brake, brake lights not on. And there is a beeping noise in the RV. We called Camping World and they said to bring it on in. So off we go.
We arrive and Bill is exhausted from the 10 minute, five-mile drive. He doesn’t say anything to me, but he is wondering if our 360 diesel engine can tow. 😖 Upon arrival, we looked at the car and see smoke pouring out of the front tires (brake area). YIKES! We begin to panic. Bill says get me a cup of water, it looked like a fire could start. I grabbed our cups of water, then he throws the water on the wheels like it was a campfire. It hardly affects the smoke, so I ran back and got a pitcher of water. Slowly, the smoke stopped. Our Service Writer then tells us to unhook the car so they drive our RV into a bay.
Wouldn’t you know, it won’t unhook! (We have since learned, that is a common problem. You just need a drift pin and a hammer to knock out the pins.) The hitch seemed frozen and the brakes appeared to be gone, pedal to the floor. We are thinking worst case scenario. I posted a plea for prayers on FaceBook. This can’t be happening!
We were prayed up, praying daily for the Lord’s protection – oh, I’m sure that is what happened…HE did protect us! What if the blinkers worked ok and we just thought the beeping sound was how it is supposed to be? What if we just went on the nearly 200-mile drive we planned to travel? That would have been a disaster. So in reality, disaster was averted.
Camping World was very busy, every bay tied up when we arrived. But the Shop Foreman took our job to get ‘er done. It turned out that the air brake flow was one way. When the RV brakes were on, the car brakes were off. And when the RV brakes were off, the car brakes were on. It took about 5 hours to diagnose it and repair it. Fortunately, the car brakes were fine, just overheated, and we are now on the road to our daughter’s home. She’s a bit sad as her maternity leave is ending and she wanted to hang out with us a few days before she returns to work. It’s so great to be loved and your only child wants to spend time with you!
So in the end, what lesson did we learn? Expect the unexpected! And what does the Bible say about planning? We have to have faith, we may have been spared something worse. It just wasn’t our time to leave Myrtle Beach.
You can make many plans, but the LORD’s purpose will prevail. Proverbs 19:21
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.