More signs that the bad luck spell is changing: we got our service completed at Roger Williams Airstream in record time. Denver had the Hensley hitch off the trailer and disassembled by 9 a.m., and the tire that had been stabbed with a furniture foot was sent next door to the dealership’s tire shop. The tire was patchable, fortunately.
I am glad to have the routine maintenance on the Hensley done. It was functioning perfectly, but some items needed attention. The inner spring-loaded nubs on the grease zerks often wear off, and one of ours was broken. The bushings that hold the weight distribution bars were definitely a bit stretched (oval rather than round), and the bracket that holds the bushings together had broken. None of these things are emergencies. There wasn’t time for a really good strip-down of all the old paint and rust, but Denver managed to get it lightly sanded and repainted anyway. It looks a lot better and there’s a feeling of confidence in knowing that the entire thing has been inspected.
Everything was back in and set up by 2 p.m. or so, leaving us plenty of time to navigate the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex traffic. Driving through this area is no fun with a trailer, and we are careful to avoid it at rush hour. Since it takes over an hour to get from Weatherford to the east side of Dallas, we were pushing it a bit to depart as late as we did. We encountered two places where traffic inexplicably screeched to a stop for no apparent reason, and several slowdowns. That’s not bad by D/FW standards.
Along the way I happened to observe a Honda Pilot ahead of us. The rear wheels were obviously bowing outward, from being seriously overloaded. I pointed it out to Eleanor as a cautionary example. People think that if the vehicle seats 8 people, it can take 8. But that’s not always true. When we owned a 2003 Pilot I remember being mildly impressed by the 1100 lb carrying capacity. But divide by 8 and you’ve got 137.5 lbs per person. How many adults do you know that weigh 137 lbs?
We caught up to the Pilot a few minutes later, and sure enough it was filled with six or seven people, all of whom were large. I estimated that the Pilot was carrying something on the order of 1,400 to 1,600 lbs of human cargo, plus whatever personal belongings they had. I’m sure the people inside had no idea how badly they were overloading their vehicle, but they must have noticed the horrible wallowing handling, and eventually they’ll find other “unexplained” problems like abnormal tire wear.
Worse, the high center of gravity of most SUVs gets even higher as you add more people. People in the towing world become cognizant of loading issues (if they want to stay alive), but the average SUV owner probably never thinks about it. For comparison, our vehicle while loaded with the three of us, our belongings, a full tank of fuel, and towing a 30-foot Airstream requires about 90% of the available carrying capacity, while that poor Honda Pilot was easily 40% over its carrying capacity. Most people would guess we have the heavier load, but appearances can be deceiving, which is why we go to truck scales to be sure what we are carrying.
I think I mention this because I always get grief about my tow vehicle, no matter what I use. When we towed with a 2003 Honda Pilot (then pulling a 17-foot Airstream Caravel, and later a 24-foot Argosy), I was roundly abused by people who told me how unsafe I was. When we switched to the Nissan Armada and the 30-foot Airstream Safari, it was the subject of long-winded discussions by many people who were sure that we were a rolling death trap. Four years and 80,000 trouble-free miles later, I think the choice proved itself.
But I expect no less commentary from the current tow vehicle. People will talk. Personally, I don’t engage in tow vehicle debates. I will only say that I do the numbers and the research, and satisfy myself that we are safe. Also, my choice is not for everyone. You can probably guess from this that we are not towing with a large American pickup truck. That should narrow it down for those who are dying of curiosity about the new tow vehicle.
We left Weatherford early because we could get a jump on the drive to our next destination, Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. Midway along I-30 there is not a lot of excitement, but in the little towns along the road we had an opportunity to stop for Texas barbecue. You can’t get real Texas barbecue in Arizona, any more than you can get an authentic New Orleans muffaletta in New Jersey, or a Maryland crab cake in California. You have to go to the source.
Our overnight stop has been in Mt Pleasant, home of Bodacious Barbecue. It wasn’t the type of dry-rub Texas barbecue I was hoping for (Bodacious goes in for sauce, which is a point of differentiation between barbecue enthusiasts), but it was just fine. And we had another sweltering humid night boondocking in a parking lot, because we arrived too late to make a campground stop appealing. The overnight temperature never dropped below 80 degrees. We’re getting used to it, slowly, and using all the techniques for keeping cool that we used in Death Valley the one time we camped there in June. But tonight we shall have electricity again. I don’t think I am ready for several days in the humidity of east Texas, Arkansas, and Missouri without air conditioning just yet.