Getting Hitched

As in a trailer hitch! Not the other kind. Yesterday was a good day for getting stuff done. Awoke bright and early at 6:30am to get the Casita hooked up and drove down to Camping World so they could install my weight distribution hitch (WDH). This was only the second time I’ve towed the trailer, I definitely felt more comfortable about it. Of course I forgot to bring the camera with, so instead of actual hitch pictures, you’re getting a picture of me taking a picture of myself in a mirror.

For any who are curious, I went with a Reese #66151, rated for tongue weights between 200 and 600 lbs with two built in trunnion (sway) bars. The cost was $499 for the hitch itself, and Camping World changed $125ish to install it. I also bought a new casing for my 7 prong plug, since the old one had gotten road burned at some point before I bought it and wouldn’t stay plugged in without being taped into place. Also acquired were these magnetic stick things called Hitchin’ Rods which the Casita community assures me are great for hitching up when your on your own, time will tell.

For guaranteed conversation, just mention on a RV forum that you’re in the market for a good hitch, and then sit back and enjoy as the various camps step forward to explain why the one they use is best. Now I’m not an expert in hitches by any means, but I do have some advice of my own to offer anyone who’s getting ready to hit the road with a trailer.

Check your tow vehicle’s manual. This is the most important thing. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I would put the opinion of the people who manufactured the vehicle above others. If your owner’s manual says get a WDH, then get one. If it says get a sway bar, then get one. Bertha’s manual said that she needed a WDH for tongue weights over 250 pounds, and the Casita tongue is over that, so I got one. Now I don’t have any sag issues, which is nice.

I likely could have gone with something a little simpler than what I got, but I went with the Reese for three reasons: it was highly rated and a well known company, many people on the Casita forums use one and have had good luck with them, and it didn’t require any welding on the trailer tongue to attach.

On the way back, I stopped at a gas station and made use of their coin vacuum to clean the metal filings up from my dinette screw removal project, it worked pretty slick once I got the trailer turned around so that the door was facing the vacuum and the hose could actually reach.

After arriving back at the storage lot with the Casita (it’ll have a name too eventually, just hasn’t come to me yet) I cracked my fingers, grit my teeth, and prepared for a task I’d been dreading and putting off since the purchase: practicing backing it up.

Backing up in a straight line shouldn’t be this hard. My biggest problem is I don’t recognize the little cues that would signal me to turn the wheel slightly one way or the other, like I naturally do when driving forward. But I gave it the old college try, and if necessary I think I could manage it now. I make no guarantees that there wouldn’t be a bit of muttered cursing involved however. After that I made myself park it in it’s parking spot by backing it in instead of looping around.

The parking spots are perpendicular to the road, so it was at a 90 degree angle, but I took it pretty wide which cut the difficulty down a lot. It still took a good 10 minutes probably to do but I never had to completely start over which I was proud of. Like before getting the trailer to swing back the correct way wasn’t the problem, but rather getting it to straighten out afterward. I occasionally had to straighten out by pulling forward a bit before backing up some more.

With all that hard work done, I went to unhook my shiny new hitch and discovered that one of the four friction pads had shattered. Doh. One phone call and 45 minutes later I was back at Camping World and the installation tech was shaking his head, perplexed. Of course I would be the person to get a defective one. He said he’d call Reese and order the replacement part for me, and in the meantime that it was safe to drive like that. 45 minutes after that I was parked back at the storage lot again – this time not taking the time to back it into place – and faced with a new problem.

Without that fiction pad, there was no way to get leverage from the handy little bar provided to lift the trunnion bars out of place. For a while I was thinking I’d need to give in and call one of the people who worked at the storage site out to muscle it off, but my stubbornness paid off and when the tongue jack on the trailer couldn’t go high enough to release the pressure I ended up using my truck’s scissors jack to get it just a bit higher. This probably wasn’t the safest thing to do, but in my defense the ground was level, Bertha’s parking break was on, wheel chocks were in place for both truck and trailer, and I was careful to stand off to the side.

Today I went back out to the Casita and used some foam carpet cleaner I’d picked up from WalMart to clean some of that rust off from the bad dinette screws, it didn’t work so well. After five-plus repetitions of apply foam and scrub clean, I got some of it off but there are still some flecks of metal and rust caught in the carpet that refuse to budge. It didn’t touch the stains on the ceiling from a prior cooking mishap either, but I hadn’t expected much there. I still have plenty of cleaner left so next time I get bored I can have another go at it, it’s better than it was at least.

On the downsizing front, I made $60 today selling my PS2 and related accessories. I was a bit sad to see it go, but the joy of the family that bought it from me made me feel much better. I hadn’t played it in quite a while and I know it’s going to a place where it’ll get used often and be enjoyed.

The moving date is fast approaching, and I still have a lot of ground to cover. Packing hasn’t even begun yet, and there are still a few things that need prepping on the RV before I start moving stuff into there. Two weeks(ish) and counting!

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At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.


  1. Hazel Owens on April 19, 2016 at 7:17 am

    I like your tip to check your vehicle’s manual before getting a trailer hitch. While people on internet forums are certainly one way to find out what type of hitch to get, your owner’s manual should set out specific requirements for your vehicle. Like you said, the people who made the car probably know what they’re talking about. Thanks for sharing!

    • Becky on April 19, 2016 at 10:11 am

      You’re welcome hazel, glad you enjoyed this!

  2. Becky on April 15, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    Yeah I’ll need to pick up grease still. This week is going to be crazy with my parents visiting on top of needing to get stuff done. It’ll be good though. πŸ™‚

  3. Dale on April 15, 2012 at 9:42 am

    I love the donations hat idea tee hee, have fun learning.
    If I were not offer a tip it would be to never let a vehicle intimidate you.
    As a gamer I’d say that gives you minuses to succeed.
    Plus, always watch your upper clearance as well as things behind. My dad hit a protruding shed-roof last month with his camper while backing and he has been parking trailers on a dime for ages.

    My Reese hitch on the Mule has lasted ages. Good hitch choice.
    I’m an impressive camper backer-upper most of the time, but I get out and look, get out and look alot. Sometimes I move picnic tables out the way, and make sure to watch for those short polls that have the site number on them in some campgrounds (those are so easy to overlook and run over. Anyway, Happy backing practice)

    Oh and I don’t know what is recommended with your hitch, but with my WDH I’ve never unhooked anything to back my camper into a site. I do always keep a little axle geese on the trailer ball.

  4. hobopals on April 13, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    I can hook up with no problems–backing up into tight places takes me a while. I just make up my mind not to get rattled, tear up a little of my lawn going uphill on the long hill–but what’s a little grass. πŸ˜‰
    hobopals recently posted..Cannot Leave Comments!My Profile

    • Becky on April 13, 2012 at 11:09 pm

      It’s not the fact that it’s going to take a while that bothers me, it’s that I imagine every set of eyes in the park is going to be watching me do it. Maybe I should just put a hat out for donations before I start backing in, if I’m going to be the entertainment might as well get paid for it. πŸ˜‰

      • hobopals on April 13, 2012 at 11:11 pm

        And you know what? Everyone will be more than willing to guide you and help you however they can. Don’t forget, they’ve all been there at one time or another. I’m not pround–someone wants to guide me, it’s fine with me. Never met any but nice people in campgrounds.
        hobopals recently posted..Cannot Leave Comments!My Profile

  5. Isherwood Wildwalker on April 13, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    What a wonderful adventure! and I am glad to hear the part broke only 45 minutes away, instead of 15 miles up an old logging road!
    Isherwood Wildwalker recently posted..Say Hello, Wave Goodbye to this Tainted LoveMy Profile

    • Becky on April 13, 2012 at 11:06 pm

      Definitely! It could have been a lot worse than it was. At least it wasn’t something vital or a safety issue.

  6. george on April 13, 2012 at 9:39 am

    Becky, you might ask the tech at Camping World if you are supposed to disconnect the sway bar and/or WD prior to backing up. And I second what the above poster said about putting a block of wood under the front jack pad so you can raise the front sufficient to remove tension from the WD bars.

    As for backing up to it for hitching purposes, my method is a bit of a variation on the above posters suggestion. Inside the back window of the truck I have a small piece of black tape. At the inside edge of the top of the tailgate, I have a small white painted line, and on the trailer, there is a tiny piece of black tape. Obviously all these marks are exactly centered.
    When backing up to the trailer, as I look in the mirror, when all three of these marks are lined up, then I am perfectly centered to the hitch.

    Very cool to watch you describe your adventure. Can’t wait to see your musings once you get situated in the trailer ! Much fun…..and remember your camera ! LOL……we want photos of all these little steps !


    • hobopals on April 13, 2012 at 9:54 am

      George, I have a mark on the inside of my truck’s back window. I just forgot to mention it. When I stopped using the tennis balls, I put a mark on the trailer, a mark on the hitch, and a mark on the window of the truck. Spot on every time.

      Thanks for keeping me from misguiding Becky. It is fun to watch someone so young just starting to live the good life.
      hobopals recently posted..Cannot Leave Comments!My Profile

    • Becky on April 13, 2012 at 11:03 pm

      Hee, I know I’m slacking George. I’ll definitely get pictures of the hitch next time I get out there. πŸ˜‰

      I already have a block of wood, and that still didn’t quite cut it. As I said above I think it’s all adjusted tighter to make up for the lack in the rear suspension of my truck. I’ve searched online and people seem to agree that backing up with everything still hooked up shouldn’t be an issue for this hitch.

      It’s all so awkward and clumsy right now, but if I just keep practicing at the backing up and hitching it’ll get better. πŸ™‚ That tape is a good idea, once I make sure the hitch is adjusted properly I think I’ll give that a try.

  7. hobopals on April 12, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    Hooray for you, Becky! I have a Reese WDS with sway bars, and it’s been great for 4 years. I think I read right about getting the tension off to remove the sway bars–did you use your tongue to raise it–you could put wood under it before raising.

    As far as backing up, I have a long driveway with a hill that still gives me a problem. The safest way is to back up a little, and get out and look. Take your time and check as often as you have to.

    After 6 months on the road, I could back up without the tennis balls and get the ball on every time. Let me suggest something that helps me. Put a little decal right in the center of your trailer – or maybe a little leveler would do double duty for you. Then, you have
    three things to line up and you’ll be spot on each time.

    I also carry an extra ball with me. Why? I don’t know. I just feel better having one with me.

    So happy for you that you’re living your dream.

    • Becky on April 13, 2012 at 10:58 pm

      Yeah I tried raising the tongue first with wood blocks under it but couldn’t get it high enough with just that, hence resorting to the scissors jack. I asked about it on one of the Casita forums and I’m now thinking part of the problem is the the hitch might be adjusted tigher than it should be to compensate for my truck’s somewhat lacking suspension. Just one more thing I’ll have to get looked at.

      I hope I get hitching and backing up down as well as you have after six months! There actually is a little bubble level right in the center of the trailer just under the belly band, so I have that going for me.

      Say hello to Jack for me, and I hope your back is getting better. I’d just love to meet up with you on the road someday. πŸ™‚

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