Okay…and update on Connie’s retina separation first. As you know she had a bubble injected into her good (left) eye on Monday and we went back on Wednesday (May 4)…at this visit Dr Vyas told her that the bubble had done it’s job and it was time for the laser treatment to seal the edges down and finish the repair. While she was going to be at it…she went ahead and lasered some additional areas around the retina that are thin…most likely due to her high diopter numbers. Once that was done…we headed home and things at this point are looking up…she’s not out of the woods yet or completely healed but she’s definitely on the mend.
Our immediate plans are to extend our stay here in Hanna for another month at least…cheaper campground rates that way ya know…but we’ll probably head out on a couple of short trips in the meantime between her followup visits…down to the New Horizons Owners Group rally in Chattanooga TN the week of May 16 and then over to the Fairfax VA area for our already scheduled dental/Neil eye/financial guy appointments the last week of May. Our trip up to Canada looks to be not in the cards for this summer…but we’re waiting a bit before we cancel anything past the NHOG rally to see what her exact follow up visit schedule is.
On to the Sad News…well, it’s not actually sad news for most of us…it’s actually good news for everybody in our immediate family…with the sole exception of BAT.
Some of you who might have looked at our planned route this spring based on the destinations I talked about in earlier posts might have wondered to yourselves…just what the heck are they doing going from Florida to Indiana then back south to Tennessee before heading for grandbaby Alex in Midlothian then north to Canada. The Canadian part of the trip makes sense looking at the map…but why did we go so far out of our way?
Today I have sad news to report…BAT is no longer with us. Some of you may have figured this out already…since Connie is really lousy at keeping secrets and despite Neil telling her NOT TO TELL ANYBODY YET she kept tweeting about it.
As our regular readers know…our New Horizons 5th wheel gets towed behind our 2012 Ford F450 pickup named BAT (Big Ass Truck). We knew on delivery of our rig that our rear axle capacity was getting sorely tested…every other specification for load we’re well within but the rear axle on Ford pickups is under-rated…deliberately by Ford so as to sell more expensive commercial trucks to plumbers, welders and the like.
As a recovering engineer…Neil well knows that there’s some safety margin built into the numbers and we were all ok with that…BAT towed nicely and stopped the rig just fine. We slow down a bit going up hill and speed up on the downhills but downshifting and using engine braking solves that just fine.
Then life happened. We’ve added a little weight to our rig since taking delivery but not much…so our pin weight is just a little more than the 5,450 pounds we were weighed at back in 2013. Add into that the aux fuel tank we added to the truck to extend our driving range…another 600 pounds almost of fuel and tank…and we were getting up towards 18% over maximum load on the rear axle. We’ve also had a couple of oopsies due to not having enough clearance between the side rails of the bed and the bottom of the bedroom on the house…nothing serious but enough that it was a pain in the rear. There’s also no dry storage in the bed…BAT has a roll up cover for when we aren’t towing which keeps the bed reasonably dry but it’s rolled up and if you tow in the rain then all the bed contents gets wet…so it’s really only storage for things that can get wet.
So…here is a last photo of BAT just before we put him out of his misery…don’t feel bad for him because I’m sure he’s got many years of outstanding towing service left…just not for a house as heavy as ours.
I mentioned earlier in the blog that we are visiting Valparaiso, IN…I just didn’t mention what we were actually here for until now…mostly because I didn’t want to give it away early.
Allow me to introduce you to the new and improved version of the Big Ass Truck…a brandy spanking 2016 RAM 5500 HD commercial cab and chassis truck with a custom built hauler bed from Classy Chassis here in Valparaiso. His name is…drum roll please…Big Red. Note the really nice two tone paint job that has red and tan colors that almost exactly match the color scheme on the house. Here’s Connie doing her best Vanna White imitation (again, and Neil made sure she was posed in a more feminine like manner this time:-).
So…what can Big Red do that BAT couldn’t do? First off…he’s a commercial truck with bigger brakes and suspension parts so we seriously just cannot overload this truck. I don’t think there’s a fifth wheel made that would over load it’s rear axle or towing capacity. Second…we sprung for the upgrade to the Cummins diesel and heavy duty Aisin transmission along with some other “pull heavy stuff” options. Thirdly…the Cummins includes a real exhaust brake just like a big 18 wheeler truck has…which means that when you want to stop…you stop. The bottom line is that from a towing and braking standpoint we’re far better off and we’ve now got a rear axle that doesn’t care what we add to the house.
The drawback…is that as a commercial truck it doesn’t have as much get up and go as BAT did…so we’ll probably climb hills and pull away from stop lights a little more slowly. We’re not going to drag race off with the house in tow anyway so that’s not much of a problem.
Then there’s the storage. As you can see from the photo…there are 2 storage compartments on each side and another one accessible from the top over the rear wheels. The front storage compartment door is 21×27 and plenty of deep…you could even stow a body away in there if you really needed to. The rear one is 14×17 and the one over the wheels is 12×23. All have doors that are fully watertight so there is storage space that will stay dry. All 3 compartments are about 15 inches deep. You could actually put Connie inside the forward storage area with room to spare if you needed to…except that she doesn’t really bend the right ways to make maximum usage of the available space.
In addition…the top of the hauler bed is just about level with the hitch plate on our hitch…in BAT the hitch was 3-4 inches lower than the bed side rails. The bed also gets lower as you go rearwards to also assist in clearance to the bottom of the house. Bottom line is that instead of about 4-5 inches of clearance we now have almost a full foot. This will ensure that we don’t have any more oopsies where the bottom of the bedroom bounces off of the truck bed denting both of them.
The bigger truck gets a little worse mileage of course…but that’s just part of the price of living in an RV. Fuel costs just go along with the territory…luckily we mostly won’t be using Big Red for our daily driver since we intend to continue having a car in addition to the truck.
I’ll report later on how it drives once we’ve towed a bit with it…but based on our friend Bill’s experience with his almost identical truck/bed combination with a very similar weight/size trailer to ours…I’m sure we’ll like it just fine. It does drive really nicely solo (i.e., without the house in tow) and the real exhaust brake on the Cummins diesel we sprung extra for will make stopping much more safe and effective.
We especially like the two tone color combo…both the red and the tan metallic lower portions match the paint scheme on the rig almost perfectly.
Interesting things of the week
Saw a tweet that said “Idea: Eat a whole bag of popcorn kernels before you die to make cremation a fun experience for everyone.” Really liked that one.
This picture is so true.
The true reason why it’s really, really smart to keep chalk in your car at all times.
Another one in the parking meme…Aladdin parks like a jerk.
Wanna non-stick pan?
And finally…that escalated quickly.