Saturday, August 8, 2015

Picking Up The Rig

We set out Tuesday morning from Kansas City, bound for La Grange, Missouri and the fine people at Beilstein Camper Sales to pick up our new Heartland Oakmont. La Grange is across the state from us and close to Hannibal and the Mississippi River.

We stayed close to the speed limit and used cruise control when possible in order to get a baseline highway MPG for Tug.  We chugged along US 24, which hurt our mileage some, as there are numerous towns along the way that require you to slow down as you enter each burg. Then, back to 60 again. A recent close call on our way back from a Lyle Lovett concert makes short breaks to stretch our legs mandatory.

We stopped for a few minutes in Brunswick, Missouri. The last time we came through, there was a Friday night wine and art walk going on. Tuesday mornings are more mundane in Brunswick, but we happened upon a table set up right on the main drag, unattended, with tomatoes, cucumbers, cantaloupes the size of basketballs, and a honor-pay box.
Brunswick honor syste
We saw a man come up, pick a melon, pay and even make change for himself. This is not the city.

We rolled into the Beilstein lot around 2:30 and were escorted to the prep garage where our new fifth-wheel was waiting. I have to say, a large trailer sitting indoors looks even larger, and I started wondering if just maybe we had made a huge mistake even considering hitching up such a behemoth and dragging it around the country.

A very small part of the Beilstein lot.
The techs in the service department had the trailer ready to go, and as we attempted to hook up to our new Reese R20 hitch, we discovered that the hitch had other ideas. The pin would slide into the hitch, and the jaws appeared to close, but the locking lever never returned to the full locked position. The guys tried everything - they took my truck to another trailer with a similar pinbox, no luck. They checked for burrs and casting flaws. Nothing.
Reese R20 Hitch
They removed the hitch's lube plate, same result. Finally, I called Reese customer service, and I was informed that the problem was operator error. the guys had been opening the hitch jaws before trying to hook up, but the Reese hitch prefers to have an unlocked, but closed set of jaws. Then, after the pin is properly seated, jog the truck into drive and back into reverse. Badda bing, the hitch clicked, we locked on and everything was as it should be.

We got the full walkaround and had all the features explained to us, many of which seemed to bounce right off our brains. It is an awesome vehicle, and as I watched the landing gear retract and saw the full weight settle onto Tug and the hitch, my palms started to sweat. I had never driven anything quite this large - the trailer, nose to tail, is just shy of thirty-eight feet long, and it hitches directly over Tug's rear axle. For the sake of argument, let's call it fifty feet of truck and trailer.

We went inside and settled accounts, and they bade us farewell, took our picture, and sent us on our way. I cannot say enough good things about the people at Beilstein. Chuck Oberling handled most of our business dealings at Beilstein, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them to anyone buying an RV, travel trailer, or fifth-wheel rig. The service department is top-notch, and all our dealings there have been first-class.

We buckled up, looked at each other and said, "Here we go!". This same phrase has been our launch code for any number of new adventures over the last thirty-three years. Transmission in D, trailer mode engaged, pedal down.

Tug easily started the rig rolling and we cruised all of a mile and a half down the frontage road to Wakonda State Park to spend the night and see what the trailer had in mind for us.
First stop, Wakonda State Park

We figured if we got hung up, the Beilstein guys were five minutes away. After a couple of tries, I got him centered in a campsite, and Kath and I started the setup process.

Let me say this, the old way of leveling a trailer is for the birds. The Oakmont comes with a Lippert auto-level system that manages all that trial and error on its own. A few keystrokes and we were straight and level.

As we unpacked and started thinking about cooking dinner, it the enormity of our decision to hit the road really began to sink in. The enormity of our new home on wheels also hit me - this was a comfortable place for two people to travel together without constantly bumping into one another. Plenty of room to do  the things you would do in a house, except a slightly smaller scale, plus the added advantage of never being chained to the earth.

This is how we'll live, this will be our new home.


  1. Reminds me of "oh, the places you'll go," to paraphrase Dr. Suess. Your grand adventure! Best wishes, hope to see you sometime on the road.

  2. Same here, Tom. Taking a bit longer than we had hoped, but we have to get this house market-ready, and December didn't seem like the right time to list it. We'll get out of here soon.