Our Tow-"ee"

This page is being published on 12/21/14, so it may remain as text only until we can gather the pictures together that will go with it. However, much about the trailer that we are towing is already being published under blog posts as the work is done to convert it to a livable camper. This page basically tells about how we came to own the trailer.

It all started when I helped a work associate set up a company to import some very nice steel tool boards with lock-on hooks from Sweden (much better than the typical pegboard found in lumber stores here). I was to become the new company's first distributor, having bought a $5,000 quantity of product as soon as it arrived. The plan was that I would travel around the southwest states and set up dealers who would buy from me. For that, I needed a "display" trailer to show my wares. The plan was to have a showroom of boards and accessories in the back, and to carry stock in the front.

One day, I came home and my wife said to me, "Did you notice anything outside?"

Of course, I had no idea what she was talking about. She said, "Go outside and take a look. You'll know it when you see it." So I did.

Across the street, in the neighbor's carport was the trailer with a "For Sale" sign on the front, with "$1600" under it. I took the sign off, and wrote on the back of it "Sold" and to "call me" with my phone number on it. Meanwhile, we had time to discuss the situation, and when the neighbor returned, I immediately went over and handed him a check for $1600.

The neighbor had bought the trailer brand new in Wisconsin to haul his huge Harley back and forth, so he could enjoy riding it in Mesa during the winter. It was built as a motorcycle trailer and had the tie-down rings in the floor and a tire hoop on the floor for the front wheel. He had only made two trips with it before deciding to get rid of their Class A motorhome and go to a SUV, and buy a park model to live in. He thought the trailer and its load were too much for the SUV, so he wanted to buy an "open rail" trailer, which is much lighter.

Note, this is the same neighbor to which I had GIVEN an aluminum step ladder when they first moved in, because I had an extra, and he seemed like a nice enough guy. I say this because it is important later on.

So for the time being, I put the trailer in the storage yard, still undecided as to the layout of it, and how this whole tool board thing was going to come together. The delay was warranted, because within a short time, I could see where that situation was headed. To make a long story short, the sales never took off like we thought they would because the end price was too high, and the import company folded within a year.

By then I had already decided to put the tool boards online, and despite the fact that I outsold his other five distributors together by doing so, we had also decided to move back to Arkansas from Mesa, AZ. So now the trailer had another planned use...as a moving trailer. The first trip was behind a 26-foot U-Haul truck, so we weren't concerned with stopping it. But the weight was too much for it, and we bent the tongue by the time we got just east of Little Rock, and it had to be carried on a flatbed truck the rest of the way...roughly another 120 miles.

After unloading it at our mechanic's shop, we then had to have the trailer hauled again to a different shop (a welding shop) for the repairs to be done. They replaced the old thin 2-inch stamped sheet metal tongue with 4-inch iron C-channel and repaired the jack post.

Back to the neighbor. They lived in Wisconsin. The title he had with him was an original dealer's title. The license branch wouldn't transfer it because it wasn't legal to do so! He had never titled it in his own name, and since he wasn't a dealer he couldn't transfer the title to me without it being in his own name first! That is the law in all 50 states! He tried to tell me that in Wisconsin, they don't have to "plate" trailers so he didn't register it.

I tried to explain that registration and titling are two different operations, and even though no plate is required, he is still required by law to have the title put in his own name, regardless of whether he buys plates or not! If it gets stolen, the state has no record of who it belongs to if you don't title it! DUH!

So we let it go, until he got back to Wisconsin again. Then he told me I owed him another $35 for title work to get the title in his name! That was NOT my responsibility, and especially if he owed late fees because it was not done when he bought it four years previous! This guy was 50-some years old and should have done enough title work in his time on earth to know that!

But since I was now in Arkansas, and thought I was done with making trips back to Mesa, he had me over a barrel, and he knew it! I should have told him to stick it where the sun don't shine, and applied for a lost title, but the cost could have been even more, so he literally forced me to pay his late fees and title work just so I could get a clear title! So I sent him a check and then waited for another few weeks for him to get the corrected title back in the mail and then mail it to me!

I was so furious with that ignorant tightwad that I refused to speak to him or even acknowledge him during the rest of our time in Mesa! As it turned out, we had to go back the next winter to finalize the sale of our park model and get the balance of our stuff out of it! When I mentioned what he did to some of his motorcycle buddies, I didn't pull any punches when I stated what I thought of him, and from the comments of some of them, they also had "gotten his number" and refused to ride with him. He's nothing but a jerk, and those kinds of people have no place in my life!

Anyway, 'nuff said about that. Back to the rest of the trailer story.

The following fall (of '05) our park model in Mesa had still not sold, so we decided to go back again, as we still had more stuff to move. Because we knew the trailer would be loaded to the gills, and our Dakota was a smaller truck, we had electric brakes installed on it in Mesa. Now we were confident that it would be ready for almost anything.

Unfortunately, we didn't think about the tires. Again, the trailer was loaded to the gills on the way back to Arkansas, only this time, it was the right side tire that blew out about half way between Las Cruces and El Paso...on the interstate. We had a spare, but the trailer had dropped so low to the ground that we couldn't even get a jack of any kind under it. I knew what we needed, but trying to explain that we needed a utility body truck with a power liftgate on the back, to a representative of Triple A was like talking to a fence post!

After nearly an hour of no resolution to the matter, I started looking at billboards along the interstate, and called one that sounded promising...an insurance agency. I explained the situation to the agent, and within 30 minutes he found a company with exactly what I needed. Two young Mexican guys showed up a little while later...with a utility body service truck with a power liftgate! They backed up to the trailer with the liftgate down and slid the gate under it. Then they were able to lift the trailer just enough to get a jack under it and change the tire for us! Hurray! (And raspberries to Triple A!)

Only now, I was concerned about driving any farther with standard grade 6-ply tires on it, so we asked if there was a tire dealer in El Paso that would have 8-ply tires. They made a call, told us to follow them, and led us right downtown to a dealer that was there on a Sunday! Another big Whoopee!

While the tires were installed, Sharon was able to go to an ATM to get them cash, and we tipped the two young men an extra $20 over their bill for excellent service! The dealer changed the tires and we were back on the road again, with only a couple hours total of delay!

After we got back to Mesa, I started a remodeling company to help my son out while he was here for a couple of months in the summer of '06. After he left, we decided to keep the business going, so we used the trailer occasionally for hauling materials and tools, and then used it for storage after that.

When we finally decided that we "could" go traveling full-time "IF" Sharon could take her piano with her, we looked at a lot of different options. None of the toy-haulers or RV's were 100% suited to our needs. Meanwhile, I had been reading more travel blogs as research for our own new site (http://caravancamperrv.com) that I started in 2011. One of the blogs that I came across early on was http://mobilecodgers.blogpsot.com. written by Randy Vining, who has since become one of my "idols" in this lifestyle. His first camping vehicle was a converted cargo trailer. Then I found several others who were doing it.

I came to realize that we already had everything we needed, except a suitable vehicle with which to tow it, and that has since been resolved with the conversion van. With our special needs of bringing a full-size spinet piano with us, and my history of being a builder (of many things), it became a simple process of designing the interior of the trailer to accommodate all of our needs...including the piano, and then building it the way we wanted for our specific use.

The floor plan, for those who wish to see it can be found on a link in the middle of the first post of this blog (New Beginnings). (Look in the January 2012 archives in the right margin). It is done on an Open Office spreadsheet using the drawing tools, so anyone who has the free download of Open Office can see our trailer plans.

From that post, you can read forward to the rest of our story and what we are gradually doing to the trailer. I won't include pictures here, because they are already being shown within the posts as we do the work, so please subscribe to new post notifications and follow along.

Thank you for reading, and as always, let me know your thoughts!


ger said...

Am enjoying reading your site.

John Abert said...

Thank you Ger. I should have another progress post up within the next couple of days. I'm just about ready to add the side pieces to another cabinet, and to secure the wardrobe closet in place. I should be done with those by tomorrow. I hope you have subscribed to post notifications, so you can keep up with the updates. The warmer weather is finally here, so I should be able to have new progress to announce every week.