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A long time ago, I was a child. (I started out as Cathy First from Colon, Mi.) For the past several years I’ve been an adult. A lot of things went on between those two stages of life; probably no more or no less than anyone elses. My husband and I moved to “da U .P” from southern Lower Michigan several years ago (yes we were trolls at one time). We owned and operated and operate Clementz’s Northcountry Campground and Cabins just north of Newberry, Michigan until May 2015. We have grown kids and grandkids (who all live downstate). My passion is life and all that Nature has to offer us and trying to photograph it in unique ways. Our intention in life is to see all that Nature has to offer us. We hope that you will be a part of our adventures as we cruise through our lives together. Come back often!

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Escanaba is about 120 miles from our driveway. That is where we had to go yesterday to FINALLY pick up our 5th wheel. True, we still don’t have a place we can park it “out of the way” due to all the snow we have, but we decided to bring it home. It is parked in OUR parking spots.

It was a beautiful, sunny day; a bit on the windy side yet. The trip over was uneventful (meaning no bungee cord deer darting about). Dan was in a good mood, sucking on his butterscotch disks. I left my camera at home so I wouldn’t be saying “STOP!!” every ½ mile or so. Peace reigned in our truck. There was excitement in the air…we were bringing our home away from home, home!!

We arrived at Hilltop RV right on time. The head service man took us out to where they had our Cougar parked. While he put the plate on it, Dan brought our truck around. We had never had a sliding hitch before (our last 5th wheel was in the 80’s so things have changed!), so Dan wasn’t sure how far to back up, etc.

He lined the truck up PERFECTLY the first time and with the guidance of the service man, slide under that hitch like he’d been doing it all of his life. A few minor adjustments and a couple of explanations about the slider hitch, a shake of hands and we were off!

I should mention that Dan is a seasoned driver and still has his CDL. I too am a seasoned driver and still have my BSDL (Back Seat Driver’s License)…and I’m not afraid to use it, although it is more of a side seat driver’s license now. I think the terms and conditions still apply even if I AM sitting up front.

Dan put Bubba (our truck) in gear and we took off slowly. We headed for their exit; Dan applied the brakes and about jerked the back end of the truck off. We had a good chuckle about that. I didn’t use the authority of my BSDL because I figured it was a case of getting use to how the brakes are going to work with the 5th wheel on (and it has brakes on it which “hook up” to the truck brakes). From there you have to get out onto U.S. 2 and across two lanes of west bound traffic. Then you drive up the highway just a bit, make a left hand ‘turn’ so you can get into the east bound lanes of U.S. 2.

There was a big enough opening in traffic so we easily got across to make that left hand turn. Dan GINGERLY applied the brakes and again, a big jerk . THIS time you could actually hear the 5th wheel tires ‘lock up’. At least the person with the BSDL could and did. We still chuckled a bit, although not as heartily as the first time. Dan remarked that he couldn’t believe how touchy the 5th wheel brakes were. I remarked that I couldn’t believe you could get that much rubber with an automatic and only going 5 mph.

We finally got up a head of steam, got out of the east end of Escanaba. Our first stop light was coming up and we were going to have to stop. Dan thought he would try the exhaust brake AND shift into 5th (yes I did tell you it is an automatic, but it has 6 speeds you can use by flicking a switch on the gear shifter and no, we didn’t have it in tow haul because it was not hilly areas). THAT didn’t work; still had the touchy brakes.

By now, we weren’t chuckling anymore. My concern was that if we had to stop suddenly, we WOULD tear the ass end out of the truck or the 5th wheel hitch would pull loose. Dan didn’t know whether to be embarrassed or if he just plain couldn’t drive anymore. We both use to pull our other 5th wheel and never had an experience like this, so again, we figured WE were out dated and just had to get use to this.
About this time, he said something like “When I get this figured out, then YOU are going to have to learn how to drive it.” I replied, as sweetly as I could, “If we happen to be someplace traveling, and you get sick and can’t drive, one of two things will happen; a) We will stay put until you are all better, or b) I will sell the truck and the 5th wheel and buy two train tickets.” (You may wonder why I would need to sell the truck; Dan can’t read a map quickly enough for me to drive in unknown areas…besides that, he’s sick, remember??).

When we finally arrived home we both were pretty upset and KNEW this was NOT a case of Dan not knowing what he was doing. He managed to get it parked (although we’ll need a load of gravel in the driveway from where the brakes kept locking up), came in and drank a beer. While he was doing drinking his beer, I was IMMEDIATELY on the phone to Hilltop RV. I asked for Dan in service. Michelle told me he wasn’t available and wondered if she could help me. I told her that the ride home with our new 5th wheel was nerve wracking at the least and that we felt very fortunate to have gotten home without any bad incidents (I was so concerned about deer running out in front of us). I further explained, as politely as I could for being as upset as I was that something was wrong and we were not happy.

She said “Oh, Dan in service said he forgot to tell you about how to adjust those brakes but thought you’d figure it out as you were driving. Didn’t you read the book?” I said “WHAT BOOK? We were not given any book.” So she said she’d have their Dan call my Dan which he finally did.

To try to shorten this down, both Dan’s were on the phone and my Dan was out in the truck driving forward with the 5th wheel. It was a very simple fix; there are two little bitty dials on either side of the brake instrument (that is mounted about where the driver’s right knee is). You turn those to adjust the brakes on the 5th wheel. It would have made our trip home a LOT better if we’d have known that. As it is, we probably wore the tread down on all 4 5th wheel tires QUITE a bit!

We won’t really know if they are adjusted properly till we get back out on the road again, but I can say that Dan drove forward and stopped, forward and stopped, etc and didn’t leave any more holes in the driveway!


  1. Glad you came home safely but geesh how nerve wracking! All this time I was reading this I kept waiting for you to mention your brake controller. Nothing worse than having your trailer stop your truck........
    My brakes on my horse trailer once locked up on me while heading home from a horse show. When I went to apply my brakes, there was this terrible loud squealing sound coming from my trailer. I ended up unplugging the electric hook up from my truck to drive home without trailer brakes, hauling two horses, one being a friends, in a thunderstorm with torrential rain coming down. Thankfully I only had to travel 20 miles, but it was very nerve wracking not having any trailer lights as well. I had to have my trailer brakes replaced which caused the whole lock up ordeal. They were due to go.

  2. DVM's wife...YOU sure had a hairy experience! Especially with no tail lights and being responsible for some one else's horse; I would have been in a state of panic!

    These stories are reminding me of when my daughter first started hauling her grandpa's harness race horses from Colon to Swartz Creek at all hours of the night. She had a couple of bad scares which MOM NEVER FOUND OUT ABOUT TILL YEARS LATER. Wait till your kids get to be "that age"!

  3. Wow. I would've been stressed to the max and white-knuckling it all the way home, too.
    Isn't it funny that you had to take the initiative to call and ask the dealer? What is it with men? They never want to do that!
    Thank goodness YOU did!!
    Hope you enjoy your new toy, now...and tell that GOF to go into the new 5th wheel and initiate it with some whoopie, for goodness sake.
    Don't come knockin' when the 5th Wheel is rockin!
    The Retirement Chronicles

  4. Retired One...we took some snacks and our Uno-Rummy Up, pillows, blankets, etc to the 5th wheel last night. Had the furnace on, etc. Thought we'd spend the night (Sounds dumb I suppose!!) but I got too cold and was breaking out in hives even with the furnace on so we hauled stuff back in, turned on the heated mattress pad, crawled under the blankets and called it good!

  5. sfeutz1:54 PM

    I feel your pain about this maiden voyage with your new 5th wheel! A few weeks ago we made it back from picking up our little Casita trailer in Fort Worth,Tx area with only! having torn part of the underhanging plumbing out. . and then had it disconnect from our Jeep while on our trip to Monument Valley. Tip: The anti sway bar also helps also in anti-completely-loose-trailer while driving! Just a few things underneath that will have to be bent back into shape after being dragged. We are both novices at this and are learning! Good luck with your new 5th wheel. . sounds like it's going to be fun. sf

  6. Sandy, we were all beginners at something or other at one time! It'll come to ya! We have seen so many "strange" things with campers that sometimes we just have to shake our heads and NOT look out the window!


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