Friday, March 22, 2013
The pros and cons of a toad
The last motor home I had was a 31' Winnebago, which is considered weensy by motor home standards. (Weensy: "It's an industry term" and points to you if you get the joke.) It had two nice slide outs to give some breathing room inside which made it good for several weeks on the road for two people. The insomniac could go to the "living room" and let the other one sleep. The TV watcher was separate from the reader. The shower was big enough, if a little cramped, it was separate from the room with the toilet and sink, and didn't require a $200 shower curtain. It had a decent-sized fridge and a freezer big enough for ice cream, most important. The table didn't need assembly when a meal rolled around. The space was nice but it was too big to take just anywhere. Parking garages were off limits and we needed to go to the back forty in parking lots because it took up two spaces. Driving on city streets was a nightmare and it had a quarter-mile turning radius. Because of this, we had a toad.
A toad is a towed vehicle. I just love a play on words. We towed a Honda Civic hybrid (what a good little car that was) on a dolly so the front wheels were up and the back wheels were on the ground. It worked great for mobility but what an exquisite pain it was. The car had to be lined up with surgical precision to make the front tires nestle in the tire wells exactly right. Then the tires were strapped into place with ladder-like webbed straps and cinched down tighter than a drum. Another strap went over and around the car axle and frame of the dolly as a fail-safe. All of it had to be tightened again a mile or so down the road. This was the easy part.
It was impossible for me to take the car off the dolly by myself. The straps that continued to tighten as we went down the road needed to be removed from the ratchet buckles. The manufacturer says it's simple: just lift up the buckle to loosen the ratchet! So easy! Liars!! It involved grubbing around on the ground, jamming a monster screwdriver under the buckle to lift it, and another person to worm the strap out little by little. The good part was once the car was off the dolly we were as mobile as we wanted to be.
The other option was a flat-bed trailer, which we used for a Mustang (red, GT, convertible, gorgeous. Oh, baby, I miss that car.). The Mustang was rear-wheel-drive so it couldn't be towed back wheels down. I wasn't going to risk putting the back wheels up and the front down where a good bump would take off the nose of the car. Also, the trailer itself is a million pounds and you can imagine what that does to mileage. And the car still had to be strapped down.
So everything is a trade off. The bigger motor home gave space but took away mileage and maneuverability and strengthened the need for a toad. There were also some trips where it was too much work to unload the car for a couple of things we wanted to see so they went unseen. What's the point, then, of having it in the first place?
I elected, as you know, to go with a camper van. I can drive it nearly anywhere I can take a car. It gets somewhat better mileage than the Winnie with or without a toad. The trade off here is the inconvenience of having to put everything away before driving off to see the sights: disconnecting and stowing water, sewer, and electric umbilicals and anything loose inside that will go flying once I'm on the road. This hasn't been put into play yet so I don't know how exasperating it's going to be but it can't be worse than loading and unloading a toad.
Here's the joke: In My Cousin Vinny, my all-time favorite movie EV-er, Marisa Tomei is arguing about a dripping bathroom faucet with her fiance, Joe Pesci. She says she knows she turned it off just the right amount to keep it from dripping because she used "a Craftsman model 1019 laboratory edition signature series torque wrench. The same kind used by CalTech high energy physicists and NASA engineers." Questioned about its accuracy, she said it had just been calibrated by the state's department of weights and measures "to be dead-on balls accurate." Joe Peschi asks her, with eyebrows raised, "Dead-on balls accurate?" She gives a sweet little smile and answers, "It's an industry term."
Thought for the day: For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)