BECOMING TRAILER TRASH  (September 2015)    

Nash Day  
September 18th is, you know, “Nash Day.” September 17th was "Nash Eve,” and the 19th was perhaps “Nashing Day.” Yes, we were just a little excited about picking up our new, special order, Nash trailer from La Grande, Oregon this fall. We had deposited our beloved Arctic Fox camper on their lot in June as a trade-in and were reassured to be buying a second rig from the same manufacturer though it was a less-sporty trailer.

Nash on the freeway home on “Nash Day”.
We placed our trailer order in June, the model went into its once-a-year production sometime in August, and ours was ready before we returned home from Italy in early September. We’d made a number of requests, such as for more 110 and 12 volt outlets; extra solar panels; insulated windows; and mundane things like vent covers, but we were on the edges of our seats about the “We’ll see what they do….” bike room request. The spike in bike theft last winter on our SW itinerary (largely from satellites of Portland crime rings) had pressed us to upgrade for bike security.

Even though we intended to buy a shorter rig, we selected the largest model in the manufacturer’s Nash line solely because of its floor plan: it had two, 27” wide beds in a “bunk house” at the back. Our vision was to transform the 25C with a children’s sleeping nook into a 25C “Sport Edition” with a walk-in area for our aging, custom-built  bikes. The dealer made the request to the manufacturer but with no guarantee to us. If they wouldn’t, couldn’t, or didn’t, either the dealer or we would be stuck with cutting out the built-in beds, which would likely look nasty when the demolition was over.

But we were in luck: we’d been told that the sometimes fickle manufacturer’s workers applied themselves and we welcomed our one-of-a-kind Nash with open arms. The dealer stood by the front door to guide us on a formal tour on Nash Day but we detoured through the back door to see the bike room first. Even after seeing it, we still didn’t know how we’d get the bikes in or secured, but we had a space that was as open as it could be and nicely finished, so we were on Cloud 9.

An Investment
Buying in La Grande was an investment of 2 full driving days by the time it was all over but the gamble had probably paid off: La Grande is the home of the manufacturer and they and our dealer are bud’s. We suspected that the La Grande dealership received more favors than the dealers in Portland because of the close relationship. We’ll never know of course, but hey, we got the most important things that we wanted and that made it worth the time investment.

There’s room for 2 in this kitchen.
Wayne, the service guy at the La Grande dealership, was also a draw. Wayne is a possessed wizard of all things electrical and beyond who runs circles around the service guys we’d worked with in Portland. Yup, Wayne was the man we wanted doing our upgrades and we were in awe while hearing about the special extras he did for our wiring needs. We were beaming with contentment during the long drive home with our Nash in tow, a day that ended after sundown. 

I’d learned long ago that anticipated things grow in size in my mind and both of us were shocked to see how small some areas of our trailer were when we picked it up on Nash Day. The extra storage bin in front that we remembered as being large enough to stuff a kayak into was actually about 1/3 of that volume. And it was a good thing we selected a smaller size cooler than we’d originally decided to buy because it would have consumed the space, if it fit at all. 

None of the storage was as vacuous as remembered from our trailer shopping in June and we instantly began trimming back the extras we’d planned to stuff in the trailer. Nash definitely had far more interior and storage space than our Arctic Fox camper but it wasn’t limitless as it had seemed 3 months prior.

Pulling A Trailer
Our fears about towing a trailer for the first time instantly melted away when we sat behind the wheel of our truck with Nash hitched on. Bill took a test drive with the dealer and his former apprehension was displaced by “It’s a piece of cake.” I declined my turn because of Bill's confidence and indeed, my first driving shift on the freeway with the trailer that day was a snap. 

The long wheel base of our truck, the extra heavy-duty hitch with anti-sway bars we’d just bought, and the well-designed trailer combined to make an effortless unit to drive. Turns at the gas station went better than expected and we actually steeled ourselves to pass a few times on the drive home. Backing was the next challenge and, as I expected, Bill was a star when it came to slipping the trailer into a tight slot in a storage shed. However, I would wait until Bill could better verbalize his talents before enlisting his help with my first efforts at backing the trailer. 

Practicing backing a trailer while in Nash.
I still was refining the art of backing our monster truck into parking spaces and the new issues with a trailer were daunting to me. In light of that, Bill bought me a toy truck and trailer the day before Nash Eve to begin practicing the basics. His childhood experiences with toy trucks are what he now very successfully draws upon when backing Nash, so I was playing ‘catch-up’ sixty years later.

The guy sitting close to me in the cafe had been taking quick looks at us while I unwrapped the gift and couldn’t conceal his shock when this gray-haired old lady unwrapped an orange Tonka pick-up truck with a boat trailer. We shared the story of our new rig and my backing challenges with him and his 2 companions amid lots of laughter. One can only imagine what they said to each other when they went out the door that evening.

"Nashing Day”
We learned our first cool trick to aid in backing a trailer on “Nashing Day”, the day after we brought Nash home. I’d been shouting single word commands to Bill when he informed me that I needed to "speak up.” Weariness was beginning to set-in and it would have been easy to lash-back but instead I thought “megaphone” and wondered where I could buy one. 

Fortunately, I quickly realized that I had a better solution in my pocket. I rang-up Bill on my cell phone, asked him to switch his to “Speaker Phone,” and suddenly I could give him detailed feedback about the angles and distances regarding both the trailer and the truck in a normal voice. Sure glad that one didn’t take us years to figure out.

Finally! The bikes were neatly nestled with no visible damage to Nash.
Nash's “Himmelfahrt”
Not being able to park Nash in our apartment building’s small lot made loading it for the first time wildly inefficient. Our camper was technically illegal in the lot, but we’d negotiated an agreement with the management for 2 overnight stays a year, which sped the process of loading and unloading it.  At almost 30’, the trailer was too, too long and we didn’t even ask.

We left the tailgate off of the truck to improve rear visibility, but that left us with the small backseat area of the truck for hauling bedding, clothes, dishes, tools, and the like out to Nash. Between us, we can barely lift the tailgate, so it was a non-starter to put it on temporarily. We resigned ourselves to almost daily trips to visit Nash in its storage space. We’d fill the backseat of the truck with our gear and then spend about 2 hours unloading and organizing it. 

Bill’s time with Nash the first week was consumed by implementing an elegantly simple, though tedious to do, system to secure the bikes. It was a very tight fit and it had to be perfect to work at all. 

My mind-bending chores were stowing our belongings in awkwardly shaped spaces and then remembering where they were: our collection of food storage containers nested in the oven and Bill’s underwear and socks are stashed almost under the kitchen sink. It was a balancing act between being roadworthy as quickly as possible and using the space efficiently. There would be plenty of time for refinement but getting it right sooner rather than later would leave us with more time to be on the trails.

While we were each doing our part to get Nash on the road, Bill threw me a curve when he announced that October 1 would be “Nash's Himmelfahrt”. He had to explain the joke to my jet-lagged mind that couldn’t quite make sense of it, which is that Mary’s ascension day is "Maria Himmelfahrt” in Austrian. It’s an important day for us to remember every year because we have learned the hard way that you can buy limitless beer and cigarettes on that day, August 15th, but you can’t buy groceries. It was a stretch, but October 1 became "Nash’s Himmelfarht” because that was our target day to launch Nash for the Grand Teton.

We’d spend the dead-of-winter months deep in the SW but in order to maximize our hiking venues for the year, we didn’t want to rush there. And there was a another wrinkle, the truck we wanted to pair with Nash wouldn’t be available until the end of November. When it was ready for pick-up, we’d stash Nash and high-tail it back to Portland to trade-in our truck. Having no fondness for driving, the closer we could stay to Portland this fall, the better.

Lovely Nash
Our trailer is huge. The truck and trailer together are almost 50’ long and parking, turning, and backing would all require developing a new sense of space. But all awkwardness is forgotten when we step inside. A slide or pop-out for the dinette like was in our camper creates a delightful living space. It is easy to want more, but our 25C was a good compromise, it was enough.

Bill’s favorite exercise space in Nash.
The increased floor and storage space over that of the camper would allow us to live more the way we want to live 8 months of the year. Unlike in the camper, we wouldn’t have to partially dismantle the interior space to simultaneously do our morning exercises: there is enough space for us to both be on the floor at the same time. And the roominess would increase my compliance with doing post-hike stretches, as I’d been advised to do. In Nash, I could be stretching on the floor after hiking without interfering with Bill's activities. The extra storage space would allow us to bring more than the bare minimum of clothes and shoes, which will also make life more comfortable.

Though we couldn’t bring everything that we wanted to have on board, having our light therapy box to brighten our brains before the sun makes its appearance 2 hours after we arise would a treat in the winter. Being able to stow an extra set of sheets would allow us to have a set of flannel sheets--which are heavenly on cold winter nights. And having space for a cooler will allow us to haul more perishables into long-stay destinations like Death Valley that are short on high quality provisions. We use travel as a vehicle to promote our wellness and fitness and Nash’s features would make a noticeable improvement in our quest.

Beyond Nash: “Steps” As The New Standard
While at home outfitting Nash, a friend commented to Bill that few people can relate to the stats we share about our hikes (distance and elevation gain) on our webpage; a few days later another friend asked how many steps we clocked when hiking. Fortunately, Bill recently discovered that he had an app that, unbeknownst to him, had been tracking him for the last year, instantly allowing us to be more universal in our conversations. 

So, for those of you who are wired into steps, a big hike for us is in the 35,000-40,000 step range. A hike up Larch Mtn in the Columbia River Gorge while we were at home in September was close to 37,000 steps. Our monthly average while in Italy last August was 20,000 steps/day. One “townie day” in Portland, during which Bill chose to walk instead of use public transportation while doing errands, was 15,000. A day during which he didn’t feel like he had walked much, he had racked up 9,000 steps.

In the US, hikers speak in terms of miles. In parts of the Alps, the trail signs more often cite minutes or hours to a destination than kilometers because of long stretches of slow-going trails, but it looks like it won’t be long until the standard unit of measure is steps and we’ll be ready.

But like minutes and miles, steps clearly have their own shortcomings. Our last hike in the Gorge was an 18 miler to the top of Larch Mountain on the main trail and a longer descent down to Multnomah Falls via Franklin Ridge with another couple. Bill’s iPhone app logged 41,000 steps; Michelle’s Fitbit reported 47,000 steps; and Randal’s iPhone app recorded 48,000 steps. Randal had walked an additional mile that day but has a much longer stride than Bill so, “Go Figure.”

But regardless of the calibration issues with steps that are yet to be resolved, we were ready to go. We had our “steps” history at our fingers tips and Nash was finally packed. We met our goal and the weather report was favorable: October 1 was indeed “Nash’s Himmelfarht” and it was now “Grand Teton Or Bust”.