Tag Archives: checklist

Pre-Flight Checklist?

Early last year a friend asked us if we didn’t need to use a checklist before we depart a campground and tow the trailer.  We laughed off the question, stating the obvious, “We do this every week, we’re good at it.”  There are a number of ways we could mess up our trailer, if we didn’t sort things properly before driving away.  One example is the rooftop stuff – imagine some of these things being torn off the roof or driven down into the trailer by a low hanging limb.

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Or what if, as our friends were recounting tonight, we failed to latch a window?  There is a tremendous pressure change when a big truck passes us on the highway and we’ve heard stories of windows mysteriously disappearing on driving days.  If you’re good with masking tape and fortunate enough to find double-ply cardboard in the nearest dumpster then perhaps you don’t need that window.  On the other hand, do you really want to give away something so dear?

Outside view of temp window

The thing is, you never know what you’re missing until it’s gone.  Friends were talking this evening of the events they’ve suffered, or have heard of from others, caused by not properly preparing the truck or trailer for towing down the road.  There are seemingly endless ways to ruin your day and perhaps empty your wallet through carelessness.  We finally saw the light, thanks in part to Doug’s and another Airstreamer, Marshall’s suggestions.

We use a checklist before every towing day.  Included in the list is Marshall’s item, to look at the entire rig from 100′ away and see the big picture.  Does anything look wrong from “out there?”  Then work on the checklist.

Friends suggested tonight we could share this list here, and lacking a more important topic we decided to comply.  Then again, maybe this is the most important topic we could share?  Here’s the checklist:

                  INDOOR ITEMS
Jewelry on wife
Jewelry box on lower shelf
Windows closed and latched
Vents closed, including Salem (ram) vent
Water pump off
Cabinets lashed and closed, including pantry doors
Brita pitcher and fruit bowl stored in sink
Catalytic heater stowed and latched
Shower head, etc. on shower floor
Headphones and TV put away
Items secured in vanity cabinet
Desk drawer secured
Laptops put away and stored
Inverter off
Furnace thermostat turned down
Outdoor temperature thermometer placed inside
Oven pilot lite off
Purse and food bag in truck
                    OUTDOOR ITEMS
Awnings closed and latched rear and both sides
Bars, breakaway, chains, and seven-way plug all connected
Chocks removed and stored
Jack stand removed and stored
D/C water, store hose and filter
Unplug shore power connection, store cords
If boondocking, d/c inverter, unplug from inverter, store cord, set Fridge to auto operation
Antennas down
Solar panels down and latched
Door closed and latched, double-locked
Doormat stowed in truck
Steps folded up
Tire pressure monitor hooked up and reading 4 trailer tires
Lucy  (our GPS) plugged in and reset trip miles
Mirrors extended for towing
Check brake and turn signal lights
Leveling Blocks stored

_______________________________

This list is on our iPad and our iPhone, so we can access it readily before towing.  You may have fewer, or more, issues you want included.  You may not need a list.  We thought we didn’t until we realized WE DO.

Thanks to Doug for reminding us we are fallible.  We should have listened sooner.  Thanks to Marshall for the apt suggestion of looking at the big picture too.  And thanks to Rich and Julie, John and Barbara, and Jay for suggesting we share the checklist here.  We need all the help we can get and really appreciate our friends.

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie

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Everyone is packing

Yesterday morning Debbie and I awoke early and drove into St Augustine for Easter Sunrise service outside Flagler Memorial Presbyterian Church. The Service was in the Columbarian. Tiki torches provided light around the perimeter and chairs provided comfortable seating for 50 people. It was an intimate setting and seemed very appropriate. We enjoyed the music and the message.

We had the final event for the week yesterday evening at the Easter Rally. We sat with Gilliams from TN and Kolesars from VA. The rally evening fellowships offer the opportunity to sit with different couples each night. We got to know both couples a little better yesterday, and will look forward to seeing them again at another rally.

The Florida State Unit of WBCCI provided us a catered ham dinner plus cake and ice cream. The dinner was very good, and Debbie and I volunteered to help with serving the cake and ice cream. Some rallies offer volunteer opportunities for the participants to help carry a little of the load. We find volunteering is a fun and easy way to get to know a few more people.

After the ceremonies and dessert everyone started saying their farewells. We saw, as we walked back to our Airstream, people preparing for this morning’s departure. It was a pleasant evening and we had a little more daylight. Why wait until the morning and unknown weather conditions? Tomorrow might bring rain or locusts!

We latched the awnings and all the windows except the bedroom ones. I lowered and secured the tall antenna and mounted the towing mirrors on our truck. In the morning I would check these things again as I complete preparations to tow our Airstream home to the next destination. I saw one of our Airstream friends walk around his Airstream, clipboard in hand, going through similar steps.

A checklist helps avoid costly omissions like a broken window or awning, or an improperly connected hitch, or snapping off a raised antenna. We have, we think, good checklists. And we used them frequently. Debbie and I have committed to memory the steps for hitching and un-hitching.

I’m responsible for the awnings and hitch segments and Debbie for the kitchen and toiletries. I prep the hitch, back the truck, connect and lock the hitch and its parts. Debbie secures the stove, stows the teapot, kettle, water pitcher, fruit bowls, soap dispensers, toothbrushes. I reef and latch the awnings. Otherwise, we each tackle the preparation for travel as if the other is not doing so.

The other steps include disconnecting and stowing fresh water hoses and filter and shore power cords, and stowing outdoor rug, doormat, chairs & tables. And we remember to safely store our only pet, the aloe plant Monroe Bowles gave us in Okeechobee, FL, in January.

Debbie and I walk around the Airstream at least two times each for our “de-park” inspection. We look at each other’s work as well as our own, carefully examining each window and awning latch, hitch part, step, vent, antenna and light. We slowly and methodically walk around the trailer checking every detail of road-worthiness. This is our final pre-flight check.

We’re ready to go 22 miles to our next State Park. Our preparations would be identical if we were going 220 miles or 400 miles. We don’t want to leave gear behind, we don’t want to damage our Airstream or truck, and we don’t want to create a problem for anyone else on the highways.

We have heard stories of people whose windows broke while on the Interstate, apparently from wind currents slamming the window open and closed. We have seen batwing television antennas crashed into the roof, possibly piercing the roof skin. We have seen sewer hoses dragging from their storage place as the trailer traveled up the road. We know one ham whose raised antenna smashed into an overhead bridge. The antenna apparently smacked into and broke roof-mounted solar panels, to add insult to injury.

Our experience with this has been good, so far. We left a sewer fitting in one campsite, and two levelling blocks in another. Total losses? Less than $20 in five years. One mistake could cost thousands, though. We’ve been fortunate. We might return to a checklist yet.

The routine activities of packing and hitching up take between an hour and two hours, depending upon how “unpacked” we became at the site. Here we used all three awnings, our rug, the grill, a folding table, and had all our family pictures on the shelf inside. When we are staying one night, we can unhook from utilities (if we even connected to them) and be hitched up and on the road in 1/2 hour.

Yesterday and this morning we probably spent over two hours, although some of the time was mixed with saying farewells. We enjoy this part of the rally, too. Five years into Airstreaming we still get excited when we pull onto the road towing our Airstream. Did we remember everything? What will the inside of the trailer look like when we arrive? And, what adventure lies ahead?