by Ginny McKinney
It was a perfect Colorado blue-blaster day… my husband’s day off. We had decided to head to Grand Junction to look at travel trailers. The topic of retirement was pretty hot in our house and we had thought a camper was just the thing we needed for our Golden Years. As we stood in the fourth one, my sweet man suffered a heart attack and died. As I began to navigate my grief, I knew I needed something joyful in front of me in order to survive. Two weeks after the funeral I bought a small 16’ camper and took off for three months in the wilderness and backroads of Colorado… alone.
I had never pulled a camper before and had only tent camped twice in my entire life, so there was a huge learning curve for me. Once I completed that three month sojourn… I was hooked. I sold my house, traded in the 16’ for a 30’ and hit the road. I traveled over 50,000 miles from South Dakota to South Carolina and all parts in between. In that time I learned a lot of skills that made life easier, made travel safer, and made me stronger in every way.
The first thing I did was join Sisters on the Fly… the largest outdoor women’s adventure group in the country. I am Sister #3537, so that meant I automatically had 3,536 other like-minded women to answer all the questions I had. I soon joined Girl Campers and went to “Camper College”. I’ve camped alone high on a mountain top and I’ve camped with 100+ other women. Here are some of the things I learned along the way.
Location, Location, Location
The first night out, I was so excited! I drove through an unexpected snowstorm, white-knuckling my way across the Continental Divide. I had a reservation for several days in an RV park. It was early in the season and there were plenty of open sites, so I asked if they could put me near one of the giant motorhomes. My thinking was, there was likely a couple inside. That made me feel less vulnerable. The spaces are larger and usually pull-through, so I didn’t have to worry about backing in until I became more comfortable with my rig.
Check, Check, and Check Again
It only took once driving down the road dragging my power cord to learn I needed a checklist. I wrote down every step it took to hook up and unhook and meticulously followed it. Write down everything you need to do inside as well. You want to make sure things are fastened down so stuff doesn’t go flying around while you travel. I bought tension bars for the refrigerator shelves so items didn’t fall out when I opened the door. I found 12”x12” collapsible fabric “boxes” to hold loose items in cabinets for the same reason.
When you’re settled in your spot and ready to unhook, the very first thing you do is level your camper and chock your wheels. You want your trailer level or your refrigerator can be damaged. Chocking your wheels is probably the single most important step. This keeps your trailer from taking off down a slope causing damage or personal injury. Lynx has a wonderful kit that has everything you need for the job. A work light is essential in case you pull in at night. The thing I love about the Lynx system is the way the chocks click onto the levelers so they stay put and don’t slip out from under the tires. CLICK here to learn more about the complete Lynx Levelers RV leveling system and Lynx Lites.
It’s fun to belong to Solo Women Traveler groups on social media because you can share, find support, and ask questions. At the very beginning of my journey, I made a solemn promise to my family and friends that I would never disclose where I am in real time. I also turned off the GPS locator on my cell phone’s camera. Just because a group is “closed” doesn’t mean there isn’t someone in there impersonating a woman with a false profile. Safety first… always. If your gut says NO… GO!
You don’t want to advertise in a campground that you are traveling alone, for obvious reasons. I don’t mind letting a couple camped in a big rig next to me know I am traveling solo, but I don’t want to make it too obvious. I keep a pair of men’s work boots in the camper and set them out by the steps to make it look like I have a man with me.
Act like you know what you’re doing, but don’t be afraid to ask other campers, especially couples, for assistance should you need it. I always sleep with the automatic key fob on the nightstand. If someone comes and bothers you, press the panic button. Your neighbors may not be thrilled to be awakened in the middle of the night, but I can just about guarantee you’ll scare off a bad guy. Solar motion sensor lights are handy to have around the outside of your camper. Lynx has several styles.
Head ‘em Up and Move ‘em Out
Again, use your check list when you’re heading out to your next destination. Always remember to unhook and stow your power cord, water, and sewer connectors. Lower your TV antenna and draw in your awning. Close your windows and vents and fasten everything down. One of the most important things to do is check your tire pressure EVERY SINGLE TIME YOU TOW. I learned that lesson the hard way when I had a blowout in a remote area with no cell service.
The Thrill is in The Accomplishment
It’s incredibly empowering to pull a 30’ camper cross-country on your own. I always get a kick out of the responses from the couples in the big rigs. The woman almost always gasps and says, “Why, I could never do that!” And the man almost always drops his jaw when he watches me back that bad boy into a campsite… like a boss!
I now have a new love in my life and it took him a while to get used to sitting in a chair watching while I do my thing. I’ve finally gotten to the point where I’ll share some of the duties with him, but after towing alone for so long, I like knowing everything has been done… my way.
Get out there, gals… be careful and have fun. There’s nothing like the freedom of the open road!