My trip in a fifth wheel
We arrived at the North Wales facility to find the place buzzing with activity and the staff and customers everywhere occupied with their various duties. There were fifth wheels and trucks in every corner of the yard, whilst inside the factory were tourers in various stages of construction. Outside was the skeleton of their new factory and showroom, which hopefully will be up and running soon.
I was shown to a Celtic Rambler, which would be my new home for the next few weeks. It was in pristine condition with immaculate red leather interior and my tow truck for the duration of my trip was a burgundy Nissan Navarra with satellite navigation. The truck even matched the stripes on the Fifth Wheel.
The next morning, eager to get on the road, I thought I would practice hooking up the pickup, as the hitch was a new design especially made for short bed pick-ups. I would point out at this stage that I am no stranger to fifth wheels and have had all sorts of tow trucks and hitches in the past. I have toured the states for seven years, owning three over there and also a Celtic Rambler over here that I full-timed in for two years, mainly in Europe.
I backed up keeping equal distance from the sides of the fifth wheel that I could see in the mirrors. I then got out to check the height and distance from the hitch, which all seemed fine, then I moved another foot and I was connected. It slid into place with no bangs or clunks, so I pushed in the locking lever and connected the air and electrics. I then tried the lights and raised the height of the fifth wheel to normal ride height, which was all very simple. It was just a matter of pressing the button to bring in the slide and check all the hatches and we were ready to go. Now I am fairly fit but as I am no good at lifting I found the whole process effortless with no strain on my body.
At our first camp site, unhooking and setting up took just ten minutes due to the air suspension on both the truck and the fifth wheel, which is hassle and stress free.
Living in the caravan
The caravan came with all the standard features, under-floor heating, constant hot water, large fridge, microwave, full size cooker, and electric roof vents. It all made it very easy to live in and the extras it had were solar panels and air conditioning. In one of the lockers were a couple of switches that said air levelers, but most of the sites were more or less level. There was also a spare wheel on the back in case of emergency.
There was more storage than we would need and I know from experience that there is also more than enough for a full timer. We even had room for our suitcases.
The hitch just works quietly in the background, no bangs, no clunks and no fuss. The caravan looked and felt new, no tell tale holes where the previous owner had taken things with him, all the seals were uncracked and everything worked. Normally I have trouble with beds and I was worried about this one, but it turned out to be absolutely perfect for myself and my wife. I was happy the Fifth Wheel Company trusted me with such a nice unit.
Now I am not a great lover of Nissans but it was certainly up to the job and more than powerful enough to cope with a fifth wheel, but I did feel I would have got more fuel consumption had it have been a manual. It handles better than my last new dodge ram, which was also an auto, and in fact four out of my five last tow trucks were auto. Yet we soon mastered the sat nav and I became an expert at juggling the auto gears to get maximum mileage out of the fuel.
On the road
It has often been said by fifth wheel owners that they “do not know it’s on the back” and that is true you soon forget you are towing. A fifth wheel is also forgiving, if you make a stupid instant maneuver when travelling at speeds in traffic, a caravan may tip over but the fifth wheel remains as stable as ever, and because I had forgotten I was towing, passing trucks had no effect on the stability and head winds are a different matter.
We never phone ahead when travelling and we do at least two sites a week, after all we are tourists, and the sites we have been on have been diverse. Trying to explain what a fifth wheel is on the phone is not good but pulling up outside the office we have no problem. In America they have pull throughs but with no such luxury in Europe it is always a back-up job. It always pays to have the bend on the driver’s side when reversing as you can see more. In the UK, we use a web site called www.pitchup.com to find the sites and in Europe a club called ACSI.
We found all the staff at the Fifth Wheel Company to be friendly and helpful. We all need transport at our destination and I find that towing a car behind a motor home causes more aggravation than towing a fifth wheel. Occasionally we have been pulled over by the police in Europe for towing four wheels down, sometimes fined and sometimes not.
Soon enough it will be time to return the outfit back to the Fifth Wheel facility to be sold on to some lucky person. We will miss it, along with the freedom it allows and the comfort to travel.