The Fuel Stop From Hell

Alice, Franco and I recently returned from a 10-day RV trip. Part was spent visiting my parents in Milwaukee, but most was on the road to and from Kentucky. Make no mistake about one thing… an RV is a truck, and a big truck at that. We “dingy” tow our car behind the RV when we travel as well. Dingy towing means you install a special steel frame on the front of the car, and attach it to a tripod steel towing bar which plugs into the trailer hitch socket in the back of the RV. The car rides behind the RV with all 4 wheels on the ground. There is an important caveat to this method of towing… you can’t back up. You must unhook your car before you can safely back up.

So our 29′ RV is really a big truck, with the added bonus that it can not be easily backed up.

I’d enjoy stationing myself on the side of the road sometime near a gas station off a major highway. I’d like to watch the faces of RVers who are also dingy towers. As they are pulling up to the gas station, I’d enjoy watching them during the 1 or 2 seconds they have to assess the fueling station facility before they decide to pull in or go past. Because once you pull in, there is no backing out.

I should also mention that large truck stops are golden for diesel burning RVs. Semi trucks (who can back up) are given great islands for fueling. They have a lot of real estate on both sides of the pumps. Using this real estate, the trucker can line up properly with the pump, and add diesel fuel to tanks on both sides simultaneously. They can then pull out and turn whichever way they want to resume their trip, or park for a while. Diesel burning RVs can use these same facilities and seldom seem to have any difficulties. These truck stops also have gas pumps, but these are often designed for cars, who are the main customers. So they need to be scrutinized before they are used by gas burning RVers.

On our recent trip, we had several great fuel stops, and one bad one. The attached picture shows the best fuel stop we had. It was a Krist ™ gas station in Crystal Falls Michigan. We had had to pass up several gas stations before stopping at this one, and I’m glad we did. Look at the nice approach they gave us, and the easy exit. No hassle. I would have spent $10 per gallon of gas to use this place.

Our bad fuel stop was earlier the same day. We chose an exit because there were several big chain truck stops advertised. The one we chose had a terrible approach, requiring an almost 90 degree turn to line up along side the pump. The exit had plenty of room, however, so we decided to chance it. The place turned out to be quite busy with cars filling up also. I aimed for the pump at the end of the island, made my turn, and realized that I did not have enough room to complete the turn without running into the pylon protecting the gas pump. Alice got out and directed me, but we determined we’d missed it by an inch or so.

There were lots of other folks trying to use this pump island, so I had to move quickly. I started by unhooking the safety chains and the electrical cord between the two vehicles. Then went to work on the tow bar. Because I’d made such a tight turn with the RV, the pins on the tow bar would not budge. I had to start the car, and with it still hooked up, let out the clutch just enough to move the car forward and turn the wheels just enough to relieve the tension. Then with the clock ticking, I pulled on the pins and got the bar unhooked. Alice drove the car to a parking spot while I backed the RV up, straightened it up, and pulled up to the gas pump. After filling up, we pulled out onto the road and started the process of reconnecting the RV and car.

As I looked down the road, there was no easy place visible to turn around. This could also trap us, but we continued hooking everything up as the cars and big trucks drove past us. After we were again road worthy, I walked Franco down the road a ways, and found a driveway that was perfect for our turnaround. We piled back into the RV, and with a full tank of gas, brought it around. It turns out we exited the “enter only” driveway, which seemed to irritate a trucker trying to enter, but so be it. We were so happy to be back on the road after the fuel stop from hell, that one disgruntled trucker couldn’t bring us down.

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