And So It Begins…
It was a day just like any other day, only more so. That is to say, I had the Escapees SmartWeigh guys at North Ranch in Congress Arizona ply their trade on the Intrepid, and got more than I bargained for. Weight, that is. Steel yourself: here comes the geeky part right up front. Once that’s over, it’s trailblazing in Wickenburg, kinda.
With a GVWR of 10,000 pounds, once you’ve filled the Mighty Furd with fuel and stuffed in all the passengers and crapola that you can, the resulting weight should not exceed 10,000 pounds. It will carry it just fine and the available acceleration is still sobering, but running at the GVWR limit shortens the needed maintenance intervals by half, and generally wears out the drivetrain and brakes more rapidly than if the truck were used solely for transporting bags of potato chips.
With Smartweigh, individual weights at each tire are taken in order to check whether any one tire might be overloaded, which is a common situation for RVs. Tires on the Super Duty are E-rated, which means they can each carry up to 3,460 pounds when inflated to the maximum of 80 PSI. Lowering the pressure to 70 PSI, which I normally run at, reduces the acceptable load to 3,360 pounds. The highest-loaded tire on the Intrepid was found to be 2,700 pounds – and that was in front. So I’m perfectly okay as far as stressing the tires goes.
The Ford’s axle ratings are 6,000 pounds in front, and 6,100 pounds at the rear. SmartWeigh showed my actual front load as 5,300 pounds and the rear as 5,250, so I’m okay for stressing the axles, which really boils down to bearings. Trouble is, if you add the front and rear together, you get a total vehicle weight of 10,550 pounds, which is 550 pounds over this truck’s GVWR. Oops!
Amazingly, with yours truly in the driver’s seat, the loads on each tire were all within 100 pounds of each other, something most sports cars would envy. Considering that the FWC Grandby, loaded to the gills and then some, is pretty heavy, it just goes to show how nose-heavy a diesel-powered pickup is. So the end result is that I need to shorten up the maintenance schedule, pay attention to the full inspection results that Ford supplies at each servicing, and continue to baby the throttle and brakes (i.e.: drive like an old man).
I also need to hope that state laws aren’t changed anywhere to require RVs to enter highway weight scales. They would measure the weight, then go by the specs label on the door post. It’s that simple. You might bolster up a lighter half-ton truck with air bags to handle the camper better, but that doesn’t alter the factory label as to the truck’s capabilities. Then there’s the liability aspect of an accident, where unless the truck was parked at the time of the collision, excess weight would be noted as a contributing factor. Naturally, apart from running with less fuel and freshwater, or leaving tools behind, I’m hard-pressed at this moment on how to significantly reduce weight. Perhaps my second voyage out may benefit from this first year’s experience. Some items I’m taking along just to prevent their destruction from Yuma’s extraordinary summer heat, but those aren’t heavy.
Anyway, that done, I headed for the temperate climes of Wickenburg, one of my favorite burgs. After a brief exploration down a happily-named dirt trail called Vulture Mine Road a few miles south of town, I headed for where I camped last year, dived in, and kept going. Not for me the radios, generators, and A-type dobermans off-leash and unaccompanied. This is a narrow trail littered with sizable stones, and although the harsh thrashing of the F-250 has been tempered by the added load, there’s no point in “shaken, not stirred” when it comes to spillable or breakable items inside your living space. Yep, I’ve got it all binned, trayed and locked upright in there, but there’s the matter of a sizable jug of wine I just picked up in town that has no place to stow, and I’m a man with priorities.
I was hoping to go farther in than I did, but I encountered a wash that the bike carrier cleared, but the StowAway cargo box frame did not. I could have forced the issue, but pranging the carrier frame on its maiden voyage is not my idea of a good time. The good news is that this event was audible, while the other good news is that an intersection was only a few yards back, so I could get turned around promptly. I went back to the first turnoff, dived down and around the winding trail, and came to a sort of clearing that presented a workably level spot to camp. But just ahead was a somewhat questionable incline of loose rock, the lower end of which had major erosion damage. It would need to be carefully done at the start, since the Ford’s ground clearance is not going to make it for rock crawling. Let a tire slip and drop into one of those deep ruts, and the axle or diff housing could easily ground out, not to mention sidewall damage.
So, ever cautious, I got out and inspected the issue, then walked up the slope to see if there was enough space up there to camp and/or turn around. These are Jeep trails, likely forged by Roy Roger’s sidekick Pat and his surplus WWII Willys Jeep named Nelliebell. The Super Duty is much more of a Percheron than a mountain goat when it comes to off-roading, but hauling its 10,500-pound bulk up the slope looked do-able as long as neither front nor rear equipment grounded out at the start. 4WD-low was called for on two counts, one to have the traction and two to take some of the load off the torque converter and transmission. Thankfully, the climb was uneventful and despite the mass of loose rocks, there was no tire slippage to speak of. Once at the top of the rise, it was an easy matter to find an appropriate spot to set up camp. Roof up and greywater tank deployed, I was livin’ the dream.
Any trip to town on the Evelo e-bike will likely include walking the first hundred yards, but that electric motor will at least handle the long paved climb on the return trip from town. As I typed this, a hardy young mountain biker went past and on down the trail, which means that he likely machoed his way up the slope, something that is just beyond the borderline of what the heavy Aurora can do with an aging desk jockey on board. I tried it last year. It’s about power, which the Aurora (and I) can handle in spots, but more about breaking traction and stalling out. More power to ya, kid! He wasn’t even wheezing as he went past!
So the maiden voyage is complete and I intend to lay low for awhile, walking about, contemplating my place in the universe, and watching Three Stooges and Poirot episodes. I must caution that this type of camping in solitude (and being free to stop to gawk at tourist stuff along the way) is what I intended the Intrepid be able to deliver. It’s not about four-wheeling to the most inaccessible spots possible (the big Mighty Furd can’t do that), nor about stopping at every national park along the way to take pretty snaps. Those are plentiful on other blogs. If you’ve gone back in this blog’s past articles, you can expect more of the same, only with a slight readjustment. I’ll be going where my travel trailer could never get to, and occasionally stopping to look at what I previously had to pass by. It’s a good life, no?