Advertisement

Trailering Olympics

We lead three boat-towing specialists into no-man's land.

February 26, 2009
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email
Trailering Olympics

Trailering Olympics

Our three Trailering Olympics contestants ready for the challenges that lie ahead of them. John Linn
Trailering Olympics

Trailering Olympics

Editor Robert Stephens lining up the rigs. John Linn
Trailering Olympics

Trailering Olympics

John Linn backing his boat and camper combo up the narrow dead end road. John Linn
Trailering Olympics

Trailering Olympics

John Linn cautiously backing up his trailer. John Linn
Trailering Olympics

Trailering Olympics

Linn using an available driveway to get his rigged turned around. John Linn
Trailering Olympics

Trailering Olympics

John Linn showing that all you need is some patience and a good sized mirror to get out of a jam. John Linn
Trailering Olympics

Trailering Olympics

Fred Leisenheimer navigates his way down a seldom used boat ramp. John Linn
Trailering Olympics

Trailering Olympics

Leisenheimer easily gets his boat in the water even with Robert doing his best to distract him. John Linn
Trailering Olympics

Trailering Olympics

Walleye Dan Eigen steps out to survey the boat launch situation a little more carefully. John Linn
Trailering Olympics

Trailering Olympics

John Linn checking his mirror on the way down the ramp. John Linn
Trailering Olympics

Trailering Olympics

John Linn plotting his strategy in the resort parking lot. John Linn
Trailering Olympics

Trailering Olympics

And his parking plan pays off. John Linn
Trailering Olympics

Trailering Olympics

Dan Eigen checks out the remaining spots as he enters the parking lot. John Linn
Trailering Olympics

Trailering Olympics

Eventually Eigen spots a space that he likes, but can he make it work? John Linn
Trailering Olympics

Trailering Olympics

Of course he can. John Linn
Trailering Olympics

Trailering Olympics

Fred Leisenheimer easily finds a place to park his rig for the night. John Linn
Trailering Olympics

Trailering Olympics

John Linn pulls his truck in for some fuel. John Linn
Trailering Olympics

Trailering Olympics

At this point, it’s all fun. John Linn
Trailering Olympics

Trailering Olympics

Dan Eigen pulls his trailer through the drivethrough without a problem. John Linn
Trailering Olympics

Trailering Olympics

Fred Leisenheimer is rewarded for his successful trip through the drivethrough with some ice cream. John Linn

The headlights on Dan Eigen’s Ford Lariat are casting a glare off the narrow neighborhood road directly in front of his rig. The pavement is wet. The clock on the dash says 7:45 a.m., but the darkness and the incessant drizzle make it seem earlier — much earlier. Eigen’s mind is busy. Is it my imagination … or is the road getting narrower? What’s over this hill? Where am I? And then, to his exasperation, I tell him we missed our turn and need to turn the truck and boat around. Eigen looks at me, his messenger. His eyes disclose what’s kicking around in his head: Are you kidding?

Yes, it happens. When towing, lots of “it” happens. So we re-created four such “its” for a contest between three guys who spend more time with boats in tow than without. None of our Olympians knew what was coming until they were actually stuck in a squeeze. How they strategized their individual escapes, well, those are the lessons for us, the spectators.

Contestants The Personable Angler
Name: Walleye Dan Eigen
Rig: Ford F-150 Lariat and Ranger 620 VS
Credentials: As a fishing guide and Dad, he trailers the boat every day from April to November.
Precontest Quote: “As a guide I have to multitask, which helps me behind the wheel. I can talk and drive, but there are times when you need to tune things out.”!

Advertisement

The Tactician
Name: John Linn
Rig: Chevy 3500 Dually, Lance 1121 Camper, Tigé 24 Ve
Credentials: This boat photographer was towing ski boats before getting his driver’s license 20 years ago.
Precontest Quote: “My Dad would let me do things to stretch my abilities, figure things out. I know if there’s a way to get into a spot, there’s a way to get out.”!

The Unflappable One
Name: Fred Leisenheimer
Rig: Ford F350 with cap and Larson LXi 238
Credentials: He has trailered boats around the country for Larson the past 21 years, accident-free.
Precontest Quote: “I’ve done this long enough that I can go with the flow. Like this morning, I came up on a farmer going 10 mph and just had to wait it out.”|

Walleye Dan frequents this rural area of East Gull Lake, Minnesota, but the road ahead is not familiar. Thankfully, a passenger in the truck (me) claims to know the way. Eigen trusts me. Big mistake.

Advertisement

“Keep going,” I say with a confidence that overshadows my cluelessness. “The lake access is up here a ways.”

Walleye Dan watches a dead-end sign come…and then go in his rearview mirror. He is now on a one-lane road that seems to be tracing a path like a kite on a broken string. The truck and trailer creep through a tight canopy of trees, heading further into oblivion.

“This isn’t right,” thinks Eigen. “This isn’t right,” I finally admit out loud. “Our turn was way back there.”

Advertisement

Oops. Now what?

Results
Gold: John The Tactician
Did it with 50-plus feet of truck, camper and boat, taking out only a few brittle twigs.”My main goal is to not back into anything.”John has to move his long rig 100 yards uphill…in reverse…on a one-lane ribbon of asphalt, before finding a driveway or a clearing wide enough to get turned around 180 degrees. “I’ll take the time to get out and walk the road and find the nearest open space. If people in other cars come up, I’ll apologize and ask for some room. I’ll tilt the mirrors in, so I can see more of the trailer and only a sliver of road. My windows are down so I can hear verbal signals — like ‘Stop!'”

Silver: Unflappable Fred
Never even had to leave the cab, but did leave a rough zigzag on the wet road.”The big mirrors help a lot when backing up a hill.”Fred’s head is on a swivel, looking left and right. “I’m not looking at the boat; I’m just looking at the trailer because it’s wider than the boat’s hullsides. In this case, I’m watching the trailer fenders and giving them a couple of inches on each side. Then I keep backing and correcting, backing and correcting, until some space opens up. The main thing is to just be calm and not hurry. I’ve gotten into this situation and there’s nothing more I can do. Frustration just makes it harder.”

Advertisement

Bronze: Walleye Dan
Got it done, though he nearly flattened a mailbox and a videographer while getting it done.”Backing up a blind hill in the rain is tricky. I have to force myself to take my time, which is hard for a high-energy guy on the go like me. The whole time I’m backing up, I’m watching the top of my Verado [motor] to keep it centered on the road. Once I’m at the top of the hill, I’ll get out to see which driveway gives me enough room to back the rig in. I need enough space to get the rig turned 90 degrees and pointed perfectly perpendicular to the road before I can turn it back the other direction. Otherwise, I’ll need to keep backing until I find even more space.”

There’s only one launch ramp on this side of the lake,” I say to Fred. I’m playing the proud passenger “in the know.” Then comes the cautionary statement: “And it’s great because nobody uses it.”

Sure enough, off to the right side of a lightly traveled road to a campground is a clearing, about 10 feet wide and with a small slab of concrete leading down to a glass-calm lake. The so-called ramp meets the road at a 90-degree angle.

Worse, chaos is breaking out in the truck. Walleye Dan and I are hungry. We turn up the radio. We tattle on each other. We want to go boating … now! Fred’s ears are burning. Only he’s busy eyeballing the ramp, the one nobody else wants to use.

Results
Gold: Unflappable Fred
Had the boat on the ramp in less than three minutes and did not scold anyone.”I keep my focus on the most important element.” His eyes look to the right through the entire exercise.”In this case, the key is to watch my trailer tires when backing into that 90-degree turn. As soon as the first tire breaks past the edge of the launch ramp, I crank the wheel. I’m watching only the sideview mirror on the passenger side; I want to keep that tire close to the edge of the ramp. My [driver’s] side will be fine, if that side is lined up. I pay no attention to the noise in the truck.”

Silver: Walleye Dan
Was gentle with a heckler, but lost points for the gurgling at the transom (missing plug).”The most important thing for me at the ramp is to eliminate distractions so I can get into a zone. I turn off the radio and cell phone, and if a passenger gets too talkative [which he did], I’ll find a tactful way to get him out of the truck [which he did]. I’ll ask fishing customers to stand by the ramp and hold a line tied to the boat while I launch it.” The passenger in this event broke Eigen’s concentration so much that he forgot to put in the plug before launching.

Bronze: John The Tactician
A model of patience, yes, but he could not offset the handicapping size of his rig.”I didn’t leave myself enough room in front of the truck on my first attempts and got painted into a corner.”He got the job done after six tries, catching some tree branches before finally turning his rig the opposite direction on the road to make the move onto the ramp possible. “In hindsight, I should have faced the truck in the direction where the most space was. That would have allowed me to maneuver and reposition, as needed.”

It’s been a tough day for John. Sticks and leaves appear to be growing from the top of his camper, reminders of two earlier events. The mental stress of towing is starting to show. Now he pulls into a hotel parking lot. The front-desk manager said he could park his rig anywhere.

That’s great, except…well, there are no dedicated areas for trucks and trailers. All but six parking spaces are taken, and they’re all slotted between other cars in one row against the hotel. The driveway itself is wide enough for only one vehicle at a time to pass through.

“Anywhere you want,” I say to John, a bit testily. “And hurry up. I’m tired.”

Time to get creative.

Results
Gold: Walleye Dan
His was the last rig into the lot and had the least room. He made up for it with guile.”I’d rather park and walk than force myself into tough spots.” He parks on the grass next to the lot. “Here you go.”He’s told he’s out of bounds.”OK, I’ll scope it out. Hey, these spots should work [next to a Dumpster]. I’ll back up and angle in the trailer real slow. Then disconnect and park the truck separately. If these two spots hadn’t opened up, I’d just find another lot and walk to the hotel.”

Silver: John The Tactician
Had to mentally block out a gallery of spectators and one angry driver.”I’ll back into the driveway from the road. Using the entrance buys me a little more space to get into a spot.” A lady in a Black Subaru can’t get past and honks her horn. “It makes no difference if it takes 15 minutes.”Hotel guests begin to spill onto the balcony to watch. “I’ll mentally measure the distance back to the curb, and then use a visual marker next to the truck door, like a leaf, to gauge that same distance as I back up.”Two bystanders shout: “Hold! Hold! Ho!!”

Bronze: Unflappable Fred
Being the first one into the lot made it too easy.”If there’s room on the pavement and I’m not in anyone else’s way, I’ll use it — whatever’s available, even if it’s an unmarked spot. Why make things more difficult?”He parks along the edge of the widest part of the lot, leaving just enough room for parked cars to back up and get out. “When it’s time to reconnect, I’ll line up the trailer tongue with the Lear logo in the window of my topper. It gets my hitch right on the trailer every time.”

As a fishing guide, Walleye Dan is all about customer service. So when his guest says he’s in the mood for some ice cream, Walleye obliges. He drives to the main drag that runs through this Minnesota burg and suggests a McDonalds one mile up the highway, with a big fat parking lot for his truck and boat.

“Nah,” I say, taking charge from the passenger seat. “Let’s go through the drive-thru at Culver’s.”

Walleye Dan bites his lip. He nods his head, knowing this means merging with 5 o’clock traffic, making a U-turn and negotiating a sharp corner into the custard stand. His competitors will find it no easier — Fred at the Arby’s drive-thru and John at a tight gas station. Trailering life, meet city life.

Results
Gold: Unflappable Fred
Never flinched at last-second commands.”In city traffic you have to be more alert, simple as that. I’ll stay in the right lane and use the driver’s side mirror.”He’s asked to make a series of turns. “I take the turns as wide as possible.”He’s asked to order two orange swirls at the Arby’s drive-thru. “I’d normally park somewhere and walk in, instead of using the drive-thru.”The store manager watches the trailer tires kiss the curb on the way out.

Gold: John The Tactician
Could say he chickened out at the drive-thru, but in reality it was the smart call.”First, make sure the wheel lugs are tight and nothing’s loose — like safety chains. It takes more time to stop a heavy rig, so I’m mostly watching the traffic ahead and giving myself plenty of room to brake.”He makes a left turn after a long wait at an unprotected stoplight. “I have no qualms about waiting out the light and blocking the intersection if I need to.” It’s suggested he go through the Arby’s drive-thru.”I don’t do drive-thrus, period.”

Gold: Walleye Dan
Sacrificed some rubber for a tray of sundaes.”Changing lanes in traffic is no fun.” He’s asked immediately to change lanes. “I’ll wait until someone gives way in the mirror, or until I see the last car pass on the left.”He looks at the Culver’s entrance. “I always eyeball the entrance and exit. If they’re too tight or too steep, where you might get hung up, just move on and find another one.”The trailer tires roll onto the drive-thru curb.”Ouch! I curbed it!”

Advertisement

More How To

Advertisement
Advertisement