Thursday, March 06, 2014

Promoting - The New Trailer

One of the challenges of the 2014 Bethel Spring Series p/b Outdoor Sports Center (that's a mouthful right?) is that this year I made the "all in" commitment to using a trailer for registration. I pondered the idea of using a trailer for registration for a while, but with the white 15 passenger van (aka the Death Van) a less than ideal tow vehicle, I had to put my trailer thoughts on hold for a while.

Last year I finally decided that the van had to go. In place I chose to get a tow vehicle instead of another big cargo van. The van would allow me to haul everything for a race inside the van. I briefly considered a Sprinter van but they were too expensive.

On the other hand a tow vehicle would not carry two leaf blowers, nor would it carry everything else I normally bring to Bethel. I'd need another container to carry that stuff.

I'd committed myself to a trailer.

I figured I could use a tiny trailer initially, like the one we used before. It's small, easy to haul, and would hold all the big bulky stuff no problem. It had a 1000 lbs weight limit but that seemed reasonable. Two leaf blowers, two tents, grate covers, tables, chairs, cones (they're heavy!), generators, gas cans, some propane, stuff like that. 1000 pounds, give or take.

But then the race situation changed. I'd need to have registration outside. It snowed a lot so I'd need/want a snow thrower, over 200 pounds all by itself. I needed to move the finish line onto the grass, and in the spring it's really "mud with a few blades of grass in it". Without the small trailer for the finish line I thought I'd need a platform. Stuff like that.

I made a pretty quick decision for me, all motivated by the dramatic change in the set up of the races. Granted, we could have gone back to the original set up, with tents and stuff, but I wanted something a little more rugged, a little less stressful (losing tents is stressful; wind lifting tent legs up is stressful).

I went to a trailer place on the recommendation of someone that knows some of the businesses in the region. The sales person initially listened to what I asked for but then the sales manager asked me what I wanted.

That was key.

I was thinking a big trailer which I'd then modify with windows and such. I figured I could get by for one Bethel without the mods but then I'd spend time and money (probably more of the latter) dealing with getting stuff installed - a 110v circuit, concession windows on the side, storage inside.

I explained all this stuff and the sales manager had the sales person go into a trailer configuration thing. It's sort of like building a bike, where you pick a frame and then go through the components, the extras, stuff like that.

We started with a basic 8.5' x 20' trailer, a "car hauler". By definition the car hauler would carry a car, it had tandem axles (two axles) with brakes, and it would be a legal maximum 8.5' wide on the outside and 20' long on the inside. Base price was pretty low, given all the prices I'd seen.

I added concession windows, a ramp rear door for easy of use, a 110v set up for use with an external generator, some extra lights on the outside, and that was really it. I had an awning on but I decided to remove it from the list before finalizing it, for a number of reasons.

Since it was already late January (the race stuff was happening early-mid January), I had to commit to the order almost immediately. The standard 8-10 week delivery would put the trailer in my hands around the middle of the Series. Not great but I wasn't thinking of buying the trailer this year so it had to do. I'd rent a trailer in the meantime.

Unfortunately I couldn't rent from the same place - their rentals were already reserved. I headed out an hour plus away and rented a 7x16 trailer, a smaller size, one that I'd checked out at the first trailer place and rejected as "too small". The rental place didn't do 8.5x20 so I had to make do with the small trailer.

I didn't know it then but that was the best thing that could have happened to me. I got some practice with the 16' long trailer, and believe me, it was the most nerve-wracking experience when I drove the trailer home.

I loaded it up but it lacked D-rings on the floor so I had to strap things down to the camera platform, basically a really heavy 4'x8' shelf. I used pallets on either end to keep it from sliding forward or backward. My biggest fear was a shifting load - ideally you want 60% of the load in front half of the trailer and 40% in the rear half. I watched just one YouTube clip and that was enough to convince me that I ought to be very careful about weight distribution. Of course I can't find it now but I think it was a U-Haul demo clip where they put steel or iron bars on the back of a trailer, drove it a bit fast, then hit the brakes hard.

The trailer almost pulled the tow vehicle over, it slewed so badly.

Anyway, with a relatively secure load I felt comfortable driving down to the race venue. It went better than the drive home, probably because the trailer had substantially more weight in it. It's like the white van - it bounced around like a horse wagon unloaded but throw 2000-3000 pounds in it and it suddenly "plushed out".

The rental 7x16 at the race course.
The pallets are 40"x48" so that gives you some perspective.

The smaller rental trailer wasn't big but it worked. It kept the wind out, it didn't almost blow away, and it gave some security to the registration folks.

Inside the 7x16.
40"x48" pallet and it's lengthwise so it's 4' long.
No D-rings, but it has E-tracks.

The smaller trailer wasn't that big. The 4'x8' camera platform dominates the inside of the trailer. The 4' wide pallet fills the width. In this space we got two tables set up, one for pre-reg and one for day-of, and we had the drawers for the numbers, the printer, a bin of radios, everything that we normally had at registration.

Today, Thursday, I got a call on my mobile. I normally don't answer my phone, ever, but with Bethel I feel obligated to answer calls because it might be a racer. When a Connecticut number popped up I answered the phone.

It was the trailer place.

The trailer was in.

Suddenly my plans for the afternoon went out the window. I wanted to do this, do that, try this, try that, but that went out. I needed to get the trailer today so I could switch it on Saturday so we could use it on Sunday.

Therefore I went to pick up the trailer.

I moved some wood into it, stuff I wanted to bring last week but forgot. I also got the rest of the cones, ones I forgot, and put them in as well. I strapped things down with the D-rings - I ordered a total of eight D-rings just for this purpose. They're welded to the 6" steel chassis beams and rated at 5,000 lbs each. This should be plenty for tying down a snow thrower or similar things.

The new trailer. 4'x8' sheets of plywood on the floor.

You can see that the same size 4'x8' plywood on the floor seems smaller. The 2x4s look small as well.

You can see the generator feed at the nose of the trailer - the set up is designed to hook into a generator on the outside using the long cable. There's a spare tire inside. The little box up top is a battery for the trailer brakes - if the trailer detaches unexpectedly from the tow vehicle the brakes will apply automatically, using the power from the battery.

View to the rear.

The black things that look like baseboard heaters are actually the wheel wells. The 8.5' width is the widest legal width so the wheels are recessed.

You can see the concession windows to the left. They're 4'x6' so they're quite large.

Here is a better shot of the back.
You can see the ceiling light (there are two 110v 4' and two 12v dome lights).

My goal is to have tables set up at the windows, one for Pre-Reg and one for Day Of. We'll stash the heavier stuff behind the chairs.

The bars to the left, next to the wheel well, are the support bars for the window hatches. The windows open using gas shocks but they're meant to be supported with the bars.

The side open (at the dealership).
The switches are for the 12v and 110v lights.
There are two 110v outlets, one next to the door and one at the back.

I'm considering using a clear bath/shower curtain as a wind block. The big open windows don't do well for keeping heat in the trailer. I thought of those vinyl slats used in freezer type warehouses (and inevitably in some dramatic fight scene in movies) but they're not that cheap. A shower curtain would be inexpensive and keep the majority of the opening sort of closed. In the summer I'd want to use magnetically anchored mosquito netting, if necessary.

The trailer from the outside.

The back, closed up.
I chose this picture because the plate wasn't on it yet.

I'm a nut so I ordered a second set of brake lights. No National Lampoon headlight craziness, it's just that I don't want to worry that I lost a set of brake lights. I actually removed a third set of brake lights off the build sheet. Three sets would be nuts, that's for sure.

Likewise, if you look along the top edge you'll also see extra running lights up top. One of my one in a million fears is to have someone not see the trailer and run into it. I'm going to add reflective tape along the bottom edge as well, although I need to figure out the details first.

Trailer, back open.
I didn't put the hinge flap down, the black piece just inside the trailer.

This view really lets you see the recessed wheels. From what I've seen the recessed wheels indicate an 8.5' wide trailer, since trailers shouldn't be more than 8.5' wide. If the wheels stick out then the box part of the trailer is probably less than 8.5' wide.

Hooked up and ready to go.

With the practice driving 7'x16' I felt much better driving the thing back home. I noticed that the new trailer felt much smoother and quieter than the rental. It doesn't weigh that much more so I don't think it was that. It may be the newer condition, the better suspension, but I don't know.

I also noticed the rear door was smoother and felt lighter. The spring must be stronger, the hinges/springs were better lubricated, or both.

Whatever, the trailer seems nicer. I'll do a longer trip on Saturday, then we'll use it on Sunday.

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