I have never liked the fact that generally speaking women are not considered as capable behind the wheel as men. We don’t seem to help ourselves though. The number of women I know that can’t reverse parallel park is astounding. I pride myself on being able to check the oil, check and adjust my tyre pressure, reverse parallel park, roll start an old car with a flat battery (a skill that was developed in my teenage years in my mothers Nissan bluebird) and change a tyre. That being said I rely heavily on my husband or the mechanic for everything else. The way I see it, They couldn’t work a microscope or do micro surgery on animals so I shouldn’t be judged by not being an expert on cars.
I had always wanted to be better able to handle vehicles so backing a trailer and driving a truck were two things that had to go on my bucket list.
Husband is an aborist with a local tree care company and has access to all sorts of trucks and trailers etc. We had been talking for months about how it would be a fairly easy thing to accomplish with a few lessons at the yard.
I recently had some time off work to start preparing our caravan to live in for 12 months. I was running around getting supplies and had collected some pallets for our annex floor base, purchased some large sheets of ply wood and ordered a new mattress to replace the terrible foam one in the van. Everything needed to be collected on a Tuesday and husband had to work. I was prepared to hire a trailer until my uncle kindly offered that I could use his dual axel 8×5 ft high sided one. I was going to need the lessons sooner that I had initially anticipated for a real purpose rather than just to ‘learn the skill’.
So, on a warm sunny winter Sunday we went to the yard and hooked the stump grinder trailer onto the back of my car. Husband put out a course with traffic cones it was time to get started.
I was thankful for the tip my uncle gave me the night before. He suggested that it is easier for beginners to learn if you hold the steering wheel at the bottom and if you want the trailer to go left move your hands left and right for right. otherwise if you hold the wheel normally you have to remember to turn the wheel in the opposite direction you want the trailer to go.
Husband also wouldn’t let me turn and look out the back window. He said I should use my mirrors properly as I may not always be able to see behind me (especially if towing a caravan).
I started out ok and made the first pass through the cones fine but I seemed to be favouring the left and using my right mirror too much. Husband decided to cover the mirror with a towel to force me to use the other mirror, then I went too far the other way.
On the third go I started getting more comfortable. I found I was reversing more instinctively rather than having to consciously think about which way to turn.
Next was going through a gate then another gate that was offset to the left, I wasn’t confident and nearly took out a cone before doing a bit of a jack-knife. Husband was highly amused and took a few photos before I got out, had a look and tried again. After 3 faultless tried we then backed around a corner. This was by far the hardest as it is hard to tell how far back to go before starting to turn in order to get in through the gate and not go too early or overshoot.
In the end I managed to go around a corner, straighten up and head down the yard to the left and park it between a car and a covered trailer. Husband was happy that I had the skills to manage a trailer so we washed the car and had one more quick go before heading home.
Crash course in backing a trailer, tick 🙂 BUT…
That was the easy part. I was yet to be let loose on the world with my newly acquired trailer skills. I wasn’t sure how I’d handle the pressure of borrowing someone else’s trailer and having the risk of hurting other people’s property, the trailer or my car.
I collected the trailer and headed home to load it up for a run to the tip. Upon arriving the guy motioned for me to keep coming back until the tailgate could be lowered onto the edge of the dumping area. “keep it comin’ mate” he yelled over the sound of the machinery. I got out of the car and I swear I saw him do a double take. I felt a tiny moment of pride as I interpreted his look as “hang on a minute that is a girl!”
My first ‘real world’ backing adventure out of the way and I was on towards the mattress store. This was a little more tricky as they had a tiny parking area on the corner that you would struggle to get a car in and out of. I thought I was being smart when entered through a neighbouring driveway and came up the path so I could just drive straight out the other side. Unfortunately I neglected to realise that I was facing oncoming traffic.
Getting out involved backing the trailer back down the path beside a power pole and swinging it around into the driveway before driving onto the road in the right direction. I may or may not have have yelled something about how F#*cking awesome I was as I drove down the road grinning like an idiot.
Last stop was the caravan where I was feeling confident. I backed it right up to the van for easy unloading and my backing duties completed without any casualties (trailer or otherwise!)