Wednesday, December 26, 2018

How to Prepare for a Cross Country DIY Haul

There have been so many questions through Facebook and a couple groups I felt like this subject deserved its own post.  A couple things have been explained in the previous post but I think they deserved a spot here too.

Did you/would you go alone?

No, I didn't.  I had a very close friend go with me and I am very happy/thankful she was able to go because we made it as fun as it could be.  I did consider just leaving alone because I wanted to get them out of NJ so bad due to being far beyond the end of my rope with the wet weather here this year.  Super B is the one that held that process up while I waited for her abscess to heal, and as luck would have it, that time frame made it to where my friend could go with me.

How many miles a day did you drive?

The first day was 690 miles, the second day was 795 miles, the third day was 846 miles, and the fourth day was 727 miles.  Total mileage was 3,058.  I thought it was 3,003, but that is before I changed one small part of the second day after leaving Aiken.  We were going to go through Birmingham, Alabama that day and seeing reports of potential rain I decided we'd just get even more south and go through Montgomery, Alabama instead.  So that added a little more but, in the grand scheme of 3,000 plus miles did it even matter at that point?  No.  Overall, that trip was a little longer than driving coast to coast.

In the middle of Texas on I-20.  A lot of cotton fields, windmills, road.

You said you had a friend with you, and that you drove the entire way, why?

While my friend has hauled horses for a long time, is more than capable, and also has the same length of trailer as I do, my truck is a six speed manual.  My friend also knows how to drive a manual, so no offense to her at all but those before her have ruined it for everyone.  If you haven't hauled anything with a manual, it's not any different than driving a manual without a trailer, and there was a point where if I got too tired or there was some emergency I would have switched with her.  But...every single time someone has told me they can drive a manual and I have let them drive my truck (and 99% of these times it was only the truck, nothing hooked to it) they get in and IMMEDIATELY grind the gears.  This is a complete mystery to me because my truck almost drives itself it's so easy to drive.

There is nothing special, or different, or some secret trick to it.  In fact, shortly after I put a new clutch in my truck I let someone get in it and the same thing happened, it's NOT my truck. I don't understand why people do this.  I have even had a guy get in it that drives tractor trailers and the first thing he did was not check to see if the e-brake was on (and of course it was) and then proceed to grind the gears.  And the one time I didn't hear the gears grind, that person smoked the ever living hell out of my clutch after driving it HALF A MILE DOWN THE ROAD.  It was so bad that there was smoke coming from the transmission.  Not even when I was like 15 learning to drive a manual have I EVER done that to any vehicle.  So, I have had enough.  No one drives my truck but me.

Were the girls in box stalls?

No.  I left my trailer configured in the full 2+1 set up which is two straight load stalls with a box stall in front of them.  I had to carry hay/spares and other supplies so that was the best way to keep it set up.  If I thought the girls would have had an issue with the straight loads I would have changed that plan and made room in the tack room for my spares/hay/etc... and let some of their other tack/etc... go with the moving company that is packing/moving our house.

What did you bring in the trailer?

I brought all of their tack/blankets/wraps/hay/grain/first aid supplies/tire changing tools/water.  I carried two spares for my trailer and one for the truck.  I also have Trailer Aid Plus, which I have had to use before and it makes life a lot easier when changing a tire on the side of a very busy part of I-95 with no shoulder.  Also, the extra full size spare is VERY important as far as the truck.  My truck doesn't have stock wheels and tires.  This means the stock spare wouldn't be the same size as the rest of my wheels/tires if I needed to use it.  That may be ok if you have to limp it a little distance to a shop but NOT when you are pulling a trailer for any distance.  So, I bought another full size wheel/tire and had it in the box stall in the trailer.

The Other Half also made me a special block for the jack so that if I needed to change anything on the truck the jack would get it off the ground.  The bigger wheels and tires make it ride slightly higher than stock.  He also packed me a fully charged impact gun with a fully charged spare battery because we all know how much it would suck to have to change a tire on the truck or the trailer with a tire iron.  A battery powered impact gun is something you all should seriously look into if you don't have one for longer trips, or really any haul where you would be on a busy highway.

A tip for if you are doing a long trip and you don't have the money to buy two more wheels (one for the truck and one for the trailer) for extra spares, at least buy the tires.  Say I did get a flat on the truck, well since it's not stock wheels and tires the nearest shop in the middle of nowhere Texas may not carry them in the store.  If you carry the tires two things can happen:

Scenario 1:  Come out in the morning or at a rest stop to find the truck has a flat.  Drop the trailer and have roadside service come pick up the wheel with the flat and the new tire and have it changed, bring it back and put it back on the truck.

Scenario 2:  The truck gets a flat on the highway somewhere.  Call U.S. Rider and have them tow the trailer to get the horses off the highway, have the truck towed to the nearest tire shop and have that shop change the tire and put it back on.  Go hook back up and get back on the road.

If you have a new tire for the truck with you, all you need is a shop to change it.  You don't run the risk of "Sorry we don't carry those, we can get on here by tomorrow/or xyz amount of days."  Same with the trailer tire.  Say you have a blow out on the trailer, well, put your spare on and then pull into the next tire shop you can find and have them take the flat tire off the wheel and put the new one on.  Bam, you have a spare ready to go again and aren't running down the highway with no spare.

Where did you stop to overnight?

We stopped in Aiken, SC, Shreveport, LA, and Anthony, NM.

How did you determine how long you would drive each day?

It was a bit of a mixture between hours driving and where the ideal places to over night were.  I wanted to drive no longer than 12 hours in Google Maps time because 12 hours really meant probably 14 or 15 with a trailer due to stopping to rest horses, traffic, and other unpredictable things like construction or traffic.

The first day we left at 6am, but the remainder of the trip we left between 3:30am and 4:30am which I highly suggest, unless you are someone that prefers to drive at night or have to travel through very hot temperatures in the summer.  If it was in the middle of the summer I would have probably made myself stay up all night for a few days before leaving and then drove as much as possible at night for the entire trip.  In that case, I would have made sure someone that could switch driving with would have went.

I personally would rather get up very early and leave because the day seems to go by faster and I do better getting up earlier rather than driving late into the night.

How often did you stop during the day?

We stopped every four hours to let the girls rest for 30 mins.  Sometimes that would turn into 40-45 mins depending on if we got food for ourselves, needed to muck the back of the trailer, or get water.  I have always done 30 min rest stops every four hours for longer trips and they have always served me well.

How did you find your overnight places?

It took a bit of trial and error.  One of the places was a friend's private farm so that took care of one night.  The other two nights I picked after looking at the facilities on their websites and speaking with them.  I found one in the middle of Texas that looked like it was an EHV breeding ground, that meant there was no way in hell I was taking any risk in stopping there.  There were two other places I spoke to after checking out their websites and they said they would get back to me.  I never heard from them again.  If that's the way they run their business, then they are not getting my business.  The last thing I needed on a cross country road trip was to show up to some place that said we were good to go and have them be like "Oh I forgot you guys were coming."  Um no.  You have to be responsive.  I also gave my two overnight barns ETAs through out the day so they knew when to expect us.  They appreciated that.

There are two big websites and a Facebook group you can look for overnight barns on.  They are,, and Horse Layovers and Hotels (USA).  Some of the barns listed on the sites do not have websites.  Some of you may be ok with that, I am not.  To me, that seems like some Craigslist serial killer kind of stuff.  No offense to anyone that runs a place like that with no website, but there was just no way I was doing that.  You have to appear established or come with personal recommendations of actual people that have been there.

And yes I realize you can appear to be the most established, well-organized place on Earth and still be running a serial killer operation out of it.  But, the chances are much lower.

How did you pick your route?

Here's where living all over the country proves extremely useful.  I-40 was a pretty direct route.  I-80, I-70, and I-15 all would provide pretty direct routes at some point on the trip.  I have lived in the areas that those all go through.  Those are nothing you want to take a chance with this time of year when it comes to weather.  I wouldn't want to do it with a trailer, and I definitely wouldn't want to do it with a trailer containing live animals.  You run a huge risk of getting stuck sitting on the highway because it gets shut down periodically.  You also run a huge risk of getting slowed down significantly because of weather and having to haul a trailer on snowy, icy roads.  Some of you I realize live in areas where that isn't a big deal.  It's not my idea of a fun time.  And I-70? Anyone ever went from Denver to Grand Junction?  Part of it is a mountain pass, add the snow/ice/wind to that.  No thank you.

I-80 coming down into Salt Lake, same.  No thanks.

This is I-80 coming across Wyoming.  So the entire way across Wyoming can potentially really suck, and then it can suck even worse coming down into Salt Lake City on it. 

 I-40 going through Flagstaff.

So, by going the way I did I added on 500 miles to the route.  I was completely fine with adding some time on to the trip to stay out of anything like that.  I wouldn't have done it any different.

What kind of truck do you have?

2002 Dodge Ram 2500.  It is a 5.9 Cummins turbo diesel, aka one of the toughest diesels ever made.  The whole reason I bought that kind of truck is because once a friend and I had to drive from Salt Lake City, Utah to Eureka, California to pick up one of my cars that had blown a turbo right before I moved from California.  My friend had this generation of Dodge 2500 and that thing was ridiculously powerful.  We went UP mountain passes hauling a car, passing cars like they were standing still.  I was sold.

Did you do anything beyond routine maintenance to get the truck ready for a long trip?

No.  My truck is in excellent condition for being an 02.  It now has 156,000 miles on it which is pretty much only half life for a diesel.  When I was truck shopping I was constantly finding these trucks with 230-280k miles on them in great shape.  It is because it's not my daily driver.  I have a Caddi I drive every day and that keeps the wear and tear on the truck down.  I really only drive my truck when I am hauling horses or picking up things you need a truck for (barn supplies).  The tires on it are only about 15,000 miles old too.  I would recommend if you have any consumable part on the older side prior to a long trip, get it replaced.  Older tires that are pretty worn, brakes you know are probably due to be replaced, or any other issue going on if there are any.  Don't take any risks before a long trip.  Even if this means you can't afford to have the issues taken care of all at once, well start planning a few months out to have them taken care of one at a time if that's what you need to do.

The only things I had done on my truck before we left are an oil change and radiator flush.  I figured it wasn't a bad idea to have the system flushed and fresh fluid in since the truck would be hauling for hours and hours for a few days straight.

What kind of trailer do you have?

2017 Sundowner Charter TR SE 2+1

Did you do anything beyond routine maintenance to get the trailer ready for a long trip?

No. It's a 2017 so it's in excellent shape.  It just had it's annual inspection/maintenance at the dealership a few months ago too so it was more than ready for a long haul.

Did you wrap/boot the girls?

No.  This is another one of those things that if I had a reason to, I would have.  Neither of them have any old injuries, conditions that need managing, issues with stocking up/stiffness, etc...  If they would have, it would have been different.

Did you tie the girls in the trailer?

No.  I never tie any of my horses when hauling.

Did you take information in case you needed emergency/roadside services?

Yes, I did.  I also have the good fortune to have horse friend(s) in every single state we passed through and they all knew we were coming through and said if we needed anything just call.  I also had contact information for vets along the way.  I renewed my U.S. Rider subscription as well.  I have had them before, thankfully never needed them and went by the rule where if you get it, you most likely won't need it.  I know some people haven't had great experiences with them, but I also know people that HAVE had great experiences, so I decided to renew.

We had several people tracking us on GPS and knew right where we were at all times and our stops each evening.  The Other Half would even know when we were stopped for a rest break/diesel fill up and would text or call saying "getting diesel?" just to make sure all was well.  We also had some friends that got Marco Polo'd to death along the way with sights from the trip so they knew where we were most of the time too.  Sorry not sorry!  We had way too much fun updating friends/family on Marco Polo along the way.  If you don't have Marco Polo, it's an awesome video texting app, and you should get it!

Did you do anything special with the management of the girls during the trip?

No.  Unless you count giving Super B a half a tube of UG each day.  I really didn't expect any issues with her since she's traveled the east coast extensively while racing.  She also hasn't given me any reason to suspect she would be stressed out.  Everywhere I have taken her she just goes with the flow of whatever we are doing, where ever we are.  But, I hear allllll these horror stories about needing to give OTTBs UG on long trips, or just any hauls, so I decided I would just go ahead and do it.  She didn't need it.  She wasn't stressed in the least.  Neither of them were.  I have a witness!  I'm not just trying to uphold their BAMF reputations.  It's true, they couldn't have been any better.  If you looked up perfect travelers in the dictionary, their pictures would be there.

Upon arrival to the new barn in Vegas, the girls went DIVING into their water like good girls!

I hope this post answered most of the questions and gave you all some things to think about to help prepare if you find yourself doing a long trip like this.  If you have any other questions please feel free to ask away in the comments.

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