Captn Sharpie
Well, I hope I have my major beginner mistakes out of the way now. Two weeks ago we drove to northern Indiana to look at a 2014 Riverside Whitewater Retro 177. We both feel in love with the 1950's aesthetics - the curvy, canned-ham turquoise and white rippled aluminum exterior. Brought it home to Indy a few days later.

We thought that we were already to go on our first RV trip Friday morning. Then I remembered that I was plugged into house power in the garage. Terrific storm earlier that day knocked out our electricity for 3 hours. The problem then was that my fat shore power cord was trapped under the garage door. I went inside, into the garage, releasing the garage door opener latch, then pulling the heavy door up a foot while my wife pulled the power cord out from the other side.

I picked up the last few items from the kitchen table, then went back outside and climbed into the truck where my wife sat waiting for our departure. We gave each other a nervous look, then pulled out of the driveway. There was a little looseness, a little jerkiness when we pulled away. It made my wife nervous but I told her it didn't feel any different than when I pulled it 120 miles home the previous Sunday. As we drove down our block, I concentrated on the noise trying to identify it. Then for some reason I thought of the power cord and asked if my wife had stowed it? No, she replied, she didn't know how but intended to ask me when I came out of the house. I stopped in the middle of the street - it's a quiet neighborhood. Sure enough there was my power cord trailing behind us. I removed the $15 20 amp adapter, still in one piece. The rubber on the male end had some serious road rash. I rubbed the black rubber detritus off with my finger and put the cord back to bed.

There was still quite a bit of looseness in the back end of the truck, noticeably worse in city traffic with all the stops and starts. This did nothing to calm my wife's nerves. She was seriously starting to question the whole idea of RV camping. Once on the highway the problem seemed to disappear. Nonetheless I stopped at the first rest area and did a walk-around. Everything seemed intact. I pulled up on the coupler since that is where the looseness seemed to be coming from. It didn't budge a millimeter. I thought it just might be the looseness of the tongue in the truck hitch. So back on the highway and no more sounds. No more until we got on the state highway for the short trip to the state park. Again the looseness, only looser still, and more noisy. My wife was ever so glad when we finally parked the rig in our shaded camping spot.

At midnight I was still laying awake, trying to get used to our new rather hot memory-foam mattress overlay, and thinking about that noise. On my boat trailers I could adjust the tightness of the coupler on the hitch ball by tightening a bolt on the bottom of the lock-down latch. But on this rig the underside of the coupler was welded closed. In the morning I watched for fellow RVers at nearby sites, having heard that there was something of a fraternity among RVers. I went over and introduced myself to our neighbor, stating this was our first trip in our first camper and i was skinny on towing experience. So he came over to have a look. He shook his head, then asked what size ball I was using. "2 inch" I replied, just what the previous owner had told me so that is what I bought. His rig wasn't much bigger than mine and he said it came with a 2 5/16". Really? He brought his drop hitch over. The 2 5/16" ball fit snugly as you please in my coupler.

So I had driven 120 miles from northern Indiana to Indy, then 135 miles to southern Indiana with only the 380' tongue weight keeping my 2 5/16" coupler on my 2" ball! The 390 lbs was the reason I couldn't budge the assembly by hand. My wife had a right to be anxious! We did remember to hook the chains. Otherwise we could have been dealing with a runaway Retro! (The breakaway seems to be missing too). Bad things come in threes. I went to the Walmart in Corydon, picked up the correct hitch ball. Back at the campsite, I stooped to install it, only to discover that the large nut on the original hitchball was nearly at the bottom of the threaded shaft. The whole assembly wobbled spectacularly in its hole. No wonder we experienced the loudest, loosest jolt when we pulled up the the gatehouse at the park.

On the way home the rig tracked noiselessly and smoothly. My wife could relax. Except for temperature and humidity both in the 90's, our three day RV baptism was very enjoyable. We hadn't made a huge mistake in buying a travel trailer without ever experiencing that before, without even knowing if we both would like it. We did, very much. Can't wait for the next trip. I know that we are still in a learning curve. I just hope that risking our lovely Retro careening past my truck on the downward slope of a southern Indiana hill will be the biggest rookie mistake we make.
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Alabama Jim
Praise to Almighy God you did not have a serious accident.  Congratulations on your purchase and I pray you have many safe and fun trips.
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mikes
When stuff happens, at least you get a story to tell. [biggrin]
Mike
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V & T
The advertised 380lb tongue weight is closer to 500lb with the propane and battery in place. Most manufacturers fudge on their weights. You need a weight distribution hitch with sway control if you don't already have it. Makes towing much safer.
Van & Terri
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mikes
The tongue weight is deliberately high, since the majority of the storage (and the fresh water tank) is behind the axle. It all works out so most users will have a safe tongue weight even after filling the camper with their stuff.
Mike
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Robin C
I had a mishap with my teardrop when we first got it. We thought we'd hitched it up properly, but we were wrong and the camper bounced up and off the 2" ball when we went over a dip in the road. Now that we have our 166, we always test to make sure the coupler is hitched onto the ball properly by latching it down and then cranking the jack handle up and seeing if the coupler pulls the hitch up with it.

Also, when I first got the 166 from the RV dealership, I removed the breakaway cable because it was so long and got a new cable from the parts department. It's red and resembles a spiral telephone cord, so it stretches and doesn't drag on the ground.

Robin
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Tim S
Did I miss something here? Do all 177s use a 2 5/16" ball, or did the previous owner modify the hitch?

By the way, Captn, every time I pull my 166 out of the driveway, I am wishing I had gone ahead with creating that checklist that I thought about since Day 1. Believe me, you are not alone.
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GayleB
We had a very similar situation on the way home from our first outing.  Checked connections, etc., but jerked and bounced all the way over and down the mountains from the central coast to Los Angeles.  Pulled up to our house, and SO looks at the ball hitch...the nut on the bottom was halfway down the threads!  Needless to say, a locking nut was purchased that day.  But we definitely now check all the random connections before pulling out.

Just got a new vehicle, which will require a new hitch, so a whole new set off checks and worries.
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gmwat
Wow, what an interesting story!! This hitch thing that you discovered really bugs me.  We have a 155 and bought a 2-inch ball for it.  Seems to work fine --I mean the camper rattles around back there a little bit, but like you we are pretty much rookies.  I wouldn't know if the rattling is normal or excessive.  Is there a plate anywhere on which this information is posted on the trailer? I hope someone can help here because otherwise I will just go get a bigger ball and see if it fits better than the 2 inch ball. 
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mikes
Yep, 177 has a 2 5/16 ball (I can't say all, but for the past couple of years anyway). The ball size should be stamped on the coupler, regardless of model. It's something you should check before hooking up ANY trailer you're not familiar with.

This isn't from one of ours, but does show what you should be looking for...
[20120809122419a] 
Mike
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