• Getting To The Tailgate: How To Match A Truck To Tow A Trailer

    I grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee where college football is a way of life. During the University of Tennessee’s football season, the parking lots surrounding Neyland Stadium become a home away from home for the alums. All your friends and their families travel to the stadium to show off their pregame setups and you don’t want to miss this for anything. If you’re like me and moved away after college, the only thing standing between you and tailgating with your old frat buddies is getting there.

    I know I’m dating myself with this story, but it’s one worth reading so you don’t make the same expensive, yet avoidable mistake as I did many moons ago. My fatal error was thinking I was buying a massive powerhouse in the new 1994 Chevy Kodiak 1/2 ton truck. However, trust me when I say that the realization that you have bought an underpowered truck to pull a large fifth wheel trailer is likely to be a nerve wracking experience. Once we had left my post-college home in Atlanta and reached the open highway is when my mistake became quite obvious.

    Learn From My Mistake

    Even though the truck was huge, it was barely able to do 60 MPH under load. Not a huge problem in the stop-and-go traffic that constantly plagues the ATL, but when you’re traveling long distances, there are times when you will need to pick up the speed if you ever want to reach your final destination. Stopping was never quite an issue though since it has good brakes, but it was impossible to get anywhere quickly. By the time we were arriving at the Tennessee state line and started to head up and over the Great Smoky Mountains, we had gone all the way down to the first gear hoping and praying that we had enough juice to clear the summit. The last place I wanted to break down and wait for a tow truck was on the side of I-75 in the middle of nowhere. Talk about a white knuckle drive. I know I had to have aged a decade during that ascent.

    I only made this one trip with the Kodiak from Atlanta to Knoxville and traded it off before it was even due for its first oil change. It was a gravely expensive mistake, which was the result of my lack of experience in matching the truck to the trailer.

    Ram 5th wheel

    Matching A Truck To A Trailer

    An important part of towing trailers is to pick the right truck to become the tow vehicle. Physical size is surprisingly only a small fraction of the whole equation. If you have incorrect gear ratios in the rear axle or are underpowered, you can easily find yourself running out of gears when downshifting to climb hills.

    The car dealership that sold me the Kodiak obviously did not care that the truck had an engine too small for what I wanted to do. They only cared about getting the truck off their hands since it had been sitting on their lot for about a year.

    Unlike my truck buying snafu in the 90’s, the 1-ton dually pickups of today are much more capable of handling most RVs on the market. The dual rear wheels offer better stability and are good for safety because the weight is distributed over more tires.

    The choice between a large gas and a diesel engine, however, is a personal one to some extent. They are both large enough to handle the work, but the diesel engine will last significantly much longer. One thing is for sure: it is important to choose a truck with a rear axle gear ratio of 4:10 to ensure that you have sufficient juice to clear the hills.

    Since my younger, more naive years, I have owned the Chevy 8.1 gas, the Power Stroke, and the Duramax and all can handle a large fifth wheel trailer amazingly well. Traversing the mountains and valleys of East Tennessee are no problem for this experienced tower now. And traveling back home to tailgates with my fellow Volunteer Nation has become second nature to driving the family sedan around town. It’s amazing how the right equipment can make a job more enjoyable. Who would’ve thunk it?

    Fifth wheel being towed

    How To Research RV Tow Trucks

    Today’s diesel pick-up trucks have more than 300 HP and over 500 foot pounds of torque. The sorry truck I had purchased was actually 180 HP less than the 3-quarter ton truck I had traded in. The truck was just about maxed-out for load when I built the storage space and loaded it. I then added the massive double side trailer behind it! But, hey, we live and we learn. That’s why I’ve written this cautionary tale. If I can help a tailgate enthusiast avoid the expensive mistake I made, then I have done my job.

    You want to compare your truck’s tongue weight and total weight. Also, thanks to SAE J2807, your truck comparisons will be much more accurate since automakers are now required to use this uniform method of rating and testing trucks. I tell you, kids these days have it so easy. Ha!

    The moral of the story: Do proper research and understand your needs before buying a truck. And happy tailgating. Go Vols!

    This is guest post by Lauren Smith: Lauren Smith was born and raised in the deep south where she discovered early on her love of the outdoors and football time in Tennessee. She is an avid RV traveler and has never been known to turn down a chance to tailgate with her buddies back home on Old Rocky Top.

  • How to Build the Perfect Fire

    Oliver Thames(This is a guest post by Oliver Thames. Oliver Thames is the founder of Bulls Bay OYRO Oyster Cookers and has been building the perfect fire for years. He has been kind enough to share his hints and tips of building the perfect fire with our readers to enhance your tailgating experience when using wood to fuel your tailgate.)

    I was born and raised in the South Carolina Lowcountry where wood fires are a regular occurrence. In 2011, I launched Bull’s Bay OYRO, a catering company providing wood-fired oyster roasts for parties. Needing a cooker, I designed my own and worked with area welders to create two prototypes using scrap metal. Today, the Bulls Bay OYRO cooker is being ordered from California to Maine! Needless to say, I have learned over time how to build the perfect fire.

    Here are my tips.

    Perfect_Fire_3What makes for a good cooking fire is properly seasoned hardwood cut into stove wood sized pieces. Building the fire so that it can breathe is necessary so that it can have the proper amount of oxygen to heat up the wood and eventually burn into a nice bed of long lasting, hot coals. This stage of the fire also eliminates most of the smoke making it easier to cook over.

    I use a variety items I keep around for starting my fires but my go to items are usually dry tightly twisted newspaper, a couple of pieces of fat lighter followed by seasoned kindling. If I’m out in the wild I’ll start with twigs and pine cones, adding larger pieces of branches as the fire grows. I’m also not above using a small piece of fire log. It works great as a starter along with paper in wet conditions. I always have a box type container around for tossing small pieces of kindling wood in picked up from my wood pile or left over from carpentry projects. When I use non-hardwood, such as pine, to start my fires I use it sparingly so that it will burn off and not affect the taste of my food.

    Perfect_Fire_1I think the best hardwoods for cooking are oak and hickory. They both burn hot and for a long time with a nice aroma that gives food a delicious touch of smoky flavor. While I like both, the oak has become my favorite for cooking because there is less smoke than the hickory, but I love the smell of hickory burning on a cool day. I have found apple, pecan, and walnut great for cooking and they have a fantastic aroma as well. There are many other species of hardwood that are great for cooking too. They all have different qualities such as heat, smokiness, coaling, and aroma. Depending on which is most abundant also determines what type of wood would I use for my cooking needs. More importantly though is the moisture content of the wood being used.

    Properly seasoned wood burns hotter and longer with a more consistent heat. The most obvious way to tell if wood is aged enough is the weight. If it is fresh cut it will be full of moisture and be considerably heavier than properly seasoned wood. The next thing I look for is cracks and splits in the wood. As the wood dries out it will shrink causing these tell-tale signs on the ends. And the last thing I look for is if the wood has a hollow sound when it strikes another piece of wood or solid object verses a dead thud.

  • Modern tailgating is awesome – Here’s 5 reasons why

    College Football Tailgating Lot

    From Madison to Miami, College Station to Chapel Hill, wander onto nearly any major university in fall and you will be greeted by familiar sights, sounds and smells; seasoned meat on open flames, beer cans rattling around an icy cooler, the dull pop of a football being tossed back and forth and kinetic, anticipatory buzz of thousands students, alumni, and locals coming together on campus to get ready for a big football game.

    UCF College Co-eds tailgatingMix in retrofitted monster RVs and trailers, beer bongs, beer pong, baby back ribs and college girls – oh, so many college girls – and that buzz becomes a full-blown tailgating amusement park and the perfect pregame bash before any sporting event. Tailgating is an event all its own. And the chaos and camaraderie make it one of the best aspects of football fandom.

    The first reported incident of tailgating a sporting event occurred in 1869 at a Princeton-Rutgers football game. In 2014, according to Nationwide Insurance, over $12 billion was spent by roughly 50 million tailgaters across the United States. Just over one-third of people who tailgate don’t even go into the game, meaning the atmosphere itself is enough of a draw.

    Of course, tailgating has changed a lot through the years. Americans love to party. But we also love to innovate. And the good times that take place in parking lots and fields on weekends in the fall belie the bizarre beginnings of this cultural phenomenon back in the 1860’s.

    Here are some ways in which technological advancements have improved tailgating and helped it become the social extravaganza that it is today:

    The Views Are Less Violent – The first form of tailgating took shape at the Battle of Bull Run in Virginia back in 1861. Locals apparently brought picnic baskets with them on the outskirts of the battle, laying out blankets and baskets on fields and on top of hills. There they ate, imbibed and openly “rooted” for their “team” to win the fight. Unbeknownst to them, they were tailgating the largest and bloodiest battle in U.S. history to that point.

    I know blowouts in a Baylor-Wofford or Georgia Tech-Elon early season tune-up game can seem a little ugly. But they are nothing like the views those Civil War spectators took in way back when.

    Grilling at Virginia Tech

    Photo courtesy of Taylor Takes a Taste

    You Can’t Beat The Eats – In 1866, the chuck wagon was born. It was basically just a wagon with a grill on the back for cooking meat and it was used as a meeting and socializing stand for cowboys grabbing some grub while away from the ranch.

    That portable meat-cooking machine was a crucial invention along the tailgating timeline. And it has evolved into the monster smokers and weaponized grills and gear we see in lots across the country each week these days.

    Grilling has become an art form. As recently as 25 years ago, you went to the game happy to scarf down a hockey puck hamburger or slightly undercooked sausage before kickoff. Now the food is at the center of the whole experience. And there are books, shows, apps and contests all dedicated to the best barbecue rubs, recipes and execution. Darwin never said evolution would taste so delicious.

    Jambulance ParkedNow We Are Riding In Style – In the early 1900’s, there generally weren’t dedicated meeting places for tailgating and socializing before the games. Most places didn’t have mammoth parking lots near the stadiums. And as a result, most people got to the game by train and the party took place inside that moving metal.

    Now, stadiums are designed and built with tailgating and pregame considerations in mind. And some of the vehicles used to get to the game look like something out of a Mad Max movie.

    Motorhomes, RVs painted in a team’s colors, doctored vans; there are all types of dedicated tailgating vehicles out there. There are also rental companies that offer 20 to 25 foot trailers loaded with flat-screen TVs, kitchens, bars and bathrooms in and on them. Parking lots become pop-up shantytowns on game day and fans bring a lot of the comforts of home to the party.

    It also isn’t just the wheels that have gotten more sophisticated and effective. Everything involved in tailgating – from more efficient coolers to better boom boxes to more comfortable chairs – has gotten sleeker, simpler and just better over the last 25 years.

    More Games Before The Game – The reason for tailgating is, generally, that you’re getting lathered up before walking in to watch a contest of athleticism and skill. But nowadays people get their own muscles moving and blood pumping with all manner of lawn and drinking games. Cornhole, washer toss, and flip cup are just a few of the dozens of games that people break out in the lot before kickoff.

    These games don’t just help kill some time but they also get the competitive juices flowing. And they are the perfect outlet for guys, a la Uncle Rico, to show how totally athletic they are and prove to everyone within eye shot that, under different circumstances, they totally could’ve been playing in the game you’re about to go watch. Totally.

    Tailgating SelfieSuper Cell Phones And Less Logistics – Cell phones have changed everyday life as much as anything has over the last 50 years. Tailgating is no exception.

    Before cell phones it was a major chore to organize a group to go to the game. You could waste precious drinking time by having to meet up at the local grocery store parking lot and following one another to the game. Or you could spend a frustrating half-hour wandering around the stadium hoping you spot the other half of your group. Either way, it was a major hassle.

    Cell phones eliminated this inconvenience. But beyond communication, cell phones also make a lot of other aspects of tailgating simpler. Tracking the weather is easier and more accurate. So is taking pictures. Add in all the specialty tailgating and grilling apps and smart phones pay big dividends for weekend sports partiers.

    Also, smart phones serve the ultimate tailgating purpose: settling idiotic sports arguments. Twenty years ago you could make up whatever BS you wanted just to win a pointless argument over some random team stat or player fact. Now definitive proof is just a couple clicks away.

    And finally, getting information such as last minute injuries, odds and game match-up report picks and predictions are right at your fingertips since most websites are now becoming responsive so they are viewable and easy to use on any mobile device.

    Where will the next 10 years take us?

    (This is a guest post by Robert Ferringo. Robert is a Professional Handicapper at Doc’s Sports Service. If you enjoyed this post and would like to see more contributions from Robert, leave a comment below letting us know what else you think Robert should write about next.)

  • How to Throw a Tailgate Party Without Going Over Your Budget

    Dallas Cowboys money saving tailgate

    (Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Amanda Green. Amanda is a freelance writer and Buffalo sports nut. She has been going to Bills, Sabres and Bandits games her whole life. Amanda has been writing online for a few years now but loves to write about things near and dear to her like the city of Buffalo. Amanda’s best sports memory was Matthew Barnaby’s playoff hat-trick against Montreal and her worst was the Monday Night Football loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Buffalo.)

    You may be “the buzz” among your friends and around town for throwing awesome tailgate parties. While you may not be working with the ideal budget for a supreme tailgate party, you still don’t want to leave your friends disappointed when they show up on the day of the game.

    So what do you do in such a situation? Ask for help? Cancel the party? Come up with an excuse? Luckily, you don’t have to do anything like that because the answer lies in generating ideas that are creative, inexpensive and original. This will allow you to save money and throw a good tailgate without overwhelming yourself. Here are some of the things you can consider:

    1. Buy in advance and in bulk
    Start shopping a month earlier than you initially plan to throw the party. Doing so can let you save a lot of money as there are promotions, discounts, specials and sales available on grills, bottle openers, etc. You can also benefit in an indirect way if you use a credit card for purchases.

    If you don’t have a credit card, look at several options available to you. Some credit cards have reward programs like airlines reward frequent travelers. This means you earn rewards when you use the card, and later those rewards can be used while shopping to save money.

    For having extra money to spend on tailgate parties and similar events, there are options available for you in which you can earn passively, so you have an overall higher amount at the end. Good savings accounts interest rates and current account benefits can be used for this purpose.

    2. Don’t shy away from home cooking
    While tailgating parties offer a chance to fire up the grill and cook away, it can be expensive to do so. There are a lot of things you have to buy, such as charcoal and other condiments.
    A great way to cut on some of the expenses is to prepare some food at home. There are several tailgate recipe ideas available which will let you create popular dishes for the occasion. You can also watch videos for visual help with the instructions. You’ll also find specific recipes such as low-carb, high-protein and low fat. Such recipes will be handy if you’re currently on a diet or are looking to build some muscle.

    3. Be aware of the venue and drive less (vehicles)
    You may be partying at the home stadium for a long time now, but it can be expensive and inconvenient to find such spots. You have to wake up early morning and still sweat that there will be others who may get there before you. Furthermore, the parking fees at such locations are quite high and parking lot policies at most stadiums are not the easiest to adhere to. You may be able to save a good amount of money by choosing locations that are away from the home stadium (Hey, you’re on a budget, remember?).

    When you’ve decided the venue, try to go in with as few vehicles as possible. One vehicle can be used by you and your friends and the party items can be kept in a separate one if there’s less space for everything to fit in a single car. This way, you and your folks will be able to save money on parking and gas as well as save time on trying to get spots around each other.

    You’ve heard my top three tips on saving money while tailgating. Leave your own money saving ideas in the comments below.

  • Smoking at a tailgate party: Yes or No?

    Smoker tailgate Party
    (Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Amanda Green. Amanda is a freelance writer and Buffalo sports nut. She has been going to Bills, Sabres and Bandits games her whole life. Amanda has been writing online for a few years now but loves to write about things near and dear to her like the city of Buffalo. Amanda’s best sports memory was Matthew Barnaby’s playoff hat-trick against Montreal and her worst was the Monday Night Football loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Buffalo.)

    Tailgating parties are a great way to hang out with friends, family, and connect with fellow fans before any sporting event or concert. While tailgating events are usually held outdoors, it’s not always convenient to leave the party for a smoke break. We all have experienced that one friend who has burned a hole through our favorite tailgating chair, apologizing continuously as they whip out the duck tape and chuck their cigarette. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way you could both enjoy the tailgate, without either of you being inconvenienced?

    Option A

    You could step away from the party to smoke, but you run the risk of missing all the fun. What if a sudden five on five pick-up game ensues with the opposing team’s fans parked next to you? They’ve been eyeballing your party all day, envious of your cornhole set-up and ladder ball skills. Once you leave, they’ll see it as the perfect opportunity to takeover your tailgate. Plus, nowadays, it’s difficult to smoke in some public parking lots. Instead of a casual two minute walk away from the crowd, you might as well lace up your running shoes and head due east towards the outer perimeter of the grounds before you are allowed to light up.

    Option B

    You could ignore the wishes of your fellow tailgaters and whip out a cigarette right in front of them. After all, you are braving the elements with your fellow fans and what’s one cigarette? If they are your true buddies they won’t care about the coughing attacks they’ll get while you’re blowing fumes their way, right? But, what about the food? Tailgating food has a trademark of tasting delicious. Wouldn’t it be nice to finally enjoy a juicy burger without cigarette embers? Or bite into a dripping Sloppy Joe sandwich and actually taste the spices instead of ash? However, cigarette ash versus Sloppy Joe sounds more like a personal preference.

    Option C

    The smokeless cigarette, or better known as e-cigarettes. With these handily available, you don’t have to miss out on the next game of flip-cup because you were off having a smoke break. E-cigarettes give both smokers and non-smokers the best of both worlds. Not only do they appear much more polite but they are healthier because there is no actual smoke. Regardless of your personal preference you should consider the alternative. Your non-smoking friends will thank you too.

    Next time you are headed to a tailgate, just keep your smoke in mind and ideally your smokes in your pocket. Regardless of whether or not you are outside finding alternatives to spewing smoke on your friends and food will be appreciated.