Wherever the Road Leads

Copperhead Road

Down from the Mountains

I was running a little bit late, otherwise I would have stopped to take a picture of the road sign. There really is a Copperhead Road about five miles down from where the camper was parked.

For those not familiar, “Copperhead Road” is a song about moonshiners in the fifties, then the son gets drafted and goes to Viet Nam. The moonshine idea gets an update. I’ll put the Youtube link below. When I mentioned this to Jeff, the husband of the couple who sold me the camper, he confirmed the stories.

He told me his great-granddaddy and his granddaddy had been moonshiners. They used to go way back in the hills and pull it out with horses. Jeff said that they made an excellent White Lightening and he wanted to learn how they did it. He was told, “Son, you don’t need to be messin’ with that,” and the tradition stopped.

Jeff walked me through everything, including how to winterize the trailer, which he had already done as it had gotten down into the teens up in the mountains during this past week. To him, it was second nature. I tried to follow along, but meantime praying that there’s a youtube video out on the subject so I can watch when I’m ready.

We hitched the camper up to my truck, made sure the wiring was working and then connected the weight distribution bars and the anti-sway control. My first fear, unfounded, was that my truck would have difficulty pulling the camper up the gravel “driveway” from the level where the barn is, to the road level, fifty feet higher. I guess with an extry 4,000# distributed to the front and wheels, traction was not a problem. With him driving, up we went onto the county road.

I recently put in Ford factory Trailer Brake Controller which works the electric trailer brakes. It installs right into the dash, as opposed to being a small box mounted under the dash at your knee where currently mounted is the control for the sub woofer.

Trailer-Brake-Controller480

He adjusted that by putting it on with a 10% advance over the truck brakes, then applying the brakes while in motion. The truck jerked immediately and the trailer wheels locked up with a little chirp. He backed off the advance until we could feel a little bit of pull from the trailer when the truck brakes were applied.

After a mile or so of twisty county roads, it didn’t feel all that bad. The truck seemed to be pulling the trailer quite well. There was plenty of bounce, but there didn’t appear to be strain. Jeff said that if we could make it over this one particular mountain, then I should have no difficulty the rest of the way home. The truck geared down, then geared down again.

All the while I was watching the temperature gauge on the transmission. Decades ago, my father pulled a sailboat from Toronto to Ottawa (250 miles) with an Oldsmobile. He couldn’t do more than 35 miles per hour or the engine would overheat. Once home, he was told at the dealership that it wasn’t the engine that was straining, it was the transmission. He had a transmission cooler installed and his overheating problem went away. I have a transmission cooler in the truck but my eyes were glued to the transmission heat gauge to see what effect the extry weight would have.

None. Zero, Nada. That truck pulled the trailer up and over its first mountain and the needle didn’t budge. I’m sure I’m just imagining this, but it almost looked like the needle was slightly lower than where it sits with no load at all. We pulled into a Pilot station, he aired up the spare tar just in case, I took the wheel and after a final handshake and a promise to call when I got safely home, he jumped into the car with his wife and it was all up to me.

While I was very cautious all the way home, it didn’t take long to realize that my worry had been much like a visit to the dentist’s office… the anticipation and dread was much, much worse than actually sitting in the chair. My GPS had taken me a better route than the previous week and I was looking forward to going the same way home. However, before I could make any adjustments, it was taking me to I-85… an Interstate highway with a seventy mile per hour speed limit and forty-foot trailers.

smoky

By this time, though, I had crawled up then sped down most every mountain in North Carolina without getting too many ulcers, so I figured that I may as well go for broke and find out what it was like to pull a camper on the Interstate… get every experience I could on my maiden voyage. I had heard from a couply different people that the tractor trailers can mess with you as the pass as at first they are pushing air which tries to blow you off the road. Then, as they are passing, the air creates a situation where you are pulled towards them. Yes, it’s noticeable, but after a few times the trick seems to be to not over compensate. Especially with a weight distribution hitch which moves a lot of weight to the front axle… (yes axle, “a-x-l-e”… I can’t tell you how many trailering forums where I’ve seen it spelled a-x-e-l… as in Axel Rose of Guns and Roses…), making the steering very sensitive.

With some reluctance, I decided to forgo a free Thanksgiving dinner at Faith Baptist Church, even although I was home in time. If I had gone to the dinner, I would not have gotten home until after dark. I decided that the light was better spent trying to back up into my driveway and unhitch everything. I stunned myself when I got the trailer into the driveway after only three tries. Now, it took another six attempts to position it correctly, but I was proud of myself for not having to ask one of my three trailer-experienced neighbors to do it for me.

I did have to go knock on a door as I couldn’t get the hitch to break free from the truck. I had the camper’s tongue cranked four feet in the air and it was pulling the rear of the truck up with it. I got my neighbor, Roger, who is to blame for this entire enterprise, to come over to look at it. He didn’t see anything amiss, so he hopped up onto the truck bumper, bounced up and down a few times until the ball finally broke free from the hitch.

Big lesson number one: sometimes you just need a little extry purchase.

The camper’s exterior is in desperate need of a good cleaning, but despite best intentions, it ain’t gonna happen today. Feeble excuse #1: I got invited to join some church folks for lunch… something that didn’t happen once in three years with the Methodists. (And the Baptists have a much better-looking congregation.) So I would have been off to a late start.

Feeble excuse #2: It’s drizzling, which would probably have been the perfect weather to do the cleaning in. However, I’m headed back to church tonight where after the service, there will be a pancake supper. I don’t want to look all haggard and water-logged amongst said better-looking congregation.

Now that all is said and done, getting this camper has been a grand exercise and I’m thankful for it. I got exposure that would have taken a long time to get by simply driving it home from a dealer. Thank you, Lord, for the trial-by-far experience, and for watching over me on the 200 miles home. Please forgive Steve Earle….

Well my name’s John Lee Pettimore
Same as my Daddy and his Daddy before
You hardly ever saw grandaddy down here
He only came to town about twice a year
He’d buy a hundred pounds of yeast and some copper line

Everybody knew that he made moonshine
Now the Revenue man wanted grandad bad
He headed up the holler with everything he had
It’s before my time but I’ve been told
He never come back from Copperhead Road

Now Daddy ran the whiskey in a big block Dodge
Bought it at an auction at the Mason’s Lodge
“Johnson County Sheriff” painted on the side
Just shot a coat of primer then he looked inside
Well him and my uncle tore that engine down

I still remember that rumblin’ sound
Well the sheriff came around in the middle of the night
Heard mama cryin’, knew something wasn’t right
He was headed down to Knoxville with the weekly load
You could smell the whiskey burnin’ down Copperhead Road

I volunteered for the army on my birthday
They draft the white trash first,’round here anyway
I done two tours of duty in Vietnam
And I came home with a brand new plan
I’d take the seed from Colombia and Mexico

I’d plant it up the holler down Copperhead Road
Well the D.E.A.’s got a chopper in the air
I wake up screaming like I’m back over there
I learned a thing or two from Charlie don’t you know
You better stay away from Copperhead Road

Copperhead Road
Copperhead Road
Copperhead Road

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