Wednesday, December 7, 2022


(Mis)Adventures with pull-throughs


By Russ and Tiña De Maris

Is a pull-through site better than a back-in?

Friends of ours asked us to stop in for a visit as we were migrating between the Pacific Northwest and Arizona. They must really like us a lot, as our thought was to stop and “do lunch” on the way through. Next thing we knew, they’d put a reservation in for us at a nearby state park – stay two nights. We had more than just one meal together, to say the least.

R&T De Maris

Our reservations were made for us at Battle Ground Lake State Park. The park’s history goes back to the 1920s, when the area around the volcanic crater lake was developed as a resort. The state took over the resort in the 1960s, and from all appearances the design standards of the campground itself probably date from that time. Mind you, this couple are experienced RVers; not only did they reserve us a spot, they also went out and eyeballed the campground, getting us what they considered a favorable pull-through site.

The pull-through sites here are the “side-loop” variety – they more or less parallel the existing roadway. There were other back-in sites through our loop. Ours was nice and level – no leveling blocks required, a real plus. We noted other sites on this loop would have been rated anywhere from “good” to “RVer’s nightmare.” We’re good, right? Well, kinda-sorta.

Our towing rig is an extended cab pickup, which puts our turning radius a bit longer than the average pickup. Hitched up to our 26-foot travel trailer, the navigator obligingly jumped out to spot the rear – the entrance to our site was equipped with the standard, evergreen forest tree stump on the inside corner. Having recently mashed one of my son-in-law’s “getting ready for restoration” pickup trucks in a similar arrival maneuver, the pilot was just a bit anxious about a possible repeat episode. Wisdom dictates a walk-over before parking in some spots but, alas, wisdom sometimes goes out the window after a long day behind the wheel.

R&T De Maris

Our spotter kept the trailer out of trouble, but some genius in Washington’s campground management system was apparently concerned that RVers might somehow stray off the pavement and into the picnic table area. This resulted in the installation of large boulders along the edge of the pavement. VERY CLOSE to the edge of the pavement. Sure enough, one of these large guardians prevented the truck from straying off the asphalt. Happily the forward momentum of the truck and trailer was slow enough that the only damage that resulted was limited to the pilot’s pride. Rock big enough to stop truck, but short enough not to be visible to the short-in-the-saddle driver whose vision was limited by that stretched out metal hood on the truck.

Stump at curved pull-through, plus plenty of trees, brush and other greenery, plus large monolithic rocks along border of said pull-through equals “sweat and swear” rating for this site. Not having attempted to use any of the back-in sites, it’s probably not fair to conclude that at least in this case a back-in site would’ve beat the pull-through site but, hey, that’s where my money is.


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4 years ago

How did this morph into discussions of toads? Some poor person is waiting for answers and they aren’t coming unless they read this article and comments also. 😉

4 years ago

We damaged our unit by having to avoid the boulders that most national parks seem to scatter about campgrounds. We were workcampers there, so we asked management WHY the boulders!? We assumed they were to keep vehicles off the grass. They didn’t understand that those rocks kept folks from making the turns they need to pull in AND back in. Their response was no one else ever had an issue with them. (Which we seriously doubt).

On one particularly wet weekend, we came home to observe a rig and truck at a rather unnatural angle, apparently backing into a nearby site. But then we noticed they were not moving. When we investigated, we found that the driver had to make a sharp turn to get into the spot, which put his front wheels off the road into the soft mud. When the wheels spun in the mud, he slid sideways — right over one of those boulders! He could not pull forward or backward. A skilled tow truck team and several hours later, he was out — but it certainly provided the evening’s entertainment for those who gathered around on the picnic tables to watch!

4 years ago

Put a battery disconnect switch on the negative post of the battery and turn it off. No more drain.
Just have to reset the radio when you use the toad.
Otherwise, drive shorter distances and enjoy the trip. It is not a race to the final destination, but an adventure to be enjoyed. I personally prefer a 350 mile day, or aim to stop at 1530.

4 years ago

Another issue is that sometimes the entrance and exit to the long campsite is so steep that a long rig won’t fit. You can even get stuck. Don’t ask how I know that! ?

4 years ago

I seldom make comments, but must say we are very happy with our 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee (we also owned a 2003 & 2009). Jeep Grand Cherokees are designed for towing 4 wheels down, by leaving the transmission in park but placing the transfer case in neutral. Older versions required mechanically shifting the transfer case, but newer versions do it electronically. No fuses to pull, no keys in the ignition (newer models), and no mileage limits. No mileage recorded on odometer, and lubrication is maintained. In my mind the easiest and best “toad”, but yes they are pricey.

Tommy Molnar
4 years ago

We made reservations at a state park in WA while traveling with friends. We tow a 30′ TT with a 26′ long 97 Ford crew cab. We got a pull-through reservation. Well, we get there and find a tree which leans over this pull-through at a height of about nine feet. No way can we get in there, either pulling through or backing in. So we contact the ‘camp host’ who simply said, “Find a spot you can use, let me know where you land, and I’ll just shift someone else around when they arrive”. Spots were in short supply, but we found a one. I wonder if this is how WE got stuck with that unusable spot – someone ELSE couldn’t get in either . . .

4 years ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

We pull a Jeep Patriot. 5 speed manual, non 4 wheel drive, Blueox Patriot braking system. The Jeep Patriot does not have a locking steering wheel. We have about 20,000 miles on this setup with no issues with the battery going dead on the long days.

Kevin mack
4 years ago

What vehicles can be towed behind a Motorhome with all wheels on the ground and how do you keep the battery on the toad from going dead after long 8,10,and 12 hour days of traveling?

4 years ago
Reply to  Kevin mack

Can’t comment on which vehicles make good toads. I can tell you that we utilized one wire in the connector between my camper and towed Jeep with a 12 volt fused wire directly to the Jeep battery. Probably a good idea to use a diode in between although we’ve never had an issue in 14 years.

Steve Thompson
4 years ago
Reply to  Kevin mack

You get the correct vehicle and you won’t have that problem.
Our 2004 jeep grand cherokee doesn’t need to have the key on. Only unlocked. You are looking for “unrestricted tow” for the type of vehicle.

4 years ago
Reply to  Kevin mack

First off we don’t go more than 6 hrs driving —12 hrs is crazy ..but to answer your question.
We have a 2010 subaru outback MANUAL SHIFT .4 on the ground in neutral & ACC. ..have never had a problem in 8 yrs dragging it around the country!

Diane Mc
4 years ago
Reply to  Kevin mack

You may already have answer. If not, Motorhome Magazine publishes an annual insert (may be able to find online) in their magazine with all the dinghies which can be towed and whether they can be all 4 wheels down, pull a fuse or other methods. We tow a 2003 Mini Cooper S, has to be manual transmission. Also, our 2012 Grand Jeep Cherokee with 4 wheel drive (that yr needed to add a specific option). Have to follow instructions on how to put transmission into neutral. Needed a Brake Buddy because of the weight of the Jeep. Motorhome is 2002 40 ft Newmar Dutchstar.

Joe Dobry
4 years ago

Have also found many of the ‘side loop’ pull-thrus list generous lengths, but neglect to mention the radius of the curve–we are 57′ in total length and a 70′ pull-thru should be just right–NOT. We usually end up backing in to the curved pull-thrus due to the tracking of the fiver.
Live and learn….

4 years ago

We have found it safer to do back ins in state parks, rather than the normally curved pull throughs in state parks. Plus the back sites usually have more private and larger space.

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