Got My Tow Vehicle

As I sip my First Coffee Of The Day …

Just an FYI to folks that “I’ve bought my tow vehicle”. It was not the one I expected. Monday it goes to The Mechanic for a checkup and spruce up.

I’d set out to get a used Truck. Especially a Dodge Ram Cummins Diesel 4×4 (or possibly FORD Powerstroke). When those were priced insanely high for their age due to unobtainum silicon for new Trucks, I moved on to “quasi-Trucks” like the Dodge Durango, Lincoln Navigator, etc. We’re talking $15k-$25k vs $5k-$10k for same age and condition.

Even looked at repurposed School Buses and Box Trucks. That was where I found out about the CARB (California Air Resources Board) rules forbidding any Commercial Diesel older than 2010 from operating in the State. LOTS of acceptable options in this bunch, except I could not register them in California OR use them in California if registered in another State. In Theory there is an exemption for “personal use of personal vehicle to move only your stuff”, but I had no desire to fight the DMV on the reg nor every border ag station, weight station, and random cop. Educating the world to an arcane point of law was not on my bucket list…

Oh, and the newer than 2010 Trucks were all going for insanely high prices as the old ones were sold out of State and the food fight over the remainder was going on.

The quasi-trucks and pickups proved a bit problematic in a couple of ways (often relating to spousal comfort and “step height” to get into them – arthritic knees not liking high steps). The Air Suspension of the Lincoln Navigator was a big plus in the smooth ride department, and the 5.4 L Hemi in the Durango (and Chrysler Aspen) gives it something like 8600 lbs Towing Capacity. But… the one Lincoln Navigator that I thought was in good enough condition to buy (for the price) had replaced the air suspension with coil springs. Rode like a big truck. Sigh. I learned a lot about aftermarket air suspension and retrofits to the Durango line. I also learned about 14 mpg freeway… less when towing. Both the Navigator and the Durango are “gas only” in my area ( I found ONE newer Navigator offered with a Diesel engine. WAY more expensive than I wanted and in black, which the spouse does not abide).

I had a “Preferred Features” list that included 4×4 or all wheel drive, Diesel, and towing capacity for a mid-sized Airstream (in case of need to buy & bug out…). I started trying searches with various bits left off the list, like no Diesel in the Durango / Navigator used market. Or no 4×4 drive.

We’be become quite fond of our 4Matic wagon (Mercedes) and the Subaru Forester all wheel drive. It just changes the whole risk profile in sloppy weather or just slop in general. Then the extra 20% to 30% fuel economy of Diesel… Decisions decisions.

I was almost ready to by an old Durango (for about $5000 – California market has a LOT of “old but still fine” cars with zero rust issues owned by low mileage drivers…) and accept that the low price to buy it would cover the gas suckage. I got to go down the Rabbit Hole of “SKIM” – the Engine Interrupter device. Since about 2000 many cars have had a device in them that kills the engine if it gets unhappy. The Durango & Jeep have one that can be removed and reprogrammed, the Navigator not so much. But they tend to fail around 10 years old+ and make the vehicle a brick for a week or so.


I managed to find ONE listing of a Mercedes ML320 CDI (not BlueTec). This is what I’ve bought.

It has a 7200 lb Towing Capacity. This is just 100 lbs shy of the GVWR of the 25 foot to 28 foot Airstreams and well over the dry weight. So, OK, leave out 12 gallons of water or drain your grey / black before moving; or just buy a 23 footer instead. Heck, we’d not be loading up 1000+ lbs of stuff in it anyway for a “bug out”. It, 7200 lbs, is way more than enough for the box cargo trailer I’m looking at to “move my stuff”. I’m not going to stress about GVWR for a trailer I don’t have. Just buy smaller or a different lighter weight rig should that event arise.

Sidebar on Bug Out: The issue here is that we’re going to be Bi-Coastal for a while. New home in Florida being set up, spouse having medical procedure and recovery through about February before she gets to do the move. What happens if, say, the Austria Rules come to California in January or February and “all our stuff” is in Florida; except the bed, used recliner, camp cooking, and one old TV (just enough for ‘recovery’)? Do we just get locked into the house here and God Only Knows what happens to the house / stuff in Florida? Nope. It’s “load up in a trailer and bug out” time. I can be in Arizona in about 10 hours. Nevada in about 3, maybe 4 towing. So wanted a vehicle able to do that job “For That Day”… while hoping it remains a theoretical. Seems crazy to need to prepare for an “Escape to the Free State of Florida”, but it’s clearly prudent these days. Heck, we could even do the Bug Out over rural back roads sans trailer and buy one “along the way”. Route planning for that already done and the 4×4 helps on the dirt roads… but I’m not expecting that level of policing.

The CDI is NOT subject to the Blue Goo emissions scandals and lawsuits. It isn’t just VW. Mercedes BlueTec and some FORD Powerstroke are caught up in it too. IMHO they ought never to have “settled” but instead stood the ground of “You said to pass the test, we did, you don’t like the way, then specify a new test.” But whatever… It is, IMHO, the best Diesel engine Mercedes has made since the 240D (4 cylinder in-line iron block and iron head million mile engine). The 320 CDI is a V6, turbo, with Common Rail Injection.

In theory it gets about 24 MPG on the freeway (if not at insane speeds ;-) and the on-board computer says 19.x combined in actual use. Claimed to drop to about 16 when towing. Still pretty good. Plus the height to step in is acceptable and the ride quality is pretty good too. Price is about double that Durango, but it’s a vehicle that hits all the marks. Diesel – Check. All Wheel drive – Check – 4Matic. Towing Capacity – Check. Just enough, with the requirement to buy a smaller Airstream IFF that need ever shows up.

So now I can move on to the next step. Buying a cargo trailer and “moving my stuff” to a place in Florida. Meaning Yet Another Road Trip is in my future before too long.

This process has taken a couple of months longer than I expected. Largely due to “Lessons Learned” being large and CARB screwing up vehicles. Oh Well.

Lessons Learned?

1) Every vehicle year, engine, model, etc. has a different Towing Capacity. You can’t just say “ML” or “Durango” and be done. Over the years, to meet ever higher Fuel Economy Standards, vehicles were made lighter with smaller engines and towing capacity drops. Jeep especially shows this (there were fewer Durango models). The Diesels have much higher Towing Capacity than the Gas Engines for any given size, but Diesels can be harder to find. (i.e. any Gas ML was not good enough.) This site was helpful in that regard:

You can put in other make / model / year selections at the bottom of the page. This is just one example.

Year	Make	Model	Engine	Tow Capacity
2006	Dodge	Durango SLT 4WD	4.7L V8	5700 lb
Notes: Automatic transmission 3.55 axle ratio
2006	Dodge	Durango SLT 4WD	5.7L V8	7150 lb
Notes: Automatic transmission 3.55 axle ratio
2006	Dodge	Durango SLT 4WD	4.7L V8	7200 lb
Notes: Automatic transmission 3.92 axle ratio
2006	Dodge	Durango SLT 4WD	5.7L V8	8650 lb
Notes: Automatic transmission 3.92 axle ratio

Yeah, towing capacity can range from 5700 lbs to 8650 lbs and to know what you got, you need to know the axle ratio, transmission, and exact engine size… Things like “Durango with V8 Engine” are not enough to know.

Similarly these folks:

As it runs to several pages, I’m just going to give some excerpts showing the big range that happens:

Year Make Model TowLimit Notes
2020 Jeep Cherokee 2000 lbs. See additional tow rating details for 2020 Jeep Cherokee
2020 Jeep Cherokee 4000 lbs. See additional tow rating details for 2020 Jeep Cherokee
2020 Jeep Gladiator Overland 4000 lbs. See additional tow rating details for 2020 Jeep Gladiator Overland
2020 Jeep Gladiator Overland 6000 lbs.
See additional tow rating details for 2020 Jeep Gladiator Overland
2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon 4500 lbs. See additional tow rating details for 2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon 7000 lbs. See additional tow rating details for 2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee 2WD/4WD 3500 lbs. See additional tow rating details for 2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee 2WD/4WD
2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee 2WD 7400 lbs.
See additional tow rating details for 2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee 2WD
2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee 2WD 7400 lbs. See additional tow rating details for 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee 2WD
2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee 2WD 3500 lbs. See additional tow rating details for 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee 2WD
2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee 2WD 6500 lbs.
See additional tow rating details for 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee 2WD
2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee 2WD/4WD 5000 lbs. See additional tow rating details for 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee 2WD/4WD
2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee 2WD/4WD 6500 lbs.
See additional tow rating details for 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee 2WD/4WD
2004 Jeep Liberty 2WD/4WD 2000 lbs. See additional tow rating details for 2004 Jeep Liberty 2WD/4WD
2004 Jeep Liberty 2WD/4WD 3500 lbs. See additional tow rating details for 2004 Jeep Liberty 2WD/4WD
2004 Jeep Liberty 2WD/4WD 5000 lbs. See additional tow rating details for 2004 Jeep Liberty 2WD/4WD

It can become a “Whack-A-Mole” problem with each used vehicle trying to figure out the actual towing capacity of it. Most owners do not know their “Axle Ratio” for example, and many don’t know about other options either.

2) Then I also got to learn about the CARB 2010 ruling, and how that screwed up the Box Truck options for me. But it did enlighten about the “Supply Chain” issues… Oh, and heard on a Sebastian Gorka radio segment, a caller claiming to be a Cargo Trucker in the Carolinas said that under Trump, they had suspended hours limits to avoid a problem, but Biden Admin had issued an order that he could only move ONE Container a day (when his normal capacity was 3 a day). IMHO that’s big “Dig Here!” that might show deliberate intent to damage supply chains.

3) Silicon Shortages and the ripple of prices down into the used market as used supply dried up since folks were not buying new and thus not selling used. This had big differential impact in work trucks vs “recreational trucks” like SUV things.

4) That the VW “scandal” had extended to others. I knew I was not fond of “Blue Goo”, but now was added the desire to avoid the whole legal quagmire that might also extend into registration issues and / or performance not matching “spec” post “fix”:

Companies based in the United States and abroad have found themselves accused of manufacturing trucks and cars that cheat emission standards. Volkswagen is the most commonly known example, though others have found themselves in legal trouble since. A later investigation involving Fiat Chrysler already reached a massive settlement involving nearly a billion dollars in fines and penalties. Ford’s Super Duty trucks still remain under investigation with a class action lawsuit rolling forward in the courts. But one emissions scandal that has not been on everyone’s radar involves Mercedes-Benz. The Mercedes-Benz emissions scandal, impacting thousands of the company’s BlueTEC diesel vehicles, involves the cloud of a governmental probe and class action case, not only concerning owners, but leaving a very murky future ahead for how the vehicles, their performance following any attempted “fix” and re-sale values will be impacted by class action settlements and governmental investigations.

The government set the test criteria, the makers met it. They ought to have just said “Then gives us a new spec to meet for the new model years”.

There were other things learned along the way, but those are the “big lumps”. Other littler things were that the Cummins used in RAM trucks comes in 12 valve and 24 valve versions, the 24 being newer and less robust. The FORD Powerstroke going steadily down hill in reliability from the 7.3 L Navistar to the 6.0 L Common Rail to the one today. More electronics dependency and blue goo issues accumulating over the years. Other vehicles having lower GVWR over the years to meet CAFE (Combined Average Fleet Economy) numbers giving lower towing capacity as a result. SKIM and related “security features” failing over time and bricking cars as the electronics fail – and different makers having varying degrees of recovery possible. So it goes.

Sidebar on SKIM: This module is used in Dodge Durango / Chrysler Aspen / Jeep Cherokee and related products over many years starting in the late 1990s. It CAN be “deleted” and looking for “SKIM Delete” is enlightening. FORD Navistar lookups claim their’s can not be deleted. Mercedes seems to work better and longer… But deliberately designing cars to not run seems, um, an issue.

I also learned that the Durango, Cherokee, and ML / GL from Mercedes shared a “platform” starting in 2011 and on to recent years. They are now starting to drift apart. Early Durangos built on a Dodge Dakota frame, then a RAM Truck frame (so they ride like a truck…) and then in 2011 going to the common platform. So mostly the same, but with towing capacity varying widely with exact engine, axles, etc. installed. Similarly MLs started on one platform, then went through generations until the 2011 common one. Best years after 2000; and before the Blue Goo for Diesels.

At any rate, now I’m on to getting a cargo trailer ;-)

Only compromise I had to make was “lower GVWR for a hypothetical travel trailer in the future, maybe.” I’m good with that.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
This entry was posted in Emergency Preparation and Risks, Human Interest, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Got My Tow Vehicle

  1. Kneel says:

    ” They ought to have just said “Then gives us a new spec to meet for the new model years”.”

    Never understood why there was even a complaint about this that was directed at the manufactureres rather than govco ineptness in defining the “strandard”.
    “Make it to this standard, it must pass this test” they said.
    So they did, and it did.
    But it wasn’t good enough and they got fined – WTF?
    “We met the test – deal with it. Not our fault your test is crap.”

  2. H.R. says:

    @E.M. re fresh/grey/black water tank weights:

    That’s the money shot. So long as we’re not boondocking, which we’ve not done yet, we always travel with empty tanks. We stay overnight at full hook-up RV sites, so the travel morning routine is to flush and drain all tanks, unplug and go.

    It is very difficult to load up a trailer or RV of any sort to max GVWR with just food, clothing, stoves, chairs, firewood, propane, etc.

    At room temp, a gallon of water weighs about 8.3 pounds. So even a small, one or two-person travel trailer with about 120 gallons of fresh/grey/black water capacity will hog about 1,000 lbs. of max allowable trailer weight. Boondocking really makes you evaluate the balance of food/gear vs. water/waste water that you need for your chosen RV style.

    BTW, the 5th-wheel trailer we bought allows about 2,500 lbs of ‘you pick ’em’ weight. We have about 220 gallons of waste tank capacity and about 70 gallons of freshwater capacity.

    Do the math, and if we boondock allowing about 2,407 lbs for all tanks at max capacity, we can only have about 93 pounds total of rice, beans, socks, and delicate unmentionables. NO ROOM FOR BEER!!!!!!!. 😵😲👀

    Oh noes!
    Screw that. 😜

  3. jim2 says:

    I know someone in Charleston who knows some truckers. He said he would look into the Biden load restrictions. We’ll see if he comes up with any supporting evidence.

  4. jim2 says:

    EMS – how easy (expensive) is it to get box trucks serviced? Any idea?

  5. E.M.Smith says:


    Box Trucks are very easily serviced. Either at the Dealer or at various Truck Stops out in nowhere. Was at a truck stop in one “middle of nowhere” and they advertised their full service shop. Including full sized 18 wheeler wash, dry, and tire shop…

    I’d not try to get it done in San Francisco or San Jose, but once away from the urban jungle, lots of places cater to trucks. For the smaller ones (F350 to F550 based sizes) it’s “Just a FORD truck” chassis with a box on it. ANYONE who services any FORD truck can service it. Same parts. (Ditto for the Chevy and Dodge based lines).

    Would be nice to have a cross check on the “caller”…


    As we’re looking at this as an “Emergency Hail Mary” only, it would mostly be just for a “bed on the road” and porta-potty in transit. Once out of California, the need to do anything but stop at a Fast Food Place and / or Truck Stop would dramatically plunge. Why? Because Texas and Florida are NOT going to go along with such lock-down crap. That’s about 2/3 of the trip right there ;-)

    So the “model plan” is that it would be a suitcase each (most everything else already in Florida, in this scenario, remember…), a “camping kitchen” set of pots and paper plates, cups, etc. Maybe 5 gallons of water to drink and either the propane full, or use camping fuel stoves. Showers optional until out of State and at a place with “hook-ups”, or a truck stop shower. “Boondocking” only as required to get out of the Prison State and into the Free States… Then it would be hotels, RV parks, and such. No need for firewood, portable chairs & card tables, BBQ, etc. etc. None of the “recreational stuff” is needed for “roads across America” as fast as comfortable.

    BTW, I used Airstream as my target example mostly because the specs are easy to come by, they are clearly known what they are to everyone, and I figured that, built sturdy, they probably weight more than the cheap stuff so a conservative weight example. In a real “bug out NOW”, we’d likely buy whatever was available under the weight limit “today”, and go. Heck, if it came down to it, suitcase, flat of water to the car, and camping gear… but a Real Bed ™ is preferred ;-)

  6. Hi Chiefio

    I understand that you are moving from the West coast to the East coast but have obtained no idea over the last few months if you are moving from rural to urban, from a large property to a small property?

    Will the new home be broadly similar to your old one but just in a different location?


  7. E.M.Smith says:


    You have gained no idea as I don’t have one to pitch.

    We’re presently in a smallish California Ranch suburban house in Silly Con valley at outrageous prices. It will fund just about anything in Florida… We intend to about double our square footage and add a bedroom & bath.

    Our intent is to be “Bi-Coastal” for a few months (for medical reasons and for convenience of the move and some convenience in the sale) with a “Rental House” in Florida. Likely for about 6 months to a year we will be renting. That house could be anything from an apartment (of about 1500 sq. ft. I’d guess) to a full up 4 bedroom 2 or 3 bath with 3 car garage: Depending on what I can find in a 1 week or so site visit and rental tour. Will NOT be “urban” if at all avoidable, but suburban to slightly rural. But urban if we must. It’s just a short term rental after all.

    Once all our stuff is in it, and Spouse is ready to roll, we sell the California house.

    During that 6 months to 1 year, we do a search for a new home to own. We intend to end up around Disney “somewhere”, but could range down to Tampa or over to Christmas Florida… Also going to check out the Tennessee Valley as it has some attractions.

    The hope is to find a nice 4 bedroom that we can set up with Master Bedroom, His & Hers Offices, and a guest suite with folks visiting for a week or 2 at a time to see Disneyworld us on a regular basis.

    Note that a “fall back plan possible” depending on events is to park an RV or trailer on a pad at a vacation RV park and put most of our “stuff” into storage IFF for some reason we can’t find a rental house that’s acceptable in time that’s suited to us. So it is possible I’ll do a couple of runs putting stuff into a big storage unit, then if the AwShit happens, hand the house keys to a realtor, we buy / hitch up a trailer and bug out to an RV park in Florida. Then take our time looking for a nice house to buy. I hope to avoid this process… but would not be too upset if we had to take that path.

    I would love hard rural, the Spouse would love inside 5 miles from the Disneyworld Gates… “We’ll negotiate” and it might end up with a “town house” near Disney and a rural house with RV Pad for me / weekends / visitors ;-) Stuff in Florida is way way cheaper than in Silly Con Valley and we own our home clear, essentially.

    So, with that Spaghetti all over the wall, you can see why you could not read the “plan”. There isn’t one. Just a process with major flexible “mix” options.

    We had a more formal goal set before 3 things happened:

    1) Covid Crap and Government Crazies changing rules and massively increasing uncertainties.
    2) Medical issue cropped up requiring we keep a California presence for several more months.
    3) Spousal family home was sold and a ‘windfall’ happened enabling more “flex” options.

    So our original plan was blown out by 1 & 2 and then 3 enabled “variety options” like owning a home on each coast if we wanted to. Or 2 places in Florida. Or…

    In short: JUMP BALL!

  8. Power Grab says:

    @ EM
    “Spaghetti all over the wall” – LOL!

    I was just telling my offspring this weekend about how you can tell if your spaghetti is done yet…. but the way I heard it was you throw it on the ceiling and see if it sticks.

  9. Ossqss says:

    Check them brakes good. If you tow anywhere close to capacity, you gonna need great brakes.

  10. Chiefio

    thanks. Sounds interesting. The prices in Silicon valley seem to have gone mad due to the influx of highly paid hitech employees, but it seems as if really good houses are even beyond their buying power. Which leaves those with ordinary salaries trying to find sensibly priced houses not in core locations.

    I only went to California once- SF- that was in the 70’s and even then I was shocked at the juxtaposition of the wealthy and the homeless and I read that disparity is even greater now.

    Hope you find what you are looking for after ‘negotiations’ with the seller and your spouse.

  11. E.M.Smith says:


    I wonder if I was channeling that old saw ;-)


    Any big trailer I tow will have electric brakes in it, and the Mercedes has extremely good brakes ;-)

    I’m also prone to very slow acceleration / deceleration when towing. Even with good brakes, you don’t want the thing jackknifing and trying to swing around on you. Plus the gas mileage goes to hell with rapid starts / stops and does it even more so with the added mass of the trailer…

    But yeah, first thing I do with any car I buy is hand it over to a Very Trusted Mechanic and have him go through it and “fix what needs it”. He has “a thing” about making sure break pads have “meat on them”.


    Ordinary track homes of about 1960s construction of about 1400 sq. ft. and needing a spruce up have sold around here for $1.4 Million. That kind of crazy on house prices has been rampant in Silly Con Valley for many decades. So how can folks buy one? Not a working stiff, that’s for sure.

    1) They are upgrading from a prior home, so have “equity”. Having bought in a couple of decades back and “hung on”, they already have a big chunk of the price.

    2) Family Money. LOTS of Bay Area folks have lived here a long time and have family money. Plus rich folks from other regions who fall in love with the weather here.

    3) Stock Options. Think EBay, Apple, Google, Intel, AMD, etc. etc. They have been making millionaires for decades via stock options to employees. I’m fond of saying that “Apple stock bought me a house and two kids” because that was how I got my house “down payment” 30+ years ago.

    That’s the bulk of it. There’s some other edge cases, like folks getting legal settlements and, lately, what looks like an influx of Rich Hong Kongers escaped from China in the British handover, but that’s not the bulk.

    I did a bit of 1 and a lot of 2. Spouse and I started in a mobile home park. Yeah, “Trailer Trash”. That with 2 incomes and me working at high tech companies. Saved up some money, got hired at Apple with stock options. When the options vested we sold the trailer and put a down payment on a house. Leveraged in pretty heavily. But now it is owned clear.. The 3 decades of inflation have made the first price (that looked crazy high then, too) look small now; and we got that inflation “bump” to the net worth. So at this point we’d be all #1.

    40 years ago the “ordinary employees” started moving further out. There are now “bedroom communities” to the Bay Area that are as far away as Sacramento (about a 3 hour drive during “rush hour”) and Los Baños. (“The Bathrooms”. An Agricultural town in the central valley other side of the mountains about 60 miles of winding road away.) I had one employee commuting from Sacramento when at Apple. When buying this house we seriously looked at a house in Tracy (60 miles away and about a 2 hour drive in peak commute hours) but decided to buy this “too small” house and “move up later” instead (and never “moved up”… the 2000 sq.ft. house in Tracy would have been better for living but I’m glad I didn’t have that commute for 30 years…)

    But yes, it’s kind of an odd economic aspect to study. House prices are highest in the FruFru upscale places at the center (like Palo Alto / Saratoga / Los Gatos / Santa Clara) and slowly “grade out” from there. Cheaper in East San Jose, Fremont, … Then getting seriously cheaper as you go over a mountain range into the Central Valley. Tracy, Stockton. Or south, Salinas and such. As a result, folks buy as far out as they can stand to drive to get more house for the money. Almost everyone commutes inbound one or two price ranges over. Folks from Tracy commuting to Livermore or Pleasanton. Folks from Pleasanton commuting to Santa Clara. Folks from Santa Clara commuting to Palo Alto.

    An interesting recent odd bit was the “gentrification” of the old run down industrial areas on the south side of San Francisco. It reversed a commuting pattern. This was not a residential gentrification but an industrial one. The old industries had fled (think things like canning and making metal works) and the place run down. High Tech Companies moved in and spruced it all up. Then they ran buses up the peninsula to it from Silicon Valley. Where folks used to commute down the peninsula to Silicon Valley High Tech companies, there’s now a commute up to the old industrial areas south of the SF core. (Note that South San Francisco is a different city and is where the SFO airport is located. It is South of the southern part of SF I’m talking about…)

    Another interesting side bar on the housing economics here: Every “recession” some folks leave and sell out a bit on the cheaper side. Folks retire and bale. Some lose their job and must sell. There’s a ratchet of folks “moving up and inward” as folks tired of a 3 hour commute buy a (briefly) attainable house with a 2 hour commute. Folks with 2 move to 1, etc. The core stays relatively high with more “swing” in price the further out you are. In bad recessions, places like Stockton have a bad hit as the lower end workers (living further out) get more of the layoff notices. This knocks prices down enough that folks renting can buy that first rung…

    It is an interesting dynamic. I’ve thought of writing up a paper on it, but I figure it’s pretty simple and likely a well known thing already, so not found the priority time to write it…

  12. Bradley says:

    If geo location and time budget permit, a stop at one of the Overland Expo events (Tucson, Loveland, Co and Arrington, VA, check the web site for 2022 dates) can be enlightening. Lots of neat solutions to vehicle food/water/heat/etc. stuff. Some of what you’ll see is high dollar, some very high, but there’s a lot of “middle” solutions as well. It’s NOT the “travel trailer” set and not quite the “Bugout” set, either but it’s way above the $100 tent and backpack stove thing as well.

  13. YMMV says:

    You left out Lodi .. CCR were stuck there once.

    I can’t vouch for the all the photos; one of them is Berkeley, another in some European ciity?

  14. E.M.Smith says:


    I’ve seen some of the Overland events on videos. I’d like to be in that category “some day”, but for now I’m not. I have a Subaru Forester that’s slated for a “build” in the back of it. Just a simple sleeping platform and maybe a pull out kitchen workspace. I already have a functional “camping kitchen” setup (camp stove, cutting board, couple of pots / pans, knives, etc.) and I usually just pick up a flat or two of water bottles when going cross country. Cheap, effective, and a leak in one does not drain the others… I also have the typical “tent & chair” stuff, but sleeping on a platform in the car is an upgrade from my present “recline the passenger seat and get in the bag” (which works well enough).

    I don’t know how the Jeep & Toyota Overlanders would feel about a Subaru Car Camper, but whatever. I’d be willing to find out ;-)

    So there’s an “Overlander Website”? Who knew… Was wondering how to find out when / where these things happened… (he does a DDGo search…) I presume this is it:

    The CDI is not for off roading though. It’s just too pretty ;-) It’s purpose is to be good on the freeway in snow, ice, rain to excess and similar weather issues… and tow. The ol’ Subaru I’m willing to get some scratches on or break a strut. (Speaking of which, repair costs on Subaru vs Mercedes are about $1:$10 for half shafts, about $4:$10 for struts… I just did all four struts on the Forester due to an unfortunate pothole on the freeway at 70 mph… Cost was $1200 including installation and laser alignment. MUCH cheaper to fix stuff from off road than in the Mercedes…)

    So I’ll likely try to hit one of their events when I’m doing the Subaru to Florida drive.


    I didn’t forget Lodi, I actively avoided thinking about it. I’ve been to Lodi. Often…

    FWIW, Lodi is north of Stockton and south of Sacramento. I worked in Sacramento, and my college roomie married a lady from Lodi and got a job managing property in Stockton. So I did a lot of driving through Lodi at various times. Cheap gas stop too. Just not a lot to do there.

    I DID end up doing the “Chicken Dance” at their wedding in Lodi… Fair number of German Cowboys at that wedding… She being blond and born there with German derived family on farms, he being mixed German / Swedish of about 2nd or 3rd generation. Ever do the “Chicken Dance” with Germans in cowboy boots, cowboy hats, and driving pickups on the job? Even in 2nd to 3rd generation, the influence shows. Like Texas Deutsche, the local dialect is a bit different. Guten Tag, y’all… where is that hot salsa bowl?…

    It’s a nice enough town, but more or less your typical valley farm town. Has some decent wines and vineyards, but not a lot of entertainment options.

    Like the song though ;-)

  15. Jeff says:

    There’s always “Fritzburg” (Fredericksburg) Texas :) With a gigantic Weihnachtspyramide, as well as other German fests…

  16. Russ Wood says:

    I’d never heard about the SKIM before! So, I checked up, and the Module communicates (probably by Bluetooth) with the authorisation ‘key’. I wonder what would have happened had this ‘technology’ been around when my Johannesburg suburb suffered the “great jamming” about 12 years ago. It turned out that ALL the remote reading ‘smart’ electric meters went screwy, and began broadcasting over the whole Bluetooth frequency band! So, car immobilisers, home alarms, garage doors, and even my home weather station remotes were ALL jammed. It took about a week and a half before the meters were all reprogrammed to NOT broadcast.

  17. H.R. says:

    @E.M. and all:

    Most of y’all have seen this somewhere; a trailer made from the bed and rear wheels of a pickup truck.

    Yesterday, in a Walmart parking lot, I saw a new twist on that. This truckbed trailer had a camper cap on it. The cap was extra-tall and the doors swung out side-to-side.

    There’s always more than one way to skin a cat and even more ways to make a camping trailer.

  18. H.R. says:

    @E.M. re lighter trailers: We live next to a State Park with a 3,700-acre reservoir. There’s a State Park campground and a private RV & tent campground just up the road from us, and we see a LOT of motor homes and camping trailers going by.

    What I’ve noticed is that ultralight campers that are towable by most midsize and up cars have become really popular. That segment used to be dominated by popup campers, but those are no longer very common. The popups don’t have much storage, are a bit leaky if it rains, and the canvas weathers too much, too soon. The ultralights take care of the popup camper issues and there’s no need to buy a tow vehicle of some sort.

    A year or so ago, you had at least one thread on ultralight basic campers and we kicked around homemade and factory designs. I know you’ve looked at a lot of the ultralights. What I’ve seen is that they are really, really catching on and the off-the-shelf offerings have enough variation to suit anyone’s idea of easy trailer camping. There are probably a dozen or so new brands and lines that have come out since we were actively discussing homemade light camping solutions.

    My point is that there will probably be a lot of those ultralights coming on the used market that you will be able to get relatively cheap. People will be getting rid of them for the same reasons that interrupted your camping days; kids, work, kids’ activities, more income and less time.

    Keep your eyes on that market and you might find something checks off all of your boxes. The ML320 will easily tow all but the largest of the trailers in the ultralight segment.

  19. E.M.Smith says:

    The “construction” brigade has gone, the hammers silent. I have my daily routine back ;-)


    Ah, Hill Country! Spouse has family in Texas and going through Hill Country, I just loved it. Major reason we’re going onward to Florida? Spouse is a Disney Fanatic… wants the resident annual pass…

    @Russ Wood:

    Yup. I’m fairly sure an EMP attack will not wipe out engines in cars nor major electrical wiring (all inside the Faraday Cage of the body), but all those fobs… those delicate little circuits and semiconductors… with antennas in them…

    So I’m planning to keep my “All mechanical all the time” car as an antique show car… and Mad Max Moment wheels ;-)

    Germany, by law, has required an engine “interrupter” of some kind since about 2000 in all cars made there. I now have 2 Mercedes so equipped. Their system “talks” to the FOB via infrared to validate it for car starting. Even if the electronics die, you can unlock the car with a mechanical key and the IR interface validates passively. (One hopes enough metal shields the electronics inside the car…). That’s why I went for the ML instead of the Durango (or Jeep Cherokee) even though they are on the same “platform” for the years of interest. Well, that and the Diesel Engine, though I understand the same engine is available in a Jeep outside of California…

    So find yourself an “antique” and keep it in the garage ;-)


    There’s a confluence of things pulling in different directions. My preferences. Spousal requirements. External Forces. These all go to different solutions. Where the net will be, can not be known until “the moment”.

    1) My preferences: I’m a minimalist who likes reliable things but doesn’t need much. Thus the idea of a build or “platform” in the back of the Subaru is just fine for me. I found a folding cot that works well and it, plus the load of camping gear, fits in the storage area behind the 2nd row seats. Done deal. For “just me”, I load that stuff and go. “Someday” I’d still like to build a more formal platform, but this is fine for crossing the country and camping by interesting things.

    2) Spousal requirements: Daily hot shower, longer the better. Comfy recliner. TV Set… Full upscale cooked meals. So typically a hotel denizen. She flies, I drive. When we travel together, it’s all upscale and comfy.

    3) Here’s the rub. Should there be a “Mandate” similar to Austria, we are prepared (preparing?) to Escape From L.A., no wait, that was a bad movie…. Escape from California to the Free State Of Florida. I’m “ready to go” with #1 and hopefully can put the spouse on a plane. IF the plane isn’t possible, then we “load and go” with what we have and pick up the largest trailer or RV that gets closest to #2-On-Wheels with the gear and money we have at the time. The more warning the better…

    So I’m set with #1; we hope “fly & hotel” is available for a week or two after any “mandate” is announced and we can skip out under the wire; and we plan for #3. Thus the ML tow capacity for a “Big enough” comfy trailer just in case we need to drive to Nevada in a day via back roads and buy something at the dealer there… Or even get a used Class A and a vehicle trailer for the “dinghy”…

    It’s a “flexible and contingent” plan. Anything from a couple of tickets to Florida, to a tent by a river, to the ML and a trailer, to a nice Class A from Las Vegas RVs ‘R Us… as needed to succeed.

    (Would not need to do it but for the spousal surgery schedule. Oh Well. Plans are easy and cheap. Execution to plan is where the budget hits and the adaptations happen.)

    Note that I’m about 4 hours drive from the nearest Nevada Hotel. So if California announces something really really stupid, we can escape on one tank of gas (and I keep all the tanks full…) I can be out of here before most people know anything is happening. So my goal now is to get my “stuff” to Florida and stored. Then we don’t have to leave a house full of stuff just sitting here in a Bug Out. That’s the next step. Start hauling stuff. (Contingency there is to hand keys to a Trusted Realtor and tell them to please arrange shipping of all contents… i.e. throw money at it.)

    The good news is that THE major construction bit that required my presence here is now done. All that’s left is more “putty & Spackle” (and paint!) stuff. Stuff that, if not done, is not a major detriment to the sales price. So I’m “free to move about the country” again for a little while. I need to arrange a “landing spot” in Florida for the Stuff, but that’s not hard. Then start “load and go” runs with whatever cargo trailer I get…

    I do like the idea of an ultralight camper (the teardrop ones with metal skin are interesting ;-) and may well get one. But right now I’ve got way too many vehicles and I’m getting a cargo trailer. Once the move is done, maybe. I’m planning to drop vehicle inventory by the cargo trailer and at least 2 cars then. The goal is to get down to 3 cars, all 4×4, and a couple of them Diesel. (Though the idea of a cargo trailer conversion to stealth camper has a certain charm to it ;-)

    The Subaru has a 2500 lb or so towing capacity, and I’d not mind it getting scratched up in the boonies, so I’m hoping for a teardrop or similar on it for my “play time” ;-) Once the spouse is settled in Florida, her interest in “camping” is essentially zero. We’d only use a big RV if, for Stupid Rules Reasons, we were not allowed the Fly / Hotel path to touring the East Coast. I’d love to do the big RV tour, but spouse not so much… I’d not be surprised to find me towing an ultralight picking her up at the Airport and going to the hotel… I’d still get to “play in the woods” that way ;-)

  20. E.M.Smith says:

    Oh, and a side bar on Class A as tow vehicle:

    I spent some time looking at a nice Class A as tow vehicle and cargo behind it. This died on Local Laws. Can’t park an RV on your own property here without a special exemption and concrete pad (and I don’t have room anyway) and can’t park it on the street.

    Once it was clear everything had to be under 25 feet long and fit in the driveway and NOT be an RV, it limited the search space to “tow vehicle & trailers”. This will change once in the Free State Of Florida with our “stuff”…

  21. H.R. says:

    @E.M. – I only mentioned the ultralights because there’s more out there than when it was last under discussion.

    I know that it’s a down-the-road thing for you, but the headsup was for when you’re ready. I think you’ll have a lot to choose from and less modifying than you were expecting just over a year or so ago.

  22. p.g.sharrow says:

    this looks like a well stacked load, Even the Beverley Hill billies would be impressed

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