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Airstream First Tow to Lake Tahoe

Updated: Oct 6, 2021

Airstream First Tow to Lake Tahoe

I was rapidly approaching the date when I had to move campgrounds and since the Airstream was delivered in early January, I had not yet towed with the Silverado. So, before making the big move, I decided to do a shakedown towing trip and where better to visit (for the first time no less) than Lake Tahoe. I had a run of six days off work and decided to spend June 19-24 exploring Lake Tahoe and the environs. Friends at work had recommended the route up I80 through Truckee so that's what I did, dropping into the Lake Tahoe basin, driving a quater of the main loop and then climbing back out of the basin and over into the Nevado desert outside Carson City. We stayed at the wonderful Silver City RV Resort in Mindon Nevado.


Day One (06/19)

Six hours of travel, then arrival and camp setup at the RV resort, and lastly a relaxing evening at long last in the beautiful desert again. Driving through Lake Tahoe found the area packed with tourists, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, and masks were few and far between. I would love to go back and visit the many interesting shops and streets but my plans for social distancing included a campground (isolated in my own cozy rig) and lots of hiking out in the great wide open.

Day Two (06/20)

For day two, I found the nearest desert trail and set off to walk in the dry sunny warm. The Bentley Heritage Trail is a very easy walk in a lowlands area along the Carson River. There are multiple loops which can be done together to make for a longer walk. The area can get pretty buggy (particularly closer to the water).

Day Three (06/21)

This day I discovered an even more classically desert trail in the Hot Springs Mountain Trail. You could tell this was a major ATV area. The terrain was more arid than the previously day's lowlands and proved fairly challenging as the ground was steep with either very loose shale/gravel or just straight up sand - much like walking uphill at the beach. The day proved refreshingly sunny but I should have brought more water. There were quite a few lovely high points and lookouts on the Carson River Valley.

Day Four (06/22)

Lake Tahoe is hands down, one of the most beautiful places I have ever been and the Rubicon Trail was a perfect way to see the best parts of the lake (Emerald Bay). An absolutely lovely and moderately difficult hike along the clear blue-green water. This hike was over 12 miles in length but I hardly noticed, blown away each time turning a corner and finding another astounding vista. There were many points of interest along this trail, including: D. L. Bliss State Park, the Old Lighthouse, Vikingsholm, beautiful views of Fannette Island and Emerald Bay from every angle, and ending in Eagle Point at Emerald Bay State Park.

Day Five (06/23)

We found a beautiful short hike, just off the Emerald Bay area, Cascade Falls Trail - which included beautiful shaded campground areas, a rocky granite ascent, and a lovely river and waterfall cascading into a lower lake. Hiker was able to come with me on this one but the narrow trail actually proved to be quite busy. Hiker loved playing in the water as he usually does - he ends up just sitting in the water and lapping up a drink while he cools off. We had planned another short hike after this but upon arrival (and a very steep one-way drive to the location) we found the area already packed with no room for parking. The lesson to be learned here is for any activity in the Tahoe area, arrive as early as possible and plan to spend a lot of time in that location.

Day Six (06/24)

After a leisurely camp breakdown and hitch up, we headed out and back towards Fort Bragg and the Cali North Coast. As with most trips, the drive back home seems so much longer and more exhausting than that exciting trip out. Nonetheless we arrived without incident and the towing experience could not have been better.


Equalizer Tow Hitch

I finished the final calibration just before leaving Fort Bragg and so far have few complaints. I will say this hitch can cause some pretty severe sound emissions when making tight turns - this seems to be a known issue with the hitch and mostly caused by the weight distribution arms rubbing in their holders. It was enough of an issue (and embarrassment) that I would park shortly after pulling in to a campground, put down the jack, and take off the arms. I suspect I could alleviate some of these issues by using lithium white grease on the arm holders.

Haul Gauge

I was excited to try out the Haul Gauge device - a tool that plugs into your OBD port and purportedly measures tow weights using the communication with the tow vehicle computer to measure engine torque against resistance. You perform these measurements by accelerating from a stop on level ground but I found this to be pretty inconsistent with measurements ranging from 7000-10000lbs. It's also fairly difficult to determine actual level ground and consistency in performing acceleration.

Airstream Brakes & Brake Controller

This was my second time using the Tekonsha P3 Brake Controller (previously with the Toyota Tacoma and the Forrest River RPOD). My frame of reference had the RPOD towing using a much higher voltage but apparently the Airstream only requires a maximum of 2 volts. Unfortunately the brake controller comes set by default to the highest level which resulted in my "smoking" the brakes and possibly causing damage as I am now receiving a "output shorted" error message.

2019 Chevolet Silverado 1500 Custom

I can say I was super intimidated to tow, given my last experience towing, and the fact that the Silverado 1500 is right on the border for being underpowered to tow the Airstream. However, I was pleasantly surprised with the Silverado towing. We never encountered strong winds but there was plenty of elevation on I80 going up into the Sierras. Airstreams are known for good towing and I can say that it towed and tracked extremely well. I also felt so much more comfortable with dual axels verses the single axel on the RPOD.

My average GPM mileage was a little over 10gpm which was better than what I was getting with the Tacoma and with almost twice as much weight. RPMs averaged at 2000 with the max being a little over 4000 (the max for the Silverado being 6000-7000).

I will also say that the Silverado's "Toy Haul Mode" is AMAZING!! This uses the gears to downshift on downhills, reducing the need to brake. This combined with the cruise control provided a great towing experience!

Back up Camera

The Airstream backup camera left some things to be desired. The wireless connection cut out routinely and the resolution was fairly poor. I'm looking at going with with a WIFI camera linked to an iPad with a stronger antenna.

Towing Mirrors

I've come to the conclusion that I really need towing mirrors as the backup camera only goes so far. Unfortunately after much research, it turns out that there are no OEM or even after market install options available for this on the Silverado 1500 so I'm left with the goofy-looking extension mirrors which I may end up doing - we'll see.

Securing items for transit

For the most part, I was pleasantly surprised that items stayed in place for the most part. I used Velcro straps to secure rolling items (such as my office chair). I also installed a push button lock on my cabinet containing my free weights - this worked fairly well (if you remember to actually push the button - otherwise the dumbbells on their trays tend to slide around the entire rig 🤪).

Videography Equipment Used

Disclaimer: This content was recorded during the COVID-19 Pandemic and social distancing, hand hygiene, and mask-wearing were maintained where applicable.

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