After Yellowstone, we headed for Madison, SD, on the southeastern end of the state. About a 14 hour drive took us to Rapid City, where we overnighted in a Wal-Mart parking lot along with quite a few other rigs. As usual, getting to sleep was tough, but we got a good night’s rest once we finally dozed off. The next day was a relatively short drive to get to our campground. Wall Drug was on the way, and just in time for breakfast. So the cats got their first break early, and we got a very nice breakfast at the Wall Drug café. Coffee for a nickel a cup, with a wooden box in front of the carafe to pay, and the best pancakes I have had in a long time. We were glad we stopped, it was pretty cheesy, yes, but fun to stroll through. The restaurant area was chock-a-block with illustration art, mostly western themed, including one (admittedly appalling) Wyeth right next to the buffet line. In the ‘back-yard’, along with the animatronic T-rex there were decades worth of scrapbook materials all framed and hung closely, covering the walls. Plaques from the city of Wall honoring the founders of Wall Drug rubbed shoulders with high school good attendance awards and military medals wound up next to foreign newspaper articles about the attraction which were next to family vacation snapshots. There was no real rhyme or reason to the display; it was as if all of grandma’s memory boxes/attic/trunk had been randomly dumped out and fastened up. It was oddly charming, which pretty much summed up my whole experience at Wall Drug.Our lunch stop was in Mitchell, SD, for another kitschy roadside attraction, the “World’s Only Corn Palace!” The exterior of this arena building which hosts basketball games in the winter is covered with corn murals, which change every year. Unfortunately they begin to dismantle the outside displays in early June and change the murals in late summer/early fall, so the display wasn’t looking its best. It was interesting touring the interior and looking at the portraits of Corn Palaces in years past, and it would be worth a stop in fall when the murals are at their best.
We arrived in Madison, SD in the afternoon, and spent a pleasant few days there. The park was nice, the lake was full of algae but pretty from a distance. On a late evening walk to see the sunset, we saw pelicans and a swan in the distance floating placidly on the lake in the gloaming. Getting our mailing address changed over took a while on Tuesday; the mail forwarding place was really hopping.
On Thursday, we headed south to Mayetta, KS, on our way to Chanute, where we found a nice RV park to spend the Fourth at an Indian casino. The rates were downright cheap for full hookups with a players card, which I promptly obtained. The casino was pretty, if crowded; the slots were just loose enough to be fun. The buffet was excellent, the restaurant, alas, poor (great wine list, lousy food) and we actually came out a little ahead. Friday and some of Saturday were spent tinkering with the air-conditioner. Every time it shut off we had a waterfall feature in the kitchen. Not appealing, nor good for the roof (or the kitchen for that matter.) A plastic bin set on the sink caught the water but the volume was increasing in a scary way.
I was up on the roof twice on Friday and once on Saturday, disassembling and reassembling the unit. J handed me tools and helped me up and down the ladder: “ok, hon, you can let go now, you’re on the ground.” It turned out that the unit was installed in such a way as to press the (small) drain hole in the drip pan against the rubber roof. The pan drained very slowly, so when the fan was running it let out just enough water to keep things dry. When the fan shut off, the condensation on the cooling coils was no longer held in place by the air movement over them, and rolled down in a surge of water into the drip pan, overflowing it. I shimmed the drip pan to improve drainage and that sort-of worked, but Saturday found me back on the roof, adding an additional shim (nickels, as it happened) and widening the drain hole with my pocketknife. J couldn’t watch as I finished the job, working my knife into the gap between the AC and the roof to ensure that the hole was clear of the rubber and would drain well. That last trimming finally seemed to do the trick and we’ve been dry inside (and comfortable in the coolness too) ever since. We’d also observed that the AC gasket seemed over-compressed, so we had the NuWa folks replace it as one of the items on our punch list, and I think that helped too.
The only downside was that I completely forgot that in crawling around on the roof for hours, my T-shirt would ride up and my jeans descend, leaving a gap of normally unexposed skin. So now I have a crescent-shaped sunburn across the small of my back. Oww, ow, and oww again.
Saturday evening we went to a local festival and were treated to a concert including Joey+Rory, a favorite country group, with a really terrific fireworks show afterward. I found an unexpected benefit to celebrating the Fourth of July on the plains of Kansas. All around us, local fireworks shows were going on during the concert, close enough to see well, but not close enough to interfere with the music. It was very cool! I was also very glad we’d opted to stay at the casino a few miles away rather than the campground in the state park. The locals were shooting off fireworks that I had thought you’d need a license to get, and the bangs were almost non-stop from the campground. Mister Guy is not a fan of bangs; he and Mercedes would both have been frantic.
Sunday was a short drive down to Chanute, where we set up in the city campground to await our Tuesday morning service appointment. We were up at the crack of freaking dawn, as J likes to say, and at the factory not long after. This was the first time we’ve been there now that service is in the main factory building. They’ve got a new system of getting the trailers into the service bay; they back them in rather than letting us do it. As nerve-wracking as it was to do it ourselves, it was ten times worse to watch someone else, especially since it became clear he wasn’t used to long wheelbase trucks as he backed and filled over and over. I offered to do it myself several times, but nothing doing, and eventually we were in the bay. I was going over the punch list with one of the workers, so I missed the next trailer coming in; the guy moving it punched out the rear window of the owner’s shortbed truck in too tight a turn. Clearly the new procedures are a work in progress.
We were at the factory to have a couple of stress fractures near the bedroom slide repaired and the root cause of said cracks found and fixed, along with a few minor fixes like the AC gasket. In going over the list, the mechanic asked me to run out the slides, which turned out to be a very good thing. As the bedroom slide was going out, I happened to remember something that bugged me a little, and asked the mechanic to watch. At the end of the slide traverse, it noticeably moved the bedroom wall. I wasn’t sure if that was normal or something to worry about; by the way his eyes bugged out it was the latter. So it turned out our root cause was easy to find and easy to fix. They originally thought it would take four days or so but the trailer was finished Wednesday night. We’d removed to the Safari Inn, across the street from the campground, which was much nicer than I expected, with a comfortable room for both us and the cats and a shower stall which was all turquoise fabulousness, with three scallop shell platforms for soap and shampoo. We picked up the fiver Thursday morning early, and all of the work was covered under warrantee, which was a nice surprise.
The plan was to head out for Indiana on Saturday, taking two days to travel halfway to the east coast, finishing up the following weekend. The best laid plans gang aft agley, and ours ganged agley when our left front landing gear, one of the two supports that hold up the trailer at rest, made a sproinging noise and stopped working at the top of its traverse. I think that whatever is wrong is below the gearbox, which appears to be working fine. Since it’s Saturday and the nearby dealers are all swamped, we’ve elected to stay put and throw ourselves on the mercy of the factory service folks on Monday. The cats were quite surprised to be let out of their carriers after a mere fifteen minutes, as we shored up the landing gear, unhitched, and rolled the slideouts back out. If we have to be stuck, there are worse places for it to happen.