Since we started RVing twenty-one years ago, we have always said that this lifestyle is not all unicorns farting rainbows. We have had some incredible adventures but at the same time we still must deal with all life can throw at you and it can get amplified when you add in living fulltime.
When we left Oklahoma City, we were ready for some quiet relaxation in Kansas. We booked in three nights at the Lovewell State Park in Webber, KS with the intent to visit the center of the US. Just clicking off one of those quirky adventures on our to do list, we have already been to the most NE and NW points of this beautiful country.
After a stay in Red Bay getting lots of things fixed on the coach, and another 2 weeks in OKC working on projects we could do ourselves, we thought we had everything working properly. Low and behold, when we pulled into our quiet out of the way campground out in the middle of nowhere USA our hydraulic jacks and front slides would not deploy!! We got the passenger slide out about 4” and everything came to a grinding halt. Jon got to work troubleshooting the system, trying everything he had been taught but to no avail. We searched for a mobile RV tech in the area but found the closest one was three hours away in Lincoln, NE. After a lengthy phone conversation with David of Winfield Mobile RV it was decided that it was probably a bad solenoid which he would have to order. Even with overnight delivery it would be two days before he could come out to help us. We knew we could not drive to him as the one slide was partially out and not locked in place. If we tried to drive with it in that position, it could possibly slide the rest of the way out on a sharp curve. So, we were stuck where we were and would have to pay for the expensive $$$ service call.
We decided to make the best of the situation while we waited, and we made our visit to the Geographic Center of the US. It truly is out in the middle of the cornfields of Kansas, but they have not only the historical markers, but they have a very cute little chapel as well.
Since we were in a beautiful state park, we took lots of walks around the park enjoying the quiet as there were very few other campers, watching the wildlife, and enjoying a bit of fall weather. With the front slides in we had to adjust to the tight spaces, but it is amazing what the extra 4” can do. I was able to comfortably cook and, of course, we were able to open the back slides because they are not hydraulic but on a Schwintek motor system, so we had easy access to the bathroom and our bed.
We had only booked 3 nights at Lovewell, and they had people coming into our spot after us, so we were very happy
when Dave finally arrived early on the morning we were supposed to leave. He worked for a couple of hours trying different things, called HWH Corp the manufacturer, and determined he could not fix it. He was able to create a temporary work-around and was able to get the slide locked back in place. We discussed options of going to a local RV dealer, but they might not know the system all that well, driving 13 hours back to Red Bay and getting Tiffin to fix it, or going 4 hours east to the HWH factory in Moscow, IA for service. We decided to head east. It was time to check out of the park, so we drove up to I80 where we had better cell coverage and called HWH. This was on a Thursday and the best we could get was an appointment for 11 o’clock on Monday. We did a quick search and found the Little Bear Campground in West Liberty, IA, the closest RV park, and booked in for the weekend.
Little Bear was a perfect place to wait for service, even our neighbors had an appointment at HWH on Monday. Unfortunately, losing the 4” with the slide back in place made for really cramped quarters and cooking would be a challenge. We decided to check out the local area and headed over to Tipton, IA for a delicious dinner at the Tipton Family Restaurant. We took a lovely walk around town and even hit the grocery before heading back to the coach. On Saturday we drove over to Amana, IA to the Amana Colonies. This is an historic German town with beautiful old buildings, lush landscaping, and lots of restaurants and shops. They have really learned how to monetize their history. We would highly recommend the Ronneburg Restaurant where we had a delicious lunch.
After a weekend of waiting, we finally got to HWH on Monday. They had us in before our appointment time and it took them less than a half hour to determine we had blown a fuse in the hydraulic pump. While they worked, they also informed us that we should NOT be putting lubricant on the jacks or slides. This was information that Tiffin had given us ages ago and Jon had been diligently applying it monthly! With this quick fix we were ready to get back on the road.
We were now a week off our original schedule. I had spent time over the weekend making changes and getting reservations in place for the rest of our trip to Southern California for the winter but to catch up to our previous schedule we had 4 driving days back-to-back. We really do not like to drive so many days in a row or to rush past things we might like to see but we bit the bullet and hit the road. Our first night was at the Des Moines KOA, then the Grand Island KOA, then the Dodge City KOA which put us back on schedule. We have always found the KOAs to be convenient, easy to get into and out of, and usually right on our route. We had originally planned to be at the Dodge City KOA for a week and had reservations for a dinner, gunfight, & Miss Kitty’s show but we had to cancel since we were a week late, and the show was over for the season. The KOA is right in town so we took a walk in the afternoon over to the Boothill Museum to get a flavor of what life was like on the Western frontier in Kansas.
Now you would think that after a trip to Red Bay and a trip to HWH we would have gotten everything shipshape in the RV …… nope that unicorn is still not putting out rainbows! We had noticed the BACK slide on the driver’s side was getting slower and binding when we were closing up to leave the Little Bear Campground. We decided that since we had 4 days of driving and we did not want to get stuck with the slide out, we would not extend it again until Jon had time to clean the rails. So, for the entire drive from Iowa to Amarillo, TX we did not have access to our shower. We were able to get the slide out once we got to the Big Texan RV Ranch and Jon spent a morning cleaning the lubricant off the slide and trying to fix where it was binding. Even after his efforts, it was still not working smoothly so we decided since our next extended stay was to be in Tucson, we would leave the slide in until we could have it looked at by another mobile tech once we reached Arizona.
We did make it out to one of the most iconic Route 66 roadside tourist attractions outside of Amarillo. In 1974 “the Cadillac Ranch was invented and built by a group of art-hippies imported from San Francisco. They called themselves The Ant Farm, and their silent partner was Amarillo billionaire Stanley Marsh 3. He wanted a piece of public art that would baffle the locals, and the hippies came up with a tribute to the evolution of the Cadillac tail fin. Ten Caddies were driven into one of Stanley Marsh 3’s fields, then half-buried, nose-down, in the dirt (supposedly at the same angle as the Great Pyramid of Giza). They faced west in a line, from the 1949 Club Sedan to the 1963 Sedan de Ville, their tail fins held high for all to see on the empty Texas panhandle.” It has been defaced my millions of visitor spray painting graffiti on the cars as well as everything else in the area including the crops that surround the installation. The paint is so thick in literally is melting off the cars.
Before getting to Tucson, we had two other stops. A one-night stop at the Santa Rosa RV Park in Santa Rosa, NM (easy access but a much older park with their own excellent BBQ restaurant that they deliver to your site) and then four nights at the Las Cruses KOA. We had a quick stay in Las Cruses last year and wanted a little bit more time to explore the area. This KOA is smaller but really quite nice, has been recently renovated with big sites, and new amenities.
The first day we went to the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park for a very pleasant hike. We were the only ones in the park except the one park ranger. We hiked the trails and chatted with the ranger about the area and about the dry Rio Grande River. This area is in a 20-year drought and though they had rains this summer the river was already dry.
Our second adventure in New Mexico was a drive out to the White Sands National Park. This Park has been on our list for a while, and we picked the perfect time of year to visit. We got an early start to beat the heat. It was in the 50’s when we left Las Cruses and it remained fairly cool until about lunchtime. We drove to the Alkali Flats trail and hiked out into the dunes. It was an amazing sight – white gypsum sand as far as the eye could see! We also hiked the Backcountry Camping loop, walked out on the boardwalk, and investigated the Dune Life Nature Trail. This Park was absolutely beautiful! We even saw some of the desert wildlife. I walked right past a tarantula which Jon almost stepped on!! We also saw a bleached earless lizard, lots of butterflies, birds, and black “stink bug” beetles. White Sands is definitely worth the trip out into the New Mexico desert!
We are now in Tucson at the Cactus Country RV Resort for the next three weeks. We have had the back slide looked at again and it was determined that it really just needs more cleaning as the gunk is worked out of the rails. Jon has spent more time on it and will probably have to do so again until all the lubricant is gone. BIG reminder – do not lubricate your slides no matter what the repair guys say!!
If there is one bit of advice, we always give to those looking at the full-time lifestyle is that there will ALWAYS be mechanical problems. You really must go with the flow and be flexible and make the best of the situation. Even though we had problems in Kansas we still had a lovely time at Lovewell and even though we had to drive to Iowa to get the hydraulics fixed, we got to see Amana Colonies which we would not have done on this trip. Considering everything else that is happening right now in the world we are very fortunate that we are able to continue on this journey. I’m just hoping that the unicorn has fixed its’ digestive problems and we can get on with the adventure!
Till then stay safe and I wish you healthy unicorns!!