Through Foreign Eyes - Spring/Summer 2009 travel blog

assembly line

newly cut parts

robot

spare parts

welding


So the technician took one look at our hitch and shook his head. He showed us things that were loose and corroded and said that replacing all the parts that needed to be replaced would cost about $300. So the $25 refurbishment deal turned into the purchase of a brand new hitch. Are we we suckers or what? Now, if our car comes loose and passes us on the expressway, the hitch will be guaranteed. We feel much safer now. And our stay at the Blue Ox campground was free. Such a deal.

So, to get our money's worth we took the free factory tour. This factory started out in the 1920's as a manufacturer of farming equipment. The folks that managed this place could see the writing on the wall and looked for a new manufacturing niche as farms around here began to fail and consolidate. While the factory probably doesn't look all that much different than it did forty years ago, business is brisk manufacturing hitches, tow bars, and other RV equipment. Some farm equipment is still being manufactured, but it is no longer the primary focus. The RV industry has also fallen on hard times during the recent recession and rising gas prices and Blue Ox has had to go through some cutbacks as well, but at the moment employees are working 45 - 50 hours a week and delighted to be doing so. Many of the machines they are using have been around for years, but where possible they are now attached to computers and the factory has become more and more productive. Many pieces begin at one entrance as pieces of steel and after being cut and shaped they go out the other door as valuable tools. The finished products all look painted, but they are covered with a coating of what looks like dust and baked in an oven and the coating melts and covers the welds and all the nooks and crannies. Our hitch should look beautiful for years.

The tour guide said that Pender is a good place to live and raise a family. But after a few hours of driving through the corn fields and a few more hours of the same ahead, we're ready for the excitement of the big city. Hope our next repair stop goes as quickly as this one did.

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