Go West Old Man - Fall 2005 travel blog

suspension installation facility

local scenery


As a mechanical moron I can open the hood of a car and confuse the air filter with the oil filter. The only way I seem to retain mechanical knowledge is through bad experience. After our brakes failed in the mountains of Yellowstone National Park, we got them fixed and they failed again 800 miles later in Seattle, I could talk about brake pads, drums and calipers with the best of them. However, Ken does such a good job of keeping our vehicles in prime condition, that my learning has been limited. Not that I'm complaining!

Unfortunately, our previous trailer gave me some painful suspension lessons. We were driving 50 mph in the desolate wilds of Idaho on a road that was under repair when we suddenly came to a complete halt. One look at Ken's face and I knew we were in big trouble. The trailer was supposed to be suspended over the tires on three leaf springs. The torn up road had shattered them and our trailer sat solidly on tires no longer able to turn. A friendly policeman rescued us, calling a local repair guru who jacked us up and put little blocks of wood under the trailer body to keep us off the tires. We drove 10mph to a nearby campground where I spent the day biting my fingernails as our guru drove 50 miles to the closest town where he had new springs made and returned the next day to install them. A few trips later we were on our way to Atlanta and Ken got that look in his eyes again. This time only one spring had broken so we tiptoed to a repair place at the foot of the international runway of the Louisville airport and spent two nights camped there listening to the planes take off and sniffing the aroma of a nearby waste disposal landfill.

Therefore, we find ourselves in Elkhart hoping to prevent further lessons in trailer suspension. The next time you pass an RV on the highway, it's a solid bet that it was built somewhere in Indiana. We have returned to the birthplace of our trailer, to purchase a more sophisticated suspension system that we hope will carry us and our overstuffed RV safely many miles down the road. We have been to Elkhart a number of times, always for RV related business. Except for an outstanding RV Museum, starting with little wood contraptions built on Model T chassises in the early 1900's and moving forward to the RV's of my childhood, this town has little to offer the typical tourist. But if you want to buy a cabinet that matches the cabinets in your rig, even though you bought it eight years ago, this is the place to come. Eighteen RV manufacturers are located here along with 27 repair and service facilites. Elkhart is bisected by two rivers and numerous railroad lines. If you are lucky enough to find a road that proceeds in the same direction for more than two or three blocks, it is clogged with RV's. Because of the railroad overpasses, many roads are off limits for the RV more than ten feet high. A navigational nightmare!

This new suspension system is no bargain in terms of money or time. We have to stay here for three days and they feed us breakfast and lunch everyday in consolation for spending lovely summer days marooned in a parking lot, surrounded by ticky tacky homes and unhealthy fast food joints. Here's hoping my next mechanics lesson is in a more attractive spot....

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