$108 (!): Yellowstone Lake State Park, Blanchardville, WI (2 nights)
No road trip would via I-90 through Indiana is complete without a pilgrimage to the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart.
From the earliest beginnings in a converted Model T to my favorite, the GMC mid-70s fiberglass RVs, this museum has it all. I want to spend a week camping in every rig.
There are dozens of historic RVs. The first of a line, manufacturer prototypes, familiar stalwarts. And you can climb into many of them. Imagine the campers who used them. Smell the 1970s in some of them.
But not all of today was spent in the Trailer Parthenon. First, I had to get through Chicago. All I can say is that I resorted to Yacht Rock to keep my stress levels in check. Yacht Rock.
Later that day, my dash lit up with this.
For those of you who have not had the pleasure of owning a VW diesel, AdBlue is the DEF (Diesl Exhaust Fluid) used to keep emissions as clean as they can be. My Touareg was part of the “diesel scandal” and was brought in for a fix which included a new exhaust module, and some computer programming. As a result, it now uses a little more DEF per mile, and VW will pick up the tab for between-service topping off. It’s a little unusual to see the light 4,000 into a 10K service interval, but there it was. In the middle of Illinois. And if I ignore it, when the miles counter gets to zero, the car won’t start.
Lou Bachrodt Volkswagen in Rockford, IL to the rescue. I think they were a bit surprised to see me towing a 23′ trailer.
But probably no more surprised that’s I was when Courtney and Jason had me in and out in about 20 minutes (no appointment). They provided the AdBlue, I reset the codes, and I was on my way.
If only that had been my only mechanical mishap today…
I arrived at Yellowstone Lake State Park and registered for a camp site. Wisconsin state parks are among a growing number of parks to require a park fee in addition to the camping fee: $11/day or $38 for the year. Since I might be here as long as 3 days, I bought the annual pass, which requires a sticker in my window.
So, I paid $108 (!) for two nights of camping.
I got to use my Water Bandit to fill my fresh water, and as I was doing so, I noticed a loose metal strap – one of the straps that holds the fresh water tank under the trailer. Dangling. How long had it been loose? 500 miles? Luckily, I’ve been traveling with a 1/2-tank of water to save weight. After a water leak in the fall, I had just had that tank replaced a few months ago, and the one thing I mentioned when I picked it up was that I hoped it was securely fastened. My biggest nightmare is to be driving down the road, and have that 300lb tank come loose and destroy the underside of the trailer. And I almost got my wish.
I set up the trailer at my site. Luckily it was on a downward slope, and I needed to put my Anderson levelers under the wheels to raise the rear, making it easier to get under the trailer for a look.
The low-point drain (mis-installed too far forward) was the only thing preventing it from dragging on the pavement for the past ~100-900 miles.
With a limited cell signal in the park, I called (angrily, I admit) the dealership that did the repair to ask where the nearest Airstream dealer was, and how it was attached (pop rivet? Bolt? what size? Stainless? Torque?). He said he’d call me back, but my signal wasn’t great, so it went to voicemail. By the time I called back, they were closed (I was now a time zone behind EST).
But I had a plan. I crawled under the trailer and removed a bolt from the opposing side (diagonally), so I’d have an example to show a hardware store.
I knew if I could find as nice mom-and-pop hardware store, they might have the right bolt, and some good advice. The Park office recommended Ace Hardware in Darlington. As much as I love the convenience of Home Depot, I find that nothing matches the expertise and friendliness of Ace. And this was no exception. He found the right bolt (in stainless steel, even), and a washer. And some medium-strength locktite. I bought a half-dozen. I hear the Dalton Highway is very bumpy.
I’ll tackle it in the morning when it’s cooler. If it works, I’ll have saved as multi-day (or week) delay at the nearest Airstream dealer (and where would that be…). And I’ll know how to keep an eye on those bolts. While I’m under the trailer, I’ll make sure the rest are snug.
If not, I need to find a good dealer West of here who will slot me in during their busiest time. Ugh.
Bonus: on the way to Ace, I think I saw one one of my favorite signs. I’ll go back tomorrow when they’re open.