“America’s Heartland” – Is it in Kansas?

October 2015 – We left our dreams of a beautiful new custom made Spacecraft fifth wheel trailer behind in Missouri and made our way to Chanute, Kansas, where we got a slew of plumbing related RV repairs done at the NuWa Service Center.

Kansas RV Camping and travel

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Luckily, life wasn’t all work and no play. We visited beautiful Tuttle Creek State Park in Kansas which is built around a small lake.

Camping sunrise Tuttle Creek State Park Kansas

Campsite at sunrise in Tuttle Creek State Park, Kansas

Mark snuck out early one morning and got some wonderful sunrise photos.

Sunrise at Tuttle Creek State Park Kansas

A magnificent sunrise at Tuttle Creek State Park near Manhattan, Kansas

Sunrise Tuttle Creek State Park Kansas

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Boat dock Tuttle Creek State Park Kansas

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He even caught a turkey vulture staring back at him from a tree. These guys sure aren’t very good looking, but they’re still cool to photograph.

Turkey vulture in a tree

A face only a turkey vulture mother could love!

170 miles southeast of Tuttle Creek State Park, the town of Humboldt, Kansas, hosts a very special and unusual celebration every fall, called Biblesta, and we were in town on the big day.

Kiddie train Biblesta Humboldt Kansas

The kiddie train at the Biblesta celebration in Humboldt, Kansas

The main event is a big parade, and folks come from all over to watch this unique procession.

Biblesta Parade Humboldt Kansas

The Biblesta Parade in Humboldt, Kansas, draws crowds from far and wide.

When the parade started, a cute little girl in front of us spontaneously saluted the veterans.

Girls at Humbolt Kansas Biblesta Parade

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What makes Biblesta unique is that it is a celebration of Christianity sponsored by both businesses and churches from all over the area around Humboldt, Kansas. Each organization puts together a parade float that depicts a different story from the Bible or a special Bible verse.

B&W Trailer Hitches Moses Float Biblesta Parade Humboldt Kansas

The birth of Moses

One of the first floats to go by was the Birth of Moses sponsored by B&W Trailer Hitches whose manufacturing plant is in Humboldt. These are the folks who make the top rated B&W fifth wheel trailer hitches!

B&W Trailer Hitches Float Biblesta Parade Humboldt Kansas

B&W Trailer Hitches sponsored the Birth of Moses float. Every church in the region had a float too.

Another float was the Revenge of Sampson. I was floored when a cluster of little kids sitting near me started telling each other the various Bible stories. They knew the tales well, and they each had their favorite characters and stories.

Biblesta Revenge of Sampson Humboldt Kansas

The Revenge of Sampson

Jonah and the Whale came by, and Jonah’s legs were kicking madly from deep inside the whale. The kids around me giggled and pointed.

Jonah and the whale Biblesta Humboldt Kansas

Jonah and the Whale

Biblesta began in Humboldt, Kansas, in 1957 as a Bible Story Parade to share and teach the Bible’s great stories. In 1959 the town held a contest to name their special event, and the winning entrant suggested combining the words “Bible” and “Fiesta” into the word “Biblesta.” It has been celebrated every year since.

Little kids enjoying the parade at Biblesta in Humboldt Kansas

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What struck me more than the floats themselves was that this celebration even exists today. Living in a time in history when America often seems apologetic for its religious and historical roots, it was refreshing to find a town that openly and unabashedly celebrates its beliefs.

God's Word at Biblesta in Humboldt Kansas

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The crowds lining the parade streets were thick. This celebration is a very big deal here. A group of judges sat at a street corner judging each float, and an announcer told each Bible story as the floats went by.

When Christ appeared on foot carrying the cross, there was a somber note of reverence in the air.

Christ carrying cross Biblesta Parade Humboldt Kansas

Christ carries the cross

This wasn’t a Bible thumping or evangelical gathering. It was simply a sharing and retelling of age old stories that are imbued with valuable life lessons, and have been passed down from generation to generation for eons.

As I glanced around, I thought about the term, “America’s heartland,” a term that vaguely refers to some place in the Great Plains states that is tucked away on small town streets between quaint red farm houses and endless waving rows of corn. A place that values tradition and is impervious, or even oblivious, to external pressures to change.

It would be easy to say that American’s Heartland was here, at Biblesta, in Humboldt, Kansas, and perhaps it is. But as I watched this very unique celebration — one that seemed to include absolutely everyone in town — it seemed to me that such a simplistic label would be missing the more precious and intimate story of cooperation and respect that was happening here.

Blood moon lunar eclipse Tuttle Creek State Park Kansas

A lunar eclipse and Blood Moon in America’s Heartland

Without worrying about whether it was politically correct to say “In God We Trust,” or if it would be okay to allow prayers at school, or whether it might offend someone to express a belief in a supreme being or in Christ, this town simply made it a point to get together every year and share the great stories of the Bible right out in the open on the town streets, with every church from every denomination in the region participating.

How cool is that?! And in its own dignified way, how very American too!

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When Reality Interferes with Fun RV Travels and Blogging!

This week was one of those weeks where our idyllic lifestyle of sightseeing and playing in beautiful places had to be put on hold while we took care of some important repairs on our fifth wheel trailer. We have been waiting for these repairs since we were in Nova Scotia three months ago where the rough roads bent an axle on our trailer and caused a leak in our fresh water holding tank.

Kansas Sunrise

A stunning Kansas sunrise!

We were able to replace our trailer axle in Maine over two months ago at Harvey RVs, an outstanding RV repair facility in Bangor. Unfortunately, they did not have a fresh water tank in stock that would fit our trailer. I doubt any RV repair facility would stock such a tank, as they are generally custom made to fit between the floor joists, with fixtures and plumbing connections placed in locations that are unique to each RV.

RV fresh water tank in fifth wheel trailer underbelly

Getting ready to remove the fresh water tank.

So, we decided to return to Chanute, Kansas, where our trailer was built in 2007, to have the fresh water tank replacement done at the NuWa service center. We were assured they had the proper fresh water tank in stock.

Since we were relying on our RV extended warranty to cover the fresh water tank replacement cost, we decided to have a few other broken things taken care of at the same time. We had been living with these broken items for a while, as they weren’t too critical, but because each one qualified to be repaired under warranty, we could bundle the repairs together and get them all fixed at once while paying just one warranty deductible for everything.

RV toilet replacement repair

RV toilet rebuild — fun fun fun!!

The day of our repair appointment in Kansas finally came on Monday this week, and we have had a whirlwind (tornado?) of a week as we watched and assisted as many as five mechanics working on our rig at once, all day long, for three days. To add to our own personal confusion, we had to move out of our trailer and into a motel for a few days.

Turmoil in our RV

Chaos reins!

All of our repairs were related to water in some way, with most of them having to do with either our fresh water or sewer water plumbing systems. For the entire job, our precious rolling home straddled an open grate in the floor that serves as the RV dump station for the shop. This is where they fix clogged black tanks and replace broken ones. They had just replaced five black tanks the week before we got there!

RV fresh water holding tank replacement

Our new fresh water tank gets installed.

This meant that for three days both we and the mechanics were lying on and scooting around on the (often wet) floor that was layered with who knows what kind of muck, from who knows whose rigs.

RV holding tank valve replacement

New black tank valve…nice!

Of course, most people don’t hang out with their mechanics when their RV is being worked on, but we were with them every step of the way. We learned a lot about how RVs are put together, and we were able to catch quite a few bloopers that would have bitten us big time down the road.

RV kitchen faucet replacement

A new kitchen faucet goes in.

Being present throughout the repair process ensured us that everything was installed correctly using best practices (i.e., using teflon tape and hose clamps where needed, installing all the o-rings that came with the replacement parts not just some of them, and testing each repair after it was finished). Several projects on our list were done two or three times to get them to 100%.

This was awesome for us in the long run, because we knew our repairs were being done well, but it was exhausting to live through. Needless to say, there wasn’t any creative writing or blogging going on!

Fifth wheel RV window removed

Rear window removed.

But life is groovy once again and our buggy is back together and fully functional. NuWa provides an awesome cleaning service after a repair job, and Sharon did a terrific job making sure our living areas were clean before we left. Once we were back in the wonderful (and nearly free) city RV park, we followed her lead and shampooed the carpets and detailed the exterior of the rig too.

Washing our fifth wheel RV

Working hard…well, one of us is!

With this big interruption behind us, and with a huge sigh of relief, we are now planning to leave Kansas in our wake and head south through Oklahoma and Texas over the next few weeks before turning west. Yay!

Oh yes — and that Trailer Warranty we have through Wholesale Warranties? What great fortune that we had it, as these repairs came to $1,242, and all we had to pay was the $100 deductible.

Note added later: Sadly, we had another major repair waiting for us just a few weeks in the future when our trailer suspension failed when we got to Phoenix, Arizona for the holidays. Here’s how the warranty has worked for us to date:

Here's a summary of what our four year RV warranty through Wholesale Warranties cost, what our repairs WOULD HAVE cost, and what our warranty reimbursements have been to date:

Cost of Warranty $1,904
Total Cost of Repairs we've had done $7,834
Total Out of Pocket Costs for those repairs $1,145
Repair Reimbursements:
Trailer Axle Replacement $1,036
RV Refrigerator Replacement $1,647
Plumbing Issues & Window Leak $1,142
Suspension Replacement $2,550
RV Toilet Replacement $314
Total Repair Reimbursements $6,689

Our trailer warranty has paid for itself 3.5 times over, and there's still lots of time left on the contract!

If you are thinking about getting a warranty for your trailer or motorhome, Wholesale Warranties is offering a $50 discount to our readers. Just mention that you heard about them from our website, Roads Less Traveled, and the discount will come off the quoted price at the time of purchase. You can get a quote from them here:

Wholesale Warranties Quote Form

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Chanute, KS – A part of America’s Heartland

remnants of a blizzard Chanute Kansas

Remnants of a blizzard greeted us in Kansas

Hopefully this is the last snow we'll see for years!

Our sentiments, exactly.

Santa Fe City Park Chanute Kansas

The Santa Fe City Park waterfall was running at full volume after

the blizzard.

Chanute KS

Boarded windows, "closed" signs, and storefronts for lease and

rent were signs of the times in Chanute.

A vendor hopes out-of-work customers can find a

silver lining...

Osa and Marty Johnson Museum Chanute Kansas

The Safari Museum and Library, housed in the old train depot

A fellow tourist (or museum escapee?)

roams the sidewalks of Chanute.

NuWa Industries headquarters NuWa fifth wheels

Debbie took us on a tour of the trailers in the new

show room.

Leaving Kansas, we had hundreds of miles of prairie and farmlands ahead of us on our way to Arizona.

Chanute, Kansas

March 30 - April 1, 2009 - In search of warranty repairs for

the trailer (the stove burner knobs became immoble under

high heat and the pocket door to the bedroom had come off

its track), we drove north from Arkansas to Kansas.  We felt

the warm air of the southern spring quickly slipping away.

Our beach days in Pensacola, just two weeks earlier,

seemed a lifetime ago as we drove north into a ferocious,

freezing headwind.  A nasty blizzard blanketed much of

southern Kansas and northern Oklahoma two days before

we arrived, killing some 3,500 head of cattle in Texas.

Remnants of the storm were visible on the roadside.  We

hadn't seen snow piles in a few years, and this was about as

much as we wanted to see for many years more!

We had enjoyed our visit to Chanute, Kansas

so much the previous year that we were

looking forward to seeing the town again.  We

hoped to hook up with some of the friendly

people who had made us feel so welcome at

the NuWa plant.  News in the RV industry and

world economy had gone from bleak last year

to jaw-droppingly disastrous this year.  We

heard rumors that Elkhart, Indiana, home of

the vast majority of RV industry

manufacturers, had lost some 15,000 jobs.

We had also heard over the winter that, after a 60-day temporary factory shutdown,

NuWa had decided to close its doors permanently.  With characteristic class and

concern for their customers, they had set aside enough cash to cover all warranty

repairs on new trailers until the warranties expired. To protect their shareholders' best

long term interests, however, they wanted to preserve what equity they had left.  This

meant carefully liquidating their assets in an order that would keep the company as

attractive to prospective buyers as possible for as long as possible.  But no new NuWa

trailers would be coming to market.

This depressing news

came at the same time the big three automakers' CEO's were flying

to Washington, DC on their corporate jets to plead for bailout money

to plug holes in their sinking ships.  Plans for how the bailout money

might save those companies were nonexistent, but the wailing pleas

were heard worldwide.  Meanwhile, NuWa had planned years ago for

a rainy day, and cash was available to keep their warranty service

department open for all recent buyers, like us, for as many years as

necessary.

So we were thrilled to hear the news that NuWa had changed

their plans and decided to squeeze service, production and

corporate offices into one building and resume production on

a much smaller scale as a more streamlined company in

June.  When we arrived, the excitement at this prospect was

palpable.  From the town's visitors center hosts to the skeletal

crew in the darkened hallways of the NuWa plant, hopes ran

high that NuWa would survive the economic calamity after all.

Chanute has a fun, quirky character beyond the NuWa factory and its steady stream of

RV-oriented visitors.  Last year we enjoyed the Santa Fe City Park and its resident ducks

and geese and evening picnickers.  This year we spent more time "downtown" amid the

historic buildings.  The Safari Museum presents the memorabilia of former locals Osa

and Martin Johnson, travel adventurers who trekked to the world's most exotic locales

between 1917 and 1936.  A giraffe statue outside the Tioga Suites made a fun sidewalk

companion.

Back at the NuWa plant, we

accidentally bumped into Neil Ford, president of NuWa, and he gave us

a tour of the plant, explaining how it would be laid out in the future.  The

enormous factory floors stood silent and immaculately clean, a far cry

from the beating pulse of machinery and workers that throbbed through

the plant last year.  A new area had been set aside as a showroom area,

and a collection of beautiful trailers stood ready for the new fixed-price

factory-direct purchasing program the company was implementing.

He sadly told us that their two excellent employees

who had taken such good care of us last year, Brett

and Russ, had taken positions elsewhere.  So we

were delighted to see our friend Debbie was still in

the NuWa offices, and she gave us a wonderful,

detailed tour of each trailer in the show room.

The relationship between NuWa and Chanute is symbiotic, and when one is ailing the

other suffers as well.  It was shocking, after visiitng Bentonville, Arkansas, the thriving

home of Walmart, heart of the American consumer economy, to wander through

America's heartland of Kansas to Chanute.

Bentonville's spiffy town

center fairly sparkled, with

an almost Disney-like flare,

showing us small town

America as it could be.  In

contrast, Chanute's boarded

downtown windows, rows of

"closed" signs, and endless

stores for sale and for lease,

made us both ache inside.

The leprosy of Pay Day loan

stores was creeping in too.

Ironically, during

our stay, we watched a PBS special on the Airstream trailer caravans to

Mexico, Central America and Africa that took place during the 1950's.  We

were amazed to learn that Airstream owners shipped their precious trailers

worldwide to embark on mammoth overland voyages together.  In Africa

they traveled from Cape Town to Cairo!  During the program we learned

that Airstream was the only trailer manufacturer, of 400, that survived the

Great Depression.

Which RV manufacturers will remain after the current shakedown?  Our

hopes and bets are on NuWa.  If they resume production as planned, they

may emerge from this economic disaster a stronger, leaner and better

company, producing even more clever and comfortable trailers for future

RVers.

Perhaps, amid all the government bailout money for the many corporations that squandered their fortunes long ago, there could be a

President's Hero Award for a small company that has tightened its belt and forged ahead, unaided by taxpayers, putting customers

and community first.

The wind shifted while we were in Chanute, and even though we retraced our route to the Oklahoma border, we found ourselves

fighting a ferocious, freezing headwind once again.  That headwind blocked us all the way across Oklahoma, Texas and New

Mexico, for three solid days.  Our trailer rocked all night outside Oklahoma City, buffeted by the wind, and it was pelted so hard with

sand and dust all night in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, that it sounded like a driving rain.  The wind didn't even begin to

show hints of letting up until we had been parked at Roosevelt Lake, Arizona, for a few days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chanute, KS – Tour of NuWa / Hitchhiker RV Factory

Train engine Santa Fe City Park Chanute KS

Train engine in Santa Fe City Park

Chanute, Kansas

Santa Fe City Park Chanute Kansas

Historic bridge, Santa Fe Park, Chanute

Santa Fe City Park Chanute Kansas Santa Fe City Park Chanute Kansas

Waterfall in the park

Santa Fe City Park Chanute Kansas

Families come to the park every evening

Santa Fe City Park Chanute Kansas

Goose family: mom, dad,

5 goslings & a nanny

Santa Fe City Park Chanute Kansas World Harmony Run truck Chanute KS

The World Harmony Run RV

NuWa Industries headquarters Chanute, KS

NuWa Industries !!

NeWa fifth wheel trailers

A fifth wheel frame

Holding tank installation

Holding tanks being installed in the frame

vacuum bonded walls NuWa factory

Walls are vacuum bonded Blue Dow

styrofoam and gel-coat fiberglass --

a winning and unique combination

Walls being installed on a fifth wheel NuWa Industries

Walls being installed on a frame

Slide-out room installation NuWa fifth wheel trailer plant

Slide-out walls lined up

A slide-out being built

NuWa Industries Chanute KS

A slideout being installed on a trailer

NuWa Industries Chanute KS

Ceiling/roof trusses lined up

NuWa Industries Chanute KS

Windows lined up

NuWa Industries Chanute KS

Cabinets get assembled

Furniture ready to be installed

End of the line

Hey - we have that exact same wall trim

in our Fleetwood Prowler Lynx !!

NuWa Hitchhiker fifth wheel and Fleetwood Lynx travel trailer

Hitchhiker & Lynx side by side

NuWa Hitchhiker fifth wheel and Fleetwood Lynx travel trailer

Goodbye Little Lynx !!!

We join the other NuWa owners at the Chanute city RV park

Chanute, Kansas

May, 2008 - We had been kicking around the idea of upgrading to a fifth wheel

trailer since our winter months in Quartzsite and Yuma, Arizona.  We loved the

little Lynx and it had taken good care of us.  If we were traveling only part-time, six

to nine months a year, then there would have been no need to change.  A 27'

travel trailer is ideal for skipping around the country seeing the sights if you have a

home to return to.  However, with fulltime travel we found there were periods

where we needed to stop and simply live for a while.  We couldn't keep moving

continuously.  We had to catch our breath, absorb what we'd seen, and simply be:

watch TV, read, talk, write, maintain the rig, etc.  During the cold months, on rainy

days and during long winter nights, we always secretly wished we had just a little

more room.  So we began researching fifth wheels.

By May we had a stack of brochures three inches thick and had been in and

out of hundreds of trailers on maybe 20 different dealer lots across the

country.  We had interviewed anyone and everyone that was in a fifth wheel

to find out what they liked and didn't like about their brand.  We had

narrowed down the search to three prospective manufacturers:  NuWa

(pronounced "New Way" as in "New Way of Camping" coined circa 1965) in

Chanute, Kansas, Alpenlite (Western Recreational Vehicles) in Yakima,

Washington, and Arctic Fox (Northwood Manufacturing) in LaGrande,

Oregon.  We had seen the Arctic Fox plant the previous summer (along with

Fleetwood which has a plant 50 miles away).  When we had planned to go to

Florida we had decided to stop at NuWa in southeastern Kansas on the way

home after passing through the Ozarks.

Chanute is a small city largely supported by the NuWa manufacturing plant and

its companion plants, Young's Manufacturing (which makes trailer frames,

including some for NuWa), and HiLo Manufacturing (which makes trailer furniture

and cabinets, including some for NuWa).  When we signed in at the town's

historical center, of the fifteen people who signed in before us, fourteen were

visiting the NuWa plant and one was looking for a job.

We slipped out of

sightseeing mode as

soon as we arrived in

Chanute.  We were

there to visit the factory

and learn more about their fifth wheel trailers.  While we stayed in the city

park, a pretty park with an area for RVs, we took many afternoon and

evening jaunts around the park, on foot and by bike.  It is a lovely place

with an old train engine you can climb on, a historic bridge and a waterfall

that gushes with amazing force when it rains hard.

There was a family of

Canada geese that we

watched grow up during

our stay: two parents, five goslings

and a nanny.  The nanny was

always with the family, but she (or

he?) wasn't a Canada goose.

Other geese came and went, but

this family, including the nanny,

always stuck together.  There

were ducks at the park too, and

one pair was on eggs.

The city park is well used by the

locals and by all kinds of travelers

too.  Ninety percent of the RVs in

the park were NuWa owners

who were in town for warranty

or other service work on their

trailer.  However we saw

several traveling cyclists come

through with panniers and

tents, and at one point a

carnival came into town and

their trailers filled the park.

One night as we walked we saw some very fit people milling about, and they

turned out to be part of the World Harmony Run, a group that was running relays

around the US all summer.  There were eight runners with them in Chanute, and

they were running about 100 miles a day as a relay.

NuWa opens its doors to

visitors with a formal factory tour every morning.  We took the tour three times,

and each time there were at least 10 people on the tour.  The NuWa employees

were extremely hospitable, and Debbie in HR and Brett in Sales made us feel

right at home.  We mingled at the plant almost daily, saw familiar faces fishing in

the park in the evenings, and bumped into Ed Cox, a sales manager and the city

mayor, repeatedly, all over town.  We became more and more enamored of the

company.  It is well run and tight knit.  We visited the plant at one of the worst

possible times in their 50-year history.  With the US economy slowing and gas

prices skyrocketing, the RV industry was not happy.  While we were in town we

learned that four major high-end RV manufacturers had closed their doors:

Travel Supreme, Western RV (Alpenlite and Alpine Coach), Alpha (See Ya!), and

King of the Road.  These were all direct competitors for NuWa.  In preparation for the downturn, NuWa had consolidated two plants

into one and streamlined their workforce to carry the company forward.

We talked extensively with all the NuWa owners in the RV park.

Most would come in for just three or four days, so we ended up

becoming friendly with quite a few owners during our month in

town.  Many invited us in to see their trailers, and all talked

extensively about their experience with the trailer, their dealer and

the factory.  Everyone was in town with problems to be fixed, but

there was no pattern to the problems.  The only pattern we saw

was that people liked their trailers (many were repeat buyers), and

they seemed very happy with the service they received.

When we arrived in town we thought we might eventually order a

Discover America 333RL, and we peppered everyone who would

listen at NuWa with questions about its various options and what

modifications might be coming up in the future.  By the time we left

we had found there was a 2007 Hitchhiker II LS 34.5 RLTG sitting

in the back lot that had never gone out to a dealer.  It was one of the last 2007's built and it was in the color I liked (which had been

discontinued).  NuWa sells through dealerships exclusively, so we worked out a deal with Russ Herron at NuWa and Carl Fogleman

at H&K Camper Sales in nearby Columbus, Kansas, and suddenly we were the proud owners of a new trailer!

NUWA FIFTH WHEEL FACTORY TOUR

H&K Camper Sales is a fantastic dealership, and they allowed us to park

the two trailers side-by-side in the VFW park in Columbus for a few days while we moved things over and got organized.  The

amount of extra floor space was startling, and the new rig felt very luxurious.  It was a sad day, however, when John from H&K

towed the Lynx away.  But our smiles quickly returned when we set ourselves up in the Santa Fe city park in Chanute, right along

with all the other NuWa owners!

After testing out all the systems in the new trailer and making sure

everything worked properly, we were ready to go back out west

again.  We had been living in Tornado Alley for the peak month of

Tornado Season and had already been evacuated once to the Super

8 motel across the street.  When you're living in a trailer in Kansas

and the cops knock on your door and tell you to evacuate, you do as

you're told!!  Luckily, no tornados came through Chanute, but the day

we were evacuated, Pricher, Oklahoma, 80 miles away, was

devastated.

A man living in a 1980's vintage Holiday

Rambler travel trailer that ended up in a

million pieces was really interested in

buying the Lynx from H&K.  Hopefully he

worked out a deal and was able to move

in.  Meanwhile we wanted to get to

northern Arizona to install our solar

panels and start our summer travels.