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!


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


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.