Friday, October 30, 2015

Elkhart, IN - new wheels and a circus!

When we reached Chicago, I proudly proclaimed that we had achieved a new accomplishment in getting to the central timezone and that we wouldn't be back for a long, long time. How silly I was. Not 2 weeks later, we left Oak Lake Family campground and we made our way for Elkhart. I had finally made a decision about the individual wheel weights/flat and that was to opt for 17.5" wheels/rims and a commercial trailer tire. This increased my load carrying capacity for each wheel up to 4,800 lbs. (where my heaviest wheel weight was running 3,500 lbs.). On top of that, I gained more space between the wheels as the outer diameter of the new setup was 1/2" smaller; this is because the  sidewall height is shorter on the new tire vs. the old ones. The decrease is small enough that I didn't need to swap my spare out yet.

I found two vendors online who offer 17 1/2" wheel and tire combos. Surprisingly, the first is Rickson Tire and they're based out of Maryland- not 10-15 miles from where our house was. The other one is based out of Somewhere, OH. I called Rickson first and spoke with a woman named Heather. She was amazingly helpful and talked me through everything I needed to know. Unfortunately, her shipping lead time was a good 3 weeks, I wasn't crazy about the rim they offered; but worse, her cost was close to $400 more expensive than TT&W.

I also arranged for a auto body shop named Bud's Body Shop in Elkhart to do put the tires on and do a couple of other things (see below). They were recommended by a member of two on forums and their Yelp reviews looked pretty good. While there, I had them replace my leaf springs as two were looking pretty flat and also had them do an alignment to make sure everything was square. Once he had the wheels off, I had them inspect the bearings and brakes.
A customer and his dog
Everything removed
New shoes- so pretty (well OK, it doesn't look any different than before)
New springs
I have a separate album on Flickr of pictures specifically for this swap out.

The problem was what to do with Mandie and the kids. While I didn't mind hanging out at a shop all day; keeping Logan contained in a waiting area would have had me wishing for a tongue tattoo. Instead, we found a cheap hotel (Clarion or Comfort Inn or something). Being at a hotel for a couple of days sure reminded me of how much I love and missed my home.
At least they weren't jumping...
Overall, the repair shop did a good job and I'd recommend them. I was thankful that he backed the camper into the garage bay and that I didn't watch when he backed it onto the pit ramps for the alignment. Their price was fair and I haven't had any issues with the work. I ended up selling the original wheels and tires to a RV surplus place. I got less than I hoped but it was either that or send them to a scrap yard.
They had a little of everything
For one of our dinners, we hit up a local eatery named the Flippin' Cow. It was another Trip Advisor recommendation and it was good. Cool lake-side vibe and yummy food. What more could you ask for?
Waiting for a table
My heart-healthy dinner
I would drive to Elkhart for these onion rings!
Once the camper work was all wrapped up, we moved back to Elkhart Campground. We decided that we would make our way to St. Louis by way of a 2 part drive. We would first drive to Springfield, IL on Sunday and then on Tuesday, we would finish the drive up.

Spending the night in Elkhart meant that we could finally make it to the RV Hall of Fame. It just so happened that there was some kind of family fun fair, a vintage camper show, and even a circus was in town. I guess we had a plan for the day! But first, the kids and I swam.
Pool rules - I thought #3 was rather excessive.
Lunch was the first order of business. The fair had a big tent setup with a handful of offerings- from pizza to BBQ to cupcakes. Wife and I got BBQ and it was remarkably good. I think the kids got pizza and breadsticks- no complaints. If I recall correctly, we also got cupcakes that were pretty tasty. A little fancy for me, but good.
The kids with their pizza
BBQ lunch
The cupcake was beautiful
The RV Hall of Fame was pretty neat. They had an awesome model of the building process of a RV (#roadschool). A few new models to walk through. But their collection of old campers was remarkable. Looking back and seeing where RVs "came from" was neat. One common theme I noticed all of the years is that RVers sure like their alcohol!
Factory model
1913 Camper
Cocktail Maker
After the HOF, we went to the rinky-dink little 1-ring circus. They tried and it was cute. But the acts all went on for WAY longer than my family has attention spans for. I guess the audience needed to feel like we got our money's worth. (Though, the anti-circus protester outside was kind of cool.)
The laziest tigers you'll ever meet
The walked in circles... but wait for it- AND THEN WENT THE OTHER WAY!
The cast
Logan was done by intermission- him and Mandie went off for the bounce house, face painting, and tours of the vintage trailer show (by invite only, really nice folks, and some very cool old trailers).
Logan getting tattooed
Vintage trailers
They were pretty rad
OK, maybe a little over the top
As usual, there are more pictures on Flickr from our time in Elkhart, IN.

I'll post shortly about the drive to Springfield. We found Rt. 66! And made our first stop at a silly roadside attraction... stay tuned!


  1. Ah, roofs off! That's how the get some of those oversized things in our RVs.

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  3. Are you going to have time to do some exploring in St. Louis? If so, I highly recommend the City Museum, which is a crazy fun indoor/outdoor playground for adults and kids.