Wednesday, October 17, 2007

In for repairs

October 17 -- Nappanee, IN.

You know you've been in Nappanee for enough time when you've learned how to spell it... some letters are double, some not... it's all very confusing. But I've got it down. There are a lot of towns around here with unusual and, for me, hard to spell names. Take Wakarusa, or Mishiwaka, or Shipshewana, all of these are real names of real places within about 40 miles of where I'm sitting tonight. It's enough to keep those spelling-challenged people among us busy for a while. Then there's a place called Vistula. Vistula? To me it sounds like a medical condition, but why would they name a town after a medical condition? One of those deep mysteries that may never be answered.

Anyway, Nappanee is the hometown of Newmar -- the builder of our camper. We drove down (or would "over" be a better term?) here from Illinois yesterday, the 16th. Since we're passing through the birthplace of the bus, we wanted to take advantage of some no-charge warranty work on a few small items that needed some attention. We arrived at the plant about 4pm, Eastern Time, and the place was locked up, except for the other 30 or 40 Newmar RV owners that had the same idea. Newmar provides parking spots at no charge for any Newmar owner who's in for service or warranty work, or just passing through. In fact, we stayed here one night on our way to Michigan in early July. It's hard to beat free camping. Well, all these people are milling around, collecting together in small groups, and talking about this and that. There are so many RVs here that parking is at a premium, but a number of people pitched in to help us find a spot where we could plug in and at least have power. I'm told this is the peak season for getting things repaired on the old camper since many people are headed south for the next few months... like us.

Well, looking at all this... all these motorhomes and campers... all these people... how could Newmar possibly get to everyone in a day? One fellow I talked to had been here two weeks, another two months (!!). I was told our issues could take two days to resolve, but I now feared I may have gotten us into a black hole that we might not soon get out of. I was told by others to be ready at 6am the next morning... the day of our appointment. But we didn't get here in time to register our arrival with the authorities, so they may not know we're even here! We were told to put the big sticker that you got in the mail from Newmar in your windshield and they'll call when their ready -- probably good advice except for the fact that I didn't get a big sticker. Our appointment was put together so fast that it was probably still in the mail. Well then, we heard, just write your last name in big letters on a sheet of paper, and include the date of your appointment, and tape it on your windshield -- that should do it. I hoped. But I didn't sleep well that night. I dreamed about black holes.

We have one of those digital remote thermometer/clock things that project the temp and time on the ceiling of the bedroom so old guys like me don't have to fumble around in the darkness looking for our glasses in order to figure out what time it is so we know how long it's been since the last time we had to pee. After a short doze-off, I awoke to the sound of clip-clop-clip-clop-clip-clop going down the road outside our parking spot. It was, and there are a lot of these around here, an Amish horse and buggy... someone was commuting 19th century style. I glanced at the clock on the ceiling... it was 3:50am... jeesh, what time do these people go to bed?? Then I checked the temp... 66.6. 66.6 degrees. But 666 is the sign of the devil, satan himself... and I'm at Newmar and they don't know were here and we don't have a sticker and I'm never going to get out, I can never leave... Newmar might be hell!

The alarm went off at 5am, and I'm talkin' Eastern Time Zone! I wasn't sleeping anyway so I crawled into the shower and made some coffee. By 5am the streets around the plant are bustling with activity. Semi-trucks are backing into docks with that incessant beep-beep-beep; fork-trucks are running around all over like go-carts; people are coming and going; the plants are lit up. It's time to get to work around Nappanee. By 6am, almost every one of the 30 or 40 RV's had been taken into a service bay and was being worked on. Almost every one... not ours. I was convinced that at the very best they couldn't start working on ours until tomorrow... Thursday. So we waited.

About 6:30am, there's a knock at the door. A personable young man named Tom (I liked him immediately) came in and started to run down the issues we had, one by one, and get more information and detail. I was beginning to be impressed. After about 20 minutes, he had the bus on it's way to a service bay... something was going to get done today... oh happy day!. Dar and I took off for a hot breakfast downtown.

By 2pm when we arrived back at the plant, our bus was parked neatly in our space and about half the issues had been professionally and efficiently handled. Now that I've had the benefit of a few hours of time, a 4 mile vigorous walk along the Elkhart River (done to kill time today), and having sustained myself with little but caffeine and sugar, and very little sleep last night... now I am clear-headed. Now I see that I was just over-reacting yesterday. Now I know we'll be out of here by the weekend. I think I'll sleep better tonight.

P.S. Now don't get the wrong idea about Newmar. They're a quality company and they produce a quality product. But these complicated machines get beat-up on the highways of our good country, and parts fail, things happen. The 30 or 40 units here are but a tiny percentage of the units they've built over the past few years. We love our camper. It's performed extremely well for us during our 3 month shake-down "cruise". I just thought the above story might be entertaining.

T