May 11 - Blown to Pender

Dar and I were the only ones in the Kearney Cabelas truck and rv lot last night (Friday)... no trucks or refrigerated trailers that can drone on all night long. What we did have was the sound of the railroad as we were camped right across the road from a UP mainline through here... and it's one of the busiest sections of track I've seen. Often there'd be two trains going by at the same time, and at least once, I saw three. Yes, there are three sets of rails and if one had time between trains to feel those ribbons of steel, I'll bet they'd be hot. But the cool night meant mostly closed windows in the bus-house and we slept fine. Don't think either of us were awakened by steel wheels on steel rails all night.

As the rising sun sliced in through the windows of a rocking bus-house Saturday morning it became obvious that the issue today was going to be wind. Area wide predictions were for 20 plus mph winds and gusts to over 30. Since this was a day of mostly two lane roads, it might be a long one.

Most of the time driving the bus-house is a manageable task, but it does demand your attention. Whether it's wind, or uneven road surfaces, or the "wakes" that other large vehicles throw-off as they punch a big hole through the air... these can, and do, conspire to shove our slab-sided camper one way or the other and make it necessary to input small steering corrections to compensate. These things are happening all the time. If your attention is diverted for a few seconds, the need for a small steering correction can grow rapidly to a big steering correction. And remember that we're driving an 8-1/2 foot wide vehicle down a lane that might be just 10 or 11 feet wide -- not much wiggle-room. It's important for the driver to keep his/her mind on his/her job.

Windy days, especially with a direct side-wind, mean there won't be much spare time. Not only does the wind blow and gust at varying intensity, but any obstacles on the windward side of the road... a barn, a small woodlot, a billboard, a cut through a hill... these things can momentarily block the wind. When the driver already has a steering correction built-in to compensate for the wind... and that wind suddenly stops... the vehicle begins to head for the side of the road. The skillful driver will then compensate by steering in the opposite direction to straighten the vehicle and keep it in the lane of traffic. But then, as you emerge from behind the hill or woodlot, the wind hits you with full force again... sending the vehicle the opposite way and with the wind. Once again, a steering correction is called for. It can get challenging.

Despite it all, and the reality that the wind was every bit as strong as they predicted, we made it to Pender Nebraska, our objective. A small town by almost anyone's standards, only 1,000 people live here. As it's only 35 miles from Sioux City, I'm guessing that some of those Penderites probably work up in the "big city" and come back out to the country to sleep. For sure, we're part of a small group of RVers who actually want to go to Pender.

And the reason is... Pender is the home of Blue Ox Corporation. They're the folks that make the towing gear we use to pull our car, or toad, along behind us wherever we go. It's rather important that you have faith... confidence... in this device. It would not be a good day if you lost the toad along the way. Besides being "toad-less", it'd be very expensive. We've all heard stories of it happening... and some of them may actually be true. But Dar and I are big into NOT worrying... and having good safe towing gear is important.

If you stop by and park in their very nice RV park (no-charge for customers), Blue Ox offers to go over your tow bar and evaluate it from a safety and capability standpoint. They clean it up, tighten it up, lube it up, inspect and replace any components that are wearing, and get it back to you with the assurance that it meets their specs. If the tow bar has gone beyond it's safe life, they'll make you a deal on a replacement. It's insurance. It's peace-of-mind.

And that's why we're in Pender for a couple days.
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