The Visit

So we have a big truck, but nothing much to haul. After much pondering, lots of RV shows, and visiting a few RV dealers in our area, we have this idea that we would like to own a fifth wheel built by Peterson Industries called the Excel. Turns out that Peterson Industries is located in Smith Center, Kansas, and Smith Center is just South of Grand Island, Nebraska, where my brother-in-law Gary lives. The Excel web site said we could tour the factory if we wanted to. Sounded like a good excuse for a visit.
We load up the trusty tent and all the stuff we need for camping. I fill up the truck, and since I hadn't used the extended tank yet, I fill that too. $99, a new record. Turns out Cedar Rapids has the highest price for diesel in Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas. Who knew?
We find a nice campground in Grand Island that's right off the interstate. Maybe a little too close, since we could hear the interstate traffic at night. Be nice to have a fifth wheel to cut down on some of the noise, I'm thinking. And air conditioning. That would be nice on nights this hot. The only thing we would hear would be the sound of the air conditioner.
Janie brought her camera and some of the studio stuff so she could take her nephew Austin's senior pictures. That worked out well. On our last day there, we got a tour of the new hospital in Grand Island where Gary works. The tour included breakfast in the cafeteria. You could get individual slices of bread wrapped in plastic. I was surprised it didn't come with a warning to remove the plastic before you toasted the bread. Nice place.
Then it was straight South to Smith Center. Kansas has better roads than Nebraska and is more scenic than I would have thought. It's still hot by the time we arrive for our afternoon tour. We meet Brian Smith who is assigned as our personal tour guide for the afternoon and we get the whole tour. Very impressive. It ends with an interview with the president of the company (another Brian,actually Bryan). He answers our questions, including where to go for lunch and where to camp around that area. He prices out a few things we were interested in and we're done. Time for lunch.
Lunch was at Jiffy Burger, which might be to only place to eat in Smith Center. It wasn't real jiffy since it was still busy at 3 in the afternoon. Didn't matter; I was starving. Food was surprisingly good.
We decided to camp at Lovewell reservoir on our way back to Iowa. It wasn't too far from Smith Center, so we had plenty of time to set up camp. Beautiful place. We were right on the lake.
That night, we left the rain panel open so we could watch the sunrise the next morning. We also got a good view of the big lightning storm that night. I was counting off the seconds between the strikes and the thunder, and I figured the main storm was across the reservoir from us. Then it was right over the lake. Then it was on our side of the lake, and it brought some wind with it. Like that scene in Forrest Gump where Lieutenant Dan challenges God during the storm at sea.
It was too late to move, or even close the rain panel. When the interval between the lighting strike and the thunder gets to be a second or less, Janie likes to use the “oh shit” method. She can say about four oh shits a second, so when it gets down to a single oh shit, you know the lighting just missed your ass. By that time, the wind was strong enough to collapse the tent. We have this double dome tent that we really like. It has two rooms: one for your gear and one for sleeping in. Plenty of room for two people, and you can stand up in both rooms. The wind came straight at the main entrance; the least aerodynamic part of the tent. I was afraid it would just fill the tent with air like a big sail and away we would go. What happened instead was the front room (our porch) sort of bowed down until it covered the opening between the two rooms, and then the whole tent just laid down. We were in a tent sandwich with a fierce wind trying to scrape us off the camp site. I was a little concerned, but I remember thinking that was the right thing for the tent to do, because now we wouldn't be a big sail. We were still going to die. Janie was convinced we were going to get rolled up into a tent taco and pushed into the lake before we could get out, so she was frantically trying to unzip the panel on the back of the tent. I though she was trying to escape and I didn't want to die alone so I as holding on to her trying to convince her it was even worse outside the tent.
Then the wind stopped, and the tent just stood back up. Amazing. It was even still dry inside. That was exciting, but now we could get back to sleep. Right after we go sit in the truck for awhile in case another storm hits. Janie decided she was going to sleep in the truck (there are some advantages to being short). We were awake, so we cleaned up some of the campsite. Everything appeared to be still there, just blown over. We found out later that all four main poles of the tent were broken, but it was still standing and still dry so I climbed back in. What an awesome tent.
The next morning, we noticed all the Rvs were still upright and it was just business as usual. Another reason for camping with an RV.
Here's the tent (after we removed the rain fly), still standing with broken poles - amazing!

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