Smith Center, KS
We left North Platte, NE, on Friday, the 7th of October, and drove down to Smith Center, KS, for service work on our Excel fifth wheel which was scheduled for Monday the 10th. We spent Friday night at a small campground in Smith Center called Sunset Park Campground. We got a full hookup 30 amp site for just $15.
Smith Center, KS, is the home of Peterson Industries. This is where they build the Winslow fifth wheel, the Winslow travel trailer, the Wild Cargo fifth wheel, and the Excel Limited fifth wheel which is what we have. Peterson Industries, Incorporated was formed in 1966. In addition to the factory, they also have a service center here in town. We decided to come here to Smith Center to have some warranty service work done instead of going to a dealer. We found out that many of their service technicians used to actually work at the factory, so they have the knowledge of how the units were built and how to fix them.
After we got all set up at the campground, we drove into town to check things out. Smith Center is the county seat for Smith County. The city population, as of the 2010 census, was only 1,665. It was after 4 PM when we arrived at the service center. We talked to Jack, the service manager, for a few minutes. He told us that we should bring our unit to the back of the building and back it up to bay door number 9. He suggested that we arrive Sunday so that they could get started on it first thing Monday morning. There’s 30 amp electric and cable hookups available, but no water or sewer hookups. Jack said that the technicians’ work day starts at 6:30 AM, and we should be out of our unit with slides in by 6:15 AM. (That’s way too EARLY!!!) After we talked to Jack we drove around town to check things out and then headed back home for the night. A cold front was supposed to be coming through with rain and more wind.
Saturday morning, the 8th, was a lot cooler and rainy. The campground roads were gravel/dirt when we arrived Friday and now with the rain have become somewhat sloppy. I wanted to check out a campground about 6 miles west of Smith Center in Athol, KS. I tried to look at it Friday on the way to Smith Center but didn’t get a good view of it, so we drove back over there. It’s located right off of the highway. The gravel road leading past the campground was very soft, even for our Honda Element. The campground itself, which we only looked at from the road, was all grass, and I can just imagine how soft and soggy that field had to be. There were no campers there, and it looked like they were closed for the season.
Due to the soggy conditions present at our campground, we decided to go ahead and move over to the service center on Saturday instead of Sunday. Additionally, we could park there for free and save some money. Before we left Sunset Park, I dumped the tanks, flushed the black tank, and filled the fresh water tank. Even though the road in the RV park was muddy, we luckily didn’t have any problem getting out. We drove the mile and a half or two over to the service center and got set up. We were the only ones behind the building Saturday night. There was another couple there, but they were parked in front of the building. They had some work completed earlier in the week and were planning on leaving early Sunday morning.
Sunday, the 9th, was still cold and rainy. The other couple parked in front of the building left early in the morning. Later in the day, a Winslow fifth wheel came in. Soon after that, an Excel Limited came in, and then not too long after that another Excel Limited arrived. By late Sunday afternoon, there were four of us there for service work on Monday.
One couple didn’t stay in their Excel. They left their unit there and went to a local motel. We didn’t meet them Sunday, but we did meet the other two couples. One of the couples came down from Wyoming where they had spent the night in the snow. The road was closed Saturday, and they boondocked at a Wal-Mart.
Monday morning we had to use the alarm clock to wake us up, so we set the alarm for 4:30 AM!!! We finally dragged ourselves out of bed about 5 AM. We had quite a bit to do. I needed to clear out all the bins and stuff from the basement and put everything in the truck bed. I wanted to clear out the basement on Sunday, but it was still raining. We also had to get everything ready to put the slides in and unhook the electric and cable. Of course we didn’t quite make it by the 6:15 AM deadline, but we did have it ready by about 6:35, just before they were ready to move it inside. We met our technician, Ted, who was very nice and friendly. He’s been with the company for over 15 years and before coming to the service center he worked in just about all the areas of the factory. We went over all the things on the list and then headed over to the very nice customer lounge area. It consists of two separate rooms with TVs and big comfy chairs in each room. One of the rooms also had a couple of tables and chairs. Fresh coffee was available, and there was also a microwave, pop machine, and snack machine. There’s also a shower in each restroom, and a washer and dryer were available for use. We met the couple that stayed in the motel overnight. They and the other two couples and us sat around and talked and compared notes for a while. After an hour or so, everyone went their separate ways. A couple of them went for breakfast. We went over to the factory and signed up for the tour which was going to be at 1 PM. We headed back to the lounge after that and just waited. Another couple came in today. They were supposed to arrive Sunday, but they had a flat tire. All five couples plus one other couple took the factory tour. Peterson Industries doesn’t have actual tour guides, they just pull one of their workers from the line to conduct the tour. Our tour guide has been with the company for over twelve years and has worked in just about every department. When he first started with the company, he swept floors. He was an excellent guide, and we really enjoyed the tour. We could talk to the employees and climb right up into the units that were being built. They only build about four or five per week. After the tour we went back to the customer lounge and waited some more. The technicians’ workday runs until 4:15 PM. Ted came in and said they would pull our unit out of the shop so we could stay in it overnight. All of us, except for the couple that arrived on Monday, were still there. The couple that arrived on Monday will be coming back next week for more work. All of us stayed in our units Monday night except for Isy and Cathy. They stayed at the motel again Monday night.
Tuesday morning we used the alarm clock again. I despise the alarm, but we had to use it. We were out and ready by 6:30 AM. We spent most of the day in the lounge along with the other three couples. Two of the couples were able to leave on Tuesday. It was real nice meeting them and talking with fellow Excel owners. Two other couples arrived for service work on Wednesday. Ted was able to get most of the stuff done with just a bit more to do Wednesday. We, along with the two new couples, stayed in our units overnight. Isy and Cathy moved from the motel to a B&B for Tuesday night.
This morning, Wednesday, we were awakened once again by the dreaded alarm clock. Hopefully the last day of that for a while. We were out and ready for them by about 6:15 AM. Yesterday Ted said that he didn’t have too much more to do. We headed for the lounge again and were just getting settled in when Ted came in and said he was just about finished up. He said he would come get us in a few minutes to go over some things. A bit after 9 AM Ted escorted us to the shop. He showed us some maintenance things we should be doing and also went through the list of repairs that were completed. He was very informative and helpful and patient with us and answered all our questions. All repairs were covered under the two-year warranty. I backed the truck into the shop and hooked up and moved our home out into the sunshine. I still had to transfer everything back into the basement. Once we were all packed up we made a fuel stop and headed out of town.
We drove east on US36 and then south on US75 to Prairie Band Casino RV Park near Holton just north of Topeka, KS.
This is a nice RV park with paved roads and concrete pads to park on. It’s a Camp Club USA park, so we got 50% off the rate for a total charge of $13.13 per night. They have a buy one get one free buffet on Wednesday nights, so we decided to take advantage of that and put on the feedbag for about $7.50 each. This is our first stay at a casino, and we’re real happy with this park with full hookups including cable. After four days of electricity and cable only, it’s real nice getting back into an RV park with full hookups. Both of us were ready to leave Smith Center even though it was nice not having campground fees for four nights. We really enjoyed meeting fellow Excel’ers and we were glad to get the repairs done, but it was time for us to get going. We’ll rest up and recover here for a few days and then move on down the road.