We pushed into Michigan, heading to the Heartland Factory. We were told our arrival would be announced and we were asked to show up before noon because their assembly lines closed down around mid-day.
We arrived in town that evening and spent the night parked in a graveled parking lot. We got up the next morning, had breakfast at a diner then headed to the factory. We announced our arrival at the gate and were directed to the back of the factory. As we drove through the lot, we were surrounded by “Cyclones”…we were in the “Eye of the Cyclone”…the birthplace of our rolling home.
Not knowing quite what to expect, we were initially anxious about how we would be treated, particularly given our experiences over the past couple of days at RV Wholesalers. The place was abuzz with activity. We found Tom, the factory foreman and introduced ourselves. Our concerns quickly disappeared as Tom immediately began pulling workers off of the assembly line and got them lined out on what had to be done on our new RV. While we waited, the factory CEO came and introduced himself. A large man in stature and very self-confident. He introduced himself and asked if we’d like to tour the factory. Of course, we jumped on the opportunity. The staff and management of Heartland were very accommodating and had us fixed up and on the road in a matter of a few hours.
In September, we began to home school our two kids in preparation for being on the road. Part of this process was finding a reliable internet provider so our kids could continue their studies uninterrupted. We did our research and studied the various service maps and decided to purchase a mobile “hotspot” and contract with Sprint. Much to our surprise, we lost our Sprint phone and internet services around the Washington/Idaho border and didn’t receive connection again until several days later when we were approaching Chicago! We were duped by Sprint’s false and misleading advertising. Our kids fell behind two weeks on their home school studies and to make matters worse; we found out when we got back home, that we only had two weeks in which to cancel. We were a few days over that and locked into paying a monthly two year contract. That was salt in the wound…
After leaving the Heartland factory, we adjusted our course to SSW heading to the Kansas City area to visit my Newsvine friends…Kearney Outlaw, “Kato” the Kat and Miss D. I met Outlaw for breakfast at a small two story house that had been converted into a smoke filled mom an pop diner. I arrived first. I had to grin when the waitress asked…”smoking or non-smoking…?” Apparently no one bothered to inform the cigarette smoke haze that filled the small dining area that it was supposed to remain in the “smoking area”. “Doesn’t look like it matters”, says I. The red leather booth cushions were collapsed and made lumpy by many a fat ass sitting over a cuppa Folgers coffee’n small town gossip…but it was comfortably homey and clearly a “local’s” hangout. My kinda place.
I ordered coffee while I waited for “Outlaw” to show up. Bib overalls, plaid checkered shirts and Cat hats occupied a few tables and booths. I was in-between the breakfast and lunch rush. Outlaw walked in and met my gaze with a big smile. It didn’t take a flower in his lapel to recognize his bearded face and balding head. After hugs and greetings from my “brother from a different mother” we had breakfast together and got caught up on the adventure of our trip.
After breakfast, we went to his place and I got to meet “Kato” the infamous Kat. Much to Outlaw’s surprise…Kato, the independent and illusive Kat and I hit if off right from the get go. We made arrangements to have a great barbecue dinner Missouri Style with our spouses and my family. The dinner was amazing and I learned about “burnt ends”.
The next day, Outlaw took my family and I to visit the historical Jessie James homestead. I am amazed how much Outlaw knows about history in general and local history in particular. He spoke about the political events that shaped the time and lead Jessie and his brother Frank on their historical path. Standing in the James house conjured stark visions of what the life and struggles must have been like for the James family and Mother James…a matriarch who was made tough as nails by the events of her life.
We began to get the urge to hit the road again. I called Miss D to let her know that we were going to be leaving the next day…she was not happy to hear that we were going to slip outta town and not get together. I couldn’t stand to see a grown woman sniveling and whining…so I broke down agreed to meet she and Outlaw at a near by restaurant for coffee. I’m glad I did. We met and chatted for about an hour during her lunch break. Her small trim figure and smiling eyes softened the lines that life had left. Leaving was like leaving family with hugs and fond farewells