So our plans to head south had been delayed due to Serenity’s additional critical repairs. I got hold of American Airlines to cancel or change Rosemarie’s flight, and they offered me the choice of either paying $150 to get the points back or getting a voucher to fly the same route sometime within the next year. The latter was the obvious choice for us since we still planned to execute our “Rose goes to Norfolk while Jack moves the rig south” plan. After that we headed to our fancy Ojibwa Casino spot and settled in for three days, continuing to take advantage of the casino’s exclusive promo for RVers (free drink, $5 slot free play, and $10 blackjack matching coupons for each of us every day!)
And of course, we can’t have just one thing go wrong at a time, right? While making a grocery run following heavy rains, Loki decided not to start in the parking lot. Thinking it was the battery I got a jump from a kind stranger, and once back at the casino pulled out my battery charger to make sure things were topped off, the nearly two year old battery was a very cheap Walmart special and might have failed. A simple problem if so, but no, the charger told me the battery was just fine.
Based on the specific symptoms (full charged battery, lights and wipers all work, heavy clicking when the key is turned but not even the slightest bit of engine turn over attempt) and the timing (occurring as it did right after driving in wet roads) the internet informed me that the likely culprit was the starter. Fortunately the local Napa could get a refurbished one by early Tuesday morning, allowing us to pick it up on the way to Hilltop RV for repairs.
Once at Hilltop Elizabeth got the mechanic started on our propane furnace valve and refrigerator installation, and even hooked us up with one of the other techs that agreed to install the new starter after hours that same day. I had taken a look to see if I could do it myself, but the position of the bolts would necessitate more knowledge and tools than I could provide. Besides, he offered to do it for $50, which was a great deal, particularly since it took him a bit over an hour to do it since the bolts fought back so hard. Once it was installed… it still didn’t start. After a bit more exploration he cleaned off a section of the cable connection points that I had not spotted, and she fired right up.
Now, I think the starter was in fact bad, but it is possible I wasted $116 for a new one and it was only the connection point corrosion that was the real problem. Who knows? Bottom line, we were all fixed and ready for the road by 6PM that day. It was too late for us to make our next planned stopping point, so we parked at the far end of the nearby Shopko, and went undisturbed through the night. The next morning I called American and rescheduled Rosemarie’s flights, and then we were off, pointed south into Wisconsin.
After crossing the border, we made one unexpected stop, lured off the interstate by a big cheese shop billboard. No way we were going through Wisconsin without stocking up, and we left with a hoard of block cheese, mozzarella, and curds from Kugel’s Cheese Mart before finishing the day’s driving leg.
I had found yet another casino resort that had an actual RV park with electrical hookups for $15 a night, or free drycamping in the parking lot. Normally I would balk at paying that much just for electricity at a casino, but their small wooded RV park was far nicer than the busy parking lot, and made for a much better environment. We did our usual; signing up for their players club and text alerts, giving us each $15 in free slot money, but the casino gods might be tiring of our game because we only managed to turn that into $14 in real cash between us. Ah well, it provided a fun half our diversion along with free coffee.
After our one night stay we pushed on to the outskirts of Chicago, staying at the Great Lakes Navy Training Center. The park was surprisingly full given the lateness in the season, the rainy weather and our weekday arrival, but they had an electric only site for $19 a day. In better weather this would be a nice little RV park, situated directly on the shore of Lake Michigan, though I could do without the complicated route once inside the base along narrow roads with tight turns and a lot of one ways.
We didn’t have time to explore The Windy City, but we at least took advantage of the stop to pick up a great Chicago style pizza from a local joint. Which actually took two tries since the first place we stopped, based on a local’s recommendation, did not even have true Chicago style, just a glorified deep dish. No thanks, we want the authentic version!
Our stay in the U.P. had gotten us out of the habit of checking for toll fees when doing our route planning, and we had been surprised by a couple of cash only ones as we drove through Illinois, which can be particularly troublesome for out of town RVers if you hit one of the coin only, unattended gates and have to pay nearly $5 in change. We were fortunate to have what we needed that day, but for the rest of our trip we found toll free routes on major roads that only added a few minutes and a couple of miles to the trip.
We broke camp from Great Lakes by mid morning, and I parked Serenity at a Walmart 10 minutes from Chicago O’Hare, and we took Loki the rest of the way to drop Rosemarie off for her flight to Norfolk. I got hooked pushed hard towards Atlanta. That trip next post!