Saturday, April 1, 2017


After traveling back down the long sandy road through some farmer’s hay field back to the highway from the Fish Camp we had barely got back on the highway headed to Valentine, NE  when Gary noticed smoke coming from the rear end of the truck and pulled over immediately.  After a quick check for the source of the smoke Gary determined that it was the rear end that we had just had worked on when we had the brass valve stems put on the truck while in Wichita, KS.

I won’t go into all the long frustrating phone calls we made between the shop that had done rear end work on our truck in Wichita, KS, but basically at that point we were told to just keep driving and it would be perfectly safe. 

Instead, we limped very slowly to the McDonald’s at the edge of Valentine, NE and refused to move until arrangements were made at a Ford dealership, Tehrani Motor Co,  there in Valentine.  Yes, I said Ford despite our truck being a Chevy.  There are no Chevy dealerships in Valentine and we were terrified to drive any further than we absolutely had to.

When we got to the dealership their mechanic had a chance to look at it they said we were lucky to be alive!  It seems the only thing holding the rear end assembly on the truck was it was resting on the brake calipers. Had we been driving fast or on rough road it would have came off causing a crash that could of taken us and anyone around us to the grave.

Needless to say I was pretty rattled at this bit of information, especially when they said an important part that held the whole rear end together was entirely missing from the truck, that either it had been a very defective part that had totally disintegrated or the shop had simply not put it on. They were leaning toward it had never been put on because if it had been a bad part there would have at least have been some parts of it left.

I won’t go into the earful I gave said shop when I called them, but you can imagine what was said.  The whole rear end on the truck was now ruined, we are talking in excess of $5,000 in estimated repair costs.

 While the Wichita shop agreed to pay for the repair and a rental car for us they did not want to use the part that the dealership had located and insisted we wait on a part they would have there by the first of the following week.

This created a problem, because we had the fifth wheel and no place to stay, for what turned out to be 9 days we ended up waiting on the part, a very long story that I also won’t go into.

Tehrani Motors actually had a truck with a fifth wheel hitch in it.  They used this brand new truck to move our camper to the Wacky West Campground at the other end of town for us.  You cannot believe how relieved we were to get into this pleasant little campground.

Once the trailer was set and leveled were stranded without wheels. Until we were  given a small rental car a few days later to see the area sites while  our truck was being repaired.  The two to three days stretched into 9 days as the repair shop and the dealership sparred with each other.  Eventually they came to an agreement, the truck was repaired and we were given a long term warranty on the part by the original repair shop and the labor by the dealership.  Our out of pocket cost was zero. So it all ended well.

Now a bit about the campground.  The nicest couple own and operate this campground.  They were so wonderful us the entire time we were there.  Doing everything they could to make our stay more pleasant. 

From loaning us their personal golf cart while we didn’t have a rental car so we could go to the nearby grocery, to giving us fresh organic peaches from their trees to some wonderful homemade crab apple jelly, still warm from the canner.

When we were there the campground was up for sale.

It is a very handy location if you need to stay awhile.  It is within walking distance to grocery stores, a farm store, Pizza Hut, and a movie theater.

They had a decent onsite laundry and wi-fi is included in your camping fee.  Under the circumstances we couldn’t have been in a better location.

If you are, like us, someone who tries to get a good walk in every day there is a walking/biking path that goes right by the campground and through the area. 

They even let Gary do a flyover of their campground.  It can be viewed here.

Once we had wheels we went adventuring of course.  There are two waterfalls in the area to view, but only one was available to the public at the time we were there.   Once again vandals had hit and as a result the second waterfall site had been closed to the public.  We won’t go into my opinion of vandals here either.

Smith Falls   was open and we spent a very enjoyable afternoon there one day.  Had we thought ahead we would have packed a picnic lunch.  There is a small park entrance fee, as is common with state parks, but we felt it was well worth it.  I am sorry, I do not remember what the fee was.  I just know it was low.

They also have primitive camping available there that you can reserve up to one year in advance.

After we looked around the small welcome center we started down the stairs to visit the falls.

Following the path to the falls.  Be prepared.  It is a bit of a walk, but worth it.

Like I said it is a bit of a walk.  While there are bigger falls, the view as we were hiking and then finally seeing the falls made it worth the walk to us that day.  It was nice to be away from the campground and doing something. 

Our first glimpse of the waters from the falls was a ways down the boardwalk that lead up to the falls themselves.  As we climbed the mini falls that were all downstream from the actual main falls were pleasant to look at and offered up a cooling respite from the heat of the day.

Then we caught our first glimpse of the falls. 

It wasn’t as big as we had been told, but that area was also in a drought at the time we were there.

Still we enjoyed our visit tremendously that day.

Another day we went to the parks department office there in Valentine and viewed their dinosaur display, a free activity. 

If you visit there be sure and get a Junior Ranger activity book for the kids.  It is a free activity that helps them learn about the parks and what they offer, as well as about the dino display there in the office.

No one had told us the other falls were closed, because it had just happened.  So we spent a day driving to Merrit Lake to view them.  We actually drove past the small sign that said the falls were closed a couple of times before we saw it.  We did spend time at Merrit Lake, again we should have packed a picnic lunch, enjoying the white sand beaches and checking out the various campsites on the lake.

At one campsite Gary did get into a mess of stick tights and ended up picking a bunch off before I would let him in the truck.  So watch where you step if you are photo taking.

As usual we spotted wildlife to photo this time it was wild turkeys at Merrit Lake.

Continuing our practice of taking photos of old, and often abandoned buildings we found several to click photos of as we drove around.  Here are a few:

Other days were content to just stay around the camper,

Drive around town and look at the motorcycles displayed down the main drag,

 We did go out to eat a few times.  We enjoyed good Tex-Mex at Milo and Max’s at the opposite edge of town, in other words just a couple of miles or so away.
One day we ate at a non-chain fast food drive in that is about mid town.  The menu caught our eye and made us certain we were in a farming community.  It is not often your local fast food drive in sells gizzards and mountain oysters, unless you are in Valentine, NE.  Zoom in on the photo below to discover all the items they serve at this carhop service drive-in.

As is our habit, we look for the good in each situation.  The good in this close call was we weren’t hurt, and we never would have got to enjoy the area if we hadn’t had to stop in this sleepy little town not far from the South Dakota border.

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