We started out on May 15th heading to Mitchell, SD. Just as we got to the small town of Chamberlain (700 +/- people) Phred’s EPC light came on. No biggie, it happens from time to time and corrects itself when the engine is turned off. Except this time when we started up the check engine light came on and didn’t self correct. Phred got to the next exit and made it to the first gas station where we were told, “Go to Mel’s. He may be able to diagnose the problem, but no one else in town will be able to.” So we found Mel’s shop, and when he got back from lunch a half-hour later, he ran a computer diagnostic that came up with a problem with the throttle position sensor, meaning that the Phred could unexpectedly accelerate or decelerate at any time. Oops!
Phred has a Volkswagen engine and the only VW service shop was in the dealership in Sioux Falls, 135 miles away. Fortunately, we had a Roadside Assistance insurance program that we bought through Camping World with unlimited towing. Unfortunately, the company hires the least intelligent people they can find. Our first conversation went like this. RA (Roadside Assistance) -where are you? US – In Chamberlin, SOUTH DAKOTA off the I-90 at exit #xxx in front of Pizza Hut. RA – What state is that in? US – South Dakota. RA – Where in South Dakota? US – In Chamberlin, SOUTH DAKOTA off the I-90 at exit #xxx in front of Pizza Hut. RA – What is the street address? US – There are no street signs here. There are only two exits off I-90 in Chamberlin and we are at the western one. Turn towards Chamberlin and Pizza Hut is in the first driveway on the right. RA – What kind of vehicle are you driving? US – A small motor home with a Volkswagon engine. RA – Is it a Ford? US – No, it is a Volkswagon. RA – But what kind of engine does it have? US – A Volkswagon 6 cylinder engine. RA – It’s not a Ford? US – No, it really is a Volkswagon! RA – OK, I’ll put you on hold while I research this. (Please go away from your computer for 10 minutes and listen to some staticy music.) RA – OK, now where are you again? US – In Chamberlin, SOUTH DAKOTA off the I-90 at exit #xxx in front of Pizza Hut. RA – I found someone who can help you in Chamberlin. This is his name and number. If he can’t fix it, he will tow you to the nearest place that can. Do you need anything else? US – Yes, we need you to get a different job. (We hung up before we said that last part.)
We called A&R towing per instructions and were asked where we were (weren’t they told by RA?) and told that they would pick us up and tow us to the FORD dealer. After a silent scream, we explained that we had a (all together now) Volkswagon. A&R – Why did they tell me it was a Ford? US – Don’t ask. A&R – We will have to tow you to Sioux Falls, so I need to find a truck and driver that can take you the 135 miles. US – No problem, RA will pay for the tow, so I will call and have them authorize payment.
Good news, this time I didn’t get the dumbest man in the world. Bad news, I got the dumbest woman. New conversation…RA – Where are you? US – At A&R Towing where your company sent us. RA – Where is that? US – In Chamberlin, South Dakota. RA – What is wrong with your Ford? US – We don’t have a Ford, we have a Volkswagon with a faulty throttle. RA – Hold on for a minute, please. (Please go away from your computer for 15 minutes and listen to some staticy music.) RA – Our service people say that you can get that part anyplace and the Ford dealer can install it. US – PLEASE LISTEN TO US! WE DON’T HAVE A FORD, WE NEVER HAD A FORD, WE DON’T WANT YOU TO SAY FORD AGAIN. Now, there are no VOLKSWAGON dealers here and we need to be towed to Graham Motors in Sioux Falls. RA – I have just checked and there is no Graham Motors and there is no Sue Falls in South Dakota. US – S.I.O.U.X. RA – That spells Sue?? Okay, hold on and I will find a tow company near you. US – DO NOT PUT US ON HOLD. WE ARE AT THE TOW COMPANY WE WERE DIRECTED TO AND THEY ARE JUST WAITING FOR YOU TO AUTHORIZE PAYMENT. RA – Let me speak to the owner of the company. (From now on we only heard the A&R end of the conversation which went like this. A&R – My license number is #xxxxxxxxx and my company is A&R Towing….I’m in Chamberlin…No, I’m not in Toledo…No, I’m not in Ohio…Please check my license again…Okay, we are 135 miles from Sioux Falls…It doesn’t matter where the Ford dealer is, we need a Volkswagon dealer…Yes, I am sure it is the closest place…It will cost $776…Yes, $776…We have the truck and the driver waiting for you to authorize payment…Please fax or email the authorization. Thank you.
By the way, all phone conversations have been shortened to protect the reader.
The printout of the authorization was for our FORD RV to be towed to Sue Falls. Even the staff at A&R was laughing by this time. We were beyond laughter. From the time of our first phone call at 1 PM, almost four hours had passed before Phred was hitched up to the truck which was a two-seater with a very dirty bed in the back and an equally dirty, but extremely nice driver. Gina sat up front while Charlie tried to balance with no back rest and her feet wedged against a tool chest to keep her from joining Gina in the front seat or getting impaled on the stick shift.
Phred got droppped off, literally, at Graham Motors and we spent the night outside the service bay. Yes, we needed a new throttle pedal and no, they didn’t have one but yes, they would order it and yes, it might arrive on Saturday, but don’t count on it. So we didn’t, but it did. By noon on Saturday, May 24, we again set out for Mitchell and this time we made it.
As everyone knows, THE thing to see in Mitchell is the world’s only Corn Palace. Of course, why would the world need two Corn Palaces? Or more important, why would it need even one? One person we met had a good explanation when he told us it was the world’s largest bird feeder. Every summer since 1892, Mitchell has celebrated its bounty by decorating the palace with 275,000 ears of corn, cut in half lengthwise and nailed to the building using the world’s largest “paint” by numbers technique leading to such corny designs as these. and in case you want to take home a corny souvenir, try this doll completely fabricated of corn and husks. A ride down the main drag brought us to the train depot which has been converted into a railroad themed pub serving excellent prime rib dinners which we needed after our long ordeal.
After a night at R&R Campground, Charlie woke up with a fever and aches and pains which lasted until May 20th so we stayed in Mitchell until the morning of May 21st and away we went.