After 11 weeks in Michigan, we traveled south to visit some friends, Jordan and Niki Brown, in Indiana. They had planned to house us on their property, but rain had softened the ground prior to our arrival. So, they decided to move us to the Terre Haute Regional Airport to park next to their airplane hangar. The setup included a picturesque view of their C-47.
C-47 Skytrains served as military transport aircraft in WWII. They hauled 75mm guns and other supplies through mountains, transported spies, and were used to rescue the forgotten 500 from Yugoslavia.
This particular C-47 had been designated to be the backdrop for an airport event the night we arrived, so we got to taxi in it with our pilot host to get it into place.
Another WWII aircraft needed to be moved to the event as well, so we also got to taxi in the Twin Beech C-45. These planes served as light bombers and transporters, as well as trainers. They were also used for scouting missions.
I got to take a flight in the C-45 before the week was up. You get a much better feel for a location when you see it from above. Green wooded areas and farm fields surround houses and small communities in this section of rural America. We’ve grown to love small-town USA — especially after living in a large metropolis for 24 years.
As it turned out, the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) Airbase Arizona’s B-25 “Maid in the Shade” arrived in Terre Haute two days after we did as part of its mission to educate, honor, and inspire. This iconic warbird, made famous by the Doolittle Raid, is the one Bob serves as a crew chief on and that we tour with every summer.
This year, Bob volunteered to be a summer tour coordinator and had actually coordinated this stop. We had planned to visit at this time before we knew the B-25 would be here at the same time. It made for a nice reunion with our CAF friends, and we were able to pitch in and help the crew as needed. It was like being on tour without being on tour.
A couple of days before we left, an SBD Dauntless WWII dive bomber and scout plane landed at the airport and parked next to the B-25, providing a bonus peek at history for onlookers.
To get back to our trailer after taxiing the warbirds to the Saturday evening event, we had the privilege of riding in a half-track military vehicle, a hybrid between a tank and a Jeep. These vehicles were used in WWII to transport supplies across uneven terrain.
While in the area, we also toured a metal shop that fabricates aircraft and ship parts. The massive specialized machines we saw made us “wow” in amazement. And if that wasn’t enough, a Patton tank and a Deuce military truck stood on display outside the shop, reminding us of the sacrifices made for our freedoms.
We saw a third tank too: our hosts’ tortoise, aptly named “Tank.” He can move faster than you might think and leaves circular “trails” around, marking where he’s eaten grass. He wears a bright orange flag so his owners can find him.
The day before we left Indiana, we got to do some target shooting, making it a completely all-American stop. We both shot a lever .357 rifle for the first time, aiming to hit five plates on a Texas Star shooting target. I got all five in six shots. We also shot some handguns.
The humidity got to us after a while, so we dipped in our hosts’ pool with a cornfield backdrop as our Indiana stop wound to a close.
We left Indiana feeling extremely blessed and appreciative. We were thankful to visit my cousin, Beth, and her husband, Dave, near Indianapolis and catch up and play games. And we greatly enjoyed our time with Jordan and Niki and the B-25 crew.
It’s always an honor to be around warbird planes. We never get tired of hearing the B-25’s engines roar to life and rev up for takeoff. It’s an amazing sound that makes us feel alive and proud to be Americans.
Hoosier Aviation took wonderful care of us and the B-25 crew while we were there. If you’re ever in the Terre Haute area, drop in and say hi to Josh and Becky Thompson and let them know Bob and Lana Gates sent you.
Homeless for 3 Days
It should have been an easy brake job. Bob had all the parts to replace the trailer brakes and the mechanical know-how to get the job done. The problem was trying to lift all of Tagalong’s 17,000 pounds to get the tires off.
Bob had successfully jacked up the trailer before to grease the axles. We had hooked it up to Gulliver for better stability and carefully raised Tagalong’s back end. Bob had also succeeded in lifting Tagalong when we needed to change a flat tire.
When Bob attempted to lift Tagalong this time, however, I received a text message while working across the street at my cousin’s house: “I broke the trailer. Come see.”
Thoughts flooded my mind as I made the short trek across the street. “Oh no! That’s our home!” “At least we’re with family and have time before we plan to journey on.” “That’s more good fodder for the blog.”
Jacking the Trailer: Take 2
The pressure of Tagalong’s weight against the jack ended up breaking the welding joint of a metal beam spanning the trailer’s underside. Fortunately for us, the farm mechanics were having a slow day, and one of them had time to re-weld the joint on our trailer.
After that, Bob tried a different method for his second attempt at raising the trailer. To make up for the gap between the jack and Tagalong’s main structural I-beam, he used an 8-inch section of a 6x6 beam. As the beam took on Tagalong’s heavy weight, it couldn’t stand up under the pressure and split in two pieces, rapidly dropping the trailer back down. Thankfully, Bob stayed safe during that ordeal.
The difference between this time and the previous successes of lifting the trailer had to do with the ground. Here, we started from an uneven rather than level surface. Plus, it had rained recently, which only complicated matters by making the ground softer than normal.
We decided not to attempt the brakes a third time but to get professional help. Because Bob had planned to do the work, we had all of the parts. That meant we’d only have to pay for labor. A local place about 10 minutes away offered the service we needed but had a reputation for not getting to jobs quickly. We wanted to be homeless for as little time as possible.
Dropping off your home is an eerie and humbling feeling. And this time, we left Gulliver too. We reminded the shop techs they had everything we owned, and then we watched one of them drive our earthly belongings away, leaving us with the clothes on our backs and a few things we had taken to my cousin’s house.
It brought me back to the age of 10, when I stood with my family as we watched the mobile home we had lived in for a year drive down the street and out of our lives. We had rebounded from that short time of homelessness just fine, so I had hope Bob and I would rebound from this one too.
A Blessing in Disguise
One day at the shop stretched into two. Bob got a call notifying him that our trailer would definitely be ready for pickup by the end of that second day. But a subsequent call informed us of a new discovery. The shop successfully changed the brakes and the wheel bearings, but the trailer brakes still weren’t grabbing. A larger problem loomed, but the techs wouldn’t be able to troubleshoot it until the following day.
This explained the problem we first noticed when leaving our daughter Megan’s in Tennessee. The electric trailer brakes didn’t grab like they should — a huge safety issue. We were able to increase the grabbing power of the brakes and stop when needed, but this new discovery confirmed the brakes themselves weren’t at fault. Rather, the issue lay with the wiring or a connection.
Had Bob succeeded in changing the trailer brakes, we would have presumed the trailer was good to go. We wouldn’t have attempted to use the brakes until hooking up the trailer to Gulliver and leaving for our next destination. So, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise that we ran into so many issues with trying to change the brakes.
The techs replaced a small section of faulty wiring and, after three days, we got our home back. This whole experience left us with immense gratitude — for our safety, our home, Ethan who welded the beam back together, my cousin Debbie's hospitality in our time of homelessness, and the professionals who discovered, troubleshot, and repaired the source of the problem. God is good.
This is the travel blog of full-time RVers Bob and Lana Gates and our truck, Gulliver, and fifth wheel, Tagalong.