Heading West: The Great American Road Trip Commences

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Jon and I souped our truck and finally put the Northstar 850 SC slide in camper on top. It took two days to pack everything we own (I thought not much, but after cramming everything into every little crevice, it turns out we have a lot of crap) and finally hit the road.

Jon and I getting ready to hit the road in our Northstar Camper
Jon and I getting ready to hit the road in our Northstar Camper

We started traveling west from Chicago on I-80 with one destination in mind: The Northstar Camper factory in Waterloo, Iowa.

I’ve traveled the world over and have had lofty destinations like Sydney, Bangkok, Honolulu, San Francisco. Waterloo, Iowa was the first stop on our list, and honestly it didn’t sound like much. The idea was to shoot straight through Iowa and Nebraska and just hit up the Rockies. But as usual, travel offers you unexpected delightful surprises.

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We made an appointment to meet with Rex, a co-owner of Northstar, so that he could help us iron out the finer details of our camper since our dealer had zero experiences with our model.

After 5 hours of driving through boring Illinois, we arrived in Waterloo. We pulled into the Northstar Factory, and Rex greeted us with open arms.

He immediately grabbed a forklift to move other models of slide in campers out of the way and made us his first priority. The minute we got out of the car, he started caulking the roof, nailing in loose bits and firing off very useful pieces of information.

As it turns out, Northstar operates a very family-oriented business out of a smallish warehouse off a country road in Iowa. Rex, the co-owner recalled growing up on that very block.

“The carnival would roll into town and my dad was friends with the carnies. They would set up a ride in the parking lot and we’d eat hot dogs and funnel cakes and just have good old-fashioned fun,” Rex said. “Then they’d show us their RVs.”

The RV culture is alive and well in the USA. I always chalked RVers up to be bored, retired people, but once you get an RV and start going places, you realize how many awesome wanderers are really out there. A lifelong passion for building campers for lovers of RVs was born in Rex at a young age.

Rex took 2 hours out of his day to show us how to use our awning, the fridge, power system, stove, hot water heater, furnace, toilet and water system. Where we had left a valve open in the water system, he plugged it up and filled us up with 40 gallons of water with a wink of the eye. His 21-year-old cat slunk around the workshop, drinking our drained (clean) water off the floor. Meeting with Rex was like visiting an uncle: He told us stories of the road, gave us tried and true tips and even gave us an awesome alternate route to Colorado along US 30 (runs parallel to I-80, but has those small little towns to stop off at along the way).

He told us that over 40 percent of his business is overseas, with a huge interest in Australia. I recalled fondly the beautiful, wild landscapes of Australia when I was backpacking last year. One day maybe we can take our Northstar down under and really live off the grid!

After Rex fixed us up, we walked around a bit and saw the different models of Northstar campers being built. It was a really neat, home-grown production facility epitomized by sincerity and quality.

So many campers, so little time!
So many campers, so little time!

I’m very happy with our purchase and would recommend anyone to get a Northstar Camper. Also, if you have the time and you’re heading west like us, stop by and talk to Rex. He will give you all the pointers you need in the world. After all, he built the thing!

After stopping in Waterloo, Jon and I head south to Cedar Rapids and then continued on our journey west on 30. We stopped in Tama for dinner, a very small farmer town in rural Iowa before making camp at Outback Campground on top of a hill.

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It was a fun day full of unexpected surprises. The best feeling is the open road. Although we only finished one day on the road, we already realized the best plan is no plan. When leaving the factory, we asked Rex how much we owed him for his time. He said those golden words:

“Just get out of here and have some fun. Consider this a great start to a great trip.”

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If you are interested in Northstar Campers, visit their website at http://northstarcampers.com/

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