On the 18th day of my new life as a fulltimer, I approached my first rally with some hopes. Since it was a rally of like motorhomes, Safari Treks, I hoped I’d meet someone with a coach similar to mine who would let me go to school on their experience. Perhaps someone who would help me hurry up and learn what I had gotten myself into with my 16 year-old 28-foot fading rose.
I learned about the rally a few weeks before in my first brave week as a fulltimer. I had left everything except a P.O. box behind in the San Francisco Bay Area in early October. During the first shakedown leg of my voyage, I decided to loop north into the Pacific Northwest. As though a gift from the motorhome gods, the Northwest Trek Fun Club was holding a rally at Centralia in Southern Washington the last week in October. I looked forward to casual conversational seminars to help me tame the mischievous goblins living in my electrical system, get some tips on tire care, and solve the mystery of mail.
I’ve been in clubs for other hobbies and passions in my life and I know that putting together events like rallies do not happen without the hard work and enthusiasm of dedicated people. In this case Penny Braden the driving force behind the rally and Bob Beers, whose elfin smile was one of the first to greet me and introduce me to others. Bob is also a e Family Motor Coaching Association director for Safari International Club.
Although I was a bit disappointed there were no other coaches from my era, I was given contact information for the owners of several. My disappointment was washed away when I realized what an enormous resource I had stumbled upon. Doors were opened to my new world and over the next few days I learn the secrets of the practiced boondockers, and get the tips and tricks of the fulltimers, and the secret handshake.
Bob told me of the caravan to Alaska being put together for the following summer. What a good idea to venture into a long trip in the company of experienced travelers.
And someone else asked if I planned to get to Quartzite.
“Quartzite?” I asked. “What’s Quartzite?” Just a gathering of dry-camping motorhomes so vast that it takes an aerial photograph to begin to capture its size. As I talked with people who’d been there, I got the idea it is Woodstock, Burning Man, the Orange Bowl Halftime show, the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, and a Native American Pow Wow all stirred into a giant chili pot. The spectacle takes place in Arizona in January. What a coincidence—exactly where I plan to spend January.
I learned the weigh stations in Oregon are open after hours and weigh vehicles in motion.
I learned about FMCA’s towing insurance.
I learned that an honest, friendly RV service center is to be treasured. One like Brazel’s in Centralia, Wa, who hosted our rally in their small, tidy, grassy campground.
I reaffirmed that land yachtsmen are distinguished from their sea-going cousins only by their vessels.
On the first day of the rally I met Doug and Vera.
“Where are you from?” they asked. I told them I wasn’t sure how to answer since I was a fulltimer for 18 days now and my odometer had turned over its first grand since leaving the Bay Area.
“And how about you? I asked.
“We’ve been fulltiming for 18 years. This is our second Trek and we’ve logged over 90 thousand on it. We had one just like yours that we put over 190 thousand miles on. We even shipped it to Europe for a couple of years.”
I felt like I had just met the encyclopedia of Fulltiming.
I don’t know if rallies are always this much fun or whether this one has a special energy at the intersection of dedicated organizers, light-hearted informality, and a coach with a few unique features that lends itself to cult-like gravitation of its owners.
But I know this as dawn breaks on my next life as a full-timer. And even though I seek the privacy and solitude of escape from the bonds of the routines of daily life, rallies are more than a tailgate party. And I will seek one out anytime I need a people fix.
Sunday morning at the last of the daily coffee and bagel breakfasts, the conversations were livelier. There were lots of hugs and flashbulbs. People squeezed last stories and future promises as they stalled commencing the two or ten hour drive home. I was reminded of Sunday morning at the Levenson family Thanksgivings of old, the bittersweet leave takings of people with a full fix of family love not to mention the pumpkin pie and mom’s patented cinnamon cake.
Posted on Monday, November 1, 2010 from an I-5 rest stop near Eugene Oregon, on Day 24, at Mile Marker 1284 of my Year on the Road.