According to Mapquest.com, the distance between White River Junction in Vermont and Redmond, Oregon, is 2,941.96 miles. More or less.
Tom and Karen Kilmer are driving the entire way, but never leaving their home or office.
Oregonlive.com reported that the Kilmers are among the 8,000 to 10,000 RV owners set to arrive in Redmond for the annual Good Sam Club RV Rally, the largest such gathering in the nation. It opens July 14.
If the pattern of early registrations holds, the club is expected to fill the Deschutes County Fairgrounds and Expo Center and possibly spill over to neighboring commercial RV parks and campgrounds. Volunteers who help organize the event will show up as much as a week early.
Good Sam is like the AAA for RV owners. It offers insurance, towing, repair shop recommendations and discounts at participating businesses, including the nationwide chain of Camping World stores, which is co-sponsoring the event.
“We’ve been doing a nationwide rally for the past 12 years,” says Sue Bray, a Southern California resident who is Good Sam’s West Coast coordinator for the event.
She says RV owners from all continental states plus Canada have registered.
“Most of them are from the West Coast,” she says. “It’s a long way to travel for some members, so we switch the sites from east to west every year.”
She says that even with the increase in fuel costs, most Good Sam members plan to continue using their motorhomes, campers and travel trailers.
“Our members use their RVs for an average of about 4,000 miles a year,” she says, “so the increase in cost isn’t enough to make a difference.
“If you get 10 miles per gallon, and even if the price goes up a dollar a gallon, it amounts to $400. I don’t think anyone is going to let their RV sit in the driveway all year for $400.”
Certainly not Kilmer.
He’s a national sales manager for Suburban Propane, and he’ll use his 38-foot Itasca motorhome as his rolling office, making sales calls across the country as he moves back and forth from one coast to the other.
By the time he and his wife arrive in Redmond, the fairgrounds will be transformed into a sprawling community of rolling homes, ranging from lightweight tent trailers designed to be towed behind compact cars to $500,000 wheeled mansions complete with propane-fueled fireplaces.
Roughly 500 vendors will fill row upon row of booths, selling accessories from headlights to tailpipes, and most everything in between.
“You find things for your RV that you never knew existed,” Kilmer said by telephone from Vermont, “and suddenly it is something you can barely live without.”
Bray says 600 to 700 new and used RVs also will be on display.
“We went to New Mexico two years ago and came home with the Itasca,” says Kilmer. “Hopefully our sales resistance will be a bit stronger this trip.”
Kilmer says what really draws him and his wife to the rallies are the people he’s made friends with over the years.
The week is heavy on entertainment, education and community service.
Seminars include topics such as eating well and exercising while traveling, training your dog for living on the road and controlling odors from holding tanks (hey, even the most expensive motor home still has its own Honey Bucket hidden under the fiberglass and fancy paint).
Country music star Vince Gill is the headline entertainment act. In an obvious appeal to the Boomer crowd (the largest demographic of the RV set), the stage also will host ’60s crooners Bobby Vinton and Peter Noone, known best for his time with Herman’s Hermits.
Some RVers arrive early to participate in a day of service to the area. This year they have “adopted ” the Redmond-Sisters Hospice and have volunteered to spend a day doing landscaping and helping to remodel resident rooms.
The rally gives back in other ways, according to Daniel Despotopulos, director of the Fair and Expo Center.
“Considering people hired by the vendors, restaurant meals, the hotel rooms that are rented, some of them for two weeks, we figure there is a $30 million impact on the community,” he says.
Despotopulos bases his estimates on two previous Good Sam rallies in Redmond, in 2005 and 2007.
“There is hardly a business that doesn’t benefit,” says Eric Sande, executive director of the Redmond Chamber of Commerce. He also says the impact goes far beyond the city.
“We see a lot of folks head to the coast or to Washington or even Alaska,” he says. “And we answer questions and give directions throughout the rally to visitors who want to go the Columbia River Gorge or into the wine country or see the Spruce Goose at McMinnville.”