Classic RVers Attend Winnebago-Itasca Rally

July 22, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

John and Jean Tessman entered the Winnebago-Itasca Travelers (WIT) Rally grounds this week in Forest City, Iowa, and told a gate official they would park their RV in the “Iowa” row.

“Whoa,” he said.

A “Mary Kay” pink 1972 Winnebago Indian? With more than 100,000 miles?

It’s the “Classic” row for you folks, the Mason City Globe Gazette reported.

So the Indian sits beside a 1992 model Winnebago, which looks like a 2025 in comparison.

The Tessmans love their blast from the past. It’s been everywhere, man.

“We’ve enjoyed it,” John said. “We’ve done a lot of traveling in it. We’re not sorry that we’ve done it.”

The Garner couple is among the first members of the newly formed Classic Winnebago Club.

Club leaders Jeff Barth of Mulciteo, Wash., and Greg Boman of Castle Rock, Colo., are out to restore Winnebagos age 20 and older to showroom condition.

Barth owns a 1973 Indian. Boman’s 1970 D-22 Chieftain has an 8-track tape player, Naugahyde drapes and cushions with a floral pattern designed by Luise Hanson, wife of Winnebago Industries Inc. founder John Hanson.

Although the original 3-inch avocado green shag carpet has been removed, the Chieftain screams of 1970, when Boman and Barth were kids running wild in their native Forest City.

“It’s part of the heritage of Forest City,” Barth said. “We were the birthplace of mass-produced RVs. It’s really important to have that back here, for future generations to enjoy.”

The Chieftain is a popular stop for other WIT campers.

“They run inside and say, ‘We had a ’72!’” Barth said. “The kids love the old funky look.”

The Tessmans adopted their RV in the summer of 1992. They first saw it at night, and declined to buy the lonesome beast.

“The guy kept bugging us until we finally bought it,” John said.

In the light of day, “We knew we had a job ahead of us,” Jean said. “We were a lot younger. I don’t think I’d tackle it again.”

The Chieftain now sports a microwave oven, a nice TV set, window blinds instead of the old curtains and carpet over the old linoleum.

She has guided the Tessmans around the Midwest and to Canada and Niagara Falls.

In 1994 she almost took them to oblivion.

About seven people were aboard when the brakes went out near Vets Auditorium in Des Moines.

The RV was headed toward a steady stream of cross traffic.

John, at the wheel, knew he had to hit a car or swim in the Des Moines River.

He had chosen a car to hit when the traffic parted.

The Indian sailed through the break and John coasted to a stop.

“You don’t believe in God?” Jean Tessman said. “He was there.”

On the other side of WIT life is a 42-foot 2010 Winnebago Adventurer owned by Charlie and Ellen Zucker of Port Charlotte, Fla.

Among the amenities: Comfortable swivel arm-rests; nice wood paneling; a huge master bedroom; Corian countertops; two flat-screen TVs; a dishwasher; 1½ baths; a shower; a privacy door; and an exterior entertainment center (flip it open to watch TV outside your RV).

“It looks very spacious,” Charlie said with a big smile. “And we like it.”

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