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FMCA Members Sign on for Fantasy RV Tours

May 25, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Cincinnati, Ohio-based Family Motor Coach Association reports that its alliance with Fantasy RV Tours in late 2011 has enjoyed strong support from its membership.

The FMCA Tour Connection offers FMCA-member-only RV caravans, rallies and cruises at discounted rates, and also provides FMCA members discounts on other Fantasy RV Tour events.

“These tours are even more popular than what we — Fantasy RV Tours and FMCA — expected,” said Nel Filliger, Fantasy RV Tours founder. “Members like traveling with the FMCA family and receiving the extra discounts with FMCA Tour Connection.”

By May 2012, four of the six remaining 2012 RV tours (Calgary Stampede, Western National Parks, Polar Bear Express, and Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta) already were sold out. Filliger added that great interest is being shown in caravans and tours slated for 2013 and beyond, including a 2014 tour to Australia and New Zealand. “This trip is at the top of most people’s bucket list,” she said. “It will sell out and we’ll have a waiting list.”

The inaugural excursion of the Tour Connection program took place in Washington, D.C., this past April. Fantasy RV Tours staff welcomed 50 FMCA member families to the nation’s capital for a week of fun and sight-seeing adventures in which they received personalized attention from the staff and tour guides.

At night, FMCA members stayed in their motorhomes at a campground near Washington. During the day, they toured an array of sites in and around the city, including the U.S. Capitol and the National Cathedral; the U.S. Naval Academy and Fort McHenry; Mount Vernon, Arlington National Cemetery, and the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial; and museums of their own choosing along the National Mall.

Because of the popularity of the Tour Connection among FMCA members, Fantasy RV Tours has increased the variety of itineraries available. In addition to the interest shown in the RV caravans and tours, cruises are also offered. Filliger noted that more than 200 FMCA members already have booked cruises to Alaska or the Caribbean.

For more information about the various tours offered to FMCA members through the Tour Connection Powered by Fantasy RV Tours, visit http://www.fantasyrvtours.com/FMCA or call (855) 385-3622.

 

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Ore. Casino/RV Park Plays Host to FMCA Rally

May 17, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

An expected 1,000 visitors and their RVs will be rolling into North Bend, Ore., beginning June 19 as The Mill Casino Hotel & RV Park hosts the annual Northwest Area Rally of the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA).

This will be the first time the national organization will hold its Northwest Rally on Oregon’s South Coast. The event is scheduled for June 21-24, but organizers say that their members customarily arrive two days early. Although the event is open to FMCA members only, a vendor show and display of RV coaches is open to the public, according to a news release.

“To be a member of the FMCA is to be someone who loves to travel and to visit new and interesting locations,” said Larry Close, general manager of The Mill Casino Hotel & RV Park. “Hosting this event is a great opportunity for The Mill, but it is an even greater opportunity to present all of the attractions of our communities to visitors from throughout the Pacific Northwest who definitely love to travel.”

The Mill has planned a variety of activities for rally participants including a poker run to shops and local venues in North Bend and Coos Bay. Tours of local attractions will be available to give visitors a taste of what the region has to offer.

 

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FMCA RV Rallies Offer Venues Throughout U.S.

April 17, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) has several RV rallies scheduled for the remainder of the year.

According to a press release, FMCA’s 87th Family Reunion & Motorhome Showcase, dubbed “Formula For Fun,” is scheduled for Aug. 27-30 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis. This is the premier event of 2012 and will feature exhibits, seminars, entertainment, area tours and special events.

FMCA’s regional subgroups, known as areas, present additional rallies throughout the year. These area rallies typically include many of the same elements of the association’s nationally run Family Reunion & Motorhome Showcase events, in various locales around the United States.

Motorhome owners do not need to be FMCA members to attend the international Family Reunion or FMCA area rallies. In fact, owners of self-contained towable RVs will be welcomed as well at the Indianapolis Family Reunion in August, and at a number of the area rallies, depending on space issues, etc. (please check when registering).

FMCA’s first two area rallies of the year — Western Area and Southeast Area — took place in January and February, respectively. Remaining events include:

• Memorial Day weekend the Great Lakes Area Rally will be held in Berrien Springs, Mich., at the Berrien County Youth Fair grounds. The rally takes place May 24-28. Berrien Springs is not far from northern Indiana, which boasts great Amish food and crafts and the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum.

• The Northwest Area Rally will run June 21-24 at The Mill Casino on Coos Bay, in North Bend, Ore. The twin towns of Coos Bay and North Bend both offer beautiful views of the Pacific, and the area boasts beaches, boardwalks and museums.

• The Midwest Area Rally will be held at the Winnebago County Fairgrounds in Pecatonica, Ill., June 27-30. Located west of Rockford, Pecatonica reflects the past with historic homes, a preserved business district and a local history museum.

• The Northeast Area Rally will be held July 19-22 at the Champlain Valley Exposition in Essex Junction, Vt. The venue is close to renown Lake Champlain.

• The Rocky Mountain Area Rally, also called the Rocky Mountain Ramble, will be held Sept. 11-16 at the CAM-PLEX in Gillette, Wyo. This RV-friendly facility is set in the midst of America’s  wide-open plains and mountains, not far from the famous Black Hills of South Dakota.

• The Heart of Oklahoma Expo Center in Shawnee, Okla., is the host venue for this year’s South Central Area Rally, or Six-State Rally, which runs Sept. 26-30. The area offers some great museums showcasing art and history, as well as the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Cultural Heritage Center.

• The Eastern Area Rally (known as G.E.A.R.) will run Oct. 10-14 at the York Expo Center in York, Pa. Attendees can explore the nearby Pennsylvania Dutch country and admire the colorful autumn scenery.

For more information about FMCA’s 2012 Family Reunion and area rallies, visit www.FMCA.com or call the Events Services Department at FMCA: (800) 543-3622, (513) 474-3622.

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FMCA’s ‘Towables For 2012′ Guide Now Available

February 16, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The Family Motor Coach Association’s (FMCA) “Towables For 2012” guide is now available to members and magazine subscribers.

According to a press release, the guide can be found in the January 2012 issue of Family Motor Coaching and online at http://www.FMCmagazine.com/motor-home-towing-guides. The guide includes 137 model-year 2012 vehicles from 21 different manufacturers that have been approved to be towed four wheels down behind a motorhome.

The main chart lists vehicles — by manufacturer — that have been approved for recreational towing. The chart also includes pertinent information for each towable automobile, such as the type of transmission (automatic or manual) that the vehicle must be equipped with so that it can be towed; the drive configuration (front-wheel drive, four-wheel drive, all-wheel drive); whether any speed restrictions or distance limitations are involved when the vehicle is being towed; and the approximate curb weight and length for the base model of the vehicle.

Addendums let potential buyers know whether fuses must be pulled before a vehicle can be towed to prevent battery drain; denote special instructions for running the vehicle for a certain time period before, during, or after it is towed; and specify transfer case options that may prohibit a vehicle from being towed.

The “Towables For 2012” guide provides motorhome owners with a wide selection of vehicle types to choose from when making their decision. From the economical Smart Fortwo Passion Coupe to the ultra-luxurious Cadillac Escalade Hybrid, there is an automobile, sport utility vehicle, or pickup truck to suit any need or style.

For more information about FMCA or to join the organization, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2013, contact the Membership Services Department at (800) 543-3622 or visit http://www.FMCA.com.

 

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FMCA’s Magazine Publishes ’12 Towables Guide

January 27, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

With springtime approaching, many motorhome travelers will begin preparing for the 2012 travel season. Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA), an international organization for motorhome owners, realizes that destination planning and prepping the motorhome will be high-priority tasks.

But it’s also a time of year when scores of owners begin to look for a new towed vehicle to pull behind the motorhome during their travels. The need for a second vehicle that can be flat-towed is the reason Family Motor Coaching magazine, the official publication of FMCA, began producing its annual “Towables” guides in 1999.

Family Motor Coaching’s annual “Towables” guide takes the guesswork out of finding a vehicle that can be towed four wheels down. It offers valuable advice to motorhome owners regarding vehicle selection, making sure it is outfitted with the proper towing equipment, and how to safely tow it.

The “Towables For 2012” guide is available to FMCA members and Family Motor Coaching magazine subscribers. It can be found in the January 2012 issue of Family Motor Coaching and online at http://www.FMCmagazine.com/motor-home-towing-guides. The guide includes 137 model-year 2012 vehicles from 21 different manufacturers that have been approved to be towed four wheels down behind a motorhome.

The main chart lists vehicles — by manufacturer — that have been approved for recreational towing. The chart also includes pertinent information for each towable automobile, such as the type of transmission (automatic or manual) that the vehicle must be equipped with so that it can be towed; the drive configuration (front-wheel drive, four-wheel drive, all-wheel drive); whether any speed restrictions or distance limitations are involved when the vehicle is being towed; and the approximate curb weight and length for the base model of the vehicle.

Addendums let potential buyers know whether fuses must be pulled before a vehicle can be towed to prevent battery drain; denote special instructions for running the vehicle for a certain time period before, during, or after it is towed; and specify transfer case options that may prohibit a vehicle from being towed.

For more information about FMCA or to join the organization, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2013, contact the Membership Services Department at (800) 543-3622 or visit http://www.FMCA.com.

 

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FMCA Offers Members Discount ‘Connections’

July 25, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

In its continuing search for new and improved benefits for motorhome owners, Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) is offering several new or enhanced “connections” to discounts its members.

Campground Connection

FMCA has launched a “Campground Connection” program to help motorhoming families save money on campground stays and to provide participating campgrounds with an additional source of revenue, according to a news release.

The FMCA Campground Connection program is a system of FMCA commercial member campgrounds that have agreed to offer FMCA families a discount of at least 10% off their campground fees. These FMCA campgrounds also have joined FMCA in its member recruiting efforts and thus are authorized to sell FMCA memberships on the spot to customers who own motorhomes but do not yet belong to the association.

Participating campgrounds receive recruitment materials and signs that designate them as an FMCA Campground Connection. FMCA members can locate campgrounds via a searchable map at FMCA.com/campgrounds, which includes links to each facility’s Web site and lists services and amenities, the amount of discount offered, and contact information.

Campgrounds are required to be an FMCA commercial member in order to participate in the Campground Connection program. A one-year FMCA commercial campground membership costs $57 ($40 for each subsequent year). This membership puts campgrounds in touch with FMCA’s established network of nearly 100,000 motorhoming families.

In addition to the visibility provided by the online map, FMCA member campgrounds receive a free listing in the association’s RV Marketplace, which is published in Family Motor Coaching magazine and is available at FMCA.com.

Commercial membership also entitles the campground to a subscription to Family Motor Coaching, including the FMCA Annual Directory/Member Benefits Guide. Other benefits include the opportunity to host rallies planned by FMCA’s nearly 500 chapters; to participate in international and area rallies and other events; and to use the FMCA commercial member logo in advertising and other communications.

“We see our new Campground Connection program as benefiting FMCA members in many ways,” commented Jerry Yeatts, FMCA director of member services. “Who doesn’t like a discount? Plus, being able to identify FMCA campgrounds easily and quickly on FMCA.com will help our motorhoming families to confidently plan their travels. And, of course, the potential for campground owners to connect with an enthusiastic group of motorhome travelers — all for a nominal investment — makes the program appealing for them as well.”

Tire Connection

At some point, all FMCA members will need to purchase new tires for their home on wheels. To help ease the financial ramifications of that purchase, FMCA has signed up for the Michelin Advantage Program.

This program allows FMCA to provide its members with the opportunity to receive a substantial discount off the retail price of Michelin tires at Michelin tire dealers. The purchase must be paid for with a VISA, MasterCard, or American Express credit card at the servicing dealership.

Michelin’s corporate office will charge the credit card the discounted price. FMCA will then send the member — via e-mail — a copy of the invoice that reflects the total with the Advantage Program discount.

Instructions and FMCA’s Michelin Advantage account number are available to FMCA members only (via a member sign-in) at FMCA.com/connect.

At the current time, the FMCA Michelin Advantage program is available at Michelin dealers within the United States. FMCA is hopeful that a similar program can be arranged with Michelin dealers in Canada. Meanwhile, Canadian members are welcome to visit a Michelin tire dealer in the United States to obtain the discounted pricing. To locate a Michelin dealer near you, visit http://www.michelinrvtires.com.

Tour Connection

The new FMCA Tour Connection, powered by Fantasy RV Tours, offers members the opportunity to embark on FMCA-member-only RV caravans and rallies at discounted rates, and also to receive an FMCA discount on any other Fantasy RV Tours event.

Fantasy RV Tours is planning a variety of exciting member-only tours to popular destinations. Fantasy’s experts do all of the planning and handle all of the details for each outing. Tour participants simply show up, take in the sights, and enjoy the experience, all in the company of fellow RVers.

The first of these member-only tours will be a seven-day rally for motorhome owners in Washington, D.C., in April 2012 just in time to savor the cherry blossoms. In July 2012, a group of FMCA members will take in all the rip-roarin’ action at the Calgary Stampede Rally in Alberta, Canada. In September 2012 members will come together for a Western National Parks 32-day caravan to enjoy the grandeur of Bryce, Zion, Monument Valley and Grand Canyon national parks, among others. And in October 2012, members will gather in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the ever-popular International Balloon Fiesta Rally.

Fantasy RV Tours offers more than 40 different itineraries around the globe. Additional FMCA-member-only tours will be announced as time goes on.

Phone Connection

American Telecom Network (ATN) is offering cell phone service to FMCA members at special rates. These plans allow members to select the package and the phone that best suits their lifestyle. There are no roaming charges, no hidden taxes and fees, no long-term contracts, and no credit checks.

Service provides access to one of the nation’s largest cellular networks. Members can take their number and service with them anywhere they travel in the United States (service is not available in Canada).

Three prepaid plans and three different phones are available. The Silver Plan costs $39.99 and offers 500 minutes, 500 text messages and 10 MB of data per month. The Gold Plan costs $49.99 and provides 1,000 minutes, 1,000 text messages and 20 MB of data per month. The Platinum Plan costs $69.99 and supplies unlimited calling and texting and 50 MB of data each month.

As noted, three different phones are available at discounted prices for FMCA members. All phones are refurbished/recycled and thus are eco-friendly.

For more information about FMCA’s “connections” member benefits, visit http://www.fmca.com/connect.

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FMCA Clarifies ’12 Indianapolis Reunion Dates

April 7, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Family Motor Coach Association has announced revised dates for FMCA’s 87th Family Reunion and Motorhome Showcase, to be held next year at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis.

The new dates for this event will be Aug. 27-30, with family parking days on Aug. 25-26, according to a news release. This will be FMCA’s first international convention at this location and the fourth FMCA international event in Indiana. The last time FMCA met in Indiana was in 1991, at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend for the 46th convention of the association.

Click here to see a map of the fairgrounds.

“We are extremely pleased that the Indianapolis State Fairgrounds was able to work with us in moving our Family Reunion to August dates in 2012,” said Judy Czarsty, FMCA national senior vice president/acting national president. “The change of dates was necessary due to the changeover to the new model year for many motorhome manufacturers during the first week of July. “It would have been a challenge for many of our commercial members to bring sales representatives, service technicians and support staff to Indianapolis in early July.”

A host of activities are already in the works for this late August Reunion. Racing enthusiasts may experience the “Endurocross Race” at the Indiana State Fairgrounds’ Pepsi Coliseum on Aug. 24, as well as “IndyMile Motorcycle Race” on the mile track of the fairgrounds’ grandstand Saturday afternoon and evening.

The “Indy 1500 Gun and Knife Show” will take place in the Exposition Hall that same weekend.

“Members have asked for things to do once they arrive for our Reunions. These are great events available for our members to attend at the 250-acre Fairgrounds. Indianapolis is known as the Racing Capital of the World and this weekend truly gives our members a flavor of that,”  Czarsty continued. Additional admission fees may apply for these events.

Visit www.indianastatefair.com for more information on these events. Visit www.fmca.com for more information about Family Motor Coach Association.

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Kansas Site for 2013 FMCA Rally? Plan Aired

March 25, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) is expected to make a preliminary decision next month on where it will hold its 2013 international convention. It’s considering a site in Hutchinson, Kan. It could be a welcome boost to the Kansas economy, as it would bring in millions of dollars to Kansas, KAKE-TV, Wichita, Kan., reported.

Management at the state fairgrounds have been making a push to attract the event, which first made its appearance in Hutchinson in 2002. The 2002 event brought in around 4,700 RVs. It’s a week the owner of the Anchor Inn restaurant in Hutchinson remembers well.

“They would call in and say, ‘Hey this is so-and-so, we’re coming in with 25 people.’ And that went on Monday through the weekend,” said Anchor Inn owner Greg Flores.

The event made a multimillion dollar impact on Hutchinson, and the state, as travelers stopped across Kansas on their way to the convention. That’s why the fairgrounds wants to bring it back.

“It’s a competitive process, and so we know there are others out there. We don’t know who, but we know we’re up against some folks so we’re trying to put the best foot forward that we can,” said Kansas State Fair General Manager Denny Stoecklein.

The State Fair is hoping to host the summer 2013 event, which is expected to bring in up to 3,000 RV’s, and 6,000 people, from every corner of the continent. And all those people would also attract out-of-town vendors.

“I know in 2002 virtually every hotel room in Hutchinson and the surrounding area was filled, and so there’s a great impact there as well,” said Stoecklein.

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FMCA: 2,700 RVs, Owners at Georgia ‘Reunion’

March 24, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) reports that owners of 2,707 motorhomes and towable RVs attended its 85th Annual Family Reunion and Motorhome Showcase March 14-17 at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter in Perry, Ga.

”It met our expectations,” said Jerry Yeatts, director of shows and commercial services for the Cincinnati, Ohio-based association. ”We were very pleased with the turnout and the whole atmosphere. This is the second event in a row where people just said they were going to have a good time and they did.”

When FMCA last visited Perry in March 2009 at the height of the Great Recession, 2,774 family coaches were registered.

The Perry ”family reunion” — formerly called ”international convention” — was the first that FMCA invited towable owners to attend and 20 registered for the event.

”Towable registrations weren’t bad for the first time around and for people having the mindset that FMCA is all motorized,” Yeatts said.

Whether towable owners — many of them former motorhome owners who have downsized — will be invited in the future depends. ”It’s not necessarily a one-time thing,” Yeatts said. ”If we have enough space at our venue, we will consider it.”

The term ”family reunion” is likely to stick, Yeatts said. ”We are trying to put fun back into our events the way it used to be,” Yeatts said. ”The world has become way to serious, and as a social organization based on fun, fellowship and camaraderie, we want to respond to that.”

FMCA’s next family reunion will be Aug. 10-13 at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wis. FMCA will hold its only family reunion in 2012 July 2-5 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis.

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FMCA’s ‘Family’ Reuniting at Perry, Ga., Rally

March 16, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

FMCA rally site in Perry, Ga.

FMCA rally site in Perry, Ga.

A world, if not exactly a whir, of wheels set up camp this week in Perry, Ga.

Eddies of expiring pear blossoms swirled across roads at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter like drifts of snow, the only wintry touch on a clear Monday that was otherwise the textbook definition of spring. Upon that bucolic scene rolled the most random collection of wheeled transportation — golf carts, bikes, wheelchairs, scooters, cars, tractors, buggies, trucks, trailers — all moving to a slow-motion sway that perfectly matched the lazy tone of midday, the Macon Telegraph reported.

Only the motorhomes sat still. Thousands of them, packed into well-ordered rows, their residents temporarily becoming Houston County’s fifth-largest community.

Judging from the in-jest placards on many of those rolling homes, the area is also likely housing Middle Georgia’s largest gathering of least fearsome guard dogs. One security volunteer carried his K-9 team alongside in his golf cart, a pair of lightly leashed, sub-10-pounders with curly hair and low-key disposition lolling in the sunshine.

The mood was tangible — relaxed, friendly and fun. Leisurely, but with a purpose.

The Family Motor Coaching Association (FMCA) made its seventh trip to Perry this week, its first since 2009. The event is expected to draw about 2,800 motorhomes and as many as 10,000 visitors by the time it draws to a close Thursday evening, according to an FMCA spokesperson.

Helping hands

Allen De Jong was forced to take a break.

The man from Calgary, Alberta, leaned casually on a welded steel trailer, painted black and hitched to a tractor. An assistant on one of the eight tram lines that crisscross the fairgrounds, he had a simple explanation for why his rig sat still in front of Reaves Arena.

“We went too fast,” he said.

Fast is relative here. The trams travel at a speed best described as idle-plus.

As an FMCA volunteer, De Jong spends three-hour shifts making sure everyone gets on and off the trams safely. He was working the Orange/Black line Monday, a cog in Houston County’s most extensive, and only, mass transit system.

De Jong is one among hundreds of volunteers who make all the little things — transportation, seminars, even ice cream socials — work in the temporary city.

“There are probably 600 to 700 volunteers, and they can come from all around the country,” said Robbin Gould, editor of Family Motor Coaching magazine and spokeswoman for FMCA. “We have a parking and layout crew, that when coaches first come in, they measure out the spaces, they get them in the spots they are going to stay in for the week. They generally come to all the conventions. You have some of the security crew, they’re here at all of them.”

Gould said many of the volunteers at this week’s event come from FMCA’s Southeast Area group. Many of the regional crew are working seminars, security and doors to the various halls.

And while there are ancillary benefits — clothing store volunteers Tom and Sandra Horn from Gurley, Ala., exulted in their luck at a prime location when they arrived late last week — Gould believes the spirit of giving is built into the crowd.

“They get to come in early, and they generally probably get a better spot. But I don’t think they really do it just for that. They want to be here,” Gould said. “I think a lot of them have come from backgrounds where they volunteered at their church, or for their kid’s school. … So what’s a few hours driving a shuttle?”

Gas prices, economy take a toll

There is, however, a price to be paid. The cost of the traveling roadshow can be high.

With gas prices trending up, it just costs more to get to the rally than in the past.

According to fuel prices tracked by national auto club AAA, as of Tuesday afternoon the average price of a gallon of regular gas in the United States had risen 76.6 cents over the past year. A gallon of diesel was up just over a dollar.

Jessica Brady, a spokeswoman for AAA Auto Club South, said gas prices have dropped slightly over the past week due to the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the world’s third-largest oil consumer.

“We expect to see demand drop drastically at a time when the U.S. is already seeing lower demand,” Brady said.

Nevertheless, gas prices are likely to continue to creep higher as the weather warms.

“We haven’t seen the spring or summer yet, when demand typically heats up, and we’re entering that at a time when gas is already high,” Brady said. “It is likely when we get to that time, we’ll see prices increase.”

Rex Gambill, Internet sales manager for Mid-State RV Center in Byron, said the industry standard for a Class A diesel-powered RV — the ones that look like tour buses — is 10 or 11 mpg, while a smaller Class C diesel RV could range as high as 15 to 18 miles to the gallon. Diesel RV engines are generally more fuel efficient than those that run on regular gas, Gambill said.

Regardless of the mileage, the reality of rising costs was not lost on those at FMCA on Monday.

Gene Goles stood inside shady, air-cooled Sheep Barn 1 watching a game of card bingo from the back of the room. His wife of 50 years, Shirley, was somewhere among the tables playing a game that made no sense to Gene.

The Goleses drove their motorhome from Baltimore last week and are staying outside of the fairgrounds. They drove their towed-along car to the fairgrounds Monday, just as on previous days they took trips to the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins, and up to Macon to “see how the people lived.”

Goles was frank about the cost of coming to Perry.

“Let me put it this way … if we couldn’t afford it we wouldn’t do it,” Goles said. “But it’s getting harder and harder. You just have to do without certain things.”

For example?

“Hunting and fishing, I have to cut my trips shorter,” he laughed, giving new hope to fish and fowl throughout the greater Chesapeake Bay area.

Despite the rise in gas prices, Gould said the recreational vehicle industry has seen positive signs recently.

“I think in terms of the very recent gas price increase, we don’t really know how that’s going to shake up, but the whole RV industry did take a definite downturn, and RV groups, such as ours, were affected,” Gould said. “It seems like as the economy started picking up, so did the RV industry.”

Gould said sales reports from winter RV shows were positive.

“I think all that pent-up energy of the last couple of years, people didn’t buy and they’re ready to buy,” Gould said. “Here, we’re seeing exhibitors are bringing more of their RVs to display and to show. So, hopefully, that will translate to more sales.”

Gould said the cost of owning and operating an RV was more likely to affect the types of trips owners make, staying closer to home rather than driving cross-country. She pointed out that, after the initial investment, the cost of taking a trip in a motorhome was not necessarily more expensive than other modes of travel.

“Once you have the investment in a coach, you really can save money,” Gould said. “Airfare is so high these days, too, and that’s going up. Hotels are going up. Everything is going up. It’s not just the RV prices. So you make your choice to do this, and it’s all good.”

Major FMCA event

The Perry event is the 85th major event put on by FMCA, which typically hosts two such events each year and boasts nearly 100,000 active “member families,” in FMCA parlance. The group’s second major event in 2011 will be held in August in Madison, Wis.

“Family reunions we’re starting to call them, because it really is a reunion,” Gould said. “So many of these folks travel from event to event.”

Gould said the group tries to alternate north and south, east and west. Last year’s events were held in Albuquerque, N.M., and Redmond, Ore.

She described the fairgrounds in Perry as a “remarkable” venue for FMCA.

“It really has everything that we need in terms of the facilities, and the parking, and for the Southern hospitality, too,” Gould said.

A major part of the event is the wide range of seminars, with 134 scheduled in Perry. Topics range from uber-practical (two hours of “Microwave-Convection Cooking for One or Two), to borderline fanciful (“Motorhoming in Australia”), to the just plain sensible (“RV Packing Tips”).

There can be a bit of wishful thinking, too. On Monday at 3:15 p.m., a sizable group gathered in Heritage Hall for a seminar titled “Look 10 Years Younger in Less Than 5 Minutes.”

One unidentified man in the crowd, his face partially obscured by a fresh-looking Stetson, expressed skepticism at the claim.

“If you look 10 years younger in five minutes, how come it takes them 75 minutes?” he grumbled about the 1 hour, 15 minute presentation.

As the seminar rolled on, a passel of men quietly killed time on the bench outside the doors as those in the darkened room watched slides of someone pressing eyelashes.

Jokes aside, the seminars play to the audience. There are numerous seminars on RV maintenance and repair, a hot topic for a crowd depending on those mammoth vehicles to get them to their next destination. Other seminars focus on Internet and computer technologies, getting attendees up to speed on social networking, photo sharing and keeping those oft-finicky wireless connections up and running.

No strangers

A sense of camaraderie seeps into everything in the soon-to-be-rolling-again city. There are no strangers, only people yet to be met.

Tom and Sandra Horn haven’t seen Gurley, Ala., since Thanksgiving. They miss their “church family,” but they clearly have family — by blood, faith and common interest — all over.

On sunny Monday, Sandra sat in front of her motorhome crafting wooden figurines, located just 100 yards away from the center of the action and feet away from hard pavement. In 2007 — at least, the Horns think they remember it was 2007 — it rained so hard in Perry their RV got stuck in the mud. Close to the road is primo as far as the Horns are concerned, even if the weather forecast is mostly mild.

White-bearded Tom was a Navy pilot, served his country for 37 years, got out in 2003. He got colon cancer, but beat that more than three years ago. He wears a big name tag, so you know who he is and where he lives. Sandra has family in Florida, which they visited on a swing through the state earlier this year, passing through Tampa, Brooksville, the panhandle.

Sandra does all the driving these days. Tom says that is because she thinks he makes bad decisions ever since he had chemo. Neither feels bad about missing a winter full of worse-than-usual weather in north Alabama.

“Everyone kept e-mailing, ‘You’re missing all the snow!’ I was like, oh no we’re not,” Sandra said.

“Keep it!” Tom added without a moment’s pause.

They are heading home after Perry. Go ahead and ask them. They’ll tell you the whole story.

There are no strangers in the rolling city.

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