Members of the Holiday Rambler Recreational Vehicle Club Chapter 419 hold their daily 4 p.m. social get together Wednesday (May 4) at the Holiday Rambler Diesel Pusher 419 Rally at the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds April 30-May 5 in Goshen, Ind. The annual rally, under rare sunny skies in Elkhart County, drew 280 member coaches, 17 show coaches plus 20 vendor units. Also on hand were executives from Coburg, Ore.-based Monaco RV and its parent company, Navistar International Corp., Lisle, Ill. “We’re proud of what this chapter does because this is not just another rally, where we have a lot of entertainment and food and frivolity,” reports Dick Reidenbach, an Indianapolis resident and former president of Chapter 419. “We are about teaching people how to operate and maintain their Holiday Rambler diesel pusher motorhomes. That’s what we do. We have 150 seminars here in these six days.”
Phil Hinton, a recreational boater, says he doesn’t mind paying his fair share of tolls to make San Francisco Bay Area Toll Authority bridges stronger to resist earthquakes.
But he’s outraged by a proposal to more than double the toll for towing his 30-foot boat over a Bay Area bridge from $11.25 to $25 — the same increase as a commercial freight truck driver would pay, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
“It’s very unfair to treat me like a trucker hauling a big rig out of the Port of Oakland,” said Hinton, a Dublin, Calif., resident. “My boat is a lot lighter, causes less wear and tear on the roads, and I’m not using it for commercial purposes. This toll increase is shocking to boaters.”
Hinton and other others who tow boat trailers or second vehicles on recreation trips are steaming over the Bay Area Toll Authority’s proposal for steep increases ranging from $9 to $13.25 over two years.
The toll authority is scheduled to vote on the increases Wednesday (Jan. 27).
The seven state-owned bridges are the Antioch, Benicia-Martinez, Carquinez, Dumbarton, Richmond-San Rafael, San Francisco-Oakland Bay and San Mateo-Hayward bridges.
Recreation advocates — including boaters, campers and motorhome owners — contend they would be gouged by a toll system that blindly bases charges on the total number of axles. They suggest lower tolls for noncommercial, recreational vehicles.
Under the system, the driver of a two-axle car or pickup truck towing a three-axle boat trailer now pays the same $11.25 toll as a typical commercial big rig and trailer with five axles.
Bridge operators defend the system, saying they need a simple, uniform way to collect tolls from the masses crossing seven state-run bridges in the Bay Area.
Recreation advocates already dislike that they now pay the same tolls as truckers. The proposed increases further aggravate them.
John Hagins, a Benicia recreational fisherman, said he was shocked to learn that the toll to tow his two-axle bass boat trailer over the Benicia Bridge would increase from $8.25 to $20.
Hagins is assessed at two axles for his vehicle plus two axles for the trailer.
“It’s outrageous to charge me a $20 bridge toll every time I want to take my bass boat to fresh water over in Antioch or Oakley,” said Hagins, a retired school maintenance manager who goes fishing three times a week.
“I’m on a fixed income,” he said. “At least the truckers can pass higher tolls on to their customers. I can only pass the charges on to me.”
Linda Smith, of Martinez, is upset that the toll would increase from $8.25 to $20 to drive her two-axle motorhome with a car in tow over the Benicia Bridge to overnight outings with the Holiday Rambler Recreational Vehicle Club.
She and her husband would pay only $10 in tolls if they drove the two vehicles separately over the bridge because the car toll is proposed to rise only from $4 to $5.
“This is just another fee increase that makes it harder to get by when you’re retired,” Smith said. “Why so much? We’re not a commercial trucker.”
Toll authority members say state law requires them to base tolls on the number of axles. The idea is that more axles means more weight and more wear and tear on highways and bridges, said Rod McMillan, the toll authority director of bridge oversight and operations.
He acknowledged some cars carrying boats don’t weigh as much as freight trucks with the same number of axles.
But bridge operators, he said, need a simple rule to quickly collect tolls — especially as more drivers use the FasTrak system that collects tolls electronically.
Drivers hauling trailers make up a small percentage of vehicles crossing bridges, although he said the authority has no way to count them, McMillan said.
Boaters say they would be willing to use the cash lane at toll booths if the toll authority would adopt a special rate for motorists hauling boats.
PLANNED TOLLS FOR TRUCKS AND VEHICLES WITH TRAILERS
Proposal from Bay Area Toll Authority for seven state-run bridges. Big rigs, and vehicles towing boat trailers or other vehicles are charged by total number of axles. A 2-axle car towing a 2-axle boat trailer pays a 4-axle toll.
Axles Current toll July 2011 July 2012
3 $6 $10.50 $15
4 $8.25 $14 $20
5 $11.25 $18 $25
6 $12 $21 $30
7 $13.50 $24.25 $35
Recreational vehicles rambled into Albert Lea, Minn., this week as the Holiday Rambler Recreational Vehicle Club holds its Region VI-Minnesota Rally at the Freeborn County Fairgrounds.
“Our main theme is to have fun. That’s why we’ve got these rigs, to go out and have fun,” said Larry Witt, of Altoona, region six director.
Participants don’t spend all their time at the fairgrounds, and a big part of the rally is touring and visiting local destinations. People could sign up for a trip to Greibrok’s Mini History Farm and County Fair and the Spam Museum. Another tour showcased Poet Biorefining in Glenville, and another featured Minne-Soy-Ta Nice, a soap making business near Glenville.
“When we’re in the area, we try to see as much of the area as we can,” Witt said.
Some people had dinner at Wedgewood Cove. Groups also toured the Freeborn County Historical Museum.
An informal RV maintenance seminar was held Thursday afternoon, and there will be a few other seminars.
Holiday Rambler owners attending the event come from a variety of professions from doctors to farmers, Witt said. But the weekend is a time to renew friendships made at other rallies.
“You make new friends. Next year, you almost have to be there to renew acquaintances,” said Bert Schelhaas, of Edgerton, the club’s state manager.
About 60 units are expected at the rally. Most of those coming are from the region, including about 20 units from both Minnesota and Iowa. Region VI also includes Nebraska, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota and Manitoba, Canada.
Each state in a region has a state rally, and the regional rally cycles between the state rallies.
The Holiday Ramblers have eight U.S. regions and any members from other regions can attend.
The International Holiday Rambler Rally was held in Sedalia, Mo., July 20-24.
This is the first time the state rally has been in Albert Lea. Organizers are always looking for new locations to hold the rallies.
Karen Asmus, assistant state manager, organized the regional conference in Albert Lea, and she said she knew the fairgrounds would be a good location because the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) held its regional rally there June 17 to 21. Some HRRVC members are also FMCA members.
The HRRVC rally is smaller than FMCA, which attracted about 276 RVs and about 600 people.
Rochester resident Wilbur Schuman and his wife, Marilynn, have been members since the mid-1960s, and he said they’ve owned eight Holiday Ramblers. They now own a 27-foot Aluminite.
Schuman said participants used to bring children to the rallies, which used to be more like camping without electricity.
“Our organization is kind of shrinking, because we’re having trouble getting new members to join with the economy and people working and all that,” Witt said.
Other similar organizations are having the same problem, he said.
Each state brought various items, and they’re raffled for charities. The HRRVC supports a number of charities like the Make a Wish Foundation and Habitat for Humanity, and scholarships are awarded to children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Witt said he decided to buy a Holiday Rambler when he worked for Bell Telephone Co., and he interacted with installers who traveled and often worked in RVs moving from town to town, and many of them had Holiday Ramblers.
“We have fun. Not crazy, wild fun – just nice fun,” said Reona Schelhaas, Bert’s wife.