Family & Friends
By Elizabeth Jasinowski Smith, F106207
When Howard and Jerre Ferrin, A436, invited every motor coach owner they could locate in the Denver, Colorado, area to their Golden, Colorado, home for a get-together on July 23, 1966, little did they realize what they were starting.
For several months the group gathered for weekend meetings and outings and thoroughly enjoyed the time spent together. In October of that year, while at Chief Hosa Campground, 30 miles west of Denver, the participants decided to join a new organization called the Family Motor Coach Association.
At that time FMCA would send organizers to advise and guide prospective clubs interested in joining the association. Ken Scott, L63, FMCA’s executive director, and Bob Miller, L620, the national treasurer, were dispatched to help the Rocky Mountain group. FMCA, which itself was only 3 years old, had fewer than 2,000 members. On January 3, 1967, the chapter, aptly named the Rocky Mountain chapter, was given its FMCA charter.
At the beginning, the chapter’s scope included the states of Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico, and the western portions of Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota. The Rocky Mountain chapter was the ninth chapter received into FMCA and the fourth west of the Mississippi River. The chapter area was so large that separate groups to the north, south, and west of Colorado began to meet, and spin-off chapters were formed. Over the years, 29 chapters have formed in what is now known as the Rocky Mountain Area, which encompasses Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. The scope of the Rocky Mountain chapter is the state of Colorado.
Membership in the chapter has fluctuated from the original 18 couples in 1967 to a membership high of 200; we now have approximately 120 family members. At least 25 Rocky Mountain members have taken the highway to the sky in the past five years. In 2001 alone, seven members, including two past presidents, have passed away. Yet even as our longtime members are aging, we have many new members to help perpetuate the chapter’s future.
A number of members have actively participated on FMCA national committees and were instrumental in the formation of the Rocky Mountain Area organization. The chapter has volunteered during international conventions, assisting in any way possible, and also has hosted several regional “rambles” in Colorado with help from fellow chapters. We have caravanned in large groups to the international conventions and to Rocky Mountain Area rallies. We have a great deal of fun together. It’s hard to believe that there are so many caring, loving people in the Rocky Mountain chapter and that they always seem to be there when you need them. The chapter is a tremendous support group, as are other FMCA chapters, no doubt.
Since its inception in 1967, the chapter has rallied at many historic areas in Colorado and the surrounding states. Members celebrated the chapter’s fifth anniversary at the Great Sand Dunes National Monument in Colorado and enjoyed its 10th anniversary in Durango, Colorado. Our 20th anniversary was commemorated in Estes Park, Colorado, where the chapter recorded its largest attendance with 80 member coaches and 19 guests coming from as far away as Florida. The 25th anniversary also was celebrated in Estes Park with many members attending, as well as guests from other chapters.
Five years ago we celebrated our 30th anniversary in Golden, Colorado (where it all began), with an exceptional turnout, including many members who have retired from motorhoming and/or have moved to other states.
Now the Rocky Mountain chapter is planning the festivities for our 35th reunion. The commemorative rally will be held during the weekend of May 17, 18, and 19, 2002, at Garden of the Gods Campground in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Rally attendees will be shuttled to the Flying W Ranch for a barbecue dinner and entertainment on Saturday, May 18. The event will honor all chapter members, especially longtime and retired members. If you are interested in joining us for this weekend of fun, call Bob and Joanne Patterson, F178178, at (719) 590-7573 to reserve your spot.
We are searching for former (and original) members who, for various reasons, have discontinued their membership in the Rocky Mountain chapter and/or FMCA. This is an open invitation to spend the weekend with us. If you have information that can help us locate these folks, please contact chapter president Allen Rein, F214273, or his wife, Glenda, at (719) 269-3566 (home) or (303) 888-8875 (cell), or by e-mailing the couple at [email protected]
Franklins Take Motorhoming To Heart
By Pamela Selbert, F195400
Gilbert and Sharon Franklin, F287035, of Tucson, Arizona, are relative newcomers to the motorhoming life. Until June 2000 Sher had never been camping and had no interest in it. Gil’s only experience was as a camp counselor one summer many years ago. But in less than a year the couple fell in love with being on the road in their motorhome. They became so fond of the lifestyle that even a life-threatening heart condition that sent Gil to three emergency rooms in South Dakota and put him in a Casper, Wyoming, hospital for surgery couldn’t keep them off the road for long.
The couple’s journey into the world of motorhoming began when Gil, a real estate attorney, began thinking about what he would do after he retired. “I hadn’t traveled a lot — I’d gone skiing in Michigan and Colorado and scuba diving in Central America, but that was about it — and I wanted to see the country,” he said. “I didn’t want to just be stuck at home.”
Convincing Sher to join in his adventure, however, was another story. “I don’t like roughing it,” she said with a smile. “I like my creature comforts.”
So the Franklins decided motorhoming might be the answer. In February 2000, after conducting some research, they settled on a 1998 34-foot Thor Residency that had only 1,400 miles on it. In June 2000, five days after Gil retired from his law practice, they were on the road. The couple put some 10,000 miles on the motorhome that first trip.
“We didn’t really know what we were doing, and we planned too much,” Gil said. “We wanted to see everything and visit our families who live in several different states, and we didn’t allow enough time.”
The trip took them to Lake Powell in Arizona, then to southern Colorado where they spent a week with Gil’s son, Jon, and his family. The couple then made their way through Durango and Denver and into the Plains states. They continued on to Chicago to visit two of his daughters; to Michigan to see his third daughter; northward into Canada; and then to South Dakota, Sher’s home state, where they spent time with her mother and sisters.
While in South Dakota, a pre-existing heart condition that Gil suffered from suddenly began causing him problems, requiring three visits to area hospitals. The couple pushed on to Casper, Wyoming, where Gil was scheduled to have an ablation — a medical procedure done to correct a rapid heart rate.
The couple had planned to continue their trip through the Northwest states, but got only as far as Salt Lake City, Utah, before Gil’s heart problem arose again. They immediately returned to Tucson and Gil had a pacemaker implanted in October 2000. Since they had rented out their home to make money while traveling, they had no place to live. So, they stayed in the motorhome at an area campground.
It’s hard to imagine recovering from surgery in a motorhome, but Gil said even that experience had a silver lining. At the campground they met a couple from Utah who were FMCA members and who suggested that the Franklins join the organization. They became members in December 2000 and quickly began to reap the benefits offered by FMCA. They’re now also members of the Southern Arizona chapter.
“We were such novices — there was so much about motorhoming that we needed to learn,” Gil said. “We attended a rally in Indio, California, and found the seminars incredibly helpful.” The couple hopes to begin attending national conventions and use the motorhome for extended trips. “Our plan is to spend four to six months on the road a year,” he said. “We’ll stay places longer, not travel so fast.”
Several months after Gil’s surgery, the couple was back on the road for a two-month odyssey across southern Texas. Described by his wife as a “real jock,” you would never know that Gil has a heart condition. He looks at least a decade younger than his 69 years. He maintains his slim physique with a regular regimen of biking, walking, and roller blading. “You don’t find too many people my age on roller blades,” he joked. “It keeps me youthful.”
Sher, 59, is similarly athletic and youthful. She works as an on-call secretary at a health and fitness resort in Tucson, a job that allows her to be away for long stretches of time, such as their first five-month motorhoming adventure.
Though the Franklins call Tucson home, neither is from the area. Gil grew up in Michigan and is a 1954 graduate of the University of Michigan. He earned his law degree from Wayne State University Law School in 1957. After college he worked in the Detroit area designing subdivisions and assisting builders and developers. He married and had four children: daughters Denise Hamburger, Pamela Azaria, and Alene Lipshaw, and son, Jon. Today he has nine grandchildren ranging in age from newborn to 17 years.
A favorite hobby during his young adult years was skiing, and he would often spend his weekends schussing down the slopes of northern Michigan. “One day a friend suggested that we go skiing in Colorado — that was in the early 1970s — and I never skied in Michigan again,” he said.
Gil soon moved to Colorado, first to Denver, then to Aspen, where he lived and practiced law until 1987. He enjoyed the lifestyle, but there was something missing.
So he ran an ad in the Wall Street Journal looking for a job opportunity elsewhere. A real estate broker in Tucson responded, inviting Gil to help him form limited partnerships. Gil moved to Tucson, but the work didn’t pan out, so he took the Arizona bar exam and practiced law on his own for a dozen years.
In the meantime, during a soak in his apartment complex hot tub in 1987, he met Sher, who had moved to Tucson in 1979. She had a son, Peter Jennings, by a previous marriage. The two hit it off and were married two years later.
Although motorhoming has become a big part of their lives, the Franklins have other interests that keep them busy when they’re not on the road. Woodworking is a favorite pastime for both. Gil began the hobby a decade ago as a way to relax, and carries photos of his work. He proudly displays an elegant chest of drawers with unusual doors featuring quarter-sawn wood; a cradle (used in turn by his grandchildren); and a rocking horse that he has made. Sher enjoys painting tropical fish on wood, which he then inlays in many of his pieces.
They both agree that woodworking is relaxing, but motorhoming is even more so. “You don’t meet any Type A personalities in campgrounds,” Sher said. “I’ve been slow [paced] all my life, and the retirees we meet have mostly come down to my level, though Gil still has a ways to go.”
“It takes some getting used to,” he said. “Getting up in the morning and not having anything that you have to do.”
Both had worried they might get bored in retirement, but have decided that whiling away an afternoon chatting with friends “is as good as anything you can do,” he said.
“We want to spend our time traveling in the West — California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Utah — and get to know the country,” Sher said.
“We like being part of FMCA — it makes us feel we’re more in the system — and we’re grateful to the friends who suggested we join,” Gil said.