Family & Friends
By Pamela Selbert, F195400
Whether you know Jim and Lil Ranniger, F225726, well or have just met them, it won’t take long for you to learn how important the old Lincoln Highway is to them. The Lincoln Highway was the first identified and marked highway to run coast to coast in the United States. And the Rannigers have spent much of the past eight years promoting and helping to preserve this old route.
Jim and Lil, who live in Evergreen, Colorado, joined the 1,200-member Lincoln Highway Association in 1994, at nearly the same time Jim retired. Incidentally, that also was when they began motorhoming. Jim advanced quickly in the Lincoln Highway Association’s ranks, serving three years as its public relations chairman and two years as its vice president. In 2001 he was elected president and is currently serving in his second one-year term, which will expire in June 2003.
Jim, a native of Gowrie, Iowa, noted that his love for the Lincoln Highway is “hereditary.” Both his parents grew up along the old highway, and he recalls the stories they told about its early days.
“My mother grew up in Dow City, Iowa, and was 18 months old when the highway came through town,” he said. But the road consisted of dirt until several years later. “She remembers as a third-grader, the day school was dismissed so students could watch while the road through town was paved — that would have been in the early 1920s.” Jim’s father grew up on a farm near Denison, Iowa, another town beside the old highway. His grandfather built a filling station prior to 1920 along the route.
The original Lincoln Highway Association formed in 1913, at approximately the same time the route — starting at Times Square in New York and ending in Lincoln Park in San Francisco — was officially proclaimed. The organization promoted public usage of the road and helped to persuade cement providers to donate material to local governments across the country, Jim said. The local governments would then furnish the aggregate for the cement and the labor to lay the pavement.
“These seed miles were laid through the towns,” Jim said. “But when people saw how much better paved roads were, it didn’t take long for them to begin applying pressure on the government to pave the entire highway.” Today many of the old concrete miles have been overlaid with asphalt, he added.
Jim and Lil are now driving their second motorhome, a 1997 35-foot Winnebago Vectra Grand Tour, with some 56,000 miles on the odometer. They traveled to all but eight of the lower 48 states. They also have visited Alaska and all of the Canadian provinces except the Northwest Territories and Prince Edward Island.
The Rannigers emphatically agree that they prefer to get off the interstates and travel the smaller roads. Many of the miles they have traveled are along remnants of the two-lane Lincoln Highway, of which a large percentage of original miles can still be driven. In fact, they have led motorhome caravans along portions of the old road. In Iowa alone, approximately 85 percent of the 1913 route still can be traveled. Jim noted that the modern-day Lincoln Highway Association has chapters in each of the states the road crossed, and can provide information about sites to visit along the way.
Jim attended Iowa State University, where he received a degree in electrical engineering in 1958. But between his junior and senior years there, he took a summer job in Denver, Colorado. It ended up being the best summer of his life, he quickly pointed out.
While in the Mile High City, Jim met Lil at a young adults’ picnic at Trinity Methodist Church on July 4, 1957. Jim returned to Iowa State to finish his schoolwork and then moved back to Denver — and close to Lil — to take a job with the Public Service Company of Colorado, a gas and electric utility, where he spent his entire working career. The two became members of the church and were married there a year after they met, which Jim joked was his “last independence day.”
Following their marriage, Lil worked as a secretary before the couple’s children — a son and a daughter — were born. She returned to work as a pharmacy clerk after they were grown. The Rannigers now have two grandchildren, ages 15 and 18, who Lil said are “experienced motorhomers who traveled with us for several years.”
Jim has been a trustee at the church for 29 years, and Lil has volunteered at the church’s nursery for 40 years. In fact, she is taking care of a “second generation” of children there. She also served as president of the church’s United Methodist Women.
When she and Jim aren’t traveling, Lil also finds time to volunteer at Mount Evans Hospice Health Care, which offers home respite care.
For the past 30 years the Rannigers also have been members of the Rocky Mountains Railroad Club, and they take frequent road trips with other members of the group. Two decades ago they also became members of the Ghost Town Club of Colorado, which takes frequent two- to three-week field trips around the country.
“Originally, our focus was exclusively ghost towns,” Jim said. “But these are rapidly disappearing, due to development and the elements, so we’ve expanded our interest to other matters historic.” Many of the group’s members are also motorhomers, he added. Considering Jim’s passion for history, it’s no surprise to learn that he also has served on the board of directors for the Colorado Historical Society for the past 10 years.
The Rannigers became members of the Family Motor Coach Association at approximately the same time they bought their 1997 Vectra Grand Tour. Their first motorhome was a new 29-foot 1994 Itasca Suncruiser, but by no means was it the beginning of their camping days.
“We began camping in 1961 using a 9-foot-by-9-foot umbrella tent when our son was a baby,” Jim said. “We progressed to a Nimrod pop-up tent trailer three years later, and then to a 16-foot Shasta travel trailer a couple of years after that.”
However, before long, Jim’s busy career — he retired as an executive of the utility company — took precedence, and there was little time for the family to enjoy the camping lifestyle. “For the last 20 years of my working career, I was on the road at least 80 nights every year,” he said. “I flew about 30,000 miles a year for the job and got my fill of hotels and airports. I decided that after I retired I didn’t want to travel that way anymore.”
For the last eight years, the Rannigers have spent an average of four months a year on the road. This included a trip to Alaska in 2000.
Today much of the couple’s time is spent on Lincoln Highway Association activities, such as helping to plan the group’s annual convention and attending meetings at its national headquarters in Franklin Grove, Illinois. Since joining the Lincoln Highway Association, the Rannigers have traveled nearly the entire road, either by motorhome or charter bus, Jim said. The route is a “natural” for motorhome caravans. Today the old road is most closely aligned with U.S. 30 and Interstate 80.
“One of the things we like best about motorhoming is all the nice people you meet,” said Lil. She said they haven’t been able to attend an FMCA extravaganza yet, “but that’s something else we’re hoping to do soon.”
Southwestern Bus Nuts Celebrate Silver Anniversary
By Sheila Donigan, F5564
FMCA’s Southwestern Bus Nuts chapter celebrated its 25th anniversary at the beautiful Golden Village Palms RV Resort in Hemet, California, April 12, 13, and 14, 2002.
A group of 240 people (109 motorhomes) enjoyed a fun-filled weekend under perfect skies. Helping the chapter celebrate this exciting event were seven charter member families and 11 former chapter presidents.
The festivities got under way on Friday morning with coffee and a continental breakfast, followed by a card tournament and crafts show. In the afternoon, attendees were treated to a spectacular wine and cheese tasting event around one of the resort’s three beautiful pools. Wine country is just a few miles away, and the local wines have been judged as some of the best in the country. Prior to the wine tasting, members and guests enjoyed an informative seminar on RV-related issues by Len Souza, F216935. After a delicious dinner of soup and salad, the group was entertained by Al Anthony and his orchestra and danced the night away to music of the big band era.
Saturday morning, after a gourmet breakfast, some chapter members took a guided tour of the wineries, while others visited the newly completed dam at Diamond Valley Lake. This is the largest earthen dam project ever constructed in the United States. Members and guests who remained at the resort visited and reminisced about the many chapter outings and happenings of the past 25 years.
Saturday night, after a gourmet dinner cooked by chapter volunteers, chapter president Arly Ward, F41265, introduced the past chapter presidents and their families. Each former officer told highlights of their particular “reign.” Their stories were sometimes humorous, and evoked plenty of laughter from the audience. The balance of the evening was filled with entertainment from a chapter favorite, Shamy Sounds.
After breakfast on Sunday, it was time to head for home to begin collecting memories of the next 25 years. The prevailing consensus among rally-goers was that it is very rewarding to belong to a great organization and a chapter so rich in history. All of the volunteers who worked so hard to make this rally a success agreed that FMCA is and always will be “family, fun, and fellowship.”
Bus Becomes Command Center For Yosemite Rangers
By Glen and Cheri Stanley, F214191
Many RVers visit or stay in the national parks as they travel around the United States. In our opinion, there is no better way to see the scenic wonders that have been preserved and protected throughout this great country than by motorhoming.
We have been full-timers for 10 years and are on our third motorhome, a 2000 39-foot Fleetwood Bounder. Since we began traveling, one of the places that we always loved visiting was Yosemite National Park in California. In May of 1995, during an annual family trip to the park, we were approached by Valley District ranger Don Coelho with an interesting proposition. (Ranger Coelho is now the park’s assistant chief ranger.) He asked if we would consider starting what he called the Law Enforcement Desk Office.
He explained that the volunteers who staffed this office would assist park rangers by taking non-emergency reports — motor vehicle accidents with no injuries, damage done by bears, and some instances of larceny, burglary, and vandalism — that require no follow-up by investigators or immediate action by an on-duty ranger. In return for their service (21 to 28 hours a week for at least 10 weeks), volunteers would be provided a full-hookup campsite at no cost. Since we both were retired from the law enforcement profession, we accepted his offer and began working the next month. We’ve been back every summer since.
Yosemite is one of the most popular national parks in the country, with most people visiting Yosemite Valley. It is not unusual for 19,000 vehicles to enter and leave the 3-mile-long, 1-mile-wide valley on a holiday weekend. Add the numerous employees, and campers who arrive via bicycle or free shuttle bus, and you have a city of 20,000 to 30,000 people, with your neighbors changing every three or four days.
Keeping the visitors safe is the job of the park’s rangers. Besides acting as the park’s law enforcement officers, rangers often have additional duties. They may double as firefighters, emergency medical technicians, or paramedics. Some have mountain climbing skills, while others are adept at rappelling from helicopters. Those who are part of the park’s Search and Rescue division put these skills to use often.
After we began working at the park, we were astounded to find out how many rescues are made there each year. It takes many people with specialized training and equipment to rescue just one person with an ankle injury from one of the park’s many hiking trails. A major search or rescue can involve more than 40 individuals. In most instances, rangers are joined by volunteers who spend their own time and money to assist injured or lost visitors.
In the past, the field command post for major searches or rescues at Yosemite would be run from the trunks of patrol units, while the incident commander and others remained in the Search and Rescue office. Unfortunately, this spread numerous people involved in various functions of the operation throughout the park. A mobile command center was needed for better control of operations, but Yosemite did not have such a vehicle. Then in 1996, the Hoover Dam Bureau of Reclamation donated a 30-foot school bus to the park just for that purpose.
The bus had previously been used as a visitors’ shuttle while the dam’s parking structure was being built. Once the parking area at the dam was completed, the bureau no longer needed it. Since the bus was not used for extensive travel, it was in excellent condition.
Since then, members of the Search and Rescue division at Yosemite, along with volunteers, have turned the bus into Yosemite’s Mobile Command Center. After removing the seats, we converted the interior into a working office with counters, map tables, cabinets, blackboards, and a storage area that doubles as a bench. The park furnished the antennas, radios, cell phones, computers, copier, and fax machine, along with other electrical equipment. The vehicle also was equipped with a large generator that is used to provide adequate power during extended operations.
It became obvious that much of the equipment motorhomers find so necessary and helpful would also work well in the command center. We needed awnings, an alarm system, leveling jacks, and much more. We began writing letters to RV parts and accessory companies, and the response has been better than we hoped. RV-related companies that donated equipment included Carefree of Colorado, C444; Beaudry RV, C7566; Camping World, C1970; Pacbrake Co., C5344; East Penn Manufacturing Co., C8241; Power Gear, C6143; Xantrex Inc., C7475; and Dometic Corp., C306. Without the assistance of these and other companies, the Mobile Command Center would not exist as it does today.
The Mobile Command Center still is being used when necessary. For instance, it was put into operation during a very large fire in Sequoia and Kings Canyon national park in 1999. That same year, it also was used during a homicide investigation in Yosemite National Park. The center was an invaluable resource when President George W. Bush visited Sequoia and Kings Canyon national park in 2001. It is kept ready to use for any operation in Yosemite National Park, the surrounding counties, or wherever it might be needed.
The RV community has responded in a manner that should make us all proud. In return for its generosity, each company has its name displayed on the side of the vehicle, and each received a framed picture of the Mobile Command Center surrounded by several of the employees and volunteers who use it.
We’re still working to equip the Mobile Command Center with additional items. Thanks to the generosity of several RV-related companies, and the Hoover Dam Bureau of Reclamation, the rangers have a valuable tool to help protect the park’s visitors and its natural resources.