By Cherie Ilg Haas
With colder weather creeping up on us, we’re reminded that winter isn’t far off. But for some FMCA members, winter is a lifestyle rather than a season. Such is the case for the Arctic Travelers, an FMCA chapter whose scope is America’s “final frontier” — Alaska.
“We tend to be really, really happy if the temperature is above 50 degrees,” said John Liberty, F99892, the chapter’s national director. But chilly temperatures don’t stop them from having a great time.
Amid the beauty of the Alaskan mountains and the openness of the roads, this group knows how to stay warm and cozy when surrounded by snow. That’s because in the chapter’s early days, Marvin Moe, F138089, started what has become an Arctic Travelers tradition by creating a unique “fire pot.” He took a tub from the inside of a washing machine, attached short angle-iron legs to it, and then set the contraption on top of a circular metal shelf from a Lazy Susan, which minimizes any fire hazard. “The holes from the washer let the heat of the fire out pretty good,” said Ruth, Marvin’s wife.
In the evenings, members sit in their chairs in a circle around the fire pot, of which Ruth said, “The later it gets, the closer we move in.”
And if the fire pot doesn’t create enough sparks, the annual “Ooooh . . . Aaaah Rally” is sure to. Each August the Arctic Travelers rally at a campground near a public fireworks display provided by the city of Houston, Alaska, to celebrate the city’s “Founder’s Day.” In addition to making a generous donation to the city at this event, chapter members also contribute to the fireworks fun. “The reason we call it the Ooooh … Aaaah Rally is a few years ago a member of the club said they should sit in chairs on one side or the other,” said John. “One side says ‘ooooh’ at the first burst, then the other side says ‘aaaah’ at the next burst. Usually other people that are there look at us more than the fireworks.”
Whether you prefer to “ooooh” or “aaaah,” the Arctic Travelers invite you to visit. “We welcome members from all over — you don’t have to belong to come to a rally,” Ruth said. Most of their gatherings are held in the southern and more temperate parts of the state, in places such as Palmer, Houston, the Kenai Peninsula, and Anchorage, where more than half of the members live. But during the 10 years that the Arctic Travelers have been a chapter, they also have traveled as far north as Chena Hot Springs, about 30 miles north of Fairbanks. “Chena Hot Springs is a great spot for observing the northern lights,” John said.
Each February, the chapter makes the long journey to Bullhead City, Arizona, for its “Gambler’s Rally,” held just across the river from Laughlin, Nevada. After this event, chapter members head south to Yuma, Arizona, for the annual “Alaskans in Yuma” get-together.
Every third Saturday from October through April, the Arctic Travelers meet at a restaurant for dinner and a short chapter meeting, and between Memorial Day and Labor Day they have rallies at least once a month. Because of frigid temperatures and treacherous road conditions for much of the year, the motorhoming season is much shorter in Alaska than in the southern parts of North America. Not to mention the fact that in the winter, there are only a couple of hours of sunlight each day, and in summer, a short twilight is as about as dark as it gets at night. But in the land of the midnight sun, this group takes advantage of the longer summer days. “We just sit around the campfire longer,” said Ruth.
“Everyone just wants an opportunity to get away, kick back, and relax and enjoy the company of our fellow members and any visitors we might have,” she added. All FMCA members are welcome at Arctic Travelers rallies. But call ahead; reservations are required because of limited camping sites.
For more information about the Arctic Travelers chapter, call FMCA’s Chapter Services Department at (800) 543-3622.