Family & Friends
By Sue N. Steinheider, F200844
Take acres of the gravelly Arizona desert, add 650-plus motorhomes, and what do you have? The 2003 International Area Rally, that’s what.
The Fourth Annual International Area Rally was held in Quartzsite, Arizona, January 18, 19 and 20. Attendees included many FMCA members who had been at the Western Area Rally in Indio, California, earlier that month and traversed the 110 miles to Quartzsite to join in the fun.
Arizona greeted rally-goers with outstanding weather “” cool evenings, warm days, and blue, blue skies. The sunrises and sunsets were spectacular, all pinks and oranges. The winds stayed mild and the sand stayed put, the latter thanks to the diligent efforts of water truck drivers. Attendees took full advantage of an unparalleled opportunity to shop ’til they dropped, for the rally coincided with Quartzsite’s legendary swap meet activity.
This was the second time the International Area (INTO) has held its annual rally in Quartzsite. This year, we gathered on the grounds of The Main Event. Most people who had attended the previous rally felt that the new location was preferable, with not as much sand and wind.
One of the strangest things we found on this rally site was a clump of dried cattails “” proof that there had to be some water in the place at some time, but it sure wasn’t there in January.
While we were on The Main Event grounds, finalists were practicing for the upcoming National Horseshoe Pitching Championships. In addition, hot-air balloon owners were gathered to fly their beautiful craft. The balloons attracted much attention over morning coffee: “Hey, look there!” Attendees who arrived well before the rally began had the opportunity to view the activities of parasail enthusiasts and ultralight aircraft owners. These flights stopped by sunset on Friday, however, because we needed the runway to park our motorhomes. Talk about level sites!
Rally masters King and Jackie DeBord, F16686, arranged an excellent rally for us, keeping in mind that people come to Quartzsite to shop the swap meets. We did not have commercial vendors, and the rally was not overloaded with too many seminars, although the ones that were offered were all well-attended. All activities were held in two large tents.
Evening entertainment began with bingo on Saturday night. Also on Saturday evening, the hot-air balloonists treated us and the entire town to a balloon glow and nighttime ascent, following a fireworks display. The entertainers we enjoyed on Sunday and Monday nights emphasized audience participation, and since FMCA members are not noted for their shyness, these acts were very well-received.
For this writer, one of the rally highlights was being parked near a Frustrated Maestros chapter, the Yankee Doodle Dandies. We got to listen to their rehearsals and jam sessions, so we didn’t have to wait until coffee hour to enjoy their music.
Another highlight was seeing the unbelievable dedication of the rally committee and all the rally volunteers. Food service volunteers were up early so they could serve everyone morning coffee and doughnuts, and they graciously guided the unawake and “un-caffeinated” toward the coffee urns and pastries. The S.O.I. Motorhome Club chapter prepared a full breakfast one morning for all the volunteers, with pancakes, eggs, and everything. Other volunteers spent hours driving the trams up and down the road to the swap meet area, or driving through the encampment during evening entertainment to provide security. Earlier, guys from the Parking Layout chapter had tromped all over this huge, rather untamed area to plan streets and motorhome parking sites, and arrange traffic patterns. The ladies who manned the registration booth handled their duties, and anything else they were asked to do, and did it without complaint. Terri Bloomingdale, F188602, who manned the door prize booth, softened the disappointment of those whose membership numbers weren’t drawn for a prize by giving them a piece of candy.
The rally left us all with many happy memories, such as group carpooling down to “Sweet Darlene’s,” a local tent restaurant; shopping, shopping, shopping; and, for some, the nearness of Indian gaming casinos. The not-so-fun memory? Dust. Inches of dust. All over everything. The stuff was extremely fine, so as soon as you wiped it, it would settle right back down to the spot you just cleaned. The dust even got inside our computer case. (By the way, if you attended the rally and haven’t taken your malfunctioning computer in for service, try cleaning its insides with compressed air. We picked up this tip at the local business supply store, and it worked for us.)
Volunteering at a rally is a blast. It is tiring, but more fun than you can imagine. You meet the nicest people “” FMCA members. We’re already excited about the next INTO rally. So, stay tuned to this magazine for more details, and plan to join us in 2004!
Southeast Area Celebrates “America The Beautiful”
By Betty Kowalik, F94563
The Southeast Area’s 2003 rally concluded with smiling attendees waving good-bye and expressing thanks for a great time.
The theme for the rally, held February 5, 6, 7, and 8 at the Hernando County Airport in Brooksville, Florida, was “America The Beautiful.” But, with the exception of one day, the weather did not exactly live up to the rally’s “beautiful” billing. Mother Nature did her best to discourage the folks in more than 2,100 family coaches by challenging them with cold temperatures (highs in the 50s are chilly for Florida), rain, and wind. But, through it all, the 49 seminars were well-attended, and the tents filled with more than 160 vendor booths bustled with activity. The weather certainly did not stop attendees from going through the many new motorhomes on display, either. With 25 dealers and three chassis manufacturers in the coach display area, there was plenty to see and do. Food vendors also were on the grounds to help boost shoppers’ energy levels.
The rally spirit was saddened by the loss of the Columbia space shuttle on February 1, just prior to the rally. In memory of the shuttle crew, members of The Challengers chapter made and distributed to attendees nearly 1,000 black ribbons to pin on their name tags. With the help of office volunteers, members of The Challengers chapter printed and laminated signboards labeled “In Memory of Columbia and Challenger” for attendees to sign. These later were taken to the Kennedy Space Center in Titusville, Florida.
Luckily for us, the one beautiful day was the ever-popular parade day. The Springstead High School R.O.T.C. group, followed by the marching band from Central High School in Brooksville, led the procession. The patriotic theme prevailed, as likenesses of the Statue of Liberty and George Washington paraded by, as did a seemingly endless number of flags and banners. Red, white, and blue decorated the floats, golf carts, bikes, and the participants “” and even some of their canine companions. Parade watchers and participants claimed this was the biggest and best parade ever. Afterward, we all enjoyed a hot dog meal courtesy of Lazydays RV Super Center.
On volunteer recognition night we made a special presentation to Mary Lawler, F119890, Southeast Area vice president, because this is her fourth and final year in office. Doug Anderson, F146868, senior vice president of the Southeast Area Association, acting on behalf of the officers and members of the Southeast Area, read a proclamation and presented Mary with a gift certificate to purchase a laptop computer and accessories of her choice. Mary received a standing ovation for a job well done. A member wrote the poem that appears below in her honor.
Mary and her husband, Russ, and all of the other 700 volunteers worked long and hard planning and organizing the 22nd annual Southeast Area Rally, and it was the biggest and best. Thanks to them all.
“So Long, Mary”
There are people we meet
in our journey through life
who impress us immediately.
There are those who pass by
on the highway of night
of whom we have no memory.
But once in a while
one comes along,
whether they are a he or she,
That stands head and shoulders
above all the rest.
In this case her name is Mary.
She’s leaving the Southeast
and all she has done
in the four years recently passed.
And all of us here
who knew her so well
feel as if we were blessed.
Some friendships are fleeting,
and some really last
through the journey that began long ago.
It’s rare in this life
to have such a friend
that each of us really know.
So long, Mary,
We’ll miss you.
Speedboat Racing Excitement
By Tony Wiese, F178480
Do racing and motorhoming have anything in common? More than you might imagine, since they complement each other very nicely. A motorhome allows spectators and racers the opportunity to have the comforts of home anywhere they go, whether at an auto or boat racing event. And, given the fact that most boat races, like most car races, take place in the late spring, summer, and early fall when the weather might be quite warm, comfort is a necessity. Motorhomes also can serve as hospitality suites for clients and sponsors.
Motorhomes are even more beneficial at boat races, because most race sites don’t have the facilities found at a typical auto racetrack. I am involved with American Power Boat Association (APBA) Offshore boat races. At these events there is no garage; chalk lines mark your dry pit area. Whether the surface is concrete, asphalt, gravel, or grass, the race goes on. And boat racing, like FMCA, is a family activity. I got involved with racing when I was growing up; it was a father-son deal.
I raced in the top mono hull class in the world “” Super Vee “” for a number of years until I broke my back during a race in April 2001. I continue my rehabilitation, but still have a way to go; my doctors think I should be able to race again, possibly in 2004.
For 2003 the APBA Offshore national series, sponsored by GM Powertrain and GMC Trucks, is called the APBA Offshore 2003 Pro Grade Championship Series. APBA Offshore races the large Cigarette-style boats, typically in the ocean, with two or three people in each boat. GM Powertrain chose offshore boat racing because it is quite simply the toughest racing environment on equipment and competitors in the world. Thus, it offered them an excellent opportunity to validate and test the durability of their Vortec truck motors in several of the classes. If last year’s competition is any indication, 2003 will be very exciting. The remaining APBA schedule accompanies this article.
If you have an opportunity to attend an APBA Offshore race this year, please be sure to stop by the Lucas Oil Offshore Race Team and say hello. As we did last year, we are racing a 38-foot Scarab in the Super Vee class. Our boat’s owner and throttleman, Nigel Hook, was one of five racers selected by the U.S. Army to entertain the troops in Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, and Kuwait during the 2003 New Year holiday. Accompanying Nigel were NASCAR racers Jerry Nadeau, Geoff Bodine, and Gary Lewis, and NHRA drag racer Tony Schumacher.
Ironically, when the group was in Kuwait, the only racer any of the locals had heard of was Nigel (he’s won national and world championships in several classes). Offshore boat racing is currently one of the most popular sports in many Middle Eastern countries.
The APBA is the oldest and largest boat racing sanctioning body in the United States. Under the APBA umbrella are 13 different classes of sanctioned racing. APBA Offshore is the largest in numbers and size. APBA Offshore racing is a sport that pushes the limits of technology, competition, and endurance, with 14 different classes of race boats ranging from 24 to 43 feet in length.
There are various classes of boats that race in APBA Offshore events. The Pro class includes Super Vee (boats that have a mono hull or Vee bottom) or Super Cat (boats with a twin hull or catamaran), and their slightly smaller (in size and horsepower) cousins, Super Cat Light and Super Vee Light. Boats in the Factory classes are those that are factory-available (not one of a kind) Vee bottoms, all with the same horsepower engines.
This year marks the first time that boats with two different brands of engines will compete in the Factory classes. For the past five years, Mercury Racing engines were the only ones allowed in the Factory classes. This year GM Powertrain steps in with its Vortec HP3 engines, which were run very successfully in Super Vee Light last year. This should ensure even tighter competition in an already extremely competitive class, with no holds barred between GM and Mercury.
The Outlaw Series races are based on both engine and boat sizes. Included in this category are several of the older classes that were very successful and still have a strong following. The final group is called the Performance classes, and is based solely on the top speed of the boat. The Performance classes run abbreviated courses and are designed to race pleasure sport boats that have had required safety modifications added. The Performance classes give the typical weekend performance boater an entry into offshore racing.
Offshore boat racing is very different from most other motor sports, because there are two or three people in the boat. Responsibilities are divided. One person steers, one runs the throttle, and one navigates and helps watch gauges. A minimum crew of two is required because of the complexities of water conditions and the high speeds. Teamwork, synergy, and continuity are extremely important, given the ever-changing nature of the course, the competition, and the fact that these boats do not have brakes.
Offshore boat races originally were 200, 300, and up to 500 miles long, and held in the open ocean. That’s not at all spectator-friendly. Offshore race courses have gotten shorter over the years, but the boat’s endurance is still a major factor. In the top classes we still race 100 miles, with the smaller classes doing at least 60 or 70 miles. Performance classes typically compete in races that are 40 to 50 miles long.
In the past couple of years, APBA Offshore has focused on “stadium-style” offshore racing to bring the competition closer to the spectators and allow better television coverage of the events. Because of this, the laps are shorter “” 3 to 6 miles, depending on the particular site. Before this, course lengths were typically 15 to 30 miles long, with several 3- to 5-mile straightaways, and many turns, depending on the location.
Before you attend a race, it’s best to scout out the site several days ahead of time to find a great viewing spot. APBA Offshore race course locations always are subject to change by the U.S. Coast Guard because of shipping reasons (commerce before pleasure), as well as environmental concerns. It is best to listen to local radio, as one station usually will broadcast the race live. APBA also does a live Webcast via the Internet. Sun block, lawn chairs, comfortable shoes, a hat, and a good pair of binoculars also are requirements to make watching an offshore race a more enjoyable experience.
Prior to heading to an Offshore event, check the APBA Offshore Web site, at www.apba-offshore.com, or phone (727) 821-2722, to obtain more complete information and make sure dates have not changed. Given the capricious behavior of Mother Nature and other unforeseen circumstances, race dates and sites sometimes change as the season progresses.
This should be a very exciting 2003 season. So plan to attend one or more APBA Offshore races, because it is full throttle ahead. “Sea” you on the road and at the races.
APBA Offshore 2003 Pro Grade Championship Series
Marathon, Florida May 16-18
Savannah, Georgia July 3-6
Milwaukee, Wisconsin Aug. 8-10
Freeport, Grand Bahama Sept. 26-28
Tampa, Florida Oct. 17-19 “” National Championships
Key West, Florida Nov. 17-23 “” World Championships