Family & Friends
By Craig Green, F275689
First of all, you don’t have to be an FMCA executive or a full-timer to become a rally host. All you really need to do is to step forward and say, “I will,” which really means, “We will.” And if your wife is a school secretary, and the “I will” rally is scheduled near the end of the school year, well, you are really brave. Be that as it may, I did just that, and here is my story.
In July of 2003, my wife, Dianne, and I were exploring our home province of Alberta, Canada. We were in search of a quiet RV park where we could recover, mentally speaking, from the rigors of June in the school system. We found a quiet family park in Innisfail and as we were strolling the grounds, I mentioned that this would be a great park to host the Klondikers chapter’s spring rally, to which Dianne agreed.
Two weeks into September, I sat looking out my window as the driving snow and sleet piled up on the ground. I reflected upon the lot of my fellow Klondikers, who were safely ensconced under a bright sun somewhere in the southern United States, hugging palm trees and enjoying refreshing tropical drinks. I realized, however, that winter would not last forever and that those tanned, happy people would be returning at the end of this very long winter looking for a spring rally. With that, I lifted the phone and dialed up Dickson Leisure Grounds, the same RV park that Dianne and I had visited during our retreat in July.
I negotiated a deal with the campground owners, taking detailed notes, opening a file, and doing everything we all did back in the “good old days” when we worked for a living. I discovered early on that note taking is very important when you are organizing a rally.
During the chapter’s fall meeting the date for the spring rally was set for May 28, 29, and 30, 2004, so in March we started giving serious thought to the food and entertainment for the rally. Luckily, Dianne has a background in food services, so with minimal input from me, except to say, “Yes, dear” multiple times, the menu was selected and my shopping list was developed. Next, we had to do some creative thinking regarding entertainment. Considering that it could be a rainy weekend, our focus was directed toward inside games.
Next was to contact the campground and reaffirm that we would be holding the rally as scheduled, and to confirm that the designated sites and hall were still available. Surprise! The campground had been sold and the new owner knew nothing about the reservations and agreements that I had made with the previous owner. The new owner, Kent Alder, had never heard of me or of FMCA. He had a background in farming and was new to the business of operating an RV park. To my great relief, he was (and is) an understanding fellow and a quick learner. He took down my information and a few days later got back to me with the welcome news that we were all set and the rally could go forward as planned.
We felt very lonely in this endeavor; however, Heather Bishop, F244338, the chapter’s secretary and treasurer, was absolutely incredible with communications and advice, while her husband, Bob, was very supportive and did not seem overly concerned that we would be miserable failures.
Our wagon master, Keith Jorgenson, F191002, contacted us in April to advise us that he would be arriving a couple of days early to get the highway signage out, which proved to be a big load off our shoulders. We were concerned that with our job commitments we would not be at the campground until midafternoon on Friday. Another relief came when chapter president Gary Fedick, F248097, called to say that he and his wife, Marsha, were home from Texas and also would arrive early to lend assistance.
Two weeks before the rally, the grocery run was completed, and food preparation commenced. I played a key role here, folks. I was the official food taster, and I was a very enthusiastic worker. Frozen food filled our freezer and that of our son. Canned and non-perishable food, along with cooking utensils and other accessories, were piled in our living room.
The next item of business was collecting prizes. The phone lines buzzed between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Calgary, Beaumont, and Stettler, Alberta. Arrangements were completed and the prizes were picked up or shipped in.
One week to go and the number of registrants kept increasing. Would we have enough food? Would there be enough campsites? Would the hall be big enough?
Friday, May 28 finally arrived. I dashed home from work, hooked up Dianne’s car to the Bounder, and we were on the road.
As we pulled into the park and up to the hall, we were met by plenty of rally-goers willing to lend helping hands, and in no time we had the hall’s two refrigerators and the cooler filled with perishables. To our great delight, the new owners had worked very hard to clean the hall. Everything was sparkling, and all the appliances worked perfectly.
Friday evening was busy. With the onslaught of rain, we moved into the hall, started the wood stove, and got everybody dry and warm. The Klondiker band kept us entertained, while the Klondikers’ coffers grew fatter with the proceeds from the “bus races.” Dinner was great; you have to love those “heavy hors d’oeuvres.”
Saturday morning came around mighty early. Dianne and I opened the hall, put the coffee on, and lit the stove. A personal note: I love volunteers! We quickly learned that the hardest part of hosting a rally is the planning and preparation. Once it gets going, many willing hands make light work. After breakfast we had our business meeting, and then a special presentation by FMCA Northwest Area vice president Jim Phillips, F158824, who is much loved and respected by us and by all of the chapters here in Alberta. Jim and his wife, Ann, do such a wonderful job.
In the afternoon Dianne started preparing for the indoor golf game. This was quite interesting, because nobody knew the rules or the setup, not even me. But it didn’t take long for creative minds to take hold, and seven interesting holes of golf were soon laid out and played.
We were able to sneak in a “happy hour” and then it was time to get dinner going. Once again, many willing hands pitched in and the dinner went off without a hitch. Well, there was one. I have confessed in the past, and I do so again, that I am not a chef, not even a cook. As it turns out, I’m not much of a server, either. I splattered spaghetti sauce all over Heather Bishop’s outfit. Sorry about that, coach.
I hope everyone enjoyed the remainder of the evening. Our motorhome became quiet very early that night.
Sunday morning arrived, and so did the sun. Once again, we tried to beat the crowd to the hall and get the coffee going but, gee whiz, these guys get up early! After breakfast and cleanup, it was time to start winding down. Even though we were busy all weekend, it was sad to see everyone departing.
I said to Dianne, with a tear in my eye, “This has been an incredible experience; let’s do it again next year.”
She replied, “If you keep thinking thoughts like that, you may not live to see next year!”
It is a lot of fun hosting a rally; really, it is. The first time may be scary, but I think the next one will be much easier.
Ken and Edith Stephenson, F121295, our Strathmore neighbors and fellow Southern Alberta Drifters members, shared an idea regarding rally hosts. There should be three member families involved in every rally. The first family is in charge; the second family assists; and the third family is in training. This formula would make hosting a rally much easier, particularly for first-timers, and might encourage more volunteers “” plus be a lot of fun.
As a rally host, it’s important to thank those who helped make the rally a success, especially those who donated prizes, services, or time.
A special salute goes out to Molson Canada and Terry Rolheiser for supplying prizes. I also would like to thank Darin Smethurst and Majestic RV World in Calgary for the donation.
Our campground hosts, Kent, Laurel, and Stephanie Alder, deserve a great big thank-you for all the little extras that made our rally successful.
And finally, thanks to members of the Klondikers, Southern Alberta Drifters, and Alberta Wild Rose chapters who participated and made hosting our first rally such a rewarding experience.
Henehans “Run Away” For The Time Of Their Lives
By Pamela Selbert
A furry, eight-inch-tall stuffed bald eagle perched boldly on the wide dashboard of Paul and Anita Henehan’s Holiday Rambler motorhome, his glassy eyes seeming to peer intently through the windshield. Smiling, Anita said the stately gray-and-white toy bird is there to “guide us on our travels.”
Apparently he’s done a good job, as the Henehans, F289035, who recently celebrated their 13th wedding anniversary, covered more than 100,000 miles during the nearly four years they were full-time motorhomers, visiting Canada and every state except Hawaii. Anita has documented their travels and more in her first book, How to Run Away From Home After 50: A True RV Adventure.
She calls the work a “spiritual and motivational book,” which is as much about following your dream as offering suggestions on deciding whether full-timing is right for you; choosing an RV; orchestrating your travels; and dealing with troubles (flat tires, malfunctioning water heaters, and the like) while on the road. It’s a compelling read, even for non-RVers (although it may convince them to change their ways), and she announced with some pride that it has sold more than 2,000 copies since it was published in February 2003.
Anita is even more proud of the dramatic changes she has made in her life by deciding to “run away.” In the book she details what she has given up and how she has moved on. She explains many of these changes “” and the need for them “” at the beginning of the book and expounded on them during our discussion in the couple’s elegant 42-foot coach.
Anita, 68, grew up in a St. Louis suburb, living her entire life within a radius of about three miles. She married at age 21 and was busy raising three teenagers when the first tragedy of her life occurred in 1979. Anita and her first husband, Herb Sokolik; their youngest son Roger, who was 15 at the time; and his friend Tom had gone to the family’s cottage on the Mississippi River for a few days of well-needed rest and boating.
But before they got on the water, Roger quarreled with his father and chose to stay behind. For that he never forgave himself, because there was an accident. The boat’s engine died and the craft was sucked under a dam. Anita and Tom were thrown clear and not badly hurt, but Herb was killed when the boat hit the dam. Roger, believing he could have saved his father, was tormented for years with guilt, Anita said. At age 25, he took his own life.
For five years after Herb’s death, Anita continued running the two drugstores he had operated. In 1984 she sold them. Two years later “” she shows great pride at having taken the step at age 50 “” Anita began a new career as an art dealer, working with companies such as AT&T and Graybar Electric. She recently retired from the job.
Anita met Paul at a singles dance in St. Louis in 1990, and the two “clicked right away,” she said. They were married the next year, at which time he sold his home and moved in with his new wife. She was still living in the house she had shared with her children and first husband, and it was full of memories, she said. The rooms were decorated with the art she had collected over the years, and in the yard were trees she had planted in Roger’s memory.
Paul, also 68, is originally from the Chicago area. After earning a business degree from St. Ambrose College in Davenport, Iowa, he went into sales for White Motor Corp. He and his family “” his first wife, who he lost to cancer in 1989, and three children “” lived in Baltimore, Maryland; Charleston, West Virginia; and Marietta, Ohio, before moving to St. Louis. He retired five years ago.
In 1995 Paul suggested that Anita might like to try camping, promising her that it was “the way to go.” Skeptical, Anita agreed to rent a type C motorhome rather than immediately purchase a coach, and they traveled around southern Missouri.
“Up until about nine years ago I had never camped “” or had the slightest desire to,” Anita said. “Paul never pushed the idea, but I think full-timing had been in the back of his mind for a long time.” He let her reach her own conclusions about RVing.
That first trip left such a positive impression on Anita that the couple bought a 25-foot Holiday Rambler trailer the same year. Both were still working, so their travels were somewhat limited, but in 1999 they took a three-month trip to Alaska. It was then that Anita realized she could live in a smaller space than she ever imagined and didn’t need a lot of stuff to be comfortable.
Soon after they returned home, the couple offered to baby-sit their two grandchildren, ages 3 and 10 months, while the kids’ parents, Paul’s son and his wife, relocated back to the United States from England. It was a wonderful 14 days, Anita said with a smile, but afterward she went to bed exhausted.
“While I was recuperating, I talked with God,” she said. “He spoke to me in His own way, telling me I was strong enough to sell the house, and I should consider doing that.”
It became clear to her that she and Paul needed their own home, not one that was part of her past. Nonetheless, Paul was shocked when she announced it was time to sell her home of 37 years and for them to “run away” to become full-time RVers, his longtime dream.
While the house was being sold and its contents dispersed, she and Paul lived in their travel trailer. Then it was time to hit the road.
“It was fun, but even when you have a wonderful relationship, a 25-foot-long trailer can become pretty tight for two people,” she said. “We promised ourselves that one day we’d buy a bigger unit.”
They soon did, thanks to a burned-out lightbulb in the bathroom. It wasn’t just any lightbulb, but one that could be purchased only at an RV dealership. They found the necessary bulb at a dealership in North Carolina, which also had several extremely desirable coaches on display.
“While Paul was taking care of the lightbulb, I fell in love with a 42-foot Holiday Rambler,” she said. “We talked it over, agreed it was the right thing to do, and bought our coach the next day.” Shortly after moving into the motorhome, they joined FMCA.
Neither has ever regretted the purchase. From May 2000 until December 2003 the motorhome, which they named “Merrily We Roll Along,” was their home while they saw the United States and Canada, taking time for the activities one or both enjoy: hiking, boating, golf, tennis, skiing, dining out, and more.
Their Chevy Tahoe, which served as a towed vehicle, carried an inflatable boat and outboard motor, golf clubs, hiking gear, tennis racquets, and skis. Favorite places that they visited during their life on the road included Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and Stratford, Ontario, Canada; Colorado; the Oregon coast; the redwoods region of California; and, of course, Missouri.
“In becoming a full-time motorhomer, my life changed pretty dramatically,” Anita said. “An author friend in St. Louis, Linda Nash, encouraged me to write about it. I dedicated my book to her.”
How To Run Away From Home After 50, which has a cover price of $14, is available at Camping World stores (www.campingworld.com) and at www.workamper.com and www.amazon.com. It also can be ordered by calling the Henehans at (636) 448-5262 or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paul and Anita have temporarily given up the full-timing lifestyle, and have settled into a townhouse in a fashionable St. Louis neighborhood. Together they enjoy biking and long walks. Separately, Paul plays golf twice a week with friends and participates in tournaments. Anita is honing her skills as a public speaker in order to promote her book, with several engagements planned at local libraries and bookstores.
“We love the freedom of being on the road, the people we meet, and the education that comes from traveling,” she said. “It’s good to be settled again, but our years full-timing were the best of our lives, and we wouldn’t change a thing.”