Family & Friends
By Joanne Bergquist, F119377
The Great Eastern Area Rally, or “GEAR” as it is known to many, had its beginnings with the first FMCA Eastern Area Rally in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in 1987. The first “Great” Eastern Area Rally (not that the previous rallies were less than great) was held in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1995. Today the GEAR, which takes place annually in the fall, offers attendees plenty to see and do. Although the rally site locations vary within the Eastern Area, they all offer one thing in common: beautiful foliage at a time of the year when nature’s beauty is all around.
The 2004 GEAR Rally “” held Thursday through Sunday, October 7, 8, 9, and 10, 2004, at the Delaware State Fairgrounds in Harrington “” had it all! A full schedule of educational seminars suited those who wanted to learn more about their motorhome or the RV lifestyle. Crafters could choose to create interesting gifts or take-home items at the numerous sessions offered.
Eight RV dealers representing many of the major motorhome manufacturers brought display coaches for rally-goers to peruse. Whether you were interested in buying a new motorhome or just curious to see what was available in the 2005 models, representatives were on hand to answer questions and provide tours. In addition, more than 60 vendors were on hand to exhibit motorhome-related products and services.
A full slate of entertainment was available to attendees throughout the rally. Each day began with coffee, doughnuts, and music by the Frustrated Maestros Eastern Sharps And Flats chapter. The Frustrated Maestros also performed on the plaza on Friday; played during the popular ice cream social later that same day; and provided entertainment at the Rolling Red Hatter’s Tea on Saturday.
On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday mornings following coffee and doughnuts, attendees were invited to hang around the coffee area for square dancing and Western-style line dancing led by Jack and Doreen Ingle, F251132. Even those with two left feet had a great time watching the more experienced dancers take the floor.
Daytime entertainment included a performance by the Legacy Bluegrass Band on Saturday and a stirring tribute to the founding and development of the United States in “One Nation Under God “” A Patriotic Pageant” on Sunday.
Four nights of evening entertainment kept everyone in good spirits. On Thursday, the U.S. Naval Color Guard from Washington, D.C., presented the colors, and the U.S. Naval Academy Band from Annapolis, Maryland, played a selection of patriotic and marching band songs. Friday night attendees were treated to a performance of Hello, Dolly! by the Municipal Opera Company, based in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The Alexandria Harmonizers, a barbershop chorus with more than 200 members, entertained rally-goers on Saturday night. The final evening of the event featured The Duffields, a Christian music group.
Golfers had a chance to demonstrate their prowess on the links during the Captains Choice-Scramble Golf Tournament on Friday.
Besides all the scheduled events, there also was ample time for chapter meetings, daily devotions, and for members to meet with our FMCA Eastern Area vice president, Judy Czarsty, F79148, and the other Eastern Area Motorhome Association officers. There was a daily newsletter available each morning to keep attendees up-to-date with all the activities and changes. Motorhome technicians were on site to help with needed coach repairs. A free Internet kiosk was provided for those who wanted to check their e-mail or surf the Web. And everyone had a chance to win prizes, donated by many of the vendors in attendance, during the daily drawing.
Our area chapters have become an integral part of our rally and deserve a well-earned “thank you.” Many of the routine responsibilities were directed and carried out by chapters whose members volunteered for specific duties as a group. The old saying “many hands make light work” is very appropriate. This also created a great atmosphere of fun and fellowship. Many of our chapters have been participating for a number of years and have honed their skills to make this a truly great area rally.
GEAR 2005 will be held this coming October at the Delaware State Fairgrounds in Harrington. The area has a number of attractions to make your destination more than just a rally. With tax-free shopping and outlets a short distance away in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware has much to offer. The GEAR has something for everyone, so mark your calendars and plan on attending this first-class rally October 6, 7, 8, and 9, 2005. Look for a rally registration form in upcoming issues of Family Motor Coaching magazine, or visit www.fmca.com/areas and click on the “Rallies” link. Make this the year you get into GEAR.
The Smiths Travel With A Smile
By Steve and Gail Ault, F106024
Everyone has a story about how he or she was introduced to his or her spouse. In many instances, a common friend is the matchmaker, or an unusual circumstance will bring a couple together. But LaVonne Smith, F169732, met her husband, Ted, through one of the most unusual pickup lines ever.
One day in October 1948, LaVonne was having breakfast at Murphy’s Bar and Grill in Topeka, Kansas. She was dining alone, since her roommate had recently married and moved out. While sitting there she was startled when a man came up to her and said, “Hey, lady, your blouse is unbuttoned.”
She then realized that she had missed fastening the middle button on the back of her blouse. As the two began to talk, she found out that his name was Ted Smith and that he had grown up in the same area she had near Osage, Kansas. He was just out of the Navy and had recently begun working at the local Chevrolet dealership. After several dates, she conned him into doing some car repair for her sister. On June 10, 1950, Ted and LaVonne were married. Ted ended up working at the car dealership for 35 years and in his own shop for 11 years.
The Smiths raised two children and found time to camp, first in a Dodge van, followed by a Holiday Rambler motorhome, and then a Winnebago Chieftain. However, during this time Ted was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, a disease he’d had his entire life. The disease progressed until he had to retire in 1981 at the age of 54.
In June 1993 Ted and LaVonne purchased their current coach, a classic 1978 GMC motorhome. After buying the GMC, the Smiths discovered FMCA and the benefits of belonging to chapters. Today they belong to three GMC-related chapters: GMC Flatlanders, GMC Motorhomes International, and GMC Mountainaires. Both Ted and LaVonne, who still live in Topeka, agreed that the social interaction provided by chapter membership changed their lives for the better. Besides keeping the couple active, LaVonne said that chapter membership helped them develop friendships and participate in activities that have enriched their lives.
From March to June in 2004 the Smiths traveled 7,000 miles in their GMC, mostly going to and from chapter activities. Many of the miles were driven as part of caravans with other chapter members, which reduced the worry of handling unexpected problems and made the trip more enjoyable.
Ted, who gets around in an electric wheelchair, reported that by bringing his own seat he’s gotten free admission to Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and received free meals at Lambert’s Café in Sikeston, Missouri, home of the “Throwed Roll.” Conversely, those who know Ted have been enriched as well. His great attitude, in spite of his handicap, has motivated many people to be more positive.
Ted basically has five places to plant his bottom when’s he’s up and about: the pilot or copilot chairs of the motorhome; his wheelchair; in one of the seats of the mobility-equipped van the couple has for in-town travel; and a chair at his home. At a June 2004 rally Tim Stulz, F235133, added a sixth option when he and his wife, Mary, took Ted along in the golf cart for nine holes at the Trail Ruts Golf Course in Guernsey, Wyoming.
Knowing there’s so much he can’t do, yet wanting to be an integral part of the chapters he’s involved with, Ted chose to share his expertise on rebuilding steering gear boxes, and he’s become the GMC guru on front-end alignment and steering. One time, while supervising a newer member working on his steering, Ted got frustrated and said, “Just pick me up and put me under the coach; I’ll do it. But don’t leave me under there; I can’t get up!”
Of course, RVing with a handicap requires a spouse who’s willing to do some of the dirty work. “Without LaVonne I’d quite possibly be in a nursing home,” Ted commented. LaVonne finds herself in charge of plenty, both at home and on the road. Her motorhome duties include checking the oil, washing windows, gassing up, and dumping the holding tanks. Having a handicapped traveler on board also required the couple to make modifications to their coach. It has a lift in the rear to carry Ted’s wheelchair; a chairlift to help get him in and out of the motorhome; handrails that run the length of the living area; a raised bed; a raised toilet and an enlarged door to the bath; and an 18-inch steering wheel, an electric parking brake, and a handicap vacuum brake booster.
The GMC Flatlanders chapter regularly has work rallies where members assist one another in keeping their coaches safe and reliable. Some of the modifications done to the Smiths’ GMC motorhome came with the assistance of various members. Woodworker Paul Burkhart, F160267, made and installed the wooden handrails, and Jim Lawhorn, F177329, elevated the toilet. Other modifications required special fabrication, such as the wheelchair lift and rack on the rear of the motorhome, which came from Banner Mobility in Topeka. The entry lift is a Lectra Aid by SFH Products, C10379, in Phoenix, Arizona. The owner of the company originally designed the lift for his wife, who had multiple sclerosis.
So, for those of you who say “I can’t,” reflect a bit on Ted, who, in spite of the trials of his life, remains active and optimistic. He truly is an inspiration to those who know him.
Alice Pfaff, right, presents quilt to Joan Beck.In the fall of 2003, Alice Pfaff, F143977, approached Carolyn Knight, F165187, wife of Airstream Southeast chapter president Howard Knight, and suggested a quilting project. Chapter members would make individual squares for the quilt, which, when completed, would be awarded to one of the ladies involved in the project. The suggestion was brought up at the next chapter meeting, and the ladies were ready to get started. The project began with approximately 12 participants and quickly grew to 24. As each lady finished a square, Alice gave them a ticket, which was then put into a basket for the drawing. Many ladies who had never quilted before joined in and enjoyed the project so much that they made more than one square. Alice worked throughout the summer, putting the 48 squares together and then backing, tying, and binding. The finished quilt was displayed at the chapter’s November 2004 rally, held at Tropical Palms FunResort, C5675, in Kissimmee, Florida. Alice (above right) presented the quilt to the winner, Joan Beck, F259525 (above left). (Photo by John Beck.)