Leaving Winhall Brook campground, we drove further north in Vermont towards Burlington. We were on a scenic route, which was a lot of up and down grades and curves. We came across some surprising sights along the way – a double hump camel grazing in a field, and a huge utility-size solar photovoltaic farms with sheep grazing underneath the cells to keep the grass down. (The sheep reminded me of this funny lawn mower for sale sign we saw in New York.)
Parking at Champlain Valley Expo Center, Essex Junction, Vermont:
Over 700 RVs, over 1,400 people, and over 50 children – all parked in the huge field surrounding the Champlain Valley Expo Center and we had room to spare. You could choose between water/electric or boon docking, and we weren’t crammed-in, in fact, more RVs could have been easily accommodated.
As we arrived, eager and happy Escapade volunteers greeted us at the entrance and helped us get parked. This set the tone for the week – everyone helping everyone.
The Opening Ceremony:
One of the founders of the Escapees RV Club, Kay Peterson, spoke to the group. She is 89 years old and easily entertained everyone. She reminded us that the group is all about support and that this week was all about supporting each other and making friends.
She told this great story about her and her late husband going to Las Vegas in the late seventies. She had the room in the palm of her hand while she told us her story and tied it back to the theme. She often speaks of the importance of following your heart to pursue your dreams, that we must all work to overcome our fears of the unknown, and be willing to take chances in life. If you get a chance to hear her, take it – she is very inspiring.
We were newbie’s to the whole RV rally experience and know that next time we will be better at judging which sessions to attend. However, we did learn quite a few things this go-round:
General Tidbits Learned
- Everyone (RVers and NonRVers) should download the Red Cross app “Emergency” on their phone. It will help you plan for emergencies and natural disasters, as well as, warning you about them. Check it out.
- One speaker warned that it isn’t good to have your awning staked into the ground. He said when the awning is staked it will, over time, cause the awning to pull away from the RV and leaks may develop.
- Always turn off your water when you are not at your RV and bring in your awning(s).
- If you are in a bad weather in your RV remember to disconnect your propane whether you are trying to weather it out in-place or if you plan to leave your RV and go somewhere else.
- Tire Safety – proper inflation and not overloading your rig. Buy known brand name tires, not Chinese “time bombs”. Know the age of your tires and how to read the date codes, consider replacing tires that are 5-6 years old, even if the thread is still OK.
- Guided RV Tours can travel in a convoy or scattered in groups of 2-4 rigs and are a great value. I went to a presentation by Adventure Caravans and found out they take groups all over the world.
“Okay, Honey – Tell Me Where To Go” presented by Chris & Jim Guld (Geeks on Tour)
- For planning a trip trips.furkot.com is useful for saving a route.
- For navigation while traveling, you can use a RV specific portable GPS. (the speaker recommended the Rand McNally RVND 7730, we recently upgraded to a Garmin RV GPS). In addition to that, you can use Google maps on a smartphone as a backup, and it’s always useful to have a real map to verify roads (We use the Rand McNally Trucker maps). Or you can use CoPilot on a tablet. Just be aware that your cell phone needs a signal to function as a navigation device.
- For saving and sharing your trips, look at Google Maps & Google My Maps.
“Volunteering: A Great RV LIfestyle” presented by Linda & Ron Fleeger
- A great way to give back is by volunteering with the National Park Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service, National Forest Service, US Army Corp of Engineers, Bureau of Land Management, State Parks & Recreation Areas, Religious affiliated Youth Camps, etc.
- If you volunteer your time (usually 20-30 hours per week/for 3 months) you are generally provided a campsite with full hook-ups.
- To find volunteer opportunities search the agencies website, network with others, search www.volunteer.gov, or join the group www.workamper.com. (Note: Popular areas during prime time will usually book up one year in advance.) Look up the agencies mission statement to make sure you will be able to support it. Remember, you are a temporary
volunteeremployee – think “summer job”.
- Send an email to inquire about available positions and follow up with a phone call two weeks later.
- You will need a short resume (empathize your soft skills: flexible, adaptable, self starter, friendly, outgoing, confident in yourself, willing to learn new things – don’t use your former professional resume) and you will be required to pass a background check. Be thinking about what you are willing to do (for example: run a camp store) and what you aren’t willing to do (for example: clean restrooms) and be up front about it.
- During your interview ask: What days of the week and hours per week will be required? (If applicable, are the required hours per person or per couple? Can you and your spouse work simultaneously?) What will be your general job responsibilities (type of project and chores expected)? Can you receive mail on-site? Will you be required to wear special clothing? Is there cell service, wifi, OTA TV, laundry? Is the campsite level and what is the condition of the roads? What is the size of the campsite and is it secluded from guests?
- Follow-up with a short “Memorandum of Understanding” listing the answers to these questions so that you and the nonprofit clearly understand your agreement.
“`Save the Date: Total Solar Eclipse” presented by Gary Tomlinson
- In North America -Last solar eclipse was in 1979, next will be in August 2017 & 2024
- Lunar eclipses are common, solar eclipses are rare
- It will track a narrow path across the U.S for viewing at 100% blockage. Carbondale, IL will be dead center in the path with the longest viewing time. The western U.S. may have better weather conditions (no clouds).
- Always use solar rated safety glasses when viewing the sun directly
- If you are traveling to see the eclipse along the direct path, make reservations early, campsite will fill up early
- Web resources: greatamericaneclipse.com and eclipser.ca
Our Overall Impression of the Escapade RV Rally:
We had a great time and learned a lot. The days began early and went fast. Activities were planned throughout the day. However, what stood out the most were the nice people that we met and the upbeat tone of everybody at the rally. This tone permeated the sessions, the flood of door prizes given, the golf carts with volunteers always eager to drive participants door-to-door, the ceremonies, and by the participants attending. Escapade was a nice, positive experience. Was it perfect? No, but everyone was invited to give their feedback by email after the rally so Escapees could continue to grow in meeting the ever changing needs/wants of part/full time RVers. Would we attend another Escapade Rally? Yes, we had a good time and learned a lot!
Taking Some Time Off from the Rally for a Tour of the Ben & Jerry’s Factory:
What began with a $5 correspondence course in ice cream-making from Penn State and a $12,000 investment ($4,000 of it borrowed), Ben and Jerry opened their first ice cream scoop shop in a renovated gas station in Burlington, Vermont. Just two guys, who met in elementary school, trying to figure out how to make a living and at the same time support the environment, their community, and their state of Vermont. Ben and Jerry’s is a success story (even though they were later consumed by a big corporation in a take over bid) and today their ice cream is everywhere. Ben and Jerry are now officially retired, but they do make appearances for social events.
By the way, my favorite flavor is Chocolate Chip-Cookie Dough and Don’s is Chunky Monkey. What’s yours?