Mardi Gras is over and it’s time to hit the road – heading west.
Go West, young man, go West and grow up with the country.
Washington is not a place to live in. The rents are high, the food is bad, the dust is disgusting and the morals are deplorable.
— Horace Greeley 
We were going to the FMCA “Rally in the Valley” in Chandler, AZ and we had 1550 miles to go in 5 days. Doable? Yes!
Leaving New Orleans we drove 383 miles to Houston, TX. We were staying here two nights – primarily to get some chores done (laundry & groceries). More importantly though we were visiting with another high school friend of Chuck’s – Sandy Meekins Foor and her husband Jim. A delicious Tex-Mex dinner at El Tiempo Cantina – washed down with our new favourite drink – Margarita’s – made for a great visit.
Next up – 388 miles to Ozona, TX. Not much to write about! Just a dirt RV parking lot right off the interstate. The best thing about Ozona was the easy on ramp onto I-10 because I was starting the day driving! I don’t drive this ‘big rig’ too often but I will drive the interstates and highways, but ONLY if – there is no construction; there are no big hills; there is easy on and easy off access; there is no city/town driving; it isn’t snowing or raining; the gas tank is full… Get the picture?
When we were in New Orleans one of our RV neighbours was a big and tall, larger-than-life, cigar chomping Californian (walking his teeny tiny dog) who told us about Cattleman’s Ranch near El Paso, TX. “It’s a great steak house, about 5 miles off I-10, and they let you park your motorhome overnight – for free! Just call and let them know you’re coming and they’ll meet you and take you to your parking spot.”
And, that’s what we did!
We drove 324 miles and this place was great! Along with 2 other RV’s, we were parked next to the lake. We could walk to the restaurant and all around the ranch viewing alpacas, buffalo, horses, long horned cattle, rabbits, petting zoo for kids and a western movie set. This was a gem in the middle of absolutely no where and it looked like people came from miles. The restaurant was packed and you all know the price of a good steak dinner!
Next morning 350 miles to Tucson, AZ. Our FMCA Rally check-in was not until Monday morning. So, spending Sunday night in Tucson made good sense with only 107 miles to drive to Chandler. Tucson bonus alert – fresh picked lemons and grapefruit growing throughout the RV park!
WHAT IS FMCA?
The Family Motor Coach Association was founded in 1963 and they have since issued more than 400,000 membership numbers to motor homing families like us. Today, there are 70,500 active member families from the US and Canada and the average age of the members is 71 years old! Membership in FMCA is conditional on ownership of a qualifying coach: a Class A, B or C motorhome, or a coach conversion, that contains all the conveniences of home (including cooking, sleeping, and permanent sanitary facilities). Our coach is a Class A.
With the average age increasing and the motorhome sales today representing a much smaller piece of the RV pie the FMCA is ready for some big changes. This year they are putting to the vote to allow towables (5th wheels, travel trailers, etc.) to join thereby increasing the membership base and reducing the average age.
We feel our $50/year membership fee is well worth the money – especially with some of the benefits included in the fee. The biggest benefit for us is the emergency medical evacuation/repatriation and travel assistance program within North America. Other fee-based benefits include road-side assistance, RV insurance, campground discounts, RV Rally and Caravan discounts and the Michelin Advantage Program providing competitive prices on tires for RV’s, light trucks and passenger cars. We have already benefitted from the light truck tire program twice.
RALLY IN THE VALLEY
As we were planning our travels west our route was taking us right through Arizona. We had not yet been to an FMCA International Convention and so the timing and location of this Rally was perfect. And, we picked a big one – 2,627 coaches in attendance! This would be the largest FMCA convention since Perry, Georgia in March 2011.
A rally will keep you busy! Start each morning at 7:00 a.m. with Morning Exercise and go all day with scheduled seminars, meetings and craft classes. You can shop the vendor booths, tour the show coaches on display and end the evening with nightly entertainment. You can even schedule repair/upgrade work to be done on your coach. How about compete in the Beanbag Toss; line up with 1,000’s of members for the free ice cream sandwich and go to an afternoon church service. There is something for everyone!
I didn’t get up for the 7 a.m. Morning Exercise but Gracie and I made the daily 8:00 a.m. “Dogz on Tour” 60 minute walkabout.
There were 100+ seminars to choose from with titles ranging from – “Detailing Your Coach in One Hour!”, “Have You Ever Thought About Writing?”, “Making a Beaded Iris”, “Improve Engine Performance and Save Fuel”, “Gilligan Meets Google: Sailing Into The Digital Age”, “Do’s and Don’ts of RV Insurance” to “RVing the Canadian Maritimes”. Studying the 110 page Rally Guide was a challenge!
Only a handful of the seminars were repeated so if the schedule of one seminar conflicted with another one you had to choose carefully. Often, I went in one direction and Chuck in another and we’d compare notes at the end of the day.
The Rawhide Western Town & Event Centre was huge! Options for transportation included shuttle buses, golf carts, bicycles and, of course, walking – lots of walking. Our bikes came in handy again!
This wraps up our first leg of heading west. The drive was good. The stops just about evenly spaced and the FMCA gathering entertaining and educational. Chuck does all the planning and mapping out our routes and stops and you heard it here 1st – “Great job honey, baby, poopy, darlin‘!”
Whew! Mardi Gras + 5 days of driving + 5 days of rallying we’re ready for a vacation! California here we come. Two weeks in Indio (near Palm Springs) to be precise.
Our RV happy place!