Our oldest grandchild turned 13 today. Ryan was born almost exactly a year after my retirement and almost exactly one year before we went full time in our motor home. I mention this because his age so nearly parallels significant changes in our lives. From the day we purchased our first motor home in 2001, we were FMCA members. In our 12 years of FMCA membership we have attended five rallies, Hutchinson, KS in 2002; Redmond, OR in 2004, St. Paul, MN in 2008, Bowling Green, OH in 2009 and now the 50th anniversary celebration in Gillette, WY.
We have been planning on this FMCA Rally celebrating 50 years since FMAC became an organization promoting motor home ownership and enjoyment. We were enticed to attend by the fact that Monaco International planned to have a pre-rally on the same site where FMCA would hold their rally one week later. The opportunity to stay at the rally site for two weeks with full hookups while attending two rallies was too good to pass up. You may notice a certain erratic nature to our rally attendance. We attend when our planned travels make it convenient to get to the location of the rally. Sometimes we build our travels around a rally site. In this case, our plans changed several times before the rally but everything has worked out.
The rally for Monaco International began on Wednesday, June 12 but we arrived on the early arrival date, June 10, driving in from a 11 day stay in Denver. We soon found out that the predominant weather pattern in Gillette was strong afternoon winds with storms. The first few days of the rally there was a water truck soaking down the grounds to reduce dust. After several storms the water truck never reappeared. We learned to keep our awnings in when we left the coach. After a night listening to the pennants for a soda pop company flapping in the wind, we dropped the tape separating one row of campsites from the next to the ground. That made for much quieter nights.
There were sessions on a variety of topics, one popular session dealt with the latest changes in ownership of the Monaco family of companies which had occurred only a few days before the rally. Mike Snell, CEO of Monaco, took us through a brief history of Monaco from its bankruptcy and subsequent purchase by Navistar in 2009 to its recent purchase by Associated Specialty Vehicles (ASV). Change continues as Monaco moves manufacturing facilities to new locations and closes other facilities. Future directions for Monaco were discussed and many questions answered. It was too soon after the recent purchase to answer all questions.
Sunday and Monday were designated gap days, days between the two rallies. A picnic Sunday afternoon and walking tours of downtown Gillette on Monday gave rally attendees ways to stay busy and learn more about the community. Monday afternoon we noticed the parking and meeting signs changed with FMCA's signs now in place. Motor homes were rolling in at a steady rate and the excitement of FMCA was building as the Dealer exhibits began to fill with new coaches.
When I attend a FMCA Convention I try to take care of many of my needed purchases with the vendors. I also plan to have some repairs done by the suppliers who provide some of the accessories in our motor home. I was frustrated on several of these quests as some vendors were not represented at the rally. Likewise, several key suppliers, a common awning company, the manufacturer for our inverter, and a satellite dish manufacturing company were either not present at all or not offering any service on site. I guess it is a sign of the times, still it is disappointing.
We did find out what a Cam-Plex is. The facility is a multi-use complex built by Cameron County. The facilities for large gatherings of RV's are quite nice. There are some sites with full hook-ups, others with water and electric and many sites with only electric which is much better than many facilities where we have been for rallies in the past. I would give the Gillette community a big A+ for the facilities and the community support for the rally. We enjoyed the coal mine tour, the bison ranch tour and a couple of rounds of golf on very nice golf courses.