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RV Lovers Flock to Perry Rally Despite Soaring Gas prices

Category: RV News
Source: The Telegraph, Georgia
Publish Date: Saturday, March 15, 2008
Summary: Quality of RV Lifestyle is still worth the price.

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By Becky Purser - bpurser@macon.com

Ron Mason, of Cordele, takes a look around the living room of a large, new Marquis recreational vehicle with a price tag of about $700,000. Mason, attending an RV rally Friday at the Georgia Fairgrounds and Agricenter in Perry, said the walnut cabinets, leather furniture, marble flooring, granite counters and plush bedroom and master bath were a bit out of his league.PERRY --Gas prices may be soaring, but Glenda and Leroy Wilson's love for recreational vehicle travel is not diminished.

The Fort Oglethorpe couple, whose top-of-the-line 2006 Bluebird CXI averages four miles to the gallon, were among the throng of RV enthusiasts at the "The Rally" at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter. The four-day event continues through Monday.

"Cut down on something else, but don't give up," Glenda Wilson said Friday of RV travel and its accompanying lifestyle.

Although the couple have had to curtail some of their travel because of the "terrible" gas prices, they didn't let go of a 13-year-old dream to travel to Alaska in their RV last year. She said her husband estimated the couple spent $6,000 alone in gas for the trip.

The Wilsons, who own a funeral home business in Fort Oglethorpe, about one mile south of Chattanooga, Tenn., travel in style in their RV - their third Bluebird RV.

Fully equipped, it tows a matching enclosed trailer that houses the couple's car, a color-coordinated Chrysler PT Cruiser, and their two Harley-Davidson motorcycles. The entire rig stretches 75 feet.

Wilson joked that her husband made her agree to share in the driving before they purchased their first RV.

The income to travel in such a way didn't come from their business, she said. The couple made their money in real estate when a major discount retail chain wanted to build on some property the couple owned and was willing to meet their asking price, she said.

"You sleep in your own bed," the 61-year-old Wilson said of why she enjoyed RV travel. "You can cook your own meals. You can come and go as you please."

For Pat and Wally Hill of Charlotte, N.C., both in their early 70s, the main attraction to RV travel is meeting people from all walks of life.

"People aren't in a hurry," said Pat Hill, a retired elementary schoolteacher. Her husband worked in marketing for Exxon before retirement.

Fred and Gladi Burns of Sparta, Mich., travel in a 33-foot-long RV that's pulled by a dual-wheel diesel truck.

The quarters are cramped, but the couple have learned how to maneuver around each other, especially when both are getting ready in the mornings, Gladi Burns said.

Already avid campers, the couple joined the RV circuit eight years ago and dream of September 2009, when she will quit her full-time job and the couple expect to hit the road full time.

"We're pretty much planning to sell everything and buy a fifth-wheel. The fifth-wheel will be our house," said Burns, a payroll accountant. A fifth-wheel is a travel trailer that is hitched to and pulled by a pickup truck.

"We like to travel so much, and there's so much to see and so many places we haven't been," said Burns. She added that she and her husband want to enjoy traveling before they get "too old" for such excursions.

She expects to keep working, already networking with temporary staffing agencies as they travel from place to place. She expects they'll spend no more than two or three months at one site. Her husband is in office sales.

The rally was a first experience for some and a welcomed reunion with friends for others.

The extended weekend included more than 30 seminars for RV enthusiasts on topics from campground safety to RV insurance to pet care on the road. Pets are a welcomed addition at the rally, with many RV enthusiasts out and about Friday walking their dogs. The rally includes a dog show from 9 to 11:30 a.m. today.

The rally also features nightly entertainment from varied entertainers such as Frankie Valli, formerly of The Four Seasons, Ricky Skaggs, a country and bluegrass musician, and the Michael Andrew Big Band, a band that offers the music and style of the big bands of the 1940s era.

Throughout the rally, there are other events featured, including a ladies social, a book discussion on "Chasing Fireflies" by Southern author Charles Martin and "Ultimate Campground Cooking."

Members of the general public not participating in the rally may join the fun from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. with the purchase of a $10 ticket. Food vendors with fair food also are on hand.

In all, about 8,000 people traveling in 3,439 RVs joined this year's rally, compared to about 10,000 people in about 4,200 RVs participating last year in the rally in Redmond, Ore., said Susan Bray, executive director of the Good Sam Club, an RV membership organization and one of the sponsors of the rally. The rally was last held in Perry in 2001.

While location may have been a factor in decreased attendance, the downturn in the economy likely accounted for the lower numbers, Bray said.

And although it costs more in gas, in the scheme of things the joy of journey outweighs the extra cost, Bray said. She figured a 4,000 mile trip averaging 10 miles per gallon based on a $2 a gallon gas increase, which the nation has experienced over the past two years, costs an extra $800.

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 923-3109, extension 243.

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