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Cactus Queen 2009

After the nasty weather we put up with the first two days of the rally, yesterday we were rewarded with a beautiful day. The sky was blue, the temperature was comfortable, and everybody was out and about, having a good time socializing, attending our seminars, and shopping with the rally vendors.

For the second year in a row, our good friends Mike and Pat McFall ran out of products to sell at their PressurePro booth and had to order more sent in by overnight shipment. Mike said that after last years experience, he ordered even more for this rally, and still sold out! Every vendor I have talked to has said it was a good rally for them, in terms of sales. If you’re a vendor and are overlooking these smaller rallies in favor of the big events, you are missing out on some great sales opportunities.

We had our pizza party yesterday evening, and I’m always amazed at how efficiently Miss Terry organizes things with her crew of volunteers. They served up over 125 pizzas to our huge crowd in record time, and everybody complimented me on how smoothly the process went.

My friends, I get an undue share of the praise when we do these rallies, because I’m the one always out front playing the fool and glad handing everybody. But I know more than anybody that the reason I get to do so is because Terry is the one quietly working nonstop in the background to keep me, our volunteers, and the rally on an even keel. Without her to carry the load, I’m just a fat, goofy guy telling stories and jokes.

The highlight of our Western Gypsy Gathering rallies is our Cactus Queen beauty contest. Every year, just about the time I think I’ve seen it all, these “ladies” amaze me because they have come up with something even gaudier. As I told the crowd when I introduced this year’s contestants, “They’re brassy and they’re sassy, but they sure ain’t classy!”

After the pizza party we had our beauty contest, and it was a hoot! Now, I tell folks before we start that if they are easily offended, they may not want to hang around. Not that there is anything obscene going on, but you’ve got to figure that it takes a lot of bribery, or alcohol, to convince six middle-aged married men to dress up in drag and strut their stuff on stage. Every year we have someone who just does not think this contest is funny, and that’s okay. To each their own. But I sure saw a lot of people laughing so hard they had tears running down their cheeks and holding their sides because it hurt.

This year’s crop of “girls” really knew how to work a crowd, and judging from the cheers, laughter, and catcalls, they were a hit. Here’s a picture of them backstage while they were getting ready for the contest. Have you ever seen such a group of hotties?

I always have a hard time getting these contestants to act like ladies on stage. I mean, how hard can it be to keep your knees together when sitting in front of a crowd? Apparently, very hard. They all need to spend some time in a finishing school.

This year’s Cactus Queen, as determined by the applause from the crowd, was Jolene Jellybutt, from beautiful downtown Gumdrop, Arkansas, as played by Joel Bucham. And what a queen she was! Here is a picture of myself and Terry posing with Queen Jolene.

Thanks to all six of our contestants. We appreciate you guys, I mean girls, I mean…..  

Thought For The Day – Hard work pays off in the future; laziness pays off now.

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One More Calamity

Well, first we had rain, and then we had mud. That was followed by gale force winds and plummeting temperatures. What else could God throw at us for this rally? As it turns out, the Big Guy has quite the sense of humor.

By yesterday morning the wind had died down, and though it was still pretty chilly, at least we had blue sky overhead. I was just starting my Meandering Down The Highway seminar in the early afternoon when there were two loud popping noises outside that gave everyone in the room a start, and about the time I could say “What the hell was that?” there was a terrific boom, more than a couple of people screamed, and the power went out. I wasn’t sure if lightning had struck or if somebody’s propane tank had exploded.

As it turns out, a kid’s mylar balloon had come floating by and gotten itself tangled into the power lines in front of the fairgrounds. It shorted out the fuses on two different transformers, and the third transformer in line completely exploded.

Miss Terry and several other people who were outside when it happened said it created quite a light show for a few seconds there.

Here is a photo Terry took of what was left of the red balloon entangled in the wires, and a shot of the pole where the transformer blew. Note that the top of the pole is charred from the explosion. 

Fortunately, there was a road crew from the local electric utility on the fairgrounds property at the time this happened, and in no time at all they had repaired the problem and restored power.

When this all happened I had my laptop computer and LCD projector running, and I was afraid they might have gotten fried, but we dodged that bullet and everything was okay. Once the power was back on and everybody was back in their seats I said to my audience “We’ve had rain, mud, wind and now transformers blowing up around us. What’s next, a plague of locusts?”

The good news is that while it is supposed to be chilly for the next couple of days, we should see clear skies for the rest of the rally. Terry and I spent some time wandering around the vendor area, and all of our vendors seem to be having a pretty good show in spite of everything that has happened. 

We have every kind of RV you could imagine here, from tiny Class B vans to huge land yachts, and even a couple of unique rigs you’ll never see anywhere else. I took these photos of a custom trailer and the vintage truck that tows it while we were in Aransas Pass, Texas a while back. We met the owners while we were all out kayaking, and gave them a copy of the Gypsy Journal. They liked it and came to the rally.

Another one of a kind rig here for the rally is this unit, which was built in a boatyard down south. It looks part bus conversion, part boat, and part spaceship. I have not been inside either rig yet, but I sure hope to get to see them before the rally ends.

After the day’s seminars are over today, we’ll have our pizza party, and then our Cactus Queen beauty contest. This is a big hit every year. Norah Glover, who is organizing the event, promises me that she’s got some real cuties lined up for us. Look for photos in tomorrow’s blog.

Thought For The Day – Good judgment comes from experience, and much of that comes from bad judgment.

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Bad Weather At The Gypsy Journal Rally

Anyone who knows me is well aware of the fact that I’m a night owl. Unless I’m up against a deadline, I usually don’t start writing until about 9 p.m., and I seldom get to bed before 1:30 or 2 a.m. So all of that early bird gets the worm stuff just doesn’t work for me. I don’t like worms. I like pizza. Pizza is something you eat at night.

I really enjoyed my time in the Army, except for some very rude people with guns and bombs and things that used to shoot at me once in a while. Aside from that, it was a great experience. I even considered making it my career. But every darned morning some idiot played a bugle and woke me up.

What’s with that, anyway? Why does the Army insist that soldiers get up so early in the morning? They’re going to feel really dumb someday when somebody attacks us at night and everybody’s in their bunks. If I was still in uniform, I could have worked the night shift and been on the lookout for those commies or whoever it is we hate these days. 

That being said, I was up and outside of the bus by the crack of dawn yesterday. Trust me, if you haven’t seen it, dawn isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be! There has never been a sunrise yet that will compare to a great Arizona sunset, but just to record the event for posterity, I took a photograph of the sunrise. Now I’m done for the year. No more of this dawn nonsense. 

We only had a little bit of rain yesterday, just a scattered shower or two that lasted no longer than a minute or so. But the wind came up and the temperature dropped, making for an all around miserable day and evening. Our parking crew just kept right on keeping on, and worked all day getting the last of the rally attendees in and parked. I just can’t thank those guys enough.

Our attendance numbers are down quite a bit from last year. Part of that is the economy, to be sure. But we also had several people who cancelled due to the weather. One of our vendors called from Quartzsite to report being stuck in the mud somewhere over in that direction. A couple called from Tucson to say that they left Benson, got that far, and were turning around and going back because the wind was so terrible. Murphy’s Law has really been in effect for this rally so far.

But everybody is parked now, and we’re going to have fun, even if it kills us. We’ve got a great lineup of seminars starting today. The folks who are here are all fine people who came to learn and have a good time, and sooner or later the weatherman has to give us a break. So we’re going to focus on the positive and enjoy our week here in Mud City.

Thought For The Day – Words that soak into your ears are whispered, not yelled.

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Welcome To Mud City

And then the rains came.

What fun would an RV rally be without rain? Just as there seems to be an unwritten law that says every RV park in the United States must be located within a stone’s throw of a railroad track, that same governing body has apparently decreed that there can be no RV rally without precipitation.

We have been here in Casa Grande for almost a month, and I don’t think we’ve seen more than two or three raindrops in all of that time. But Saturday night it began to rain. And then it rained some more. And some more.

By the time our hardworking parking crew was ready to start work at 8 a.m., the grounds was getting pretty muddy. Bringing in 95 heavy RVs sure didn’t help matters any. The hard rain stopped, but we had several brief showers during the day just to remind us that we were not in the clear yet.

I have to give Don Hankins and our parking crew some well deserved praise here. They slogged around in the mud for hours, getting RVs parked, listening to the occasional cranky RVer who didn’t want to park anyplace wet (I think the closest dry place is San Antonio right now), and they just kept on smiling and working all thorough it. 

The Gourd Festival was still going on Sunday, so our people had to work around what we have come to call the gourdheads. I never knew there were so many kinds of gourds in the world, and so many creative things people could do with them. But I have to be honest, anyone who is so fanatical about gourds that they would have personalized gourd license plates, or have “Gourd Princess” tattooed on their boob (don’t ask my how I know this, but it wasn’t a pretty sight), has to be, well, out of their gourd!

While the parking crew was busy outside, the registration crew was working just as hard inside, getting folks signed in. Because the fairgrounds had double booked the day, the gourd folks still had all of the main buildings, but we got a little quarter size Quonset hut to use for registration. It was amazing to me how many people they were able to move through there in such a short time.

By the end of the day we had 95 RVs here for the rally, and many more scheduled to arrive today. Unfortunately, due to the double booking, there are still a lot of Gourd Festival RVs on the fairgrounds, most of them parked smack in the center of our vendor area. And they have shown no indication of moving anytime soon. This makes it very frustrating for our parking crew and vendors. I will be having yet another visit with the fairgrounds staff this morning to try and get that issue resolved.  

This is our third year here at the Pinal County Fairgrounds, and while the new manager is trying very hard, we have begun to doubt that the ongoing problems will ever be corrected. There just seems to be too many people “in charge” of something but not willing to stand up on their hind legs and take responsibility for actually doing anything. For example, even though we are here and the rally is happening, we still do not have the contract that we were promised when we paid our deposit a year ago.

We have been talking to the manager of the fairgrounds in Yuma, Arizona as a possible location for our next rally, and looking at other options as well. While we’ve been to Yuma many times in the past, we have never actually visited the fairgrounds. We plan to do that once we wrap things up here. If you have been to any RV events at the Yuma fairgrounds, I’d appreciate your input on the facilities there.

Thought For The Day – Every path has a few puddles.

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Learning To Delegate

A comment we have seen on feedback forms from past rallies is that Terry and I are so busy trying to do everything at once that we never have time to just visit with folks for a few minutes, one on one. That has left some rally attendees feeling left out or slighted. That certainly wasn’t our intention, and we are trying to learn from our past mistakes.

One problem I have is trying to do everything myself. I want to make sure everybody has a good experience at our rallies, so I find myself trying to do too much, when we have so many volunteers who want to help out. I just have not been able to get past the fact that people pay to come to our rallies, then spend so much of their time volunteering. It just doesn’t seem right to me. But a good friend pointed out that to many rally attendees, volunteering is an important part of the experience for them.

So we are learning to delegate. 

Yesterday Don Hankins and Karen Sweeney came by and volunteered to do whatever needs done, so we put them in charge of rally parking. Don and Karen are veteran rally volunteers, having handled all kinds of duties at Escapees rallies and other events over the years.

Two more very faithful volunteers are Tom and Barbara Westerfield, who have come to every Western Gypsy Gathering loaded down with LCD projectors, screens, extension cords, colored markers, easels, and all of the other things that are needed and so easily overlooked. I put them in charge of technical duties to insure our seminar speakers have what they need to give their presentations.

Elaine Loscher and a great crew of ladies has helped Miss Terry handle registration duties at our past rallies, so this time around Terry put Elaine in charge of registration.

Yet another faithful couple who are always willing and eager to lend a hand are Jerry and Suzy LeRoy. They are going to be in charge of selling Gypsy Journal books and subscriptions at the rally.

Besides all of these folks, we have an army of other volunteers, like Mike Loscher who said “I’ll do whatever you need me to do, but don’t put me in charge of anything. I want to be a follower, not a leader.”

Bill and Mabel Becker are busy getting our rally T-shirts folded and ready to sell, and Bill will also be helping with the parking crew. Yesterday afternoon Dick and Jo Padget dropped off a bunch of door prizes they have been busy collecting from the area merchants.

You can see that we’ve got a fine team of people helping us get this rally off the ground, and we really appreciate it. There is no way that Terry and I could make one of these events happen by ourselves.

Thought For The Day – True friendship continues to grow, even over the longest distance.

 Register Now For Our Arizona Gypsy Gathering Rally 

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Gypsy Journal Rally Early Arrivals

We’ve been running at full steam for two or three weeks now, and it is beginning to take a toll on my worn out old body. For the last couple of days I have had a huge knot in my gut and quite a bit of discomfort. I know it’s just stress. I’m a Type A person, and while I usually thrive on stress and chaos, sometimes it gets the best of me.

Now that we have all of the preliminary work done and the rally is almost here, hopefully I can relax a little bit and things will ease up. We have a lot of good folks arriving already to help out with the parking, registration, and other rally duties.

The annual Gourd Festival is going on here at the Pinal County Fairgrounds, and the place has been packed with people. Yesterday we walked down to the main area and checked out some of the gourds on display. I had no idea gourds came in so many shapes and sizes, or that there are so many people into collecting, carving, and painting gourds.

Yesterday Danny and Kay Brown, longtime blog readers, stopped in to introduce themselves and say hello, and we had a nice chat. Soon after they left, Jim and Lisa Haveron came by to visit, and Terry gave them a tour of the bus.

Soon afterward, our good friends Mike and Pat McFall arrived. Mike and Pat are PressurePro vendors, and pull their fifth wheel with a beautiful Volvo semi. I met them in the parking lot and rode in with them. Mike and Pat have been here before and know their way around the fairgrounds, but that gave me an excuse to ride in their truck.

When we visited them at their lot in Mission, Texas a few weeks ago, a cat had wandered in from somewhere and wouldn’t go away. Mike said they really did not need or want a cat, and they were hoping it would wander away before they left. But I know that soft hearted friend of mine, so I wasn’t surprised at all when Pat said “Look who came with us,” and pointed to the cat sleeping peacefully in the truck. Mike wrote a post about the cat in his blog a while back, check out his story about his New Friend. Of course, as fate would have it, the cat turns out to be very pregnant, so we may have some birthing taking place during the rally. Mike and Pat have always given some very nice door prizes at our rallies, but I told him kittens are not considered door prize material!

It wasn’t long after Mike and Pat arrived that Phil and Ann Botnick pulled in. This great couple has been to all three of our Arizona rallies, as well as our Eastern rally in Ohio in September. Phil is a top rated RV tech, and by the time he was parked, he had people lined up needing his services.

Once we had everyone parked, faithful readers and hardworking volunteers Mike and Elaine Loscher invited us out to dinner. It was nice getting away from the fairgrounds for a while and just relaxing with good friends. Thanks Mike and Elaine, I needed that.

Thought For The Day – Letting the cat out of the bag is a whole lot easier than putting it back in.

Register Now For Our Arizona Gypsy Gathering Rally 

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Ostriches, Moose and HD TV Too

Yesterday Terry and I drove down to Rooster Cogburn’s Ostrich Ranch at Exit 219 on Intestate 10 to pick up a door prize for the rally, and while we were there Terry snapped a few photos of the birds there. As critters go, you’d have to look long and hard to find anything as ugly as an ostrich, but they sure are interesting birds. Did you know that ostrich eggs are both delicious and nutritious? They make some of the fluffiest omelets you’ll ever taste.

The Ostrich Ranch is also home to several miniature deer, an aviary full of neat lorikeet parrots, and some miniature donkeys. Visitors can feed the animals, and it is a great place to introduce children to some neat exotic animals. 

When we arrived back at the fairgrounds, we discovered that our friends Peter Wray and Andrea Kaye had arrived. What a surprise, we had not expected them! They had new toys that we just got a quick glace at, motorized parachutes of some kind. I need to get back over and have a closer look at them, but I can tell you right now, my days of floating thorough the air have been over for a long, long time!

The fairgrounds are really busy right now, with the annual Gourd Festival happening, and we already have several RVs that have come in for our rally. Yesterday morning George Bruzenak and his wife Jaimie Hall-Bruzenak arrived. Jaimie is the author of the very best book ever written about working on the road, Support Your RV Lifestyle, and will be doing several seminars at the rally. She and her pal Alice Zyetz will also be operating the RV Author’s Co-op bookstore during the rally, where you will find some of the best RVing books available. check out Jaimie’s website at www.rvlifestyleexperts.com

Many RVers have discovered the benefits of belonging to the Moose and Elks. Our membership in the Moose has opened doors to many free and low cost overnight parking opportunities. Besides performing a ton of great work for their communities and the nation as a whole, membership also provides RVers with many overnight parking opportunities. A quick reminder to anyone coming to our Gypsy Gathering rally that Don Hankins will be sponsoring a signup for the Arizona City Moose lodge. If you have been wanting to join the Moose, be sure to contact Don at the rally.

Someone asked if we would be having a seminar on the switch to the new HD television programming. We don’t have that in the lineup, as of now. It looks like the switch from analog to digital (HD) television will be postponed for a few months. Originally the government had ordered all over the air analog signals shut down on February 17 to make room in the airwaves for more public safety communications and consumer wireless networks.

My daughter and son-in-law have a large HD television, but I guess I just don’t get it. What’s all the hype about? We have an HD TV too, but everyday old standard service, and even though everybody raves about how great the picture is, I really can’t see that much difference. Some people have said you need at least a 32 inch television to get the real benefits of HD programming, but we’re more than happy with what we get on our 22 inch television. For us, bigger isn’t always better. I think HD is something we have to have, because the folks pushing it have convinced us that we have to have it.

Thought For The Day – The best sermons are lived, not preached.

Register Now For Our Arizona Gypsy Gathering Rally 

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The RV Industry And Big Box Stores

Mark Polk has an interesting post on the RV.Net blog titled My Top 5 Predictions for the Future of the RV Industry. One of his predictions is that the weak will not survive. I agree, and I think that is a good thing. But I’ll add something to Mark’s prediction – the undeserving also will not survive.

For years, many big RV manufacturers had the same mindset as AT&T did back when they were a monopoly – “We don’t care because we don’t have to!”  You see where that got them. Now some of the RV companies who had that same mindset are history, or are on the ropes, just waiting for the knockout punch.

When people ask my opinion on which RVs to buy, I have always recommended four brands, based upon the quality of their rigs and their history of customer service. Those companies are Tiffin, Heartland, Newmar, and Winnebago. When asked which companies I would not buy from, Fleetwood has always topped my list. Having been Fleetwood owners, we know just how poor their quality and customer service is. Monaco was another company I could not recommend, based upon the problems owners of their coaches have shared with me over the years.

As I look at the companies who are hanging in there in these tough times, and which ones seem to be going by the wayside, I see that the same ones I have always been comfortable with are still cranking out units, and the ones who I have felt were problematic, are now going or gone. While I sympathize with the RV industry workers who have lost their jobs, I can’t feel bad when I see a company that has routinely neglected its customers close its doors. I only hope that when things pick back up (and they will), these displaced workers can find positions with the strong companies that survive.

Speaking of big, impersonal companies, having run small town newspapers for much of my adult life, I have seen what happens to small business owners when WalMart comes to town. I have also printed the letters to the editor from local people complaining about losing their jobs at those small businesses when the doors closed. But I also saw those same people shopping at the big discount store to save a buck. They never seemed to understand that if they did not support the small shop owners, those shops would close and their jobs would disappear. So you save a dollar today and lose a job tomorrow. That makes good sense, doesn’t it?

While out soliciting door prizes for our Gypsy Gathering rally, we were dismayed to see how many small stores that donated door prizes last year have gone out of business. At the same time, there are more and more big chain stores in Casa Grande. When we call on those stores, the managers put us off by telling us that all donations must go through the corporate offices, a long and involved process that seldom gets any results. So, just like the residents of this and other small towns, we have seen the local small time operators close up, and the big impersonal stores display their don’t care attitude when it comes to giving something back to the community.

Almost every small restaurant we have called on has donated door prizes, some have given several. But, with one exception, the chain restaurants who could easily afford to donate a lunch or dinner have said no. So when we go out to dinner, we make it a point to dine at the small places whose owners give even when they really can’t afford to, because they want to support our rally and the money it brings to town. I hope when folks get to the rally, they will pass by those big places and patronize the local businesses too.

After reading yesterday’s blog, several readers wanted to know just whose name Bad Nick wanted to tell that young fast food worker to call out. I think myself and Bad Nick will take that one to the grave with us. Did I ever tell you what a great shot my wife is with a pistol?

Thought For The Day – It doesn’t take a very big person to carry a grudge.

Register Now For Our Arizona Gypsy Gathering Rally 

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The Return of Bad Nick

We had more visitors yesterday morning. Our friends Earl and Sami Aeverman are staying at the Western Horizons campground in Casa Grande and stopped by for a visit. This couple are wonderful people, whom we met at our very first bus rally over eight years ago, and we have enjoyed meeting up with them all over the country since then. Earl and Sami were our hosts when we spent several weeks on their lot in Aransas Pass, Texas in December, and we really appreciate them. They will be here at the fairgrounds for our Gypsy Gathering rally next week, volunteering to help make things go smoothly. Don’t we have wonderful friends?

Speaking of the rally, they have just begun a road construction project in the median just east of the intersection of Interstate 10 and State Route 287, the main route to the fairgrounds, in front of the Promenade shopping center. When exiting Interstate 10 on the way to the fairgrounds, stay in the right hand lane until you get through the construction zone, which is only a block or so long.

Yesterday we picked up the new rally T-shirts, and they came out great. We only have a limited number of shirts, and it’s first come, first served. So when you arrive at the rally, be sure to pick up your shirts while supplies last.

Many of you are familiar with Bad Nick, that mischievous little imp who lives inside of me, and who emerges to wreak havoc from time to time. I’m proud to tell you that, even though it was hard to do, I stifled Bad Nick yesterday before he got me into trouble.

While Terry and I were out running errands, we stopped at the local Jack in the Box for lunch. I have learned that your average young fast food worker is, shall we say, somewhat lacking in a sense of humor. Or at least one that operates on the same wavelength as mine. I guess that’s because it takes many, many years to get this warped and twisted. I’ve completely stopped asking the kids who work at Taco Bell if I can pet the Chihuahua.  

Anyway, the girl who took our order was probably in her early twenties, and once I had paid her for our meal, she asked “Whose name do I call out?”

Well, you just know that Bad Nick had two or three immediate responses to that question, all of which could have resulted in me getting a hot grease facial at best!

Fortunately, Miss Terry has lived with myself and Bad Nick long enough to know what to expect in situations like this, so before my lips could form words, she kicked my ankle and ordered “Don’t say it!” So I stuffed Bad Nick back down inside, but he and I had ourselves a nice chuckle over it.

Thought For The Day – Keep skunks, bankers and lawyers at a distance.

Register Now For Our Arizona Gypsy Gathering Rally 

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