ACA Rally Recap – We like Nick’s rallies the best!

First off, let us all remember what day this is, and the many that have given their lives for this country. I think this picture say it all.

Graveside

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By the time we left for lunch this morning, the campground had really cleared out.

This what it looked like for the past 4 days.

Full Lot

And this is what it looked like this morning.

Empty Lot

There’s about 8 coaches plus us still here, and we’ll be gone Wednesday morning.

It was interesting to compare this, our first American Coach Rally, with the only other rallies we’ve attended, Nick Russell’s Gypsy Gathering Rallies.

We’ve attended 3 of Nick’s so far. One in Casa Grande, AZ, one in Elkhart, IN, and one in Yuma, AZ.

We’ve also attended two other “kind of’ rallies.  They were the two ‘Life on Wheels’ Seminars we attended in Tucson, AZ in 2007 and 2008. I say ‘kind of’, because, although it was a bunch of RV’ers getting together, it was more of an educational experience for people who were fulltime RV’ers, or who wanted to be fulltimers.

We attended our first one in March 2007 in a rental Class C RV when we were still trying to learn about RV’ing. The second one we attended was in March of 2008 after we’d already been on the road for a month in our own coach.

And we certainly learned a lot from these events. And even better, it’s where we first met Nick Russell.

So, comparing Nick’s Gypsy Gathering Rallies and this American Coach rally, Nick wins going away. In fact, as we were leaving the dinner on the final night, I told Jan that I thought Nick’s were better, and Jan said “Oh God, yes!”

The only thing the ACA rally won on was food.

With 3 breakfast buffets, 1 Burgers & Brats lunch, 1 ‘heavy’ hors d’oeuvres, and 1 BBQ dinner, and 1 Prime Rib dinner, it would be hard to top. But you definitely pay for this. The price of the ACA rally was $335, while the Gypsy Rallies are $100-$125.

Big difference!

I think we do just fine with the coffee and doughnuts each morning, and the pizza party on the last night.

On everything else, Nick wins hands down.

1. Door prizes – Nick has dozens of door prizes, given away each night. Free nights at RV Parks, free meals, free RV accessories, etc.  ACA gave away about a half dozen things on the last night, including a lamp made from a Mason jar filled with marbles, and a knitted throw.   Whoopieee!

2. Seminars – Nick has dozens of seminars on a wide variety of subjects, from maintaining your RV, to places to see, and things to do, to hobbies, crafts, and cleaning your rig. The ACA rally had a TOTAL of eleven seminars, and three of those were identical, just given at different times. I attended two seminars, one given by Cummins, about our engines, and one given by Spartan, the maker of our chassis. Both were good. Jan attended a craft class to make a beaded bookmark.

3. Vendors – The vendor situation wasn’t even close. The ACA rally had 9 vendors. Nick usually has a couple of dozen. And the ACA has only had vendors for the last few years. Apparently there was a big discussion about allowing them. Some people didn’t want them.

I don’t know why. I can only figure they were afraid it might interfere with their partying.

Because these people do love to party. And they seem to do it constantly.

Unfortunately, (or fortunately, maybe) Jan and I aren’t really big partiers. So when it comes right down to it, we were just bored silly.

I mean, the people were all very nice, and made us feel welcome. We even had ‘First Timer’ badges that let us go first in the buffet lines. And we were always being invited to one party or the other. I doubt we could have attended all of them even if we’d tried.

I guess we had a good time, but we both agree that we wouldn’t go out of our way to attend another ACA rally, or drive a long distance.

But it should tell you something that we plan to drive over 1200 miles from Austin, TX to Elkhart, IN. the first part of August just to attend Nick’s next rally.

Anyway, now back to today.

We decide to have lunch at Humphrey’s Bar & Grill, a place that came highly recommended.

Humphreys

The place has a very eclectic atmosphere, with old toys, signs, crocodile heads, and other ‘junk’ hanging on the walls and ceiling. It seems like every time you look around, you see something different.

Humphreys 2

Right off the bat we knew we were in trouble when we saw the menu. It’s about 18 x 24 inches with 6 pages. There must be 300 items on it, including these.

MountainOysters

MMMMM MMMM Good!  (No, we didn’t have any)

But what we had was really good.

After lunch we stopped off at Walgreens before heading over to Walmart. Then it was off to Ace Hardware to pick up a new foam filter for one of our coach A/C’s.

Heading home we took the long way around, driving out in the country a bit before turning back.

Coming home we encountered this momma antelope with her two fawns. By the time I got stopped to take a picture, momma had headed down into the gulley with her fawns in tow. But when she reappeared, the fawns weren’t with her. She had left them in the gulley and was heading out away from them, hoping I would follow her and leave the fawns alone.

Antelope 1

But apparently one of the fawns didn’t get the message. About 15 seconds later one of them came running up out of the gulley, and through the brush right toward us.
 Fawn 1

Then it was like he realized he wasn’t where he was supposed to be. He looked around, and then hunkered down in the grass and pretty much disappeared to the naked eye. All this time momma was keeping a close eye on us from about 200 yards away.

Fawn 2

Also, along the way we noticed a few of these strange looking power poles.

Timber Pole

They’re flat, not round, and appear to be laminated out of numerous smaller boards.

Timber Pole 2

We saw several of them. There didn’t seem to be any rhythm or reason as to their placement. I’m wondering if they are not some type of test poles being evaluated to see how they work.

We got home about 3 pm and were in for the night.

For dinner we had our left-over Famous Dave’s BBQ from Billings last week. It think it gets better with age.

More later…

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ACA Rally – Day 4…

Today, the last day of the rally, was a repeat of yesterday’s breakfast buffet, but this time with the addition of some very good cinnamon rolls that forced Jan and I to split one.

It twisted our arms, honest!

Outside the Energy Hall where everything happens, we’ve enjoyed seeing these beautiful cherry trees in bloom.

CherryTrees

After breakfast we came back to the coach and we just gelled.  The only real thing going on was a golf tournament, so it was time for a nap.

About 5:15 pm we headed back over to the Energy Hall for the final dinner of the rally, prime rib, no less.

PrimeRib

And the prime rib meal was just as good as our other meals, and once again there was wine on our tables.

PrimeRib 2

And here’s our table companions for the night, The Ernhardts, the Desimoes, the Emberts, and of course, my beautiful wife, Jan.

Note how happy everyone is, and how empty the wine bottles are. Of course there’s no connection there.

PrimeRib 3

Like last night, we had entertainment after dinner. This time it was Jack Jensen and Ted Jordan. They did everything from 50-60’s rock to country and patriotic.

ACAEntertainment

We even had a bit of ventriloquism with Ted and his simian friend, M. K. Shines. (Monkey Shines, get it. Well I guess it’s monkey humor)

ACAEntertainment 2

Everyone really enjoyed the music, especially the last song, “God Bless The USA”

About 8:30 things wrapped up and, saying our goodbyes, we headed back to the rig for the night.

Tomorrow, most rally attendees will probably be heading out, but we’re hanging around for a couple of days before we start back toward Austin for our daughter Brandi’s wedding on June 21st.

A complete change of subject here. A few weeks ago we spent several pleasant days in Klamath, CA visiting the Redwood forests in the area. Klamath is not a very big place. It’s basically just one main street with a few stores, a gas station, and a Post Office.

So it was really strange to find this story about a bizarre crime that took place there recently. Now I’m glad we didn’t stay any longer.

More tomorrow…

ACA Rally – Day 3

Like yesterday, today started out with a breakfast buffet, but with a slightly different menu from yesterday. It’s nice to not have the same thing everyday.

At 9 am the Board of Directors convened the General Member’s Meeting.

ACA Meeting

It was good to hear that although membership had declined in the recent past, it seems to be climbing again. They also talked about changing the rally schedules to make it easier for families to attend.

Then at 10 we had a presentation from Fleetwood American Coach’s National Sales Manager Jason Humphries, who told us that the industry is slowly coming back. He also talked about how new EPA regulations for 2011 are causing a big price jump on some diesel models. Engines made to meet the 2011 rules will cost between $50,000 to $60,000 dollars more than 2010 engines. That’s just the additional cost for the engine!  That means that the 2010 Eagle I showed yesterday that cost $564,000 will now cost over $610,000, or more.  WOW!

However this only applies to engines MADE in 2011, and is not based on the coach model year. So coach manufacturers bought up as many 2010 engines as they could to use in 2011 coaches until they run out. So they’re telling people that if you are thinking about a new 2011 coach, get it now before there are no 2010 engines left.

That may be why they announced that someone else at the Rally had bought an Eagle like the one I mentioned yesterday.

After lunch Jan had craft class where they made fancy beaded bookmarks. Very nice.

Heading back to our coach I took a picture of our Doppleganger, about 3 spaces away. Here it is,

Dopplegander

and here we are.

The only real difference is that they have a satellite dome on top and we have an open dish.

Doppleganger 2

They also have two cats just like we do.

Then later, about 5:15 we headed back over to Energy Hall for the BBQ dinner.

Energy Hall

Once again the meal was top-notch. And this time we had wine with our meal.

After dinner, we had entertainment. His name was Joe Miller and he’s from Deadwood, SD. He looks a lot like Kenny Rogers, and he did a great tribute performance covering Roy Orbison, Marty Robbins, and Elvis. And he was very good, very entertaining.

By 8pm we were back in the coach and getting out the electric floor heaters. It’s supposed to be in the mid 30’s tonight.

Well, al least it’s not snow…not yet, anyway.

More later…

ACA Rally – Day 2…

Today started off with a very nice breakfast buffet at the Energy Hall. We’ve really been surprised by the quality of the food we’ve been served here. It’s been great!

After breakfast we came back to the rig for a couple of hours. Because the ground where we’re parked is soft, I wasn’t able to level our coach when we parked because the leveler pads just sank into the ground instead of raising the coach. This left our coach with a distinct downhill tilt.

So I wanted to raise the levelers and then put some boards or pads underneath and then try to relevel.

To do this I had to start the engine. What was funny was that Emma heard the engine start and immediately ran to Jan’s chair and assumed her travel position. She looked disappointed that we didn’t go anywhere.

Now that we’re level again, going to the back of the coach isn’t like walking uphill.

Anyway, about 11:15 we headed back over to the Energy Hall for the men and ladies luncheons.

The ladies’ luncheon was held at the Prime Rib Restaurant that has also been catering our meals here at our Rally.  They were taken to the restaurant by bus. And after the lunch the women’s group had a fashion show.

The men’s lunch was burgers and brats, both good, and afterwards we had a talk by a county commissioner talking about the mineral wealth of the Campbell County area. Besides being one of the largest coal-producing areas in the country, they also have immense oil and gas deposits, and if that’s not enough, they are a a large producer of uranium. Talk about your energy monopoly.

Then at 1:00 we had a seminar panel with representative from Spartan Chassis talking with us about maintenance, troubleshooting, and repair of our chassis and chassis systems.

After that I walked over to the new American Coaches they have on display in the hall.

ACA Energy Hall

Jan and I both agreed that out of the 3 coaches, we like the new Eagle the best. These have 4 slides and are 42 to 45 feet long, as compared to our Beauty’s 40 feet.

And the inside shows it.

Eagle Living Room

These units are really beautiful and it would be nice to have one. But the list price on this unit is $564,000, so we’ll probably have to wait for our Powerball/MegaMillions win before we get one.

On 2nd thought that price makes us really happy with our paid-for Eagle.

BTW the word is that someone bought this new Eagle yesterday.

About 2:30 we headed back to coach to wait and hear from a friend of ours who was passing through Gillette on her way back to Billings.

Linda and her son Aaron showed up about 3:15 and we had a good visit with them. We hadn’t seen Linda since we were in Billings two years ago on our way back from Alaska.

Later in the afternoon, the partying started. And believe me, these people are serious about their partying. Several travel with their own Margarita machines!

ACA 1 

ACA 2

Tonight was an open night so about 6 pm we drove into Gillette for dinner at Las Margaritas Mexican Restaurant.  And it was very good, especially for northeastern Wyoming!

Tomorrow night, we have a BBQ dinner, and then on Sunday, we have a Prime Rib dinner.

MMMM MMMM Good!

More tomorrow…

Gillette, WY and the ACA…

Well, we made it out of Billings without getting snowed in this time.

We left Billings a little before 8 am heading for Gillette, WY about 240 miles away. We are going to spend the next four days at the American Coach Association (ACA)National Rally.

It was a pretty uneventful trip, thought we did see some prong horn antelope along the way.

We got into Gillette about 12:30 pm and drove over to the Cam-Plex, a large fairgrounds/meeting complex, and were led to our parking spot by rally helper.

There are about 120 American Coaches here, and 9 vendors. 

What was really a surprise for me is that about 3 coaches down from us is someone with the exact same coach as ours in the exact same 4 colors.

At 3:30 pm Jan and I sat in on a seminar given by representative of Cummins Engines, the make of our 350 ISC Cummins engine. Dale Eddy discussed maintenance and upkeep of our engines.

Then at 4:30 we attended a meeting for newcomers to the American Coach Association and got welcomed into the club. We also joined the Happy Wanderers, the ACA chapter for full-timers.

The rest of the afternoon was various social get-togethers, culminating in an hors d’oeuvres hour, followed by a presentation of the history of American Coaches.

We got back to our rig a little after 8 pm and settled in for the night.

More tomorrow…

So far, no snow…yet

We left Riverfront RV Park in Garrison, MT about 8:45 am heading for Billings, MT about 270 miles away. We had planned to leave about 8 but it was in the mid 30’s outside, and the bed was warm, and we overslept. What can I say.

This park had some really nice views.  Here’s a close-up of the mountain I showed you yesterday.

RiverfrontRV 4

And here’s the view in the other direction.  You just can’t beat views like this.

RiverfrontRV 5

But before we left I wanted to put some air in one of my tires, so I started up the coach engine and went outside to air up the tire. All of a sudden I hear the engine accelerate to what sounded like wide open throttle. Running around to the door I looked in and saw Mister standing on the left hand control panel looking out the window at what I had been doing. Unfortunately, this meant he was standing on the cruise control switch. When you’re idling, the cruise control allows you to set the engine speed.

Mister set it to wide open!

But luckily there didn’t seem to be any damage done.

Anyway, about an hour after we left, and after a long slow climb, we crossed the Continental Divide at 6393ft and started back down. There was still a lot a snow along the road up there.

About 11:30 am we stopped at a rest area and Jan fixed sandwiches for lunch. Then it was back on the road.

Then, about 1:30 we stopped in Big Timber to take on diesel. The last time I got diesel in Washington state, it cost $3.70 a gallon. Today it was $3.04.

A big difference!

We got into Billings about 3 pm and got parked at the Billings’ Trailer Village.  It was certainly nice to have better weather than the last time we were in Billings.

Here’s how it looked today.

BillingsRV

When we first came thru on our way to Alaska the end of March of 2008, we had only planned to stay a couple of days to visit a friend of Jan’s. However the weather didn’t cooperate.

We ended up staying a week due to heavy snow. Here’s how it looked then. Here’s my beautiful wife taking in the snow.

BillingsSnowJan

And here’s Mister first encounter with snow. He put one foot down on the step and reconsidered going outside.

BillingsSnowMister 1

Then he just sat in the door and looked around. He absolutely refused to go outside. After all, he’s a Texas cat. He doesn’t do snow.

BillingsSnowMister 2 

Then, coming back from Alaska the first part of October 2008, we again stopped in Billings for a couple of days, And again we got snowed in for a week. With even more snow this time.

14 inches!

Billings2 3 Billings2 2 

But this time we broke the jinx. But as Jan said, “the day’s not over yet.” We’ll see.

About 4 pm we headed out for some errands and dinner. We first stopped by Sam’s and picked up some kitty litter, then it was on to Great Clips to get my bi-annual haircut.

Which took about 5 minutes. Hah!

Then it was off to Famous Dave’s, one of our favorite BBQ places, for dinner. They have a great new BBQ sauce called “80 Proof” made with Jack Daniels.  And it is good!

We got home about 5:30 and Jan went across the street to do some laundry. She likes to do our throw rugs in the bigger commercial machines. It’s quicker.

While she was gone, I vacuumed the rugs and floors, and cleaned some spots on the rug.

Then it was in for the night.

Tomorrow we head for Gillette, WY, about 238 miles away, for 4 days of the American Coach Rally.

More tomorrow…

A Beautiful Day in Montana…

Today was really pretty uneventful. We left Blackwell Island RV Park in Coeur d’Alene about 9:45 heading for Garrison, MT about 240 miles away.

A little over an hour later we entered Montana and the Mountain Time Zone, so 11 am became 12 noon.

About 12:15 we stopped at a rest area for a quick snack lunch, and while we were there, Jan started a crock-pot meal of her world-famous chicken spaghetti. She then puts the crock-pot in the sink to keep it in place. It plugs in just like normal, since the coach inverter gives us AC power on the road. And it really started to smell good as we drove.

Just as on our trip to Alaska two years ago, the scenery between Coeur d’Alene and here is really fantastic. The hills start out heavily forested, and gradually thinned out  to these sparsely-vegetated rolling hills.

And as you can see, the weather was fantastic too. 

The biggest thing we’ve noticed since leaving the coast is the much cooler nighttime temperatures. It’s been in the mid 30’s almost every night. Last night here in Garrison it was 31 degrees with rain/snow showers.

And as you’ll see below there’s still a lot of snow on the mountain tops.

Even today, although it was very sunny, I don’t think it made 60 degrees.

MTScenery 1 MTScenery 2 MTScenery 3

 

We arrived at here at Riverfront RV Park about 4 pm and started setting up.  About 5pm Jan added the spaghetti to the crock-pot and turned it on high to cook.

Our daughter Brandi called about then to talk about her upcoming wedding on June 21st.  Then about 5:15 our daughter-in-law Linda called to chat about Brandi’s bridal shower this weekend.

And the scenery here at the park is pretty good, too.  Here’s the view out our front window. Note the snow.

RiverfrontRV 1

Here’s our site here,

RiverfrontRV 2

And here’s Mister on the prowl. Note the leash.

We just let him drag it around.  After all, the park rules just say “All pets must be on a leash.”  Nothing says I have to be holding it.

RiverfrontRV 3

About 7:30 about a half dozen magpies showed up out in front of our rig. The last time we saw magpies was two years ago in Dawson Creek, BC, Canada, on our way to Alaska. These are really beautiful birds.

Magpie 1

Magpie 2

Tomorrow we head for Billings, MT for one night, and then on to Gillette, WY for the American Coach Rally.

More tomorrow…