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I’ve only been out of Iowa just a few hours, and I’m surprised at how much I’m missing it. Wow, gang, I just had a fantastic week at Winnebago’s annual rally, referred to by those in-the-know in its acronymous form as “GNR” (Grand National Rally).
I expected to have a good time just like last year’s GNR, but this year blew my expectations out of the water. It was easily my favorite trip of the year. While it’s all still fresh I wanted to share a few of the highlights:
Meet the Bloggers event:
I didn’t know what to expect, but since James and I write for Winnebago’s GoLife blog, we were asked to help man a booth on the first day of the rally and meet our adoring fans. Or, more accurately, meet rally goers fueled by the frenzy of free granola bars that were also at our booth.
The turn-out just blew us away! It was organized in shotgun assembly line fashion, with editor-in-chief Don Cohen manning the first table (his table gave away keychains and magazines), and the super cool Holcombe family manning the last table and passing out water…and our granola bar table smack dab in the middle. It was pretty hot that day, which is the excuse I’ll use for why James decided to meet & greet using a different dialect for each booth visitor…British, Southern, Pirate, etc. The heat must have been getting to me, too, or maybe the rally water was tainted just like in Hugo, Colorado, because his pirate voice had me giggling uncontrollably. Looking back, though, it really wasn’t that funny.
Leading Daily Bike Rides:
I have a way of unintentionally renaming already-named things.
There’s a state park near the rally grounds, about 6 miles away, that’s called Pilot Knob. I couldn’t stop calling it Pilot Mound. Didn’t realize I was doing it, I’m just bad with names. James got quite a kick out of the whole Pilot Mound thing.
Him, “Where are you getting this “Mound” thing from?”
Me, “Well, I keep getting it confused with that other Iowa place, you know, Effigy Mounds?”
James, “Yeah, wow, I can see how those two are confusing.”
Whatever. My brain is a brilliant mysterious machine. Don’t try to make sense of it.
We led bike rides daily and twice rode to Pilot Mound and back. Biking around farm country rocks. In an hour’s time, we see something like 2.5 cars. Biking around Utah, we see 2.5 cars per second. Which would YOU prefer?
Probably the highlight of the group riding for James was when he got to race an eBike (owned by the lovely Kate Mullen) up Pilot Knob hill (FYI the 2nd highest point in Iowa). AND HE WON! Nice job, honey. Aren’t you fast.
Teaching Fitness Classes:
I have to say this year was MUCH better than last year on the fitness scene at the rally. The workout classes I led started at a very reasonable 7:45am each morning of this year’s rally. That, I can do.
Last year? 6am. Yes, you read that right. 6AM!!! Those of you that know me and James know that’s about the middle point in our nightly REM cycle. So, yeah, I didn’t sleepwalk my way through teaching the classes this time.
Turnout was good, not great, but it’s a work in progress. I plan to recruit harder next year. Rally-goers beware. I’m coming for you… armed with resistance bands.
It’s funny how quickly things change, isn’t it?
A year ago, if you’d ask any American what Truma was, chances are they’d have no clue. Not so, anymore. Truma has become a premiere brand in RV heating appliances and actually has its own fan base…us included. Our TrumaCombi is a pretty sweet piece of heating technology unlike anything we’ve seen over here, and we’re excited to be amongst the first Truma owners in America.
Truma, as a way to say thank you to its owners, hosted a German-style Oktoberfest over in the Winnie Bs row at the rally. There was a huge turn-out, and it was fun getting to know some of the faces behind the company.
So yeah, TrumaFest was a blast. I’d never had a grilled pretzel before. Plus there were prizes!!!
GoSun Solar Cooker:
I’ve been seeing a lot of hype over solar cooking lately, and decided the rally would be a perfect place to put one to the test.
Mostly because I hoped I’d have loads of recruits willing to do the dirty work for me (okay, okay… ALL the work). Turns out I was right! Our fellow Class B van owners were all parked together and had our own little village called TravEraVille. One of the Era couples, Sue and Barry, are professional BBQ grilling judges! So when I mentioned I had the solar cooker there for us all to experiment with, Sue right away ran with it.
She started with making us green chile cornbread, and finished with some sort of healthy vegan chocolate brownie. Is she awesome or what?
The GoSun solar cooker worked AMAZINGLY! It has definitely earned its place as an additional gadget we’ll be traveling with from here on out. And I don’t think I’m the only one from the rally whose about to start traveling with one.
Lance Visits the Smart People of the WGO Engineering Department:
It was on this visit that suddenly I realized… James isn’t the only “James.”
How many smart people can we fit under Lance?
I was shocked when we pulled in and there stood 30 engineers all waiting to take a look at Lance’s new cutting edge electrical system. Talk about being a fish out of water! I decided to use my time wisely while I waited for the the nerd party to wrap up, and hunted for Pokemon around the Winnebago grounds (no luck, don’t bother).
I’ll let James tell you the details of this visit because I just skim the surface of understanding it all; but in a nutshell it involves a 2nd alternator, lithium batteries, and a Xantrex inverter. All in the name of running our air conditioning without plugging in. Roughing it shmuffing it.
There’s a recently formed club that we belong to called the Winnie Bs. The name sort of explains it…it’s a club made up of owners of Newmar Class A rigs.
OH JUST KIDDING! I was just checking to see if y’all are awake still. It’s a club for Winnebago Class B rigs, hence the name, Winnie Bs…get it?
We had something like 20 rigs, well over 30 people, all hanging out together at the rally. Lance is sort of the rock star of the club being the only yellow one Winnebago ever made and being customized and all. So, the zany group of owners, led by President Linda Calabrese, decided to play a joke on us by dressing Lance up as a little bee.
We’re pretty sure it was a humiliating moment for Lance and his ego. It’s like making the star quarterback dress up in a tutu and pirouette around the rest of his team.
Lance’s fine moment of bee-ness happened the night of the famous “row parties,” sort of an open house when each of the clubs hosts a drink or food and the rest of the rally is invited to stop by. The Winnie Bs passed out TravEra-tinis…a tasty little concoction of vodka, honey, blood orange “Sam” Pellegrino, and a few other secret add-ins.
Winnebago’s product manager Russ Garfin (AKA the Travato Godfather) and his wife Kathy are actually Travato owners, too, isn’t that cool?
Russ and Kathy are part of our Winnie Bs club, and they spent lots of time hanging out with us in TravEraVille.
I think this is one of the most special and unique things about Winnebago. The big important people of Winnebago are right there with us, camping in their rigs, splitting a pizza, playing trivia games, etc. It’s their whole small town mindset, which I find rather endearing. Heck, Forest City is so small, AT&T doesn’t even know it exists! Maybe that’s why the Winnebago big dogs didn’t get the memo that higher-ups in the industry typically remain unapproachable and are too important to make friends with their consumers. Let’s continue to keep that a secret from the Winnebagans, shall we?
So now here I sit, a few hours after leaving the rally, at my mom and dad’s house in southeastern Minnesota. James is doing laundry and I’m looking forward to a LOOONG luxurious shower. I’ve still sort of got “rally brain” though, and I can’t stop wondering where my new B-driving rally friends are and what they’re doing. I suppose they’re spread all over the country by now, reflecting on the fun week just like I am. It won’t be too long before NEXT July rolls around. I’m already looking forward to doing it all over again!