Whenever I talk about the RV-Dream rally’s one of the first questions I often get is what is the rally like. The educational rally itself was basically the same, but the experience was quite different. Not unlike the experience of attending high school as a freshmen versus attending high school as a junior. I wrote several posts about the first experience two years ago and this time around I wanted to share what it was like coming back. Plus hopefully there will be enough detail to give you a feeling of what the week is like.
We arrived on Saturday at the River Plantation RV Resort and checked into our campsite. This is a very nice, large campground and they host rallies frequently. A block of campsites was set aside for the RV dreamers so most of our neighbors were attending the rally. Howard and Linda our hosts understand that folks arrive Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (the rally officially starts Monday morning) and have a campfire every night as a meet and greet. We attended Saturday night and Sunday night and it’s a great way to meet folks in smaller groups. This particular rally also encourages folks without RV’s to attend and many people are staying at nearby resorts of hotels. Those folks are encouraged to drive in for the campfires and those of us who have RV’s are encouraged to make them feel welcome. This is VERY different from most other rally’s as having an RV is sort of a prerequisite, but Howard and Linda understand many people who are interested in the full timing lifestyle do not have RV’s and want to be as inclusive as possible.
The main difference for us this year is we are friends with H&L and Lee was videotaping the rally. Linda made us some chili on Saturday night and we caught up with each other. Sunday morning though was all business as we walked through the agenda, video deliverables, and other technical logistics for the event. After that, Linda and I talked about my role. I had volunteered to be her personal assistant for the week, because they had done so much for me over the last couple of years and I really wanted to pay her back in some way. Linda ran with that and named me her “Executive Assistant” in the agenda which cracked me up and we talked about where I could be helpful.
Let me say upfront I had no idea what I was getting into. I knew she worked hard but damn. I have no idea how she does all this by herself normally. We started at 8 am every day, didn’t stop until after 9pm every day but Friday and it was go go go the entire time. Wow, I am out of practice with working the long days and I actually think I lost a few pounds this week from all the walking. Linda was actually really fun to work for. She keeps a really tight grip on all the details, but thankfully gave me tasks and just let me do them which made it a lot more fun and rewarding. She said I spoiled her and I certainly hope I did, but I was tired at the end of the week.
We started on Monday by checking people in. Linda had asked for volunteers to run the tables at the campfires and we setup the rooms and she trained everyone on the stations. Since I am an efficiency expert by trade, I made sure the process flow made sense and then worked to keep the line moving and avoid “log jams” along the way. Linda and Howard greeted everyone personally and then they got name tags, their welcome bags, and T-Shirts if they had purchased them. They could also buy cups and hats if they wanted and then they paid for the rally. Next they had a picture taken which H&L used in their email program so when people emailed them later they would know who they were. That little extra touch was really great and allows them to maintain relationships with people well after the rally. Finally people who have an RV could sign up for the open house. One of the most popular events is the rig walk through, where you can walk around and see other people’s rigs. It’s 100% voluntary so we needed a list of who was interested.
Dinner that night was provided and people are welcome to stay and hang out or leave and come back but almost everyone stayed. It was wonderful walking around and talking to folks and especially gratifying for me when some people who had read my blog came up and said hi. I cannot even express how much it touched me when a person would say what I had written had an impact on them. Beyond words seriously.
At 6pm Linda got up and introduced them and made some announcements and then introduced Lee, gave people the option to not be videotaped (thankfully no one cared) and then said to ignore him! Lee asked for this since it’s much easier to get great footage if he just blends into the background. Dinner was really good and then Linda had an icebreaker scheduled.
The first day was so much fun and Lee and I kept thinking about our first time. Lots of folks were very nervous (totally normal) and we just kept saying, let’s see how you feel at the end of the week. We experienced a big emotional arc during our week there and saw that occurrence in many others as the week went on.
It was all dinners and social time though. The rally is jam-packed with educational seminars, most lasting 45 minutes in length. Linda starts on time and ends on time (a practice I completely approve of), but it was a little tough at times wrangling Howard. He does the bulk of the seminars (with the notable exception of The Emotional Aspects of Full Timing which Linda does) and he is so passionate about the topics that could run long if he isn’t prompted for breaks. He was a great sport about it though, and Linda and I both queued him when he was getting close to running out of time. What was new for me this time around was what happened on the breaks. We always went outside before, but lots of questions are answered during the breaks and many people came up to me when Linda was busy with other folks. I also was checking coffee, checking restrooms, and taking notes. I learned something new from every single seminar. Not only has Howard updated many of the slides, but I also took different things from the materials this second time around.
And if a full day of seminars wasn’t enough, Tuesday night we had another catered dinner, gadget night and the drawing for door prizes. There were some NICE door prizes donated by Howard’s business partners (way better than two years ago) and I was seriously bummed we weren’t eligible! Gadget night is fantastic where people bring in their favorite RV gadgets and get up and talk briefly about them. I saw several things that are going on my wish list.
Wednesday was a short day for most folks and since everyone’s heads were full it was well needed. We took some of the free time and went to lunch with this great couple Teresa and Joe. Teresa is a blog reader and had sent me an email prior to the rally. As soon as she checked in she found me and I gave her a huge hug…it was so great meeting her in person. Joe was excited about the rally as well, but Wednesday morning he came up and told me he was a bit on overload. This is not that uncommon by the way. I hit that point on Tuesday night personally, the first time we came. Listening to the seminars and meeting the people makes it very real and it’s not uncommon to have strong feelings. So the four of us went to Panda Express and talked. Teresa bought us lunch, which was not expected but so nice of her, and we talked for a full hour. Joe retired from a 40 year career at GM a few days prior, they had sold their house, talked to their kids, and were dealing with some elder care issues. Basically they had a ton of life stuff thrown at them in a very short period of time. When I repeated all that back to him and said of course your stressed he seemed to feel a lot better. For many people it is an incredible amount of change in a VERY short period of time and truly I think a lot of the pressure in the beginning falls on the guy. They are the ones that initially often have to learn how to drive and deal with the mechanical issues and if you aren’t experienced RVers there is quite the learning curve. I told Joe if he wasn’t a little worried I would think there was a problem and Lee also validated it by saying he had felt the same way. It was a terrific lunch with some very special people and I and I am so glad we squeezed in the time to do it.
After lunch there was a tire safety seminar and then everyone was on their own for dinner. I had brought the pieces of a gumbo dinner from Bridget and offered to make it for H&L. I called Bridget for some last-minute instructions (they are doing great by the way) and dinner came off thankfully without a hitch. It was delicious! Then we all sat up and talked until 9:30 or so when I called it a night because I was totally pooped out at that point. One thing that really made me feel great though was Linda felt so comfortable with how things were going that she took the morning off on Thursday. She is never able to do that normally and the fact she trusted me enough was really great. So I am going to stop here.. and continue this in the next post. You’ll have to wait and see if I totally screwed it up!!
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