Aug 27 The Rally

I meet people and they become chapters in my stories.” Avitjeet Das

Vivian and I are not the type of people to join a crowd or follow a trend; in fact, we typically avoid both. Nevertheless, by purchasing a fifth wheel and going full time, we automatically became members of several RV-related groups. Not only that, shortly after purchasing a Grand Design fifth wheel we signed on for a Grand Design rally.

Fairgrounds
Where the Grand Design Indiana rally took place.

According to the Meriam Webster dictionary, the noun ‘rally’ can be defined as a mass meeting intended to arouse group enthusiasm. Therefore, by definition, a rally is something we would feel utterly uncomfortable attending because of a group mentality that is fixated on one thing. It is true that we believe Grand Design RVs to be of quality, primarily because of their excellent service record. Thus, attending a rally would seem like a natural way to show our enthusiasm for the manufacturer of our home while locking arms with other owners and singing “Proud to be an American” (an actual rally activity).

Grand Design Poobah
During the opening ceremonies, 800+ rally attendees were cued to hold the cut out face of Grand Design’s VP of service operations, Jerry McCarthy as part of a joke.

The fact is, we attended the rally with ulterior motives, and those were to get as much service done on our RV as necessary, attend several workshops to acquire valuable knowledge, take advantage of the vendor deals, and bug the hell out of the technicians from all the manufacturers with a kazillion questions. We wanted to take advantage of having the experts literally within arm’s reach and be able to meet other Grand Design owners who might willingly share their lessons learned. Yep, that’s right, we were in it for ourselves. Being part of an aroused group of enthusiasts never crossed our minds. We were going because we own an RV that we call home, and well, things break often in an RV. And if you have ever attended a manufacturer’s rally, you can relate.

RV weight
We were eager to get our rig and tow vehicle weighed. Feel free to examine the numbers.

At the rally, we parked our little 303rls Reflection along side several others in the middle of a field on the Elkhart County fairgrounds for five nights. Ours was a Reflection fifth wheel in a sea of Reflection fifth wheels. Solitudes tended to have their own place, as did the Momentums and Imagines. But we were all there as Grand Designers. And we even have the t-shirts to prove it. I’m not one to wear a t-shirt that advertises, especially when it displays a hackneyed phrase such as “It’s a Grand Design thing, you wouldn’t understand”. But, being retired on a fixed income, I looked beyond the advertising and saw only a free article of clothing.

Rally
The rally’s opening ceremony.

Our view was a corn field on one side and the back of another Reflection on the other. Water and electricity were provided, and I ensured our full comfort by signing up for two mobile dump services. We considered our selves lucky not having to join several dozen RVs that were relegated to the middle of the horse track. Races were not deterred because 400 plus RVs were strewn about the fairgrounds. The races prevailed and rally attendees were aptly warned to cross the track carefully at certain times of the day. And then there were the trains. Not one, but two train tracks ran very close to the fairgrounds and this is no exaggeration, a train passed by at least every 2 minutes, 24 hours a day. Amazing to me how collectively, hundreds of people train themselves (no pun intended) to ignore the loud sounds of a train. Within the first day, it became nothing more than background noise.

Fairground Row
Reflection row, ours in the foreground to the right of the silver Ford.
Race track
A rare moment when horses were not running on the track.

But I digress. We didn’t come for the ambiance, we came to get things fixed and to learn how to fix things. We especially wanted our brakes serviced, so we made an appointment for a mobile tech to come to our campsite. He did, he removed the wheels and immediately said, “You don’t have any brakes, you need to contact Lippert.” Please go back to our first blog for explanation, but in short, we burned out our brakes during the first five miles of our maiden voyage because the break-away switch had broken away, unbeknownst to us. So, Lippert came to us ready to replace the brakes, no questions asked. However, they also offered an exceptional deal on their disc brakes, so guess what? Not capable of passing up a great deal, we upgraded.

Brakes
The “brakes”, or what was left of them.

Although we accomplished our rally mission (fix it and learn how to fix it), we unexpectedly acquired something much more valuable than new disk brakes. While camped near Indianapolis days before the rally, we watched several Grand Design RVs come and go, and we reckoned some of them were heading to the rally only 100 miles away. One of those RVs going to the rally belonged to Lorraine and Spencer, full time travelers in their 337 Reflection fifth wheel. It wasn’t until we struck up a conversation with the two fellow Grand Design owners that we realized having an RV manufacturer in common with someone can lead to more than just a knowing glance and a friendly wave, or an occasional high five. In this case, common ownership became the impetus for a meaningful and lasting friendship. And that is the best reason to attend a rally. But then again, if you have ever attended a rally, you already knew that. Oh, and please check out Spencer’s funny and well written travel blog, “Friends along the Way“.

Friends
The best thing that came out of the rally, our friends Lorraine and Spencer.

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