Our next rally commenced in Sevierville,TN, long since “advanced” from the days when Dolly Parton grew up in the Holler near there. The “Holler” has been replaced by Dollywood Theme Park, Dollywood Splash Water Park, Dollywood Dreamwood Resort, Dollywood Smokey Mountain Cabins, the Dolly Parton Stampede Dinner Theater and Restaurant and by the Dolly Parton Pirates Show (can’t quite figure out the connection for that one, but oh well…). Not only Dolly is bigger than life, it seems!
I have never been to a place EVER that had SO MANY THINGS that I do not need.
And then there was the SMOKEY MOUNTAIN KNIFE STORE. This venue (“store” does not come even close to describing this place…) had THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of knives of all sizes and shapes, available for purchase. There were HUGE Crocodile-Dundee knives and tiny folding knives. MANY versions of the tactical knife, should you feel Navy-Seal-ish. Hunting knives…a gazillion (and that is not an exaggeration). There were knives hiding in pens (a true pen-knife, I guess), and knives hidden in credit-card holders. And then there was the kitchen section, complete with spices. And implements-other-than-knives.
And then there were the BEANIE BABY and CHRISTMAS ORNAMENT sections. How these relate or belong in the world’s largest knife emporium, I am not sure, but one cannot make this stuff up. But there was SO MUCH MORE for us in Sevierville…(more than ALL THAT you ask?).
It’s a good thing, as I have often said here on this blog, that our enjoyment of a place is WAY MORE tied to the people we meet there than the place itself. The group throwing this Soiree was the Bluebird Chapter of the Family Motor Coach Association. Interestingly, the rally included several Non-Bluebirds; and the FMCA now allows trailers in its membership.
AAAACKKK. THE WORLD IS UPSIDE DOWN, for sure!
Not really. The subtitle for the chapter is “Family of Friends…” These folks have been gathering for almost 40 years…for example Bob and Sonya Cortis – Bob’s a spry fella who had a flower business in Delray, FLA for MANY years…ANOTHER fascinating business I knew nothing about, but now do! Anyway, the Corti (plural of Cortis?) were announced as the the longest-standing member at 37 years; others have been in this chapter and attending rallies for almost as long. So long that the fact that a few of them no longer own Bluebirds seems pretty irrelevant.
Last year was our first contact with this group – at a “Gathering” (which is secret code for a smallish, informal rally with no set activities or cost) in Berlin, Ohio. The FoF adopted us then, and several of those folks were in Tennessee, including Karen and Dennis James, whom we visited in Colorado last summer, Larry and Betty Miller, organizers extraordinaire of this rally, Glenda and Leroy Wilson, co-conspirators of the rally and Sandy and Tom Bay just to name a few – awesome to see them again.
We were once again, just as last year, struck by how welcoming everyone was/is to everyone, despite different economic, social, political and religious orientations. There could NOT be a more diverse group; yet everyone got/gets along. I even had a very surprising political discussion with someone that, shall we say, does not share my views on many things, but did not shout or dismiss my Northern Yankee Liberal-ness out of hand.
Is there a lesson here, that EVERYONE, most especially our politicians, could learn from this? I think so!
Anyway, back to the Rally…There were 34 coaches there – not huge by rally standards, but still plenty of iron. There were lots of Rally Activities organized by the aforementioned Millers, but not TOO many activities. Plenty of time to chat with folks, too. One day we took a bus trip to Cades Cove, which deserves some explanation.
But first a dose of irony. A BUS TRIP!
We all live in buses some or all of the time, so we go to a rally to then get on a bus to bop around the neighborhood!? And, even more ironic, Leroy Wilson actually OWNS a second bus – this one with seats, TV screens and a PA system – your typical tour bus except it was also a Bluebird! (Not as odd as it sounds – Bluebird has always made passenger buses; and Leroy has this bus for his church and uses it to take kids to Bible Camp, etc.)
Anyway, we all piled on the WilsonMobile and, with Leroy in the cockpit set out for Cades Cove ( a beautiful, Appalachian location) and a picnic lunch there.
This was down a road I would not have wanted to drive on in our MUCH SMALLER bus — very winding and with trees AND CLIFFS very close to the road. As the trees brushed the side of the bus (though, BARELY, not the rocks from the cliff), Liz and I shared glances and respect for Leroy’s skills.
At the end, a couple of rounds… A round of applause for Leroy’s skillful piloting AND a paper bag was passed ‘round to collect contributions for Leroy’s fuel bill – as I mentioned, we all drive buses and know that pricey Go-Juice is used liberally.
There were lots of other rally activities, too. Every day there was breakfast, which was provided along with tutoring about Southern Culture for us Yankees. For example, How to eat Biscuits and Gravy, and the wonders of LIVER MUSH. The latter was actually WAY better than you would expect from the name! Dinner was also served every day, usually including yummy BBQ stuff. All this was organized by Betty and Larry Miller, including evening entertainment which was wholesome and fun – some singing, a little dancing and, one evening, a Costume Party.
We had not known this was to take place (somehow, the agenda did not reach us ahead of time), but Glenda Wilson texted me the agenda while we were still in the parking lot of a Walmart. Needless to say, with Walmart’s assistance we managed to construct a suitable appearance – suitable enuf to be voted “best in show.”
One evening the gathering was treated to stories told by a former Bluebird Employee, Brenda Rogers. Miss Brenda, as everyone called her, worked at (ran) the “Birds Nest,” which was located at the Blue Bird Factory. Many people told us about how FANTASTIC this place was to stay in your coach, have a rally, etc.
Bluebird, it seems, knew about customer service, and really took care of theirs. One Rally attendee told us about an incident where they blew an engine under warranty – Bluebird FLEW A NEW ENGINE to someplace in Canada and arranged for it to be installed there. The Bird’s Nest (Like Blue Bird’s RV Division) is closed now, for many years, I wished we had had the opportunity to be there.
The rally’s formal events also included a Corn-Hole tournament (what we call “Bags” in Chicago, well north of the Mason-Dixon line) and a swap-meet/white elephant drawing separated into Men’s and Women’s tables. The former had parts and hardware, the latter books and crafts.
IT IS NEVER A GOOD THING when your street is on the Weather Channel!
During our time at the Tennessee Rally, we were all riveted to the storm reports…Hurricane Michael was headed towards Florida, Georgia and several of our Bluebird Community were in the way. Richard and Sue Ramsey, were in a coach across the way from ours and we were all watching the news reports as the community (Mexico Beach) where their Beach House has been for many years was featured in the Weather Channel Storm Reports. Others were similarly impacted, including friends Kathy and Steve, who had a house with a tree through it, and whose brother worked on a plantation near ground zero.
Kathy and Steve and Richard and Sue left the rally early to attend to their issues, leaving the rest of us to watch the news and worry about them. During one evening, I was on the Online Forum looking at some technical matters and planning our winter todo list, when I realized through posts there and through Facebook that another Bluebirder, Carol and Randy Dupree had lost the roof on their Warehouse/Home. I didn’t know Randy and Carol well – met them a couple times briefly at rallies – but Randy has been very helpful to a LOT of Bluebirders over the years…technical wisdom, restoring coaches, etc. And…
Here we were, sitting safe in Tennessee reading about it, when suddenly I realized: we could fire up RV WHERE YET and go down and help!!!
So we left Tennessee a day early and headed to where we could do some good, thankful for the flexibility to do so.