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As he treks across the country in search of the best RV getaways, Adam Porter regularly meets amazing “everyday people” who enjoy extraordinary lives because of the RV lifestyle. In his Campfire Tales, Adam introduces these folks and explores the unique ways they have embraced the culture of freedom and adventure that is RV living.
On a cool January morning I was strolling through Highlands Hammock State Park in Central Florida, camera at the ready, searching for a herd of deer the ranger assured me would be bedding down in a nearby clearing. As I ventured further across the campground, moving toward the woods on the opposite side, I was greeted by a group of ladies sharing coffee and conversation near the cool embers of the previous night’s campfire.
The gals had arrived a day early for a rally sponsored by the Florida chapter of a national organization called RVing Women. We chatted for a bit, and they explained that RVing Women provides motivation, education, encouragement and, most of all, friendship for the growing number of women across the nation who love RVing but do not necessarily want to go it alone.
We also talked about family, work and travel, and as our conversation wound down, I asked my new friends they had spotted any deer. Nope. The ladies wished me luck and invited me to their rally kickoff party later that afternoon. A little nervous about the prospect of being the lone Y chromosome in attendance, I nevertheless agreed to try my best to be there.
Later in the day I returned to Highlands Hammock and found one section of the campground transformed into an outdoor potluck picnic. The assembled women, none of whom I recognized, were understandably puzzled when I strolled over and introduced myself. But they recovered quickly and greeted me with genuine warmth and hospitality. Across the crowd I spotted Linda Woodberry, one of the ladies from the early-morning coffee klatch. She agreed to take me around and help me break the ice.
It was quickly evident that RVing Women champions diversity and welcomes ladies from all walks of life. In the span of a few minutes I met a teacher, a handful of semi-retired empty-nesters, a college professor, a mom or three, a few grandmas, a magazine publisher and a hurricane survivor who lost a limb but uses her remaining arm to restore vintage travel trailers. Everyone was cordial and hospitable to the strange man in their midst. And they offered me food, instantly winning my heart.
The ladies shared rally stories, telling me about the planned activities and the opportunities to just kick back and get to know each other. While the Highlands Hammock rally seemed fairly laid-back, the girls laughed about an upcoming clown-themed rally. “The plan is to sing songs, participate in skits and get into the act with costumes and makeup,” explained Linda. But, whether the gathering is back-to-nature relaxation or costumed shenanigans, two aspects of the RVing Women rallies remain the same – evening happy hours and morning coffee.
Linda is a veteran RVer and a passionate advocate of her Florida RVing Women family. When she joined the group in 2005, she was an RV novice looking for a way to meet other women who also loved the lifestyle. “At the time, I didn’t know a thing about campgrounds, how to plan a trip or really anything about my RV. The women in this group were very willing to help me learn the ropes.” And they still are. “There are so many women in this group with much more experience who go out of their way to guide those of us who are still learning.”
She also credits the RVing Women rallies for expanding her horizon: “Having a destination each month encourages me to use my motorhome. I would not have visited many of the places without the group. Even if we return to a campground we’ve been to in the past, every rally is a new experience, a new adventure.” Linda notes that the shorter local trips have also helped her prepare for the more extensive traveling she plans in the future. “This whole experience has been wonderful. I highly recommend that any woman who is interested in the RV lifestyle get in touch with us.”
Linda introduced me to the Highlands Hammock Rally hosts, Lorene Ryan and Billie Wagoner. The ladies love exploring Florida and meeting new friends at every rally. “We visited two rallies as guests and found the female camaraderie we were looking for. We love the social gatherings and potluck suppers. And we appreciate the security of traveling in numbers,” they explained.
Since joining RVing Women, Lorene and Billie have become big fans of Florida’s State Parks. “Without these rallies, we probably would not have gone to so many of the state parks. Because of this experience, we now visit them on our own.” They particularly enjoyed the group’s recent rally at Wekiva Falls. “That was our first trip during the heat of the Florida summer. We enjoyed a gorgeous boat trip up the Wekiva River.”
Founded in 1991, by and for women, RVing Women exists to provide social and recreational opportunities for women who are interested in RVing. Membership is open to all adult women, whether or not they currently own an RV. While the average age of members falls between 50 and 70, the group also includes young explorers in their early 20s and seasoned matriarchs in their 90s who still join the group out on the road. And there are no restrictions based on RV type. Though motorhomes are the most common, fifth wheels, vans, travel trailers, popups and truck campers are all welcome at the rallies.
Though the rallies center on the RV lifestyle, the organization’s chief goals are building friendships and sharing knowledge. Members eagerly swap road stories and share information that addresses the specific needs and issues faced by women who travel alone. The group maintains an online forum where members can ask questions, get answers, pool information and plan trips. To learn more about the national organization and various state chapters, visit www.RVingWomen.org.
So, ladies, whether you are a veteran RVer who cherishes her independence, a newcomer seeking advice or simply someone who is curious about the RV lifestyle, check out RVing Women to meet kindred spirits. Then, when you’re to point your RV toward the horizon, you can be sure that even if you are alone, you’re traveling in good company.
P.S. – I never did find the deer, but that’s how it is with camping. You set out to looking for one thing, and you end up surprised by something even better.