Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Escapade rally, Du Quoin, Illinois

We are at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds (map) at our first Escapade.

We came over yesterday from Rend Lake in a caravan with other members of the Full-Timing Class of 2005, hoping to be parked together. Consequently, we spent nearly an hour in a staging area until the parking folks were ready for us (a caravan of 30 was ahead of us). By the time they led us in, the remnants of Tropical Depression Rita were hammering the fairgrounds with driving rain. We passed several rigs on our way in that were already stuck in the mud, awaiting rescue by one of the tractors deployed for the purpose. As we approached our designated parking area, I could see that Odyssey was going to sink up to her hubs if we went where the parkers indicated. I did not think their tractor was big enough to pull us out if that happened.

They had already broken our group into two pieces anyway, and we found a nearby patch of gravel, adjacent to the paved road, that looked perfect. A few words with the parking volunteers was all it took to secure the gravel site. It turns out to be an ideal site, since we are shaded by trees most of the day, but have a clear shot to the satellite through a nice gap.

A few minutes after we parked, the parkers directed a big fifth-wheel behind a ten-wheel, class-8 Freightliner truck tractor into the space next to us, and the whole rig promptly sunk in the mud, where it remained until they could pull it out this morning. The sheer number of privately owned class-8 truck tractors, many with full sleepers, pulling travel trailers at this rally is staggering. Many of these, including the one next to us, are only distinguishable from commercial semi tractors by lettering announcing the fact displayed prominently in the location normally used for ICC numbers and the like (and the fact that they are pulling otherwise unremarkable fifth-wheel travel trailers). The Escapees even has a Birds-of-a-Feather group dedicated to medium-duty and larger trucks used as tow vehicles.

The rally itself is nothing to write home about (blogging is another matter, so your suffering continues). While there are reported to be close to 800 rigs here, which is a huge rally, the seminars are lackluster, the exhibit hall is minuscule, and information and products of value to us personally are few and far between. It is unlikely we would have scheduled ourselves to be here if it was not for the Red Cross training that had been scheduled on both ends of the event (the first part of which was canceled). That being said, as members of the Escapees we are glad to have had the opportunity to attend the organization's signature event and see what it is all about. Also, we have met many nice and interesting people here, and this event for us is more about the people than the organized program.

On another subject entirely, we are once again saddened by the news coming from the gulf coast. While there appears to have been little loss of life, and we have spoken to our friends in Beaumont who are fine (though they evacuated to their property in Woodville, also battered by hurricane-force winds, and have no news of their home and business in Beaumont), the destruction appears devastating.

When we traveled along the gulf coast in January, we had a tire repaired in Abbeville, passed through Oak Grove and Creole, took the ferry from Cameron, and made a wrong turn in Holly Beach. I even posted here a humorous ditty about the bayou country. All those towns have been utterly destroyed.

Our hearts go out to the people of the gulf coast. We are hoping that we can help in a more substantive way after we complete our training next week.

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