As new owners of our gently used 2015.5 Unity MB, it was an easy decision to attend our first-ever Leisure Travelers Club Chapter Rally. We expected to meet a group of like-minded people, exchange ideas, and check out other rigs. We didn’t expect, however, to meet a famous couple within the LTV family, or realize a rarely used appliance we left at home was on nearly everyone’s “must have” list in their LTV kitchens. Best of all, we discovered some of the yummiest ice cream in the state, made right nearby. Will we go again? Absolutely!
Since we live in Michigan, we joined the Heartland LTVers Chapter (now the Leisurely Great Lakers Chapter), which includes owners from Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia. Headed by co-chairs Paula Allen and Cristi Swauger, they have held three rallies so far: fall, 2016; and spring and fall, 2017. The Kal-Haven Outpost Campground, near South Haven, Michigan, provided the venue for this Sept. 21-24 rally, with 10 LTVs and their owners in attendance.
Meet the owners, and why they attend local rallies:
Cristi and Sam Swauger, of Dayton, Ohio, with their 2016 LTV Unity MB “Waverly” come for the people and the stories. “A local rally is much more informal, lots of conversations and less structure,” says Sam. They went to Winkler in 2016 and 2017, and have attended all three local chapter rallies. Waverly is the street Sam grew up on.
Rod and Paula Allen, of Huron, Ohio, with their 2015.5 LTV Unity MB “no name.” They’ve been to the Winkler rally twice, and all three local rallies, and also attend Jeep Jamborees. They like meeting people “from everywhere.”
First-time attendees Frank and Ann Meier, of Lexington, Michigan, decided to come so they could meet people with the same rig and learn from them. After owning three diesel pushers, they downsized to a 2017 LTV Unity Twin Bed, naming it “Junior.”
Romaine Broughton, of Shumway, Illinois, traveling alone since 2002 when her husband passed within the first year after they bought a new 30’ rig. She downsized in Marc 2016, to “My Playhouse,” her 2014 LTV Freedom SS. She’s been to two Dixie rallies, and all three Heartland rallies. “I learn how to use it, and get some new tips all the time. When my husband died, I thought ‘I can sure drive it five more years’…I’ve been going by myself since then.”
Newbies Mike and Pam Orth, of Clinton Twp, Michigan, with “RV,” their 2017 LTV Unity Twin Bed bought January 2017. Recently retired, this was their second rally. “We want to get more information on maintenance, the whole shebang,” said Mike. “I’d like to go to Winkler if we can get on the list, to get information, learn technical upgrades, different ideas.”
Johnnie and Mila Johnson, of Chicago, Illinois, with their 2016 LTV Unity Corner Bed named “J. Runner II.” They returned to this, their second local rally, for the camaraderie as well as being around owners with more experience on the road. “I really admire her independence, traveling alone and she handles that rig like a teenager,” Johnnie said of Romaine. “I said to myself, ‘Wow I hope I can get to that point. I can do this, this can be a lifestyle for us.’”
Becky and Roy Brown, of Highland, Michigan in their 2012 LTV Unity Island Bed “U-Nice.” “We like the way everyone shares and helps each other, plus seeing how everyone modifies their rigs,” said Becky, who along with Roy, also attended the spring rally.
Mary Nelson and Steve Zoller, of Cincinnati, Ohio in their 2015 LTV Serenity “Beagle 2.0.” They attended the Winkler rally primarily for the technical seminars and came to their first local rally last fall. Steve posts regularly on technical topics on Facebook, and prides in the technical knowledge he has gleaned researching social media outlets, Google and YouTube. He headed up our nightly “tech talks.”
Ann and Andy Dudler, from Iowa City, Iowa, in “The Pugmobile,” their 2017 LTV Unity MB. Ann heads up the Heartland LTVers Travel Club chapter (formerly Leisurely Great Lakers), covering Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Missouri. They have attended several local rallies along with Winkler to glean ideas for their chapter’s first rally coming up in June 2018. They like meeting people, listening to their stories, and seeing how others personalize their rigs. “I hope more people take the initiative to register their unit and become involved,” said Ann. Traveling with pugs Chorgia and Chalala, they were attending a “Pug Jam” after this rally.
And us, Bill and Denise Semion, with homes in South Lyon and Roscommon, Michigan, victims of “two-foot fever,” healed when upgraded this spring from a 20-foot Sprinter to “Wanda-er” our LTV Unity MB dream.
Each day, early risers practiced yoga, hiked nearby trails or gathered around the fire for a cup-a-Joe and conversation. Later, some bicycled the nearby shady Kal-Haven Trail State Park, while others explored the area including South Haven, a Lake Michigan beach town just five miles away, or stayed at camp to chat.
After our first morning bicycle ride, Bill and I ate lunch at camp and then headed for the lake and an ice cream treat; South Haven did not disappoint. The Lake Michigan water provided the relief we needed in the 90-degree heat, and my phone directed us to nearby Sherman’s Dairy Bar for ice cream. Once we arrived, and took a quick look at their menu, we knew what we wanted: one Tour of Sherman’s please, a dish of six golf-ball sized scoops of some of the tastiest flavors we had ever had, just right to share between two ice cream lovers. We knew we would return the next day and revealed our newly-found treasure back at camp.
Evenings, we gathered for dinner: LTV rally funds provided our main dishes (thank you, LTV), with everyone else bringing a side dish or dessert to share. Although we heard stories of five different baked bean dishes served at a previous rally, we seemed do all right with a good variety of salads, veggies and desserts.
A campfire and “tech talk” followed the dinners. Thursday night’s topic centered on system upgrades (sway bars, bump stops and shocks/struts); Friday night focused on leveling and chassis maintenance. Saturday night’s discussion morphed from favorite trips to goofs and gaffs, like driving away before bringing in the slide and forgetting various items at the last stop. Offenders shall remain nameless. Lesson learned seemed to be: Always review your checklist before you drive off, even if you only stopped for lunch. (We call it “airplane check” when we make sure all cupboards and drawers are locked in place.)
During our conversations at the rally, I realized that Sam Swauger wrote the winning story in the 2017 LTV Calendar Photo Contest, “LTV, Elvis & Wedding Bells!” His blog of how he and Cristi flew out of Dayton, Ohio to Vegas on Leap Day, February 29, 2016, purchased and picked up their LTV, and they were married by Elvis by day’s end, was incredible to hear from our local LTV celebrities first-hand.
How to cook on the road and favorite dishes were also a frequent topic; nearly everyone chimed in on how they use their Instant Pot to cook soup, pulled pork, hard-boiled eggs and more. After I asked what is an Instant Pot, and this multi-use appliance was explained to me, I recalled have one at home collecting dust. Maybe we will rethink that one!
Saturday afternoon, Bill and I, along with Becky and Roy, headed for South Haven for a swim, followed by daily visit to Sherman’s. As we were finishing our treats, most of our LTV group came in for one last end-of-summer scoop. Later that day, the guys got together to watch and help Bill change out our propane grill to a quick-connect coupler to hook up directly to our RV, and most of us took a tour of Johnnie and Mila’s showcase vehicle boasting Johnnie’s personalized touches, including custom exterior paint, chrome exhaust tip, and custom grill and dashboard. They even bring an outdoor kitchen sink and a motorcycle among the items stashed in their tow garage.
According to co-chair Paula Allen, the Leisurely Great Lakers LTV Chapter has 41 member units, with about one-quarter in attendance at this event. Bill and I hope to meet other members at future rallies and will be watching the LTV website to see if we can fit any other local rallies into our travels. In the meantime, check the LTV website to join a Travelers Club, and see you at a rally!