Saturday, June 28, 2014

Not-So-Secret Society

They're gonna have TANG at the GNR Row Party! And not just regular TANG, but two different varieties: Earth TANG and Out of this World TANG. And it seems my wife and I are donating all the alcohol to go with them. Loggie made the motion, and Terry seconded it.

Now, if none of that makes any sense to you, trust me, it didn't to me either. But that's what it said in the minutes from the April meeting of the Winnie-Mo-Tascas. And no, I had no idea of what that meant either. However, It seems that I was accidentally included in the workings of a secret society that really wasn't so secret, all because of the mistyping of an email address. But I had to find out more: after all, they were having TANG! Two types!

Turns out that the name is the moniker of a state club of RV enthusiasts in the Midwest. It comes from a combination of the nicknames of two of the most popular recreational vehicles in circulation, Winnebago ("Winnie") and Itasca ("Tasca"), which are joined by the state abbreviation where this particular chapter is based, Missouri ("MO"). Put it all together, and you get, well, Winnie-Mo-Tasca. The organization's current president is a guy named Bob Wollin, who sent out the minutes of their April meeting, tried to include his own email on the mailing list and missed a few letters. And before you could say hitch weight, I got the rundown.

Now, before you laugh (as did I) and assume this is all a quaint vestige of a particular subset of the American experience, you might want to hang on. That's because RV ownership is on an upswing in the US. According to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, more than nine million American households now own one — the highest level ever recorded — a 16% increase since 2001 and a 64% gain since 1980. All in, more than 11% of US Households headed by 25 to 54 year olds owns an RV.

That's right. It's not just retirees who buy a Winnebago Aspect or Itasca Suncruiser and park it in Winter Haven, Florida to spend the cold months playing shuffleboard. The aforementioned RVIA says that today's typical RV owner is 48 years old, married, with an annual household income of $62,000. In fact, a University of Michigan study found that the largest segment of RV owners is not over 75, but aged 35 to 54. All of which means that for every metrosexual and city grrrl with a pied-à-terre in the Village, there's a Bob and Marie in a Winnebago Adventurer on I-35.

But back to the GNR Row Party. GNR stands for Grand National Rally, and it's a gathering of RV enthusiasts at the cradle of the movement, Forest City, Iowa. That particular location was chosen because, among other things, Forrest City is the home of the Winnebago and Itasca factories. (They used to be separate companies, with Itasca manufactured by GM. GM eventually farmed out production to Winnebago, which subsequently bought the company and kept the name as a separate line. Today they're kind of like the Pontiac and Buick of the RV world.) Last year's GNR brought together almost 1,000 vehicles and 2500 people for 5 days of workshops, celebrations, factory tours, BBQ's and entertainment. And this year's rally, being held the week of July 16, promises to be even bigger, with the final night headliner being rock legend Jefferson Starship.

And the Row Party? Well, it seems that at the GNR you can opt to park near your fellow chapter mates, the better to socialize. That way there are also multiple opportunities to eat together. In the case of the Winnie-Mo-Tascas, there's a pot luck dinner on Tuesday, and a group breakfast on Friday (The Ozark chapter is doing pancakes, while Gateway has been assigned butter and syrup).

As for the party itself, since the theme of this year's GNR is "Out of this World," linking the 45th year for this gathering with the 45th anniversary of man's first journey to the moon, a party featuring the "Official Drink of Astronauts" seems fitting. After all, it matches up perfectly, since the closing day of the Rally is 45 years to day after that first landing. Hence the two types of TANG. Neil and Buzz would be jealous.  

I wanna go, but I need a Winnie


Marc Wollin of Bedford prefers his accommodations not to have wheels on them. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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