RVers celebrate nomadic lifestyle

By Dick Mason, The Observer June 24, 2013 10:05 am

 The Northwood RV Owners Association rally at Eagles Hot Lake RV Park was attended by between 140 and 150 people. (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)
The Northwood RV Owners Association rally at Eagles Hot Lake RV Park was attended by between 140 and 150 people. (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)

Northwood RV Owners Association holds 11th annual rally at Eagles Hot Lake RV Park 

Vernon and Sharon Elsasser of Touchet, Wash., know what it means to be on the road without leaving home.

The Elsassers are avid recreational vehicle travelers, a couple who have seen much the United States traveling in their RV in recent years. Freeways and highways are a source of comfort and intrigue for the couple. 

“The road is home. Wherever the road leads you go,” Vernon Elsasser said.

 The road led the Elsassers to the Eagles Hot Lake RV Park last week. There, the Elsassers joined about 150 others for the 11th annual Northwood RV Owners Association rally. Everyone attending the almost weeklong event shared a common bond, ownership of a travel trailer or other travel unit made by Northwood Manufacturing of La Grande. Those attending made tours of historic parts of Union and Pendleton, visited the Mt. Emily area, participated in quilting projects and enjoyed barbecues. 

People came from as far as Alberta, Canada, to meet longtime friends and discuss the latest in the RV travel world.

“It is kind of becoming a big family. It is really kind of neat,” said Donna Sherman of Milton-Freewater.

Sherman’s husband, Adam, started the rally 11 years ago through the Internet. It started slowly but has gained momentum dramatically in recent years.

“We had only four (RV units) the first year,” said Adam Sherman, who continues to serve as the rally’s director.

Years ago, Adam Sherman established a few ground rules for the annual rallies, which include no discussions of politics or religion. The rules helped create a friendly atmosphere, which spurred the event’s enormous growth. 

The many people making return visits to the rally included Bruce and Ann McLachlan of Dewberry, Alberta. Bruce McLachlan said the scenery in the Hot Lake area cannot be beat.

“There are trees, hills and snow. There is a view everywhere you look,” he said.

The McLachlans spend nine months a year traveling in their RV. Soon, they will be on the road 12 months a year. The decision to become year-round road warriors was a pragmatic one.

“We spend so much time traveling that we are (now) supporting a house (in Canada) nobody is in,” Bruce McLachlan said.

McLachlan has an easy time driving his RV in part because of his experience as a professional heavy equipment operator. The same holds true for Vernon Elsasser, who also drove heavy equipment. 

“An RV is easy for me to drive,” he said.

Elsasser said the trickiest part of pulling an RV is stopping it. Elsasser said because the units have thousands of pounds of weight behind them, their drivers have to give themselves plenty of extra space before braking.

Vernon and Sharon Elsasser are involved in a wide spectrum of activities with their RV. They often serve as hosts at state campgrounds and recently picked up the Oregon Trail in Nebraska and followed it to Baker City.

“We go to have fun and we do,” Vernon Elsasser said.

At every stop, it seems the Elsassers meet fellow RVers they have known for years. 

“The friendships are unreal,” Vernon Elsasser said.

Union County residents attending the rally included Gary and Pam Howland of La Grande. 

The Howlands have been coming to the event for four years. Gary Howland said he likes the rallies because there are so many activities and the people attending share similar interests.

People coming to this year’s NROA rally, which ended on Sunday, included Gregg Berryman of Corvallis. Berryman took more than a few detours on his way to Union County, driving to Arizona and other parts of the United States.

“We traveled 10,000 miles to get here. We took a couple of wrong turns and basically went everywhere,” Berryman said with a smile.