Military RV Caravans
- Last Updated on Saturday, 04 September 2010 12:20
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Editors note: This article was written by Peter Batchelar for the U.S. Military Campgrounds and RV Parks website.
Several years ago, Linda and I decided that our first extended motor home trip would be to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Being new RVers, we thought that a Caravan might offer the best way to see the City and also the surrounding Cajun country….We had our choice of several companies offering caravans and finally settled on a Caravan run by S.M.A.R.T., an organization for active and retired military people. The fact that the SMART caravan was half the price made the choice simple for us. These non profit caravans are run by volunteers and with minimal overhead.
We arrived on the appointed day at City Park in New Orleans and were immediately made to feel at home by the other participants….things started out with a Gumbo party and progressed from there. We got to see the WWII Museum and the Mardi Gras Parades…we went on a swamp tour and had some great Cajun meals and entertainment….we visited a crawfish farm, a Cajun accordion builder and we attended a live Zydeco music Radio broadcast….We got to do many other things that we would not have known to do on our own and made some great new friends. It turned out to be a great experience, topped off by a check from SMART a few weeks later returning our share of the money that was not spent by the Wagonmaster!
A couple of years later, I heard that SMART was looking for a Wagonmaster for their Maritimes Provinces Caravan. Having just been on a tour of the Maritimes with another couple, I felt comfortable with the territory and decided to volunteer.
It didn’t take me long to recognize just how much work was involved in selecting suitable campgrounds, attractions, tours and restaurants. This is followed by seemingly endless correspondence negotiating prices and dates and confirming the details. Then came the questions from those who signed up and preparation of itineraries, activities, rosters, premiums….all in all it must have been a couple of hundred hours of preparation over about 10 months time.
Our Caravan mustered last June at Hanscom AFB Famcamp. Every branch of Service was proudly and loudly represented. We had lawyers, nurses, drill instructors, mechanics, engineers and even a surgeon. They came from as far as California and Oregon and Louisiana and Florida. The assistant Wagonmaster and I cooked Boston Baked Beans and Hot Dogs and we all got to know each other in a torrential downpour. The next day we had a fascinating bus tour of Boston and surroundings conducted by a retired history teacher. We learned more about the Revolution that day than we ever did in History classes.
We made our way north with a stop in Bar Harbor….then on to St Martins, New Brunswick where, at low tide, we could walk into caves that were underwater at high tide. We feasted on the best fish and chips any of us had ever tasted….and so it went, on into Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia……beautiful scenery everywhere…the amazing Acadian culture and gentle people of the provinces. We were warmly hosted for dinner in several cities by the local Canadian Legion post.
We boarded the huge Newfoundland ferry for a 17 hour crossing to that beautiful land where we saw moose, puffins, whales, eagles and the spectacular Gros Morne National Park. We relived a lot of the military history the US shared with Newfoundland aided by guides and museums. There were theaters and great restaurants and pot luck meals and great camaraderie.
Many new friendships were created and the work my assistant and I and our wives had put in was rewarded by the feedback and appreciation of those who came and enjoyed. We learned a lot and we will use that experience to plan the next Maritimes Caravan in 2010. Maybe I’ll get to meet some of you on that trip.
If you are interested in more info go to smartrving.net and click on Caravans.
Here's a few photos from the Maritimes Caravan: