Escapees RV club serves fulltimers
By Chuck Woodbury, editor
Of all American RV clubs, none has a more loyal membership or offers more to its members than Escapees. The group was founded in 1978 and now includes 34,000 member families throughout the U.S. and Canada. The essence of the group is to share knowledge and provide support to those who love the fulltime RV lifestyle.
Founders Joe and Kay Peterson had been full-timing for eight years before they started the Escapees. There was no grand idea of what the club would become; it was started through Kay and Joes column in Woodalls Trailer Travel magazine. They once asked their readers the question that if a club were started to help people enjoy RVing, would anyone want to join? They received a couple dozen responses and began to think big (or they thought so at the time): One day, they speculated, there might be one or two hundred people in the club.
The first Escapade get-together was held in February 1979, near Bakersfield, Calif. Twenty-four families attended. Today two Escapades are held each year, one in the spring (usually in the Western part of the United States) and one in the fall (in the Eastern states). As many as 2,500 member families attend. These Escapades are approximately a week long and offer some 60 seminars on RV living for both beginning and veteran RVers. Although the days are filled with classes, there is ample time to socialize with others, most of whom are living full-time in their RVs.
OTHER ESCAPEES ACTIVITIES AND BENEFITS
Escapees members enjoy many benefits including a mail forwarding program, discount calling card, voice message service, free lifetime e-mail account, an RV park system, discounts at commercial RV parks, as well as savings on affiliated services.
Rainbows End, in Livingston, Texas, became the Escapees headquarters in April, 1984. Located in East Texas, it is six miles from Livingston and approximately 70 miles north of Houston. The Escapees park system is made up of eleven SKP Co-op parks and eight Rainbow Parks.
Rainbow Parks offer Escapees deeded and leased lots, depending on their location, and provide low-cost parking for traveling members. At SKP Co-op Parks members may use a specified RV lot until they die or sell their membership back to the corporation. Each park is an independent corporation, owned and operated by its members.
All members receive an Escapees Discount Directory, which lists hundreds of commercial RV parks that provide 15 to 40 percent discounts to Escapees members.
Regional chapters are the social arm of the club and provide the easiest way to get to know other Escapees. Dues are typically $5 a year, and a member can join as many chapters as he or she wishes (or none at all). There are currently about 50 chapters.
Many special interest groups called Birds of a Feather exist within the Escapees. Special interests include portable computing, baby boomers, geneology, shooting sports, amateur radio, pets, square dancing, model railroading, quilting, etc. Groups meet at each Escapade, may hold rallies in between, and generally
The bimonthly Escapees magazine is 88 pages and packed with useful, entertaining and specialized information. Members report that they get more useful information from it than they do from any other RV magazine. In addition to feature articles, issues include tips sent from members and a section where members may express their viewpoints on any subject related to RVing. A popular part of the magazine, "Road Roamer News," allows members to stay in touch with the people they've met along the road. Members are encouraged to correspond with those who share their particular interests.
While there are many RV clubs, we consider Escapees to be the best choice for fulltimers or RVers who spend much or most of the year in their RVs. Although the group is very social, members can choose to participate as they wish, partaking of group acitivies virtually on a day-to-day basis or remaining on their own, in which case they will benefit from the many member services and education programs.
One of the biggest concerns aspiring fulltime RVers have when they take up the lifestyle is about losing contact with friends. Most Escapees members report that through the club they have more friends than they had before they took up the fulltime lifestyle.
A membership is $70 for the first year, which includes a membership fee, and then $60 a year thereafter. New applicants have 60 days to examine their membership packet and, if not satisfied, can return it for a refund.
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Copyright 2004 by Out West Newspaper