Saturday, October 15, 2016

Rally Report - Anchor Down RV Resort and Kentucky Horse Park

We all had a great time at our rally last week. It all started off with a pre-rally at the new Anchor Down RV Resort in Dandridge TN. It's  just west of  Sevierville TN but quiet and so beautiful there. Our Rally Coordinator Charles McGairty had recommended this new place and we all had a wonderful stay. Most of us were in the upper section with the best views.  These stone fireplaces were at each spot.

 On the pre-rally were Sanders, Bordes, Cassingham, Conway, and Loftfields.

​The five of we SECCers were joined by 18 Nor'Easters who had caravanned down to join us before heading up to Lexington. It was hard to leave such a peaceful place. 

The Kentucky Horse Park Rally was a joint SECC rally with CCI. Our own Velma & Hollis Williams' permanent home is in Lexington and Velma headed up the organizing of this amazing rally. Velma was really enjoying herself. She retired this year.. once again...and says some of these places she had never visited even though she grew up in Lexington. 

​We were able to fit in a social hour for SECC. We had 18 coaches at the rally and  two who could not make it. ​Buddy and Ann Bordes have an outdoor TV so it was a great place to get together and still allow the football fans to follow their game. By the way, that lady sitting on the left with the curly blond hair is Marta. Her hair has grown back in curly!

We were kept busy with great tours: a local winery with lunch & entertainment, Keeneland Race track, Shaker Village, a stud farm, 
​downtown Lexington, a drive along country roads with the iconic stone fences, and ​Buffalo Trace bourbon brewery, the oldest one in the country started back in the 1700s.

One of the best tours was the Toyota manufacturing plant, their largest at over 1300 acres, the size of 156 football fields. We were glad we were driven around in a tram. It produces 2,000 cars a day. We were not allowed to take any photos. Could not even take a cell phone into the plant. It was incredibly enormous and busy all around and overhead. ​They aren't just an assembly plant like most car plants are now. They even do ​their own ​stamping. 

The stud farm visit was fascinating. It is a serious business. This stallion, Shackelford, ​was brought out for us to see fairly close. Stallions are very hard to handle and he was constantly trying to bite his handler. Shackelford commands a $20,000 stud fee and he must perform 3-5 times a day,​ almost every day of the year. However, they are only paid once each foal is born strong and healthy. That is only around 60% of the births.

​We lunched at Buffalo Trace Brewery & the toured the buildings. ​It was a good thing we came in 3 buses as there were whole cases of bourbon and their new Bourbon cream that came home with the members. 

​An SECC rally would not be complete without dancing with Chris. The last evening we had some light bluegrass ​entertainment and Chris could not help himself. He was right up on the dance floor motioning members to join 
him. Last time we saw Chris his legs were giving him a bad time, but his new braces are making a big difference. It was such a nice end to our rally.

Click for pics from the rallys:


And thank you as well to CCI Rally Coordinator & SECC member Tammy Toalson.​

Janet Sanders, President
Southeast Country Coachers

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Pre-Rally Announcement

CCI Lexington Kentucky Horse Park PreRally
October 2, 2016-October 5, 2016
Anchor Down RV Resort
Dandridge, TN
The CC Nor’Easters and the SECC Clubs welcome you to a great time at a great location. The
Anchor Down RV Resort is an exceptional facility set near the beautiful Smoky Mountains on
the shores of sparkling Douglas Lake. The resort is near the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area as
well as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There are plenty of attractions to keep you
and your friends busy and entertained.
Arrival is October 2 and departure on October 5. The drive to the Kentucky Horse Park for the
CCI Rally is a short 200 miles. The CCI Kentucky Horse Park Rally starts on October 6th so we
will be one day early.
Call Anchor down to make your reservations today.

We look forward to seeing you.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Galax Rally Video

Gerry and Bonnie did a marvelous job planning, organizing and executing the Galax Rally. The food was good and the caterer very pleasant, so I started the video with them. The day in Mt. Airy was interesting and fun as we recalled watching the Andy Griffith Show in the 60's and got a tour of the North Carolina Granite Corporation and Andy Griffith's boyhood home all in a Mayberry patrol car.

Irene and I are bluegrass fans and had visited the Rex Theater before, but the show there Friday Night was great, and I am so glad that I captured our most enthusiastic flat foot dancers on video: Bonnie, Mary Lou, and Lenny. Hard to tell which one was the instigator. I was not caught on video dancing, so I deny any such accusations, and my probity remains intact. My hat is off to Gerry for joining in on the dance floor.

Bonnie mentioned in the pre-rally interview how much she loved the people of the area. I can certainly see why after seeing how much they love their particular version of mountain music and dancing. The 88 year old lady you will see dancing in the video as well as the young boy are good examples of that zeal. The dancing lady is actually from Jacksonville, FL and has a house in Fries. She and her husband traveled in a 36 ft. diesel pusher for many years. The last 12 years he was blind and she did the driving.

If I have any fellow train fans out there who would like to join me in being sentimental about the demise of the Fries train that used to bring cotton to the now defunct Fries textile mill, here is a poem about the train that hangs in the Fries theater:

Hope you enjoy the video and the music. Be sure to play full screen:

Play Video


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Member Spotlight - Gerry and Bonnie Keen

By George Harper

Gerry and Bonnie will soon welcome us as hosts for the Galax, VA, rally May 18-22. Bonnie is actually a native of the area as she grew up in Boonville, NC, only 38 miles SSE of Galax. Her family still has a "mountain home" near Galax and she has fond memories of spending time there. Her father's family were tobacco farmers. One of the places Gerry and Bonnie enjoy traveling to is Simcoe ON, Canada because during the depression of the 30's Bonnie's mother’s family moved there along with many other tobacco farmers to find work in Canada's newly developed tobacco farms. They were welcome advisers because they knew how to cure tobacco.

At their mountain home near Galax 

At their Lake Norman home near Charlotte

Gerry is also a native North Carolinian, growing up in Wilson, NC. Gerry and Bonnie met in Winston Salem and lived there for 18 years. Bonnie and her cousin were looking for a place to live and the manager of an apartment complex told them about two apartments that were available. The manager said one of the apartments had two guys living on one side, and three guys on the other. Bonnie quickly replied, "We'll take that one." Sure enough it turned out that Gerry was destined to become her special one.

While living in Winston Salem, Bonnie worked in accounting for L'Eggs Hosiery, but now she does volunteer work. She prepares tax returns for AARP, and works with Meals on Wheels. She also volunteers with her church, but one of her favorite things to do is being with her grand kids. The Keens have two sons. Scott and Nicole have Bonson and Grace and they live in nearby Denver, NC. Scott is a pilot for American Airlines. Son Paul and Audrie have Christopher and Gracie. Both Scott and Paul are pilots like their dad.

Bonnie with grandson Bonson

Gerry grew up around airplanes as his dad had two planes, the last being a Taylorcraft. Gerry didn't take a straight line into the aviation industry though. He began working in the financial industry with GMAC in Rocky Mount NC in the mid sixties. However, working in finance could not compete with the beautiful Martin 404 passenger planes he would frequently see at the airport. "I loved the sound of the engines" Gerry says. He was hooked. That's when he decided he wanted to be a pilot.

The Piston and Propeller Era:

A Martin 404 like the ones that Inspired Gerry to become a Pilot

He took some pilot training in Rocky Mount, but then trained in St. Petersburg/Clearwater, FL  winding up with a multiple engine rating and was certified to teach flying and instrument rating. He then went back to Rocky Mount and took an entry job as a flight and instrument instructor. His career really took off when he was hired by Piedmont Airlines where he initially flew the Fairchild FH-227 and the Nihon YS-11 turboprops of that era. Later in his career he flew Boeing 727's, 737's, and 757's. At the end of his career he was flying the Boeing 767 on the trans-Atlantic route to London, Paris, Frankfort, and Madrid.

Piedmont Airlines merged into US Air in 1989 and  Gerry retired from US Airways is 1999.

Turboprop Era of Gerry's early career with Piedmont:

Fairchild FH-227

Nihon YS-11

The Jet Age:

Captain Keen and 727 at Tri Cities Airport NC, c. 1979

Boeing 727 Cockpit Crew with Gerry in the Left Seat, c. 1988

Last Flight:

A Poignant Moment in London as Gerry Prepares to Make his Last Flight in the 767, c. 1999

Now that they are retired Gerry and Bonnie are enjoying a lot of time RVing, but their RV career began in the early nineties. They had a van and attended motorcycle races. The next step came through a friend of Gerry's whose father lived in Anchorage, AK. He set up an itinerary for them to tour Alaska, and they rented a Class-C. It was a great trip that caused them to want to buy their own Class-C in 1997. Through the years they progressed through Class-A, Class-A diesel, and then finally to Country Coach.

Gerry and Bonnie are looking forward to showing us the mountain area that is so special to them. They want to share the beauty of the area, the music, and the culture, as well as the many activities.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Rally Pics/Feature Article

Dear SECC Members

Please see the Feature Article about the Bowens and their bus conversion in the post below.
Also, view my photos from the Orange Beach rally Orange Beach Rally Photos

Feature Article

Bus or Boat?


George Harper

Craig and Bev Bowen with dog Trouble

The Bowens

We have been very fortunate to have Craig and Bev Bowen of Villa Rica, GA as guests of Charles and Elaine McGarity at the New Orleans rally and now in Orange Beach, AL. Craig and Charles met through their work in the transportation and logistics industry. 

This is the story of a very hard working couple with an interesting retirement dream. Craig manages a transloading facility in Fairburn, Georgia, where freight is off-loaded from the CSX railroad onto trucks. Bev works for Delta Airlines where she builds the flight schedules for Delta in and out of Atlanta. She determines what aircraft will fly what route and when. She builds the schedules three months out, so at the time of the interview in mid-March, she was working on the June schedule. Both Craig and Bev often work 7 days per week. In addition Craig works a second, part-time job earning "bus money" cleaning and inspecting food grade grain-hauling rail cars at another facility. He is actually an inspector looking for insect contamination in the grain cars.

Craig and Bev met through mutual friends, and now have three grown sons living out of state, and five grandchildren. Bev had some RV travel experience when she was a teenager, but it is not the fondest memories for her; there are things a teenage girl had rather be doing than traveling with grownups in an RV.  Nonetheless, she now enjoys traveling in the bus with Craig.

The Project

Bus or boat? That is the question Craig Bowen confronted about five years ago when he began to think about a retirement hobby. Craig grew up learning how to work on and build things. He has always been handy and he loves to work with wood. He finally decided that a bus would be more practical because he and Bev could go more places. 

Craig grew up in East Liverpool, OH, on the Ohio river where he was always around boats. The famed Delta Queen paddle wheeler was a frequent sight, and his particular love was wooden boats. The beautiful mahogany wood used in the construction of the classic Chris Craft yachts was an inspiring example for Craig.

Craig took a fork in the road and chose a bus, but he expressed his love of boats by incorporating a marine theme for the interior. In this picture we see some of he beautiful mahogany Craig chose for the bus. Craig commented, "I love wood and I wanted it to look like a yacht."

Craig and Bev in the bus's Salon
Here are some more examples of the African mahogany wood chosen for the bus. This picture shows the ceiling with 3/4 in. pine marine lap on the sides. The custom A/C vents had to be made to an exact size in order to properly distribute the air flow:

All Lighting is LED

When asked what feature of the coach are you the most proud of, Craig said, "The island galley, and the water closet with hand made copper sink  ." Bev said, "I really love the dark wood." One of the biggest frustrations for Craig is finding time to work on the project considering his demanding work schedule.

Note the pipes are copper too:

Hand Made Copper Sink

The vanity sink is pure copper as well:

Hand Made Copper Vanity Sink

The water closet door has a nautical theme with port hole and monkey ball pull:

Water Closet Door
Monkey Ball Pull

Note the AC breaker panel is hidden behind the water closet mirror:

The island galley with its induction stove top, the two drawer refrigerator, dish washer, and storage drawers are a focal point of the main salon.

Main Salon
Island Galley and beautiful hardwood floors
Note the bar stools are cantilevered through the bar

Two Drawer Commercial Refrigerator

Galley Storage
The Bowens chose all residential grade appliances and fixtures for the coach including this Summit Professional  washer/dryer:

The entryway of the bus remains a work in progress, but note the clever use of brass marine cleats as stair rails:

Closeup of the 3/4 in. marine lap and brass cleat

Also note the marine themed lights and clock:

The Bowens wanted a warm, cozy atmosphere, so Craig added a fireplace in the salon and bedroom. Note the TV rises from the fireplace cabinet via remote control:


The bedroom wall opposite the bed contains drawers, and the back of the coach is a full-width closet with hanging storage and more drawers.  

The fire ax is a vestige of the bus's commercial vehicle past:

Craig and Bev take turns in this seat

The Bus


The bus is a 1995 MCI 45 ft commercial motorcoach that was in charter service. It was involved in a fire that damaged the roof and was acquired by a Mr. Raymond Cox. Mr. Cox, now retired, was a 2-cycle Detroit diesel engine guru and go-to guy after Detroit Diesel discontinued the 2-cycle engines. Mr. Cox bought the bus after the insurance settlement with the owners and re-skinned the roof with new aluminum. He completely refurbished the chassis and painted the exterior. Considering that MCI rates their commercial chassis @ 300,000 miles or 30 years, Craig and Bev should be good to go for a while.

When Craig bought the coach about five years ago, the interior was an empty shell. One of his first challenges was insulating the shell with spray foam which had to be trimmed to fit:

Hand-Trimmed Foam Insulation
Pantographic Compartment Doors

Craig can adjust the horsepower of the Detroit Series 60 engine via software and currently has it set at 435 HP. Note one of the large cooling fans is dedicated solely for charge air cooling.

Hefty Detroit Series 60 Engine

The 20 KW Power Tech generator could power three or four coaches, and Craig plans to set up such a mother ship configuration to supply traveling buddies with power when they are in dry camp situations.

Power Tech 20 KW Generator
What amazing craftsmanship has gone into turning this commercial motorcoach into a retirement dream. SECC is fortunate to have Craig and Bev join our rallys from time to time, and we hope to see more of them. We will look forward to seeing project updates and look forward to the day when Craig and Bev can retire and enjoy traveling more in their beautiful retirement dream.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


by Janet Sanders

Photos: Jan Sanders, Skip Saunders

While snowstorms tracked across the north, some of us enjoyed warmer weather at the CCI Tampa Rally at LazyDays. 

The weather before and after the rally was great for sitting around outside so many of us took advantage to visit the area and the many friends and relatives that seem to have relocated to Florida, even if it is just for the winter. 

The weather during the rally was  a tad too cold at 50 degrees and 35 mile winds so we missed being able to party around outside visiting everyone. Still, it was way better than tornadoes and snowstorms up north!
    The rally schedule kept us busy with a variety of events, hosted by the Heartlanders.

 The main event was a white-table luncheon aboard the elegant cruise yacht Star Ship. We enjoyed a nice tour of Tampa bay.

We expected to see lush tropical homes on the bay, but had forgotten that it was also a busy port.

The afternoon was rounded out by a tour of historical Cuban neighborhood Ybor City just blocks away by a nice trolley ride.  Some of the old tobacco warehouses have found new life in shops and lofts, but you can still smell your way to where cigars are being hand rolled.
    We experienced a bit of old Florida with a trip inland to the old-fashioned Americana of Plant City. Inland Florida is farm and cattle land, with small towns and trains moving all that produce up North.

We ate at the Whistle Stop Café right next to the tracks. The café is in the old restored pharmacy that also housed the town doctor, up the stairs, in the early 1900s.  We shopped the antique stores, and walked over to the little train museum.

Strawberry Shortcake at Parksdale Market

   The Heartlanders kept us busy in the evenings with a movie night ( "Bridge of Spies", a great choice!) , a game night and a Night at the Races with fun gambling on horse race films.

  Why go back up North when you can hang around in warmer weather? Our SECCers are now heading to other areas of Florida. The Harpers are now down at John Prince County Park near West Palm Beach. Several of us headed over to Lakeland to Fountain RV to have work done.

Harpers at West Palm Beach

Post Rally Coaches at Fountain RV

Post Rally Tech Talk at Fountain
 Don't miss another rally. We hope to see you at our next SECC rallies in Orange Beach and Galax Virginia. Register now on our web site.