Ryan Robinson takes you for a ride in the passenger seat of his RV, off the grid, deep among the dramatic rock formations of the Utah Desert. Robinson and friends chill by the fire, tell stories, and of course, rig a one of a kind highline over the Looking Glass Arch in Moab, UT.
What is it about RV rallies that make us a little queasy? Typically, RV rallies aren’t high on the list of things to do for families with kids. When we first got the invitation, we were a bit apprehensive about attending a second NAARVA rally. NAARVA stands for National African American RV Association. Our first rally, while it had many pluses, also had its share of minuses.
However, after speaking with newly elected NAARVA leadership, we were eager to see what changes were put in place. NAARVA, like many RV clubs, has recognized the need to encourage membership of families and younger RVers.
Location – Lakewood Camping Resort, Myrtle Beach, SC
Myrtle Beach had been on our list of “must visit” locations for a long time. So we packed up the RV and headed out to Lakewood Camping Resort. Checking in was a breeze.
As we found our site, we were greeted with smiles and waves from the many other NAARVA rally attendees. The rally was packed with over 200 RV’s from nine different states representing the entire Southern Region.
This was one of the few times at a campground that we felt in the majority rather than the minority.
Southern Region Director, Dr. Monica Davis, kicked off the rally with the opening ceremonies in the beachside auditorium. As each chapter name was called, they stood and cheered, announcing their presence.
Afterwards we hit the tent, grabbed our rally bags, and settled down for some hotdogs and burgers. You could feel the energy radiating inside the tent.
Our boys had one thing on their minds…the beach…with the sun getting ready to set, we couldn’t hold them back any longer.
So off we went to enjoy the first of many gorgeous sunsets.
That evening after the kids finally drifted off to sleep, we studied the itinerary to plan our week.
Right away we noticed there wasn’t an overload of events we had to attend. So we picked a few local activities to explore.
The next morning proved the perfect mix of education for the guys and a social for the ladies.
Keith attended a tire safety seminar hosted by Michelin. I had a chance to speak with Raymond from New Orleans, who has been RVing for 38 years! He’s a huge Southern University football fan and decided to get an RV to have a better game day experience. Learning from him about how challenging it was for an African American just to get insurance was quite humbling.
The ladies got a real treat. This year’s Southern Bell Social’s guest speaker was Barbara Blain-Bellamy. She is the first female African American Mayor of Conway, SC. She led an inspiring discussion about a commitment to giving back to the community. I wish my daughter had been in attendance to hear the words of wisdom.
Then it was time for some fun. We decided to visit the highly rated, nearby Brookgreen Gardens. These are not your average gardens. They have sculptures, a wildlife preserve, and so much more with over 9,000 acres, the Low Country Zoo, and trails through different ecosystems on the property.
The boys enjoyed a scavenger hunt through the Ribbit Exhibit.
Our boys love the junior ranger program in our NPS. Brookgreen Gardens is a National Historic Site, and they offered a “ranger type” packet for the boys to take around and find the answers. The boys worked extra hard, since they knew if they completed the packet they would earn a prize!
As we walked through the lovely gardens, we were overcome with a haunting feeling. When we stopped to read one of the historical signs it became clear why.
With its origin as a slave plantation, we couldn’t help but wonder what the lives of our ancestors had been like. Could they enjoy these beautiful surroundings or was it just a living hell? It was again one of those moments where RVing gave us a chance to educate our boys on a piece of not so great American history.
The next morning it was once again time to explore the beach. We ran into plenty of other rally members taking strolls on the beach.
We learned how much our boys loved the beach. They could spend all day playing in the sand…
I have to say we are strictly amateurs when it comes to the beach. I’ve learned that cheap beach umbrellas won’t survive any type of wind. Go ahead and laugh at me.
As our boys, always hungry, reminded us, it was time to eat. So we decided to head over to Wahlburgers at Broadway at the Beach.
Broadway at the Beach is a perfect place to spend an afternoon away from the water. There were tons of restaurants, shopping, and even attractions to ride.
To my great surprise we found a honey store and restocked the RV with our favorite honey…
Tupelo honey. Talk about a great ending to the day…
Over the course of the next few days, we bounced in and out of different activities. We took the boys to enjoy the pools, lazy river, and the water slides.
Nothing says “family friendly” more than an ice cream social. Our boys loved this event. Who can say no to free pints of ice cream?
Everyone had a great time and it was the perfect chance to meet members from different chapters.
So many members went out of their way to speak with our kids to remind them how lucky they are to be RVing at such a young age.
The wisdom that was passed down to our children and us has been priceless.
The biggest event of the rally is always the Saturday night banquet. This year’s theme was Africa. All attendees were encouraged to dress in their best African outfit.
It was an incredible sight to see so many people dressed in African attire, and that party went on well into the evening.
As we packed up to leave another successful NAARVA Southern Rally, we’ve come to the realization that change is happening, albeit slowly. We have come to recognize that instead of waiting for an entire organization to change to fit our needs, we just need to adjust our expectations.
Embrace the items we can only get from attending a NAARVA rally. We will look to these rallies to help us connect, to learn, and for fellowship in large numbers with other African-American RVers.
That feeling, let’s just say comfort in numbers is priceless.
NAARVA will be celebrating its 25th year in the summer of 2017. We are proud to be members of NAARVA. They are true pioneers in the RV world.
After 11 years in the trenches of the NFL, Keith Sims was ready for a change of pace. Little did he know his wife, Tia, had been plotting for this moment for years, and had long ago decided that they and their three boys were going to discover new roads in an RV. They now spend more than 100 days and nights each year touring the country, and use the travel experiences to enhance the boys’ homeschool education.