The California Coasters chapter was organized in Pismo Beach, California, in October 1996, when 20 members put their names on the charter. In just 10 short years it's grown to approximately 75 member families and counting.
These members live mainly along the coast of central California, in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, or Ventura counties. Chapter president Dick Gibbs, F278983, said they focus on that area when promoting the chapter, but a few members are from other areas as well. "A lot of our members come in because of friends; [their] friends are members and they want their buddies to become members," he explained.
Chapter members take two months off — February and August — and schedule rallies during the remaining months. Rallies are usually held on the first week of the month, and since members are retired, they usually hold gatherings in midweek.
Like most FMCA chapters, the California Coasters' rallies involve getting together to socialize, but they also include trips out into the area.
"On every rally we try to tour at least a couple of different types of things," Dick said. "It might be a museum, it might be a factory of some sort, or some type of facility." In the past, the chapter has enjoyed wine-tasting, attended shows and plays, and toured factories that manufacture foods such as baby carrots and ice cream.
Dick said the chapter usually holds rallies within 200 miles of Santa Maria, California. "However, we try once a year to go on a long trip. We've gone to Albuquerque (New Mexico) to the balloon festival; we used to go down to Palm Springs and Emerald Desert in November, but this will probably be the last year at Emerald Desert (the resort may close), and we will find a different place. We will go back to the Albuquerque balloon festival in October '08. We try to find a place that everybody's interested in going. We do travel up to 300 or 400 miles once a year."
Upcoming rallies for 2007 include one at Bakersfield River Run in Bakersfield, California, in March, and Wine Country RV Resort in Paso Robles, California, in April. You can read the chapter newsletter, including a rally schedule, on the Western Area Motorhome Association Web site, www.wafmca.com (click on the "Chapters Pages" link).
The chapter also has stepped up its involvement in the Western Area Rally. "Up until a couple of years ago our club didn't really go to the Indio rally as a group, and we felt that should change," Dick said. "Two years ago we started going as a group; this year, we're volunteering to help with the handicapped trams." Some chapter members also volunteered (by assisting another chapter) at FMCA's 75th International Convention in Pomona, California, in January 2006.
The chapter's 10th anniversary rally was held this past September at Brown Ranch, a private ranch located near Solvang, and members in 33 motorhomes participated. It was one of the largest rallies in the history of the chapter. Western Area vice president Tom Ainsley, F182814, and his wife, Joan, and Western Motor Home Association senior vice president, Bobby Donald, F107800, and his wife, Gloria, were guests.
The chapter follows a recruiting plan that involves everything from advertising the rallies in the "Association Calendar" (which appears in each issue of Family Motor Coaching and online at FMCA.com); setting up shop at chapter fairs; posting the chapter newsletter on the Western Motor Home Association Web site; and taking advantage of mailings to invite non-chapter members to join. On top of that, members like to promote the chapter and recruit friends.
"I developed a letter that has an application, a list of chapter officers, and a chapter rally schedule, and we hand that out at the chapter fairs," Dick said.
If you live in Santa Barbara, Ventura, or San Luis Obispo counties and want to join in the fun, consider this your invitation to do so. "Our chapter is a very friendly chapter that welcomes new members with open arms," Dick said. "The thing that has always impressed me about the Coasters is that there are no cliques within the chapter. When we're doing things we do them as a group and we include new members in everything that we do; we encourage members to take part in all the activities. We bend over backward to get them involved and make them feel a part of the group."
Chapter dues are $12 per year, plus a one-time $30 initiation fee. For more information about the California Coasters, contact FMCA's Chapter Services Department at the national office: (800) 543-3622; e-mail: