Mar 082010

Back when I was in the military, I spent some time teaching firearms and close quarters combat at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. One of the things that we tried to stress to the Army’s future leaders was that you can plan and strategize all you want to, and you may know exactly how an operation is supposed to go. But once you put boots on the ground, everything can go to hell real quick, and then it’s time to improvise. Yesterday proved to me that the things I learned way back when, still apply today.

This is a brand new fairgrounds for us, and it’s laid out differently than any other where we have held our rallies. Instead of just one or two big open fields to park RVs in, like most fairgrounds, this one has one relatively small field on the south side, a large field on the north side, and dozens of little nooks and crannies with electrical hookups where we can sneak in a single rig or two.

I thought we had our parking plan laid out pretty well. I thought I had conveyed that plan to our hardworking volunteers who man the parking crew. And I thought that the folks who were coming in as early bird arrivals would have read the instructions I sent them about the parking crew meeting them when they arrived at the fairgrounds. It sure sounded like a good plan to me. And then everything went to hell!

Rain at rally webMy first suspicion that we were going to have problems was when the weather, which has been nice here for the last two weeks, suddenly turned ugly. Yuma is supposed to average about five inches of rain a year. I think we got that much yesterday! I would have measured it to tell you for sure, but the wind, hail, and lighting distracted me. We had standing water and mud everywhere!

Then early yesterday morning one of our most seasoned parking volunteers, whom I had planned to be the leader, called with a family medical emergency and could not make it.

We had planned to stage everybody in the big parking lot in front of the fairgrounds, but a lot of RVs just breezed merrily past the parking crew as they tried to wave them down and stop them, and soon we had a bottleneck at the gates and inside the fairgrounds, while the folks who were arriving and following the parking crew’s directions to move into the staging area began to pile up out front.

The Good Sam rally was ending yesterday morning, and we had hoped they would all be gone by noon, as expected. But there were several who just sat in the middle of our parking areas, waiting for the rain to let up. I can’t blame them for not wanting to travel in such bad weather, but some of them didn’t even want to go outside to unplug their rigs so we could move them out of our parking area and into a large lot on the other side of the fairgrounds, where they could wait out the storm.

In a rally situation, the only way to safely park RVs is one after the other in line. If you have somebody already in the middle of that line, you run into all kinds of problems, because you are trying to sandwich RVs in between the parked coaches, they have slides out that you have to avoid, and electric cords out that you don’t want to run over. It makes what should be a relatively easy job very difficult and time consuming.

We had a few people who got upset because they had to wait quite a while to get parked, while we sorted things out, and they let us know in no uncertain terms that we had really dropped the ball. No, I dropped the ball. I’m the guy in charge, and it all falls on me. I’m sorry. I don’t have any excuses, just the above explanation of what went wrong, and hopefully the lessons learned will make things better the next time around. I also apologize to anybody whom I snapped at or was short with while this was all happening. I was overwhelmed, and I’m sorry.

I have to say that most people were very patient and understanding, and we very much appreciate that. I also very much appreciate the parking crew, who stood outside in the pouring rain and mud, getting yelled at by upset people, and got the job done. I have no idea why they all didn’t walk off the job, but I’m sure glad they didn’t! We also had several people who had not officially volunteered to help with parking, but who saw we were in trouble, and just jumped in to lend a hand. Thank you all very much!

We had expected to park 135 RVs yesterday, all early birds who had registered to come in Sunday, and we had 52 indoor vendor booths reserved. By the end of the day, Miss Terry had registered 183 RVs, and 55 vendor booths! And there were still others who didn’t want to stand in line, and said that they were going to wait until this morning to come in to register! There were a lot of people who didn’t register early, or at all, they just showed up!  

To add to yesterday’s fun and games, when I tried to move our Winnebago motorhome from the back corner of the fairgrounds to the front so we’d have it accessible for rally items stored inside, the living room slide refused to come in, hanging up about halfway out, and the HWH leveling jacks hung up. RV tech Phil Botnick came to the rescue and fixed it, and also checked out the gas side of our water heater, which stopped working again. I have no idea what the problem was with any of this stuff, because I never had a chance to talk with Phil about it. All I know is he got everything working again, and I need to hunt him down and give him large sums of  money. Thanks for always being there for us, Phil!  

Then, later on, I was guiding an RV back into a parking space, and managed to trip and fall into a drainage ditch full of cold, muddy, water. I was so busy that I never got the chance to change clothes or dry off until I took my shower about 11 p.m. Can you say chilled to the bone?

The weather report is for sunshine today, and we sure need it! Hopefully we’ll have a better handle on things and parking will be at least a little easier today!

Thought For The Day – No matter how much you hope for the best, you should always plan for the worst.

Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  19 Responses to “And Then It All Went To Hell”

  1. Glad to hear everything is going smoothly at your rally. Hope the rest goes with ease for you and Terry.

  2. Oh Nick, only you, my dad or I would fall into a water filled ditch at the worst possible time! From now on things can only get better. I hope to be at the 2011 Yuma rally which will pretty much mean torrents of rain and possible tornados.

    I love RVers until I run into the ones that get ugly and nasty because things are not going as planned and THEY are inconvenienced. Come on folks – get a clue. Shit happens. Sit in your heated, dry motorhome or truck and entertain yourself by people watching or just relaxing. Nothing can be done any faster than it is going to so making an ass out of yourself shows folks what a loser you are. You are a better person than I am Nick. If someone yelled at my volunteers for being inconvenienced, I’d tell them to make a U-turn as soon as possible and I’d send them a refund check. So long, good bye!

    I do ask for your forgiveness as I have been relocating and did not catch up on your blogs (6 days worth) until today. Soooo I sent you a couple of jokes. I just didn’t think……………… Sorry!

  3. We tried to give you a hand Nick, wish we could have done more. We led several folks into a parking spot and everyone was very understanding and patient….I was proud to be an RV’er. It really started pouring out the rain,,lightening and everything else. We managed to get soaked, but it didn’t hurt us a bit……

    Thanks for finding us the neat spot you did………And I don’t think you have a thing to be sorry to anyone for…. No one can predict these weather conditions and there were just to many nooks and cranny’s, entrance gates and roads…… You did the best you or anyone else could have done…..

    ON with the show!! Its a GREAT WEEK!!!!

  4. It’s all smooth going from here Nick! It sounds like you are already laughing about the whole thing.

    We are disappointed about not being there as we had planned on coming over from Tucson, but a family medical issue dictated a quick run to Florida in late February and we are still here. Hopefully we will see you in Elkhart in August!

    Nancy & Dennis

  5. Nick, the best part of yesterday is that nobody died! I had a similar situation when a FQCC Rally came to our campground. Someone else on our crew had “Checked-out” the sites the day before and proclaimed them “Ready.” When I and two others started to park the large group I quickly discovered these less frequently used sites to contain low hanging tree limbs and other issues. I quickly grabbed the pole saw and slowed up the whole group. I got yelled at from management for slowing things down, but was thanked personally by everyone I parked for “taking care of them.” I know I wouldn’t have wanted my rig all scratched up and would have refused to back my rig into a site not properly prepared ahead of time. When you get into a situation like yesterday, all you can do to try to recover is think quickly on your feet and also let wonderful impromptu volunteers like Mike jump in to ease your burden just a bit. Thanks Mike and Nick for being wonderful folks, your hearts are in the right places!

  6. No apologies needed for the wait. We weren’t sure what the delay was, but it really wasn’t that big of deal. And bless your volunteers, they did a great job in really lousy conditions. We knew something had gone awry from your plans, but not sure what had happened.
    We are just glad to be here. It will be a great week! Looking forward to our first Gypsy Journal Rally.

  7. Don’t sweat it Nick and don’t apologize anymore. The majority of people attending your rally are retired–what else to they have to do but sit in their nice warm rigs out of the weather and be patient!

    Hope the weather cooperates for the rest of the rally time.

    By the way, we are friends of Donna and Stu’s.

  8. One of the careers of my past life was Event Coordinator for a large Chicago off-premise caterer. As we moved through our Early Arrival process yesterday, memories drifted back of my days of chasing around putting out fires as scenerios arose left and right. You and your crew did a wonderful job in spite of the challenges presented with the weather and those who chose to make their own rules by arriving without registering and driving where they chose!!! Yes, we had no electricity in our row but that was the fairgrounds crew that fell down on the job…not you! We are on our way to remedy the situation this morning. We’re looking forward to a great week and have volunteered for a few small jobs…!!! Thank you for all your hard work!

  9. You apologized for “being short” with some people. You can’t worry about that — you ARE short! If they don’t like it, what’s anybody going to do about THAT!

  10. We all arrived with our houses; if we can’t wait patiently there where could we? I did get frustrated with the parking guy who couldn’t understand that being parked in the handicapped area meant I couldn’t leave my toad out front and walk in but he finally threw up his hands and told me to not get in the way of anyone parking an RV. Apparently a previously arriving toad driver wasn’t paying enough attention to what was happening. But we are here, parked right by an entrance gate, so thank you. I can hardly wait to start shopping for all the things we need for our new RV. Your vendors are going to love us this year.

  11. As the saying goes….This To Will Pass…every notice how people who start out frighting…end up being the best of friends….Have a great Rally…wish I was there…will be in a couple weeks but you guys will be gone….boohoo

  12. Oh Nick, Sorry it started out with problems but of course you can’t control the weather. We will get to see you on Friday since we are returning to Yuma on Thursday. Wait til you see the liceinse plate I ordered “IPFRELY” It should be good for a laugh or two for those that know why.

    Have a great rally and see you soon.

    Jerry & Arlyne

  13. Oh, Nick, we are so sorry we missed all the fun!! 🙂
    Indeed, it HAD to rain, or it would not be a Rally!!
    Keep on keeping on, in your own classic style….that’s why we love you!:)

  14. Hey Nick, I was going to offer a hand, but the sunshine here in FL was just too bright.

    I do hope the rest of the rally will be better and I know almost everyone will have a great time. (if they want to)

  15. Hey Nick,
    You know if everything would have gone 100% perfect I bet you that there would of still been some complaints. One thing I’ve learned in my world travels is that the world will never be in a shortage of buttholes!

  16. I’m surprised you even took time to write your blog. Forget the blog on days like that. Take a shower and get a good nights sleep. You can tell us all about it later! Good luck on the rest of the week.

  17. So you had a rough start BUT I bet it’ll be a GREAT week for one & all… We have been parkers many times at Winnebago State rallies & FMCA rallies and I find sometimes it goes smoothley and sometime not so…. BUT in the long run all have FUN!!! Have a great week & when you travel do it safely!!!

  18. NICK: Nancy and I only wish that we could be there with you guys, bad weather and all. Your true friends will always stand buy you and Terry. . . Nan and I are such. You did all that any reasonable man could do. Life occurs and some RVers will enjoy the adventure while others will simply complain and be miserable. Keep up the good work. . . you and Terry are ICONS! As always, oRV

  19. Like you, I think a couple years national service should be mandatory for all. Those years in the Army (or whatever branch) stay with you for the rest of your life and give you a great foundation. And you are right about plans crumbling but as so many others commented, it’s not that there is a problem it’s how you react to it. Sounds like you and your crew did a great job. Congratulations!

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