Escapees RV Club was founded in 1978. In the four decades since, so much has happened to move the club forward and grow both the membership and the services and benefits that members enjoy. With so many of our founding members now off the road and enjoying a quieter life, we want to ensure their stories and legacy are shared with newer club members. If it weren’t for our founding Escapees, this club would be an entirely different organization, if we even existed at all.
In this edited excerpt from History of the Escapees Club, Part II in a series on Escapees’ history, Kay Peterson, co-founder of Escapees RV Club, shares more about how Rainbow’s End, the first of the Escapees Rainbow Parks, developed with the help of volunteers. (If you haven’t read Part I, we recommend you start here.)
Back to Rainbow's End
By the time we returned in late September, a local contractor was grading a loop road, now called Rainbow Drive. Some pathways through the dense brush had been hacked out by machete and a dump station was installed. We were ready for the big work rally that had been in the newsletter for mid-October of 1984. The idea was to get help with clearing the land and have fun while we did so.
Many people responded and a great deal of work was accomplished by working together. There was a job for anyone who wanted to help. By the time the rally ended, much of the clearing had been done.
The October work rally was also the birth of what has become an annual rally to remember the many volunteers who lent a hand when they passed through Rainbow’s End over the years. We call it Octoberfest. It is a weekend-long rally with all sorts of fun activities and entertainment. In its early years, it included a “real Texas barbecue,” cooked by Bud Carr and his volunteer helpers. One tradition that still continues is the bake sale, the proceeds of which are donated to the local volunteer fire department.
Many of those who attended the October work rally stayed on to help in any way they could. Some of them were lot owners, but others were just practicing caring and sharing. An example of that was Don Averill who came to Rainbow’s End during the summer. He ended up staying at Rainbow’s End for many years until his health got so bad, he could no longer live alone. (CARE was still just a dream at that time) When Don first came to Rainbow’s End, he was one of the most reliable and consistent workers. Even after construction was finished, he cut firewood for the clubhouse fireplace and started the coffee every morning.
Early Holiday Traditions at Rainbow's End
Construction on the clubhouse didn’t start until 1985, so during the 1984 holiday season, we ate together in the picnic area. People brought extra blankets to tie between trees to form a windbreak because the evenings were cold. Those of us who spent those first holidays at Rainbow’s End shared potluck dinners together, just as we’ve done at every Escapees park since, whether it be an SKP Co-op or a Rainbow Park.
The difference was that in 1984, we cooked the turkeys and hams in our RV ovens instead of in the activity center’s ovens the way we do today. There were 26 families who shared Thanksgiving, 26 who shared Christmas, and 26 who shared New Year’s. Fun fact: it was not the same 26 families at each!
The first Christmas Eve was especially memorable because, while huddling around a campfire under a black, star-studded sky, we sang Christmas carols. By Christmas of 1985, the clubhouse was framed in and the interior was under construction. We cut down a tall tree and everyone contributed to the decorations.
Every year since then, Escapees at Rainbow’s End have come together in fellowship, but now we do it in the comfort of our large activity center.
Lot Owners Settle In
But in 1985 there was still much work to be done. It seemed as if each day brought new challenges.
Because the Rainbow’s End project was not an SKP Co-op, in which all lots are prepared at the same time, lot owners could move in immediately and start putting in their own utility services. They each installed their own septic tank and electric service pole. They also put in their own water lines, but we provided the main trunk line. This was an extensive project due to the distances, so we were thankful for the many volunteers.
Once the line was completed at our expense, we turned it over to the local water company to maintain and provide metered water for those who wanted it. Hooking up to the local water company was an individual choice. Most owners did, even though some complained about the cost of a meter, and some thought the rates were high. They balanced that against the assurance that water was regularly tested so it was safe to drink and there was someone there to fix things if a line broke, as it has a couple of times through the years.
However, there were members who chose to put in their own well. Several people went together on two of those wells to save money. Everyone seemed to be satisfied with their choice.
Things Get A Little Wild
Choice is the mainstay of the Rainbow’s End park. There were no zoning restrictions in Polk County, and we made no internal ones on the deed to the original lot owners. We only asked that everyone live by the golden rule and not force their personal preference on anyone else.
However, when land was added in future years, we did add a few restrictions such as no farm animals, keep dogs and cats on a leash when they are off your property, and pick up after your pet.
The no-farm-animals rule was a result of the turkeys, chickens, and goat that roamed the campground area in 1984 and early 1985, giving is a rustic atmosphere. Chickens can be messy unless they are penned up, and Robby, our rooster, had a habit of crowing at the first glimmer of dawn when most were still asleep.
Skippy, Cathie’s goat, was a darling baby but was not so darling as he grew up. However, the real problem was the turkeys. They liked to roost on vehicles and seemed to prefer newly polished pickup trucks whose owners didn’t appreciate being singled out for that honor.
We learned a lot about turkeys. They are fun to watch when they spread their tail feathers and when the swell their throats to gobble. Turkeys are normally not aggressive and will run if you threaten them with raised hand or voice. However, like most wild creatures, they seem to recognize when someone is afraid of them and will react. If you turn and run, it becomes a great game for them to chase you. We learned this by watching Dora Stone. She is about 4’ 11” and terrified of turkeys. Both turkeys loved to chase her, and the more she screamed the better they liked it. Actually, it was rather funny to watch though Dora didn’t think so. Tom and Dora Stone were both hard-working volunteers and lot owners, so the turkeys had to go.
Rainbow's End Needed A Clubhouse
It took much of 1985 to get full hookups to the first two rows of the campground, but our top priority was building a combination office and clubhouse. With the help of volunteers, we were able to keep working on the campground hookups while we started on the clubhouse.
We decided we needed a 40’x78’ building since it would serve a dual purpose. The membership and administrative offices didn’t have to be huge, but our future plans included a mail service, so we added an extra room to serve those needs. We didn’t worry about things like a special staff restroom or lunchroom. We could all use the same facilities. We wanted to leave as much room as possible in the clubhouse area for lot owners and campground visitors to enjoy activities. A friend designed the clubhouse that included two unisex bathrooms, a kitchen with a full-length storage closet and several cabinets in the walls and in the island, worktables, a small room to serve as a library and craft room, and one large meeting room. “What more could anyone need?” we naively asked.
The clubhouse was made of wood with a wooden floor (easier on feet than cement) and was set on a cement block foundation. The land was very unlevel, so the foundation had to be built at varied angles to make the building level. Fortunately, one of our devoted volunteers was Vic Hugal, who had spent his working years as a brick layer. He also built the Ranch House at the New Mexico SKP co-op. Actually, Vic built several things at Rainbow’s End including designing and building a large barbecue in the picnic area and fireplace in the clubhouse. Vic and Lydia also paid for the bricks for the barbecue.
More Lot Owners Moved In
It wasn’t just the disappearance of farm animals that changed Rainbow’s End. We were developing rapidly. Trees were giving way to more rigs, more buildings, and more people. Rainbow’s End is not a park with rows of neat lots and identical storage buildings in a perfect line, although the last land addition did provide one section with smaller lots that more closely fit that description. The people who own a third-acre or more were free to build what they chose. Rainbow’s End has a unique look because lot owners have a freedom not possible in a SKP co-op setting.
Some brought in park models and mobile homes. Many built a shelter over their RV and added a side room or two that might be used for anything from a hobby room to an extra bedroom or a larger living room. Others built small cottage-type homes. As the years passed and people found themselves staying for longer and longer periods of time, houses became more common and much more elaborate. Some who started with an RV chalet later found themselves replacing the large RV with a smaller one to travel in. Those folks often closed in the walls of the RV shelter, turning it into a house.
When we first arrived, Joe and I parked our trailer in the campground area. When we added another 15 acres a few years later, we saved almost an acre on what is now called Peterson Loop Road. We set up a park model, built decking around it, and included a separate one-room building for an office. It worked fine as a home base for the next ten years because we were still on the road almost six months a year. We sold the park model when our son built us a larger house in a different section of the park.
"Wish We Could Stay Longer"
We were spending longer periods of time at Rainbow’s End, as were many others- lot owners as well as visitors. There were always activities taking place, people became close friends with their neighbors, and there was a constant flow of new people to meet and enjoy spending time with.
More than once I’ve heard someone say: We just planned to spend the night, then heard about an activity and decided to stay for it. Before that date arrived, everyone was planning a party or there was going to be a special seminar, so we delayed our departure again. We’ve been here a month and wish we could stay longer!”
This problem became so common that in one of the newsletters I wrote “The danger is you may enjoy a place so much that you will forget travel was your goal. Here are some signs for knowing when it is time to move on:
- You find yourself saying “This place is so beautiful I could stay here forever.”
- You find yourself looking for rocks or other ways to define the limits of “your property.”
- You find yourself resenting it when someone asks when you’re leaving so they can move into your site.
Then we said, “If Rainbow’s End should ever fill up so there is no room for a new arrival, the longest-term resident will be asked to move.” The truth is, we have only enforced that rule about six times in the 15 years Rainbow’s End had been in existence. Three of those times, the people had been in the campground for one, two, or more months, and other times, it had only been two weeks. A list is posted so people know when they are getting close to the top of the list and could possibly be asked to leave. Exceptions are made when there is an emergency illness. Unless there is someone waiting, there is no time limit for renting a full hook-up site.
The rule was established back in 1984 because we heard of weary RVers being turned away from campgrounds or parks that were full. We decided than that no weary traveler would ever be turned away. Sometimes a newcomer may have to stay in the dry-camp area overnight, but the next day a site will be found. During the busy season, visitors may have to share a site with another family. Several years ago, we asked the visitors if they would rather share a site or have someone leave. They unanimously voted to share a site and we have used that procedure ever since.
Life at Rainbow's End
During the early days at Rainbow’s End, many people got stuck in the mud and had to be towed out with our tractor. Paving the roads was a priority, but it took a while to get the funds. Then Leon and Anna Culbertson joined Escapees and bought one of the lots in the third development. Leon had the equipment and was a foreman of the road crew. He does some maintenance on our roads whenever he is at Rainbow’s End.
For the most part, life at Rainbow’s End is no different from life at any of the parks under the Escapees umbrella. We enjoy holidays together, we like having a clubhouse where there is sure to be a game of cards or dominoes any night we wish to go, and we enjoy the comforts of the TV room where we can watch TV or one of the numerous movies in the video library.
Some people enjoy the craft room where sewing machines and ironing boards are set up for anyone to use. Some like the pool tables and others enjoy the library with its many books. Add to those amenities all the scheduled craft, hobby, and exercise classes, plus a variety of other activities and it is easy to see why people drag their feet when it is time to leave.
Many different events have taken place at Rainbow’s End in addition to holiday parties and other annual rallies. This includes several weddings. The first was of Cathie and Bud Carr on September 26, 1987. Dave DeRevere, a lot owner and retired minister, married them in the clubhouse. Bud’s six-year-old son, Greg, was his best man and joe (Cathie’s dad) gave the bride away. Polly Schultz, who worked in the mail room, was her matron of honor. Escapees filled the room, making it a perfect wedding.
Several other weddings have taken place at Rainbow’s End, but the most unique was Bob and Martha Myers who were married during the 1993 Octoberfest rally. There was no wedding announcement. The rally program listed one of the final events as an old-fashioned melodrama. As far as anyone in the audience knew, that was what it was. Each of the wedding ceremony principals played a role in the melodrama. At the end of the play, when the hero (Bob) gets the heroine (Martha), Dave DeRevere turned his collar and announced “Let’s marry them!” The actors shed their costumes, revealing their wedding garb. Bob and Martha were then married in front of a delighted audience. A few visitors thought it was still part of the play until the end of the ceremony when others had to confirm that it was for real!
Similar fun activities take place at all Escapees parks. Perhaps that is one of the charms of being an Escapee. We don’t seem to be afraid of letting the child within us loose to enjoy life. Look through the scrapbooks of any of the Escapees parks and you will see event after event that proves it.
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