When the topic of Escapees Chapters and Birds of a Feather come up, the question arises…
What are Chapters and BOFs?
Chapters are made up of members based on a geographic area. There are currently over three dozen of these communities scattered throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico. These groups are led by officers who are elected by the membership within their respective chapters. Bylaws and standing rules lay out the formal foundation for each of these groups and are designed by the very chapters that they govern. These group about more than just having meetings and elections, though; rallies, dine-outs and other gatherings are the backbone of the Chapters to keep the spark of friendship alive and thriving.
Birds of a Feather, or BOFs, are slightly different from the Chapters in that they are based on a common interest rather than a geographic location. With almost forty different communities within the BOFs, an Escapees member can decide to join up with as many of the BOFs as they wish! Members can do everything from researching their family tree, to learning a new hobby or meeting new friends in a beloved pastime. Except for a couple of Certified BOFs, that follow the same guidelines as Chapters, the BOFs are not required to hold elections or formal gatherings. This doesn’t mean that they rarely get together for some fun!
One of the BOFs that seems to be on constant patrol for fun is the Boomers. While it may sound as if they’re comprised of only the baby-boomer generation, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, as some have been told, the Boomers are more about a mind-set than an age. You’ll find Boomers gathering in locations from the deserts to coastlines, from hot-air balloon festivals to campfire meetings. They are only one example of many that are out there waiting to welcome in a new member to their family.
Chapter 7 out of Yuma, Arizona gets together several times each year for socializing and fun. This photo from a 1995 gathering shows members playing a game at one of their gatherings, trying to stuff as many balloons as possible into a pair of women’s pantyhose.
George Fairfield, pictured here, hosted many northeast rallies years before chapters were formed. He became the first president of Chapter 3.
History of Escapees Chapters and BOFs
Another question that is frequently asked is about the history of the Escapees Chapters and BOFs. To answer this, it is necessary to turn to the History of the Escapees Club in prose and pictures written by Kay Peterson and Todd Paddock. The following information has been borrowed from the pages of this book.
In 1984, only six years after the formal birth of Escapees, the Club was seeing fantastic growth and it was decided that including a program called “Special Interest Groups” or SIGs would appeal to the membership. Therefore, this conception was launched during the sixth Escapade at the Yuma Fairgrounds in Arizona.
The SIGs program began with nine topics and was an instant hit. Members could see that they had more in common than just RVing, and this contributed to the success. Out of the original nine groups, two of those SIGs exist today: BoonDockers and Ham Radio, now called Amateur Radio.
As people began joining all these groups and expressing so much interest, it soon became evident that someone was needed to organize these groups. Dave Weston volunteered for this responsibility and soon the name was changed from SIGs to “Birds of a Feather” or BOF, to highlight that these communities attracted others with like interests. This name stuck and is still known as BOFs today.
When the SIGs first began, the plan was that they would meet as groups only during Escapades. One of the SIGs, the North California group, decided that they would like to meet more often and be in more frequent contact than the Escapees newsletter at the time allowed.
Pictured are Wilma Jones, Merrilyn Golding, and Don Lawrence, the first officers elected to lead Escapees RV Club’s first chapter, Chapter 1.
Chapter 8, The Mexican Connection, makes annual caravan trips to Mexico since establishing themselves in 1985. Here, members enjoy exploring Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, Mexico in 1996.
It was because of this that Chapter 1, the Golden Gate Chapter, formed and as the idea of geographically based groups caught on, members from all over the country came together to develop Chapters to spend time among other RVers from their own area. By the end of 1984, there were six formed Chapters with five more in the process of being organized. Although Chapter 1 is no longer active, there are currently 36 other Chapters that meet and hold events across three countries. Some of these Chapters host rallies in coordination with other Chapters, such as the SKP-ACRE and WARE rallies, which increase the fun and divide the responsibilities.
In 2016, Jimmy and Lockie Sailer were proud to become a part of the Escapees RV Club family and were chosen by the Club as the Directors of the community groups known as Chapters and Birds of a Feather (BOFs). As the Directors, they function as the liaisons between the groups and the National Staff, providing support for the Escapees communities from the creation of a new group to continuing guidance of longtime groups.
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Growth and Evolution of Chapters and BOFs
From the nine special interest groups offered in 1984 to the thirty-seven current BOF groups today, these are groups that constantly evolve and grow. While some groups have a few dozen members, others have hundreds and even over a thousand on the membership rolls. Originally, the BOFs met only during Escapade and communicated by the mail service and newsletters that had to be physically mailed out. In our current age, technology allows members to “gather” by various social media platforms and through various immediate modes of communication. Still, the most fun is getting to see friends and RVing family face-to-face.
“We have more in common with our Escapees family than our own family sometimes.”
The formation of Chapters and BOFs do more than just allow more activities to take place. The appeal to many is that it gives them others that they can relate to. Whether it is someone that you can “talk shop” with or share your favorite nearby establishment with, the community groups allow a way for members to pair with others that they can feel a bond with.
Like the ever-changing landscape from the view of our windshield, the Chapter and BOF are ever evolving. Some groups have come and gone, and then returned. An example of this is Chapter 16 of Georgia. Originally called the Tara Travelers, it formed in 1986 and ran for many years before eventually electing to close. However, in 2019, Joe Maltese and a group of determined Escapees came together and once again gave new life to Chapter 16 under the name Georgia Azaleas.
The Roadrunners Chapter, Chapter 7 from Yuma, AZ, take part in some beanbag baseball during their rally in 1993.
Chapter 5, the Evergreen Chapter from Washington, often enjoyed playing nickel bingo at chapter rallies.
Chapters and BOFs Stand Strong
The year 2020 came along and, as it did with the entire world, proved to be a test to the strength and fortitude of the inhabitants of our planet. While it was a time of temporary turmoil and confusion, it didn’t take long for the Escapees members to stand strong against the odds and prove what they were made of. RVers are used to rolling with the flow and adapting to obstacles, and this time was no different.
Members within the Chapters and BOFs embodied the strength and stamina that is an example of what type of people RVers, and particularly Escapees, are. While national media was flooded with stories of people turning on one another and taking advantage of the misfortune of others, Jimmy and Lockie were hearing how community members were checking on their fellow members, sharing food and information, and lifting each others’ spirits.
With much of the world locked down, making it difficult to meet face-to-face, many of the communities used technology to adapt to the changing landscape. Words like “Zoom” and “Skype”, that weren’t known by many of the membership, soon became part of the normal verbiage and soon “virtual-happy hours” were taking place. These were a way for friends to eat, laugh and visit without being in the same room, or sometimes even on the same continent.
But it doesn’t require a pandemic to bring out the good in the Chapter and BOF membership. From fires and floods to breakdowns or family emergencies while on the road, there are endless examples of the Escapees communities reaching out to help each other in every means possible.
Each year, many of the groups donate time and money, to Escapees C.A.R.E. Inc. Whether through volunteer hours at the CARE Center in Livingston, sewing quilts to raffle for donation, or auctions to raise funds for the Center, the Chapters and BOFs find ways to give to their fellow RVers that must take some time off the road for special assistance. It is truly an example of how the Chapters and BOFs take the word “community” to heart.
Escapees members capture moments with friends at the 2018 Quartzsite Happy Hour.
Redesigning with Chapters and BOFs
Each year, from December to February, a large contingent of Escapees, including many of the Chapters and BOFs, help convert the desert around Quartzsite, Arizona, into a mecca of RVs. It was during this time of year that National Happy Hour in Quartzsite, Arizona, had been a tradition for a great while. Hosted by Escapees National Staff, it welcomed all the Escapees members, including the Chapters and BOFs, to gather and see old friends, with entertainment provided. However, in 2021, due to the health mandates, it was cancelled.
This was not the end of the story.
With planning from the Escapees President, Board and Chapter/BOF Directors, a new idea began to emerge and take shape. It was decided that it was time to “kick it up a notch” and redesign the National gathering. So, with phone calls and meetings, the plan came together.
On January 19, 2022, the former National Happy Hour will debut it’s new “Party on Plomosa”. Visitors can begin to arrive at 2pm with their lawn chairs to stake out their favorite spot and to prepare for the free concert that will take from 3pm to 6pm that evening. The Status Crowes, the Escapees house band, will be performing live from the Freedom One stage, which will be set up near Mile Marker 3 on Plomosa Road. Food is being provided by Escapees RV Club. The only requirement is that everyone come prepared to have a good time.
Boomers BOF members come together for their annual rally in Quartzsite. Here, 2018 attendees have pulled up their chairs and coolers for Boomerville Happy Hour following an update on the week’s activity schedule.
Moving Forward with Chapters and BOFs
For any Escapees members who are searching for a community that fits their regional needs or special interests, please don’t hesitate to reach out to any of these groups. There’s no limit to how many you may join, and there will be someone glad to talk to you. An excellent resource for information about the Chapters and BOFs is the Members Section in our bi-monthly Escapees Magazine. Information can also be found online at member.escapees.com, where you will use your membership login to access all the invaluable content there.
If you do not find a Chapter within your area or a BOF that suits your interests, and you’re interested in information about forming one, you can reach out to us, Jimmy and Lockie Sailer, at email@example.com .
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Lockie & Jimmy Sailer
Jimmy and Lockie Sailer are Escapees members and longtime RVers. Lockie was introduced to RVing as a young child, as her parents lived in an Airstream for a while, and they vacationed in a home-built camper. Jimmy bought his first RV as a young adult and used it as a second home prior to he and Lockie marrying. As parents of three sons, they owned several RVs; from a pop-up to a motor home; they adapted as the need for more room for growing boys dictated. Today, the children are now grown with homes of their own, and Jimmy and Lockie still enjoy their fifth wheel and the freedom of being able to hit the open road.