As I write this I’m sitting in a conference room at the FMCA’s 103rd International Convention & RV Expo. Someone asked me what I thought of the FMCA and if I thought they were worth the membership fee and if they should join.
So many of these decisions can be evaluated the same way you’d evaluate a gym membership. Should you join the gym? Not if you’re not going to go. Should you join the beer of the month club? Not if you’re not going to drink the beers. The answer of whether or not to join the FMCA or any RV club really lies in whether or not you’re going to be able to use the membership.
At the FMCA Convention
From what we were told at the 103rd Convention, there were close to 1400 RVs in attendance with about 1250 of those belonging to members. The rest were vendors and such. The RV down the line from us had five people in it and most of the RVs had at least two. So you figure there were 2,500-3,000 attendees of the human variety.
There were more than 100 seminars along with doughnut-and-coffee breakfasts where the Frustrated Maestros (more on them later) performed, ice cream socials, contests, concerts and more. Lots of attendees came because there were vendors there that would perform upgrades and repairs on their rigs.
Girard Systems awnings, Cummins, Spartan chassis and ProTeng Fire Protection were among the vendors there. You could also have your RV professionally weighed. The folks at that concession noted that more than half of the RVs they weighed were overweight – some dangerously so.
There were also all sorts of other vendors from flag pole salespeople to the InLine RV Tank Sanitizer, Venture Wipes, Jackery, clothing, stickers, and just about anything you could imagine for your RV or to put into or on your RV.
In fact, my wife and I bought collapsing bowls, Venture Wipes, a GasStop, and other things you’ll soon be reading about in my gadget reviews.
One of the highlights of the Convention was the performance by Three Dog Night, who were just absolutely on their game.
Before that concert we found that the average age of attendees was 71.
To a person, everybody was exceptionally friendly. All you had to do was hold the door for someone or just turn around while waiting for a seminar and ask about RVs and suddenly you have someone you’re going to meet at a campground in the future. If you miss the camaraderie that has been lacking in our lives due to COVID, know that it’s at these Conventions in abundance.
I don’t think I can thoroughly share just how friendly these attendees are. It was only a few years ago that the FMCA began allowing travel trailers into the organization. But there was no looking down on those of us who attended with one.
Yes, I came to learn and shake hands with some folks I’ve only spoken to in Zoom meetings. But I came away with some new friends. Well, and I joined the Frustrated Maestros.
The Frustrated Maestros is one of a tremendous number of chapters of the FMCA that cater to all sorts of special interests and geographical realities. There are chapters available to you depending on where you live or like to travel, some for specific brands of RVs, some for special interests and others for religious or personal preferences.
The Frustrated Maestros are an interesting bunch in that they are people of all levels of musical talent who gather at these functions to provide musical entertainment to the audience. They usually perform at the social events such as the doughnut breakfasts or ice cream socials.
While some members are truly professional musicians, some are people who haven’t picked up their instruments since high school and now are finding they haven’t forgotten as much as they had assumed. That’s me.
I took years and years of private clarinet and sax lessons but gave up once I realized that I wasn’t attracting the opposite sex with my clarinet. Surprising, isn’t it?
So, now I’ve joined the Frustrated Maestros and will have my off-key debut at the FMCA’s regional gathering in Indio in 2022.
Why join an organization like the FMCA
I think the tendency to join any organization or social club, as it were, is dwindling. Local service clubs are begging for members and the FMCA has been hit by a declining membership as well. But there is still a lot of value here.
There are indeed discount programs where you can save more than multiple years of FMCA membership, including a tire discount. There is a program that will help you get your RV home in the event of an emergency on the road. The FMCA has a huge library of resources including video and articles.
But traveling with other RVers and learning through interacting is still the biggest reason that would make this organization worth joining.
There are also plenty of people who join around the time to put new tires on their rigs and see the discounts on tires, or those who wish to sign-up for the organization’s roadside assistance program, which allows vintage RVs in. There is also a program called Tech Connect which offers unlimited WiFi on the road through a partnership with T-Mobile/Sprint.
The organization started in the 1960s with folks who had converted old interstate buses to motorhomes. Over time it grew, partially because these rigs needed a support group and the FMCA was there.
Now many members drive big, lavish Class A diesel pushers and some others have large fifth wheels. But that’s not the growth area in the RV space.
The growth area is family travels including full-time family travels. There are also lots and lots of working-age people who could easily benefit from the web-based training information on the FMCA’s website.
I think a growing focus on these individuals and programs and resources for them is the area where the FMCA could find a lot of new members. They’re aware of that. They are also member-owned and utilize a lot of volunteers to provide services and resources.
So, back to the parallel of joining a gym. You get out of it what you put into it.
This is an organization of literally the friendliest people I’ve ever seen assembled into one space. But I hope that newer members will want to join the group and be willing to put in a bit of time to help it reach and serve those new areas of growth in the RV space.
I know I plan to do a bit more and not just playing a musical instrument that has seen several years of neglect.
Tony comes to RVtravel.com having worked at an RV dealership and been a lifelong RV enthusiast. You can find his writing here and at StressLessCamping, where he also has a podcast with his wife about the RV life.