The Happy Oklahoma Wanderers chapter of the Family Motorcoach Association held their 2008 Patriotic Rally at Cedar Oaks RV Park in Grove over the weekend.

The rally drew over 38 motor coachs to Grove from all over the state representing close to 70 members.

The Patriotic Rally is one of the nine rallies that the chapter sponsors all across the country each year.

This year the theme of the rally was a drive to collect foodstuffs to send to United States Armed Forces serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We want to support the troops and send them some goodies over there, things that they can’t get,” said Grove resident and chapter member Bob Waller.

Waller and his wife Donna are the grandparents of Taylor Gordon, who is serving with the United States Army in Iraq.

“They don’t have a chance there to buy these items,” Waller said, “so we decided to send them over. Some of the things are for the kids over there, the little kids in the area, they can share with them.”

The drive produced close to 40 USPS boxes of goodies ready to mail out. The Post Office has a special rate for the gift boxes of $10.95. Chapter member Becky Smith, of Norman, created a patriotic-themed quilt that was auctioned to raise postage fees.

Entertainer Willa May Dudd also made an appearance at the rally.

The trip to this years’ Patriotic Rally was a short destination for the Wallers as well as for fellow members and Grove residents Ron and Betty Wadley.

Roy and Cindy Standridge had a slightly longer trek as they made the Rally from Lindsay, a distance of over 250 miles.

Still, a passenger would be hard-pressed to find a better way to traverse the trail than in any of the coaches on hand at the rally.

The interior and appointments of one coach at the event was palatial. The floor was a combination of polished hardwood and deep-pile carpet and the ceiling had tasteful crown molding. The well-lit interior was heavy with leather and granite surfaces. Every luxury and necessity of home was easily available including satellite internet and HD television reception.

To the uninitiated the idea of driving such a large vehicle, some coaches are over 40 feet long, can be quite intimidating.

“It’s a piece of cake,” said Roy Standridge of driving his coach.

One of the tools that some coaches employ to aid the driver is a sophisticated rear and side monitoring system. A joystick on the steering wheel controls variable-angle cameras mounted on the rear and sides of the coach that transmit a color picture to a large 17-inch monitor in the cockpit.

The theme of the rally was one close to the Standridges’ hearts as they have a son, Lee, serving in the United States Marine Corp.

“He’s a Harrier pilot and he’s stationed at Cherry Point, NC. He’s scheduled to be deployed either the 18th of August or the first part of February. It makes me very nervous and a little sad but it makes him very happy to serve his country and I’m very proud of him,” said Cindy Standridge.

High fuel prices have had some impact with the Wanderers but most chapter members plan to make the trip to St. Paul, MN in July for the FMA National Convention.

“It’s had an impact,” one member said with a smile, “but we haven’t parked ‘em yet!”

At the conclusion of the rally the Standridges left their coach with friends in Grove and returned home in their tow vehicles.

“We had planned to take our coach back home (from Grove) and then leave from home on the 7th to go to Minnesota. But because of the fuel costs we’re going to leave our coach here because we can save 300 miles. So we’ll drive our tow vehicles home and then on the 7th we’ll come back and pick up our motor home,” said Cindy Standridge.

Speaking about the rally and the gifts to the troops Ron Waller summed up the entire weekend.

“It’s a blessing to be able to do this.”