The Skinnies of Canyonville
Rallies are an interesting part of the RV culture. They offer RVers two things: a destination and social engagement.
Rallies can be big and formal, or more intimate and ad hoc. Within the Winnebago world, there are both. Over the years, some very passionate sub-cultures have developed around specific Winnebago products. The long discontinued VW Rialta compact motorhomes (often called NoToads because their engines are not powerful enough to tow) has achieved an almost cult-like status. And then there's the Sprinter-based Views and Navions which, because they're a svelte 7 1/2 feet wide, are called the "Skinnie Winnies."
Ultimately, many View/Navion owners find their way to the lively View/Navion Yahoo Group forums. The main forum, with over 6,000 members, is the largest RV group on Yahoo. It operates completely independently and surprisingly, without any formal structure at all, and mounts an annual rally that rotates every year from the east, to the midwest, to the west. The rallies are planned by an informal group of volunteer owners who somehow figure out all the logistics. Last year's rally was in Asheville, NC and this year's was in Canyonville, OR.
Canyonville is off I-5 about 100 miles south of Eugene. To most travelers chugging past at 65 MPH, it would appear to be a small town with an Indian-owned casino and truck stop. But, if you exit and drive past the truck stop and curve slightly south behind it, you are met with a finely manicured small boulevard that enters the impeccably landscaped Seven Feathers RV Resort.
Seven Feathers is, without question, an "A" or "5 Star" property. It is a state of the industry RV park that had all the rally members talking about its great sites (wide concrete with round steel picnic tables), tip-top condition (street sweeper!), and excellent facilities (pavilion, indoor pool). And while any Skinnie Winnie rally could generate lively fellowship in even a dirt parking lot, having such a lovely location, and some really great Oregon vineyards just up the highway, certainly was the frosting on this delightful layer cake.
The rally organizers arranged for three different highly informative and interactive presentations. First up was Winnebago product manager Russ Garfin (B&C classes).
Garfin provided an update of upcoming 2015 View/Navion models and then threw the session open to questions and comments. Navion/View owners are pretty passionate about their rigs. And while some comments could be rather sharply pointed about a particular pet peeve, Garfin was a patient, and thoughtful listener. To him, these rallies are the "ultimate focus group" and many comments, criticisms, and modifications he's learned about from attending these rallies have worked their way into upgrades and changes in the model line.
The following day there were two presenters. The first was a company that specializes in RV solar and, in a two-hour period everyone who attended got a complete soup to nuts education on not only panel installation, but power management. One fascinating part of the presentation was on batteries from lead acid up to the new super-efficient, super-lightweight, and equally super-expensive lithium ion batteries. No doubt that as prices slowly drop for lithium ion batteries, they'll show up in the bays of more and more RVs.
In a sweeping "all things Sprinter" presentation, the owner of a company that services and modifies Sprinter products walked the owners down aisles of encyclopedic information starting with maintenance through suspension improvement upgrades. Owners in the audience ran the gamut from non-technical "just turn the key" to "oh, you must be an engineer," and all thoroughly enjoyed the illumination and education.
Beyond the informative sessions, there were two pot-luck dinners. It's perhaps here that the greatest surprise and delight occurred. Because of their very space efficient design, Views and Navions have highly capable, yet very compact galleys. So, when it came to prepping shared salads, entrees, and desserts one might have expected simpler heat-and-eat, out-of-the-bag offerings. The two table long affair was anything but, with creative salads, zesty entrees, and, a tip of the hat to the always perennial winner: deviled eggs.
Not far from Seven Feathers is the historic town of Roseburg. This is timber country, and the Umpqua river meanders north through the area before heading west to the Pacific. It's a lush temperate area with high, thickly forested hills and small valleys. The latitude here is ideal for wine growing and is the area's oldest wine growing region in the state with 70 vineyards and 23 wineries. Grapes from Syrah to Pinot Noir and Pino Gris to Riesling encompass 40 different varieties.
Three wineries close by are Spangler, Abacela and Pyrenees. Unlike the more commercialized and developed wineries in Napa and Sonoma, these boutique Oregon wineries are more relaxed and casual. Nonetheless, many of their products are first-rate and, because they are bottled in more limited quantities, are only available at the wineries or in limited West Coast markets. Even if you're not a wine aficionado, visits are well worth it. Consider packing a picnic lunch to spend time overlooking the Umpqua river at the Pyrenees or the Napa-like vineyards at Abacela.
So if your route choice finds you heading north or south on I-5, add a day or two to your travel plans to enjoy Seven Feathers at Canyonville and the recreation, history, scenery, and wine of this delightful region of Oregon.