2015/03/06 (F) SKP Escapade Arrival
We unhooked our car last night so we could go grocery shopping and left it disconnected as the Escapade prefers that folks arrive with their toads unhooked if possible. We only had a 28 mile drive to the Pima County Fairgrounds so driving two vehicles was not an inconvenience. There is, in fact, an advantage to having the car follow the bus as it can create space for lane changes in dense traffic.
Lou and Val drove over from their RV Park on the other side of I-10, turned their rig around, and positioned it so we could follow them onto the highway. We pulled out at 9:15 AM.
We had arranged to rendezvous in Tucson so we could park together, which requires us to arrive together, or so we thought. It turned out that staff parking was pre-assigned and since Lou was the head photographer and I was the assistant photographer we were assigned parking in different areas. Our location was not that far from Lou and Val’s and actually afforded us more privacy, a better view, and 50 A electrical service, so we had nothing to complain about. We were a bit less convenient to the activity buildings, but the Pima County Fairgrounds was compact and very walkable. Besides, we were parked next to Travis and Melanie Carr, who were next to Cathie and Bud Carr. Cathie is the president of the Escapees RV Club and Travis is Bud and Cathie’s son.
And walk we did. Even though the Escapade did not start until Sunday afternoon, and regular participant arrival was scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, the fairgrounds was already abuzz with activity. Besides the staff arrivals, which were spread out over several days, the vendors were arriving and setting up, seminar rooms and hospitality areas were being prepared, and there were two pre-rallies taking place. One was the Escapees RV Boot Camp and the other was the Geeks On Tour Camp Re-Boot. And the job of the staff photographers was to capture all of this activity.
Things quieted down by dinnertime. A bit later Brendan (our son) called to update us on his interview at Eastern Michigan University where he is a finalist for an art history professorship. He is also a candidate for a curatorial position at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor Art Museum so we are excited at the possibility of him securing one of these jobs.
2015/03/07 (S) Escapade Setup
I was up and dressed before 7 AM and slipped out of the coach while Linda was still asleep. Today was the final day for the RVers Boot Camp. Their day started with breakfast from 7 – 8 AM and I wanted to take a few photos of their meal. As long as I was up I wandered around the fairgrounds taking pictures of the facilities and RVs and occasionally a person or group of people. The parking crew was in position and started parking rigs at 8 AM. The parking process went on until 2 PM but most of the arrivals were solo rigs that dribbled in. I was told that 300 rigs were scheduled to arrive tomorrow and they expected it to be a bit crazy, so I will look for photo ops of groups of arriving rigs tomorrow.
I went to Old Pueblo Hall to get some free coffee and wandered around to see if any more vendors, chapters, or BoFs were setting up but there was not a lot of activity. I talked to Wanda Lewis about our missing event shirts. Lots of folks were apparently aware of the situation and several of them had looked through the “specials” packaging but ours were nowhere to be found.
I went back to our rig and had breakfast. I then resumed my photo rounds, still looking for shots of RVs arriving and being parked. I ended up back at Old Pueblo Hall by which time the participant registration desk was open and there were very long lines. The Escapees Mail desk was also open along with the Store and other specialized SKP functions. Teresa Moore, the COO of the Escapees RV Club, was in the Store so I talked to her about our missing shirts event shirts. They had shirts for sale and I suggested that she give me our pair before they were gone. She agreed, albeit a bit reluctantly. We won’t wear them while they continue to look for the rest of our order, but my guess is that this was not really a priority for anyone and I doubted that they would find them because I don’t think the shirts ever got ordered even though we were billed for them. They would have refunded the cost of the two shirts but we really wanted the shirts, that’s why we ordered them in the first place.
Bill McGrath and Stephen Pinn from the SKP Photographers BoF contacted Lou Petkus, the head photographer, and Lou arranged for all of us to meet briefly with Lora Newby, the Escapade coordinator under whom Photography falls. I ended up having a long chat with Steve afterwards about mobile communications. He also let me use his 18% neutral gray screen and color checker squares to shoot a series of exposure compensation test shots. When looking through some of the images I had shot over the last 24 hours I noticed that a lot of them had the highlights blown out, especially when using the on-camera flash.
I copied photos to my computer and worked with the color checker and gray scale images. Many of my photos from the last 24 hours seemed to be overexposed and I was using the color checker and gray scale images to determine if I needed to make an exposure compensation under bright sunlight, shadow, or indoor flash settings. I was using Lou’s older Canon 50D, so I had no prior experience with how the exposures might need to be tweaked. I did not arrive at a definitive conclusion other than deciding that I should figure out how to enable automatic exposure bracketing, which Lou eventually showed me how to do.
2015/03/08 (N) The 55th Escapade Begins
Although the Escapees RV Club Escapade officially began at 3:00 PM (MST) today the event is really multi-faceted and aspects of it have been taking place since Thursday with the Escapees Boot Camp followed by the Geeks On Tour Camp Re-Boot. Some of the staff have been here for weeks, but most of us arrived on Wed, Thu, or Fri. The staff appreciation dinner was Friday and the Vendor appreciation dinner was Saturday. Early arrival for attendees started Friday and continued Saturday with regular arrivals starting at 8 AM this morning. The registration desk opened at 10 AM on Saturday and the vendor area opened at 9 AM this morning. The “first timers” meeting was held at 2 PM. The opening ceremonies commenced at 3:00 PM and lasted a little over an hour. We had time for dinner and then headed back to Thurber Hall for the evening slide show, door prizes, and entertainment. The Rivolli Review, a husband and wife team, was the evening entertainment. Their motorhome is parked right next to our bus but we have not seen much of them, or had any conversation with them so far, as all of us are usually busy away from our rigs.
2015/03/09 (M) Seminars & Socials
Today was the first full day of the Escapade. That meant a full schedule of seminars during the day and a full slate of social gatherings in the late afternoon. The vendors were open for business and “the row” was open to greet attendees and explain the joys and benefits of SKP CO-OP Parks, Chapters, and BOFs (Birds Of a Feather, a SKP special interest group).
I spent most of the day capturing images of the event. We then attended the Xscapers launch party at Technomadia’s bus where I got some additional photos. We wandered over to Thurber Hall around 6:30 PM to catch the pre-entertainment slide show, much of which was built using photos I shot the prior few days. The door prize drawings started at 7 PM. We did not win anything. Once the drawings were done The Mentalist was introduced and kicked off his performance. We stayed long enough for me to take a few photos and then went back to our rig. I off-loaded photos onto my computer and backed them up on our NAS, post-processed the ones I considered usable, and loaded them onto a thumb drive to give to Lou. It doesn’t sound like much, but it was a long, full day.
2015/03/10 (T) More Escapade
Today started with “Donuts for CARE.” CARE (Continuing Assistance for Retired Escapees) is the Escapees RV Club subsidiary that provides assisted care for club members at Rainbow’s End in Livingston, Texas. One morning during each Escapade donuts are made available for a donation rather than a fixed price. Up until today the largest amount donated for a donut was $500 but this morning someone (a vendor) presented the Executive Director of CARE with a check for $2,000!
The rest of the day followed the same pattern as yesterday with the five seminar rooms busy every session, the Ladies Luncheon, line dancing, music jamming, vendors selling, socials, and entertainment. We attended the SKP Freethinker BOF social at the rig of fellow photographer Bill McGrath and his wife Anna. It was a smaller gathering than the previous day and we missed the Boomers social, which apparently had 150 people in attendance. As with so much in life, it was just a matter of timing.
There was no entertainment this evening so I took pictures of the cards and games activity and the music jam. Big RV rallies, including Escapades, are exciting but intense experiences. An evening without major activities gives attendees an opportunity to go out to dinner or just relax with a few friends.
2015/03/11 (W) Free Day
Today was “free” day at the Escapade. Not for me, of course, I had to work harder than ever. No, today was “free public admission” day, and the public came in droves. By one count 700 people took advantage of the opportunity to check out what was going on at the Pima County Fairgrounds.
For the photographers it meant more crowded venues but also the opportunity to get more photos of crowds of people. Otherwise it was business as usual except for the “row party.” From 10 AM to 1 PM all of the Chapters, BOFs, and CO-OPs put extra effort into staffing their tables and talking to attendees about their group.
4:30 PM brought another round of socials, including one for the new Xscapers club-within-the-club. It was well attended and I got lots of nice photos including one of the entire group of about 100 attendees.
The evening entertainment was the Ham-O-Rama, the amateur talent show that has been a feature of Escapade for many years. With 851 rigs and 1,400 people staying at the fairgrounds, plus additional attendees staying at other venues, there is always plenty of talent to form a show. Lou covered the event photographically and I went back to our rig to process my photos from the day.
2015/03/12 (R) RVillage Birthday
Today was the last day of the Escapade, sort of. Closing ceremonies were at 3 PM but there was still a lot going on before and after that, some of which had to be photographed. I spent much of the morning, however, processing photos.
The big daytime event was the Chili Cook-off. There were at least 18 entries including a vegan chili (yum) and a chocolate chili (which everyone claimed was incredibly good). Some were hot/spicy and some were not; something for every taste. Attendees got a small sample of any chili they wanted to try (until it ran out) and voted for their favorite(s) by putting money in a jar at each table. The jar with the most money was declared the winner, and all of the money raised went to the CARE program (Continuing Assistance for Retired Escapees).
The closing ceremonies are always fun and touching. Attendees, volunteers, and staff (especially staff) are tired, but it’s a good kind of tired. It’s been an exciting, intense week and folks are ready to move on and slow down, but always with a bit of reluctance at parting company with old and new friends. Those who have worked to make the event happen get recognized, which is always appreciated.
After the closing ceremonies there were more socials. RVillage launched one year ago today and founder Curtis Coleman scheduled an RVillage get-together / Escapade social for 4:30 PM. We went to that one. It was well attended and he announced that the beta status had been removed from the website at midnight, a significant accomplishment for only one year of being online.
There was bingo and a farewell party at 7 PM (two separate events) and I photographed both activities. I spent the rest of the evening post-processing photos but turned in earlier than normal as Lou had planned a SKP Photographers BOF photo outing for tomorrow.