THE freedom of the open road, to travel when you want and stop wherever you want without worrying about accommodation is what drove 1500 people to northern Victoria last month.
The 34th National CMCA (Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia) Rally saw more than 800 RV’s set up camp at the Elmore Events Centre for eight days of fun, laughter and entertainment.
It was the first time in a number of years the CMCA national rally has been held in Victoria. Last year’s event was at Gunnedah, NSW and next year’s will be at Gympie in Queensland.
Often referred to as the ‘‘grey nomads’’, the average age of participants at the rally was between 65 and 70 but no one there shows any signs of slowing down.
Take the quartet of David Binskin, David Graham, Cheryl Lamperd and Judi Brushett for example.
One night at the rally while shooting the breeze over a few beers, the conversation turned to how best to raise money for the McGrath Foundation (for breast care nurses and breast health) as well as prostate cancer research.
David Binskin dared to swim across one of the ponds at the Elmore Events Centre if enough money was committed to charity.
Bidding quickly rose to $1000 and before he knew it Mr Binskin had to come good on his dare.
With the help of three willing accomplices who stripped down to the bare essentials, the swim was completed on Wednesday, October 25 — the ‘‘Pink Up Your Rally Day’’ during Breast Care Awareness Month.
Mr Binskin, from Casino, NSW, seemed rejuvenated after the dip, saying the water was quite warm.
‘‘It was a bit slippery but nice in,’’ he said.
The swim was supposed to have been on the Monday but cold weather saw it put off to a day in the mid 30s, much to Ms Lamperd’s relief.
‘‘I’m from Hervey Bay in Queensland and I don’t do cold,’’ she said.
‘‘Well, I’m from Scotland and I do know cold,’’ David Graham said.
The charity swim ended up raising almost $4000.
It’s not the only fundraising event on the rally, with the Royal Flying Doctors Service also a key charity for the CCMA as well as a raffle for drought relief.
‘‘Our members drive all over Australia and drive through very devastated drought areas so it’s important we acknowledge people going through those hardships,’’ Mrs Breen said.
For Mr Graham, the rally at Elmore had been one to remember.
‘‘Elmore and Rochester are fantastic towns,’’ he said.
‘‘They’ve really looked after us and the people on this rally have spent a lot of money in the two towns since they’ve been here.
‘‘And this site is magnificent. It really works well.’’
CMCA rally manager Kath Breen said the site was one of the reasons Elmore was chosen to host the national rally.
‘‘It’s perfect,’’ she said.
‘‘It has underground water and power, it’s flat, the roads are already marked out — we’ve been working on this rally since July last year.’’
Keeping such a huge group of people entertained would seem an enormous task on its own, but Ms Breen has been able to rotate the performers through the week.
The first night was a singer of Broadway tunes, the next night was a John Farnham tribute show, then Peter Allen and another night of rock ‘n’ roll favourites.
Another pastime among the RV faithful is Disc Bowls, a version of lawn bowls that can be played on any surface with discs.
The Elmore rally featured its own national tournament with a big crowd of spectators.
There’s also the chance for returned servicemen and women to gather for drinks and to share their experiences in a relaxed setting.
Then there’s the chance to make new friends with stories of past trips.
Like Greg and Liby Beel of Rosebud who drove their RV around all the mainlaind states in the United States and five Canadian provinces.
‘‘We bought it in 2013 over there and imported it back to Australia once we had finished,’’ Greg said.
‘‘It’s only a baby compared to what’s in America.’’
Ken and Dawn Muston of Shepparton imported their 1980 Prevost from San Francisco, and is the only one of its kind in Australia.
‘‘It’s been a motorhome from day one and has only done 130,000km in its 39 years,’’ Ken said.
‘‘It’s a really nice old girl.’’
Tony and Mary Dillon travelled from Cairns with their Playmore Drifter fifth wheeler on their way to South Australia, though the trip will be interrupted by a flight back to Brisbane for babysitting duties for a month.
It’s their third national rally and it’s clear why CMCA members are so relaxed.
‘‘It’s the freedom,’’ Mrs Breen said.
‘‘We’re self contained. RVs have their own bathroom facilities and need to empty their waste.
‘‘We promote the installation of dump points. We take all our grey water and black water with us and leave no trace as our policy.
‘‘It’s low cost camping and gives us the freedom of choice to stop where we want to stay.’’