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Fifty years of camping

‘We have met some great people over the years’

There’s something about enjoying the outdoors and visiting with good friends while sitting around a roaring bonfire.

Gary and Kathy Krsiean, of Hutchinson, have been married for 57 years and have been actively camping for 50 years. Photo by Scott Thoma

Just ask Gary and Kathy Krsiean, of Hutchinson, who have been camping together for over 50 years, including the past 31 years as members of the Good Sam’s RV Club (an international organization of recreational vehicle owners founded in 1966).

There are 18 Good Sam RV Club chapters in Minnesota, and the Krsieans belong to the Crow River Chapter, which has a total of 12 couples and three singles.

Each month, one of the chapter members, called a wagonmaster, hosts a camping outing from April to October in which they organize the site, reservations and entertainment.

“In the months we don’t camp, those in the chapters still get together once a month,” said Gary.

“We usually meet in a restaurant and have lunch or something and talk about the upcoming camping season,” Kathy said.

Several states and some provinces of Canada that have Good Sam Club chapters will host an RV rally once a year. Members in any of the other states or provinces can attend. Needless to say, it’s difficult to attend a large amount of rallies each year or even in a camping career.

But what sets the Krsieans apart from most other Good Sam members is that they have attended between 115-125 rallies throughout the country and Canada in their RV career.

“We’ve gone to a lot of rallies in Minnesota, but also from Alaska to Florida and from Oregon to New York,” Gary noted. “We’ve been to rallies in all but 17 states. And we’ve been to rallies in six provinces of Canada.”

“We really enjoy meeting and visiting with people,” said Kathy. “And this is a good way to do that. We have met some great people over the years.”

Gary and Diane Porath, the current Good Sam state directors, visited with the Krsieans last year at a rally in Manitoba, Canada.

“I was really surprised when they told me they had attended that many rallies,” said the Poraths. “I’ve never met anyone that has been to that many before.”

The Poraths, who live in Olivia and belong to the Central Minnesota Chapter, have been members for nearly 15 years. They are in the second year of their two-year term as state directors. When their term is up, potential directors will be nominated and then a vote will take place for a new director. The Krsieans were state directors a few years ago.

The first tent the Krsieans owned when they first started camping with then 2-year-old son Gary. This was July 4, 1966, along the North Shore. Contributed photos

The Krsieans first started camping in 1966 as a recreational hobby.

“We started out camping in a tent. We’ve modernized quite a bit since then.”

The Krsieans, who have continued to upgrade their rigs throughout the years, now camp in comfort with a 28-foot travel trailer that includes a fireplace, flat-screen TV, air conditioning, and most of the other comforts of home.

At the monthly chapter outings, it becomes like a family camping outing because everyone knows each other so well.

“We sit around and talk and solve the world’s problems,” joked Gary.

Gary was an auto mechanic for 20 years and then spent the next 25 years working in maintenance at 3M. Kathy spent 15 years working at what is now Ridgewater College in Hutchinson (formerly a vocational school) and then 32 years as a “lunch lady” in the public school district. They both retired in 2005 and have spent a majority of their retirement traveling and camping.

“Three days after I retired, we went to Alaska,” Kathy laughed.

Odds are that camping that many times in the elements, with ticks, mosquitoes, rain and wind, is going to bring about an unpleasant trip or two.

“We’ve had mostly good times,” said Kathy. “But whenever we go to Kansas, it’s always windy. And one time when we were in Spicer several years ago, we all stood outside and watched a tornado go by. And about 10 years ago in April in St. Cloud, we woke up to 3-4 inches of snow on the ground. So the campers made snowmen.”

“On our trip to Alaska, some of us were standing on a bridge looking at the salmon run in a river,” Gary recalled. “And then a bunch of bears came down to eat the salmon, and they kept getting closer and closer to us. They didn’t come after us, but we were a little nervous so we got out of there.”

The Krsieans have been married for 57 years, yet still hold hands as though they are teenagers in love.

The current 28-foot camper the Krsieans enjoy their travels in.

“We have had a lot of fun together,” said Gary. “We enjoy each other’s company, and we have a lot of the same interests.”

On a trip 10 years ago to Daytona Beach, Florida, the Krsieans checked in at the Daytona Speedway where the Florida State RV rally was being held.

“They told us to follow the orange pylons,” Gary told. “Pretty soon I was driving my pickup and camper on the speedway track. So now I can say that I actually drove on the racetrack where they have the Daytona 500 race.”

Once situated in their camping spot, the Krisieans went back to the track where the Daytona 500 is held and walked around the 2.5-mile track.

“The curved banks are really high,” Kathy said. “We walked up to the top on one of the banks and signed our name.”

The Minnesota Good Sam State RV Rally this year will be held at the Morrison County Fairgrounds in Little Falls from Aug. 15-18.

As co-hosts of the state rally this year, the Krsieans will be greeters while also providing information to those attending.

“It’s a great way to meet people,” said Bob Porath. “And there are a lot of fun activities.”

“(Good Sam) also raises money for various charities through some of the activities we have such as SAMGO (like BINGO), a cakewalk and a lot of other things,” said Diane Porath.

Members of Good Sam RV Club enjoy a campfire and conversation at the St. Cloud Campground and RV Park in St. Cloud. Photo by Gary Porath

Some of the money raised at the local and state rallies goes to things such as scholarships, or therapy dogs for the deaf.

As with other states, Minnesota has one RV rally a year. That rally is held in the late summer at different locations throughout the state. These rallies are four-day events which are attended by members from Minnesota, across the country and Canada.

The state rally programs have included live entertainment, seminars, golf, vendors, craft shows, door prizes, classes, contests, games, seminars, tours, food, and the opportunity to meet new people. There is also a church service on Sunday morning with their own choir.

The Krisieans have put over 200,000 miles on their vehicles traveling to rallies and other camping outings.

“It’s been worth every mile,” Gary insisted.

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