PINE MOUNTAIN – Millions of dollars in investment along with a good bit of history rolled into the Pine Mountain RV Resort this week.
More than 100 owners of Bluebird Wanderlodge motor homes gathered at the park for an annual reunion to swap stories of their adventures and admire each other’s rides.
It’s become a tradition, particularly since Bluebird stopped making the motor homes in 2009. Production had been going on since the mid 1960s in Fort Valley.
“There used to be multiple rallys throughout the year,” said John Stiles, one of the hosts of the event, that lasted all week. “The main one was in Perry. After production shut down, the owners continued the tradition with volunteer help.”
The first rally had about 15 motor homes – 140 were expected in Pine Mountain this year. The group has gathered in Pine Mountain since 2005, some coming from as far away as California and Canada.
The Wanderlodge was made by Bluebird – the same company that makes school buses – with the same chassis and steel frame construction of buses instead of the normal fiberglass used in motor homes. Older models are reminiscent of the actual bus, while newer models look more like a modern motor home.
But for the owners, it’s what’s inside.
In fact, most Wanderlodge owners will say they like them for their safety. Only two fatalities from crashes have ever been reported in the brand. Doug Ralston, another host of the Pine Mountain event, said a woman got into a crash with hers two weeks ago and rolled it over, totaling it, the trailer she was pulling and the vehicle inside the trailer. She walked away, unhurt.
“She wants to get another one,” he said. “It’s universally recognized as the safest ever built. It’s the only motor home with a rollover rating. In its day, it was the finest motor home you could buy.”
The Bluebird Wanderlodge comes with a price tag near $1 million when bought new.
“Some people live in theirs,” Ralston said.
Ed Wimberly worked in maintenance for Bluebird from 1976 to 1979. He bought his own Wanderlodge five years ago and keeping the connection to the company means a lot.
“This is our family,” he said.
Much of the group stays in contact throughout the year and four couples even took a vacation – in their motor homes – to Alaska this summer. Events at the resort including a wine sampling along with technical seminars on how to keep their motor homes running well. Some owners even brought along vintage cars and motorcycles to show.
“I think we’ve found a good home here,” Stiles said.
Brad Macdonald owns Coachcraft, which now services the Wanderlodge, and owns one himself.
“We’re keeping them on the road,” he said.
Other motor home groups have their own rallys and reunions, but the Wanderlodge is a pretty strong group.
“You won’t find a better built or stronger coach,” Macdonald said.