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Thursday, January 23, 2014

BUSY, BUSY, BOOMERVILLE

We don’t go to Boomerville every January to kick back and relax.  As a matter of fact, finding time to relax is down right impossible.

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As explained previously, the Boomers who occupy Boomerville are a group of RVers who gather on BLM land for 2 weeks every January.  Since the club has no officers and no rules, everything that gets scheduled is individually generated.  Previously, you saw we gather for Gretchen and Bob’s Pancake Breakfast about every three days. (Pancake donations to CARE, our group’s charity, exceed more than $170 with one more breakfast this Saturday on the schedule.)

At the check in table, hosted by Nancy Kurlovich and others, new arrivals sign-in, locate the information tables, grab some fresh fruit someone has left for sharing, peruse IMG_20140121_091233_606the “free” table of books, clothing, and what-nots, and then check the schedule board.  As of Wednesday more than 110 rigs had check-in. During the week some folks will leave and move on to other areas of the desert to meet friends in other groups or club chapters.  We have seen as many of 175 Boomer rigs checked-in by the end of the Boomerang, the Boomer’s nickname for a large club get-together. (BTW, smaller gatherings are called “mini-rangs” which can be just a few people gathering at a restaurant or rig for shared meals, games, and socializing.)

If it is 4:00 pm in Boomerville it is time to bring your chairs, beverages, and snacks to the fire pit area for announcements, introductions of new arrivals, and more socializing.  During the first week, Pam and Steve Ritchie did the microphone duties while Joyce and Larry Space have taken on the second week. Special attention is given to first-timers so they feel welcomed.  This year, instead of a ribbon to wear, they are given a very colorful fuzzy pipe cleaner so they can be identified and mentored.  Many come as guests of Boomers and end up joining the Escapees AND the Boomers before they leave. During this Boomerville we have already had about 25 new members join the Boomers.

Boomerville has a variety of activities on the daily schedule.  At 9 a.m. there is usually a group walk or hike. On Sundays and Wednesdays, volunteers with trucks make a dump run. On Fridays, the Men’s Donut Run finds the guys heading for the Quartzsite Bakery. Around 10 a.m. or 2 p.m. there are discussion groups (i.e., Smartphone Apps, Batteries & Solar, Workamping, Laughter Yoga, etc.) around the fire pit.  And, of course, Boomers have had a variety of meal events – potlucks, chili-cook-offs, bread baking competitions, and wine tasting throughout the gathering.  At dusk, we have had outdoor slide presentations (using white-walled RVs). Members have shared their RVing trips to Scandinavia, Africa, Europe, Mexico, and South America.

Scenes from various food events…

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HEALTHY EATING???

While Boomers are known for food events, there were actually a lot of healthy foods on the buffet line.  IMG_20140120_142233_987

This is a photo of my tray full of rice, beans, fruits, salads, and that one piece of sour dough bread that begged for a hunk of butter. 

This year I invited those interested to talk about “Plant-Based Nutrition” during Tuesday’s fire pit discussion. I had 15 people talking about their changes in eating lifestyles and health improvements.  The program I am working on is based on the “Forks Over Knives” video and books plus other publications based on "The China Study”.  I think we all came away informed and, in my case, motivated to keep embracing the Plant Based Nutrition principles.IMG_20140121_111947_468

RV FIRE SAFETY

One of the largest gatherings this year was for “Mac the Fire Guy’s Fire Safety Seminar”.  We have attended Mac’s “live fire” lectures and demonstrations five or six times and it has paid off. 

IMG_2841In 2011, Luke and I had an opportunity to use what we had learned in Mac’s classes when this classic RV had an engine compartment fire in a space across from us at the Indio Elks Lodge.  Our multiple foam based extinguishers were able to halt the fire from spreading before the fire department arrived.  We also got the elderly man (with his oxygen tank) away, got the wife out of the rig as she was looking for her cat, got the propane turned off, and the couple’s car moved to allow access space for the fire trucks.

Mac focused on the causes of RV fires, how to react to fires, and then he also did his latest demonstration on how to literally escape out an emergency window if you were caught in an RV fire. Click here to see a video Mac produced on how to escapee.) Unfortunately, RVers know all to well that our traveling homes can burn to the ground in less than a minute so preparation and training are essential.

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Mac the Fire Guy and Katy Smith demonstrate how to use a fire extinguisher.  Below, Diana Ruelens exit the tiny bedroom escape window in her RV as hubby George and others assist her down to the ground.

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CARE AUCTION

CARElogo2Boomers are very, very generous with their time and their wallets – especially when it comes to support of the Escapees CARE Center in Livingston, Texas.  This year’s Boomerville CARE Auction collected more than $3,000. The Escapee Club issues a “patch” to clubs denoting donations for each $1,000 given to CARE. This deposit will bring the total contribution made by the Boomers in recent years to well over $30,000.

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During the week, donated items were collected near the check-in table.  On Auction Day, the items were placed on tables for pre-bidding, wine sales opened, and then the team of auctioneers and “Vannas” kept the bidding going for more than three hours.

ANOTHER SUNSET

Can’t leave the blog without another fantastic Arizona sunset.

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NEXT:  WHY RVers MIGRATE TO QUARTZSITE

Saturday, January 18, 2014

BOOMERVILLE– PART 2

There are many predictable things that happen during our time in Boomerville every January. 

IMG_20140118_074135_399First, the mornings can be very cool (aka cold), so when you camp without electrical hookups, having a propane heater can certainly take the chill off.  Ours is a two-brick Cozy World brand that taps into our stove’s propane lines.  Our dog Star knows where to park herself on those cold mornings.

Second, Boomers love to eat!!!  Every third day, Gretchen and Bob Mattison prepare pancakes for everyone who wants them. The donation jar is out, and all proceeds go to our group’s charity, the Escapee CARE Facility. CARE stands for Continuing Assistance for Retired Escapees, a non-profit adult day care facility in Livingston, TX.  It was designed for RVers who need to be off the road because of health reason. Click the link to learn more!

IMG_20140118_084823_486There have been two pancake breakfasts since we arrived and already more than $170 has been stuffed into the CARE jar!  Today the pancake choices were plain, blueberry, cinnamon swirl, chocolate chip, or a combination of any of the above.  Yummy!!!

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Gretchen Mattison adds blueberries to the custom pancakes.  Bob, not pictured, uses an electric drill stirrer to keep the pancake batter coming.  Some mornings donations of bacon, oranges, and other goodies can be found on the food table.

FRIDAY CHILI COOK-OFF

Friday afternoon was the annual Chili Cook-Off and Potluck.  I did my typical “dump the cans” chili and, once again I did not place.  Oh, well, we had left-overs for lunch on Saturday. 

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Winner of the Chili Cook-Off was Steve Buffy, pictured in the center with the black shirt and hat.  Second Place went to Darlene Miller (blocked by her husband on the left end of the table), and Gretchen Mattison took third place.

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We sat with friends Sharon and Don Del Rosario and Gloria and Frank King.  Luke didn’t get the memo that Friday is Wear Red in Support of Our Troops Day.

SATURDAY WINE TASTING

IMG_20140118_163621_466After our Saturday Happy Hour, the afternoon got happier with wine tasting and heavy appetizer.  We may not drink wine, but we do bring a few bottles to donate for the good of the others.  We found plenty of snacks so I didn’t have to cook (again). 

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Barbara Westerfield and Luke select items for their plates from the abundance of food on the table. 

DAY IS DONE

I started this blog today mentioning predictable happenings in Boomerville.  So, the third most predictable event is a fantastic sunset!  (There are also great sunrises but I am seldom awake to take photos.  I will try.)

As the afternoon of visiting drew to a close today, the sun was setting behind Dome Mountain.  I could not resist turning my phone into my handy camera to capture today’s sunset.

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NEXT:  BOOMERVILLE – PART 3

Friday, January 17, 2014

BOOMERVILLE

You won’t find Boomerville, Arizona on any map, except maybe one created by a member of the Escapees RV Club “Boomers BOF”. [BOF stands for “Birds of a Feather”, the Escapee Club’s name for the numerous special interest sub-groups.]

Oh, there are plenty of places called Boomer.  A look in Microsoft Streets & Trips reveals plenty of communities called Boomer all around the U.S. -- in North Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, Mississippi, and even Oklahoma.  I quit counting when I tried to see how many pubs, bars, grills, amusement parks, workout and sports locales, etc.  were on the list.  The Boomer title is also popular around the world – Quebec, Western Australia, British Columbia, and more.

But there is only ONE BOOMERVILLE, AZ.

For two weeks every January, the Escapee Boomers migrate to Quartzsite, AZ for an informal reunion of RVers who travel all over the country the rest of the year. Some are part-timers or extended-timers like us, while others have shed their “stick houses” and live full-time on the road.  They come to Boomerville in vans, travel trailers, fifth-wheel trailers, Class C and Class A motorhomes. For more years than we have been Boomers, they have occupied a plot of desert land at the far end of the Scadden Wash in the free 14-day BLM lands that is now widely known as Boomerville.

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This aerial photo of Boomerville was taken in 2012 by Boomer Tom from his powered hang glider. We are parked along the lower road.  In the middle spur is the “fire circle” area where daily happy hours, food events, discussion sessions and evening campfires occur. Scene below is from a previous year afternoon Happy Hour.

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2014 BOOMERVILLE

We arrived Tuesday afternoon and parked in a convenient site very close to the fire circle.  After setting up, I wandered over to the Welcome and Information tables.  I think we registered as the 36th or 37th RV to check-in and looked over the schedule of activities that were already posted.  Since this is just the first of the “Boomerang” [a Boomer Gathering] the bookings were just getting started.  By next week there will likely be more than 150 Boomer rigs checked in and the daily Boomerville schedule of activities will be non-stop.

Wednesday morning would include a pancake breakfast, group trail walk, garbage dump run, and Happy Hour in the afternoon. Events on the schedule now include a presentation by Redlands Truck & RV Service, Intro to Geocaching, Boondocking 101, Mac the Fire Guy on RV fire safety, Chili Cook-off, Potlucks, CARE Auction, and evening travelogue slide shows on Scandinavia, Africa, Rose Parade Float Building, Machu Picchu and Cusco. 

SKP HAPPY HOURS

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IMG_20140115_131043_478On Wednesday and Thursday afternoon, Barbara and Tom Westerfield and Luke and I hosted a recruitment table for the Escapees Geocaching BOF at the annual giant Escapees Club Happy Hour for all the groups scattered around Quartzsite.  We are hosting a rally nearby and this was a chance to introduce our club to folks in the area.  I think we will have quite a few attendees as a result of our efforts.

NEXT:  BOOMERVILLE – PART 2

 

 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

FMCA is a wrap

For non-RVers reading this, FMCA stands for the Family Motor Coach Association, a national RV club that conducts annual regional rallies around the country in additional to national and international (i.e., includes Canadian chapters)gatherings twice a year.  This past summer we attended the FMCA International rally in Gillette, WY followed by the national Escapees Club National Rally called Escapade.
This week we have been in Indio, California attending our 4th or 5th Western Regional FMCA Rally.  The community of  Indio is in the Coachella Valley where Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, and all the other high profile towns attract residents living behind the gated communities with manicured golf courses and elaborate clubhouses.  The town of Indio is on the far east side of the valley where the working class live. 
The RV rally was held at the Riverside County Fairgrounds,  better known as the home of the Date Festival.  According to Wiki: “The Fair started as a festival to celebrate the end of the annual date harvest in the desert region, the major commercial date-producing area in the Western Hemisphere. Dates were an unknown commodity in the desert until 1903 when date palms were transplanted there from Algeria. By the early 1920s dates became a major crop for the area. Date groves in the Coachella Valley also became tourist attractions.” A popular tourist beverage is the Date Shake.  The Algerian rootsMagic Carpet Stage of the festival are also reflected in the local architecture.                          
The Magic Carpet Stage was the scene of the two ice cream socials that were served by the Golden Spike FMCA Chapter we joined.
JOINING THE GOLDEN SPIKES
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2014 Golden Spikes ClubFor the second year in a row we were parked with the Golden Spikes Chapter, a group of railroad enthusiasts.  Our friends Barbara and Tom Westerfield both come from railroading families and have been active in the chapter for years. Last year Tom retired as Conductor (chapter president) and is now a national director while Barbara is involved in newsletters, shirt and badge ordering, and I’m sure much, much more. 
The Golden Spikes also volunteer during the FMCA rally performing two major jobs:  serving ice cream at the Friday and Saturday ice cream socials and clean-up on get-away day when the rally ends. Each day the rally attendees started lining up 30 minutes ahead of time for their FREE ice cream sandwich or sundae drumstick. You’d think it was a free dinner at some swanky Palm Springs eatery the way the lines weaved down the walkways.
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Sorry, no pixs of cleaning the fairgrounds, but on Sunday morning five teams of four set out in golf carts to assigned zones. We came prepared to work with appropriate equipment: rubber gloves, garbage bags, and “grabbers” to leave the 120-acre site cleaner than we found it. The job was done in about an hour.
SEMINARS
RV rallies attract attendees with all levels of experience.  In our traveling years we have attended all sorts of seminars from technical to lifestyle to hobbies and crafts.  Most of the topics listed in this year’s FMCA program were ones we had either previously attended, had only a slight interest in, or were far off our radar scope.  I am not a crafts person, so those definitely fell into the latter category.
My first seminar of the rally was an 8:30 a.m. session on Thursday with writer Judy Howard, author of “Coast to Coast with a Cat and a Ghost” and more recently, Going Home With A Cat and A Ghost”.  It was her topic on  “Getting Started Writing” that prompted me to resume this blog.  Thank you, Judy (I think).
Other sessions attended this week were:
  • Mac the Fire Guy’s Escaping an RV Fire demonstration. Thanks Wendy Lawrence for volunteering to climb out the RV bedroom window.
  • Using the Rand McNally RV GPS.  I bought one in July while in Gillette, WY so I was looking for additional tips.  Unfortunately, I knew more than the presenter.
  • RVing New Zealand and Australia with Fantasy Tours. Traveling Down Under is still on the bucket list, but don’t know if we would go with a tour group.
 VENDORS AND ONSITE REPAIRS
One of our prime reasons for attending the Indio rally was to get our Road King Shocks repaired.  After our Alaska trip in 2011, the ride with our shocks was just not quite right.  Road King Shocks are expensive but they do have a life time guarantee. (They never really say if it is the shock’s lifetime or ours.)  While the company rep was at the FMCA rally as a vendor, he did not have repair technicians along that could remove the shocks while we were parked for the week, send them to their repair facility in Orange, CA, and get them back before the rally ended.  Alternatives were getting to complicated so we have since decided to wait until we get home in late April and have our local mechanic take care of the removal, shipping, and re-installation.  Road King will pick up the tab.
Another reason RVers attend rallies is to visit vendor booths to see the breadth of products they can spend money on for their home on wheels. For a change, no purchases were made this year by the Rinehimers.
I like to visit the travel and campground vendor booths for the “free stay” coupons they give out if you sign their “raffle slips” which put you on their mailing lists.  I have learned to “unsubscribe” pretty fast.  In this case, however, I did have my slip from Fantasy Tours drawn for their daily booth door prize.  No,I didn’t win a trip to Down Under, but I did get a travel bag with a bottle of wine and a box of Italian bread sticks with olive oil.  Smile   We also had our FMCA membership number drawn the first day of their door prizes and won a “special” cleaning cloth. People kept suggesting it was time to buy a Super Lotto ticket.
RV dealers from the Palm Springs area also bring in RVs for display purposes.  Sales are not allowed onsite, but there were plenty of “sales” people inviting folks in to tour new and used rigs.  No takers here.  We are happy with our “rolling condo”.
MOVING DAY
It was football playoff weekend so we were not in a giant hurry to move when the rally ended on Sunday. Luke was watching the SF 49ers beat the Carolina Panthers when the power at our first site was shut down. He turned on the generator to watch the end of the game. He was then anxious to relocate to a different site on the fairgrounds for a 50 amp site with nearby water.  We paid an extra $16 a night for the extended stay and we traveled a grand total of 0.7 miles, which included a stop at the dump station. 
Luke fixing antennaAfter getting re-parked, Luke then had to go up on the roof to connect the portable coax cable he had used to “fix” what he thought was a bad connector to our off-the-air antenna.  The photo shows the wire from the antenna as it was hanging down and threaded through an open window, across the top of our entry door, and into the TV switch box. With the help of our friend Mike Lawrence, we learned we did not need to run our existing antenna coax through a “digital converter box” because our living room TV was already digital.  DUH….   Worked fine after the problem was diagnosed and fixed.  Thanks Mike. 
BUSY MONDAY
My Monday started out with a wonderful round of golf with my buddy, MerrieAnn Martin. We originally met as RVers on a Monaco Forum, they sold their RV and she has now started playing golf.  She and hubby Jeff split their time between Desert Hot Springs, CA and Hoodsport, WA. We have visited and golfed in both locations. This was our second time playing the 18-holes at the Del Webb Shadow Hills North Course.  Weather was great and we had fun dodging (or not) the bushes, bunkers, and ponds surrounding almost every hole. 
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Lunch (and more visiting) was at the lovely Shadows Restaurant overlooking the 18th green at the nearby South Course.
From golf I was off to the local laundromat. Only two loads, but now caught up.  Chores must continue while on the road.
To wrap up our stay in Indio on Monday night we went to dinner at Fisherman's Market & Grill with Mike and Wendy Dinner at the Fish MarketLawrence and Tom and Barbara Westerfield.  As usual, we had lots of travel and caching stories to share.  We will all be together again at the Geocaching Rally in Quartzsite later this month.
NEXT:  BOOMERVILLE

Thursday, January 9, 2014

I’m Baaaaack………

No, wait – I wrote that headline the last time I posted and that was one year ago! One update in 2013 and that was it. So, what happened? 

As I apologized last year: “I haven’t a good excuse – busy, lazy, or all of the above.”  Consider this my Groundhog Day so we will try going through this again.  Forget 2013 ever existed and we’ll move on. 

[If you REALLY want to know about our 2013 travels you can go back through my Facebook postings or chat when we meet. I can fill you in on the RV storm damages in Wyoming, touring Presidential Libraries, staying in Mark Twain’s hometown on the Mississippi, visiting buffalo on an island in the Great Salt Lake, attending multiple rallies, having a beautiful 90-minute hot air balloon ride during the ABQ Balloon Fiesta, and having a Thanksgiving buffet dinner across the border in Mexico in October.  We won’t bother with the myriad of health-related issues.  As I often say, “You know you are getting old when someone asks, “How are you?” and you stop and tell them over the next hour.”] 

WINTER TRAVELS BEGIN

We started our 2014 winter travels on January 2 and took  three days to reach Indio, California where we are currently attending the Western Area rally of the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA). 

Our first night on the road we stopped at the Wasco Elks Lodge.  This is a familiar lodge for us, located about 4.5 hours driving time from our home in Cool, CA. It is conveniently north of Bakersfield, between I-5 and CA Hwy. 99, the two north/south routes that take us from  Northern California to Southern California.  This trip we came south on I-5. Last trip our return trip was via Hwy. 99.

We arrived about 5 pm, paid our $15 donation to the bartender, who recognized me from our stop there back in November, and then we were quickly invited to the Lodge’s Family Friday Night dinner.  For $8 the menu included salad, meatloaf, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans & carrots, and ice cream.  I have started a new-to-me “plant-based nutrition program” [more on that in a future post], so they kindly packaged my meatloaf to go for Luke’s breakfast. 

We shared a table and an extra hour of conversation with a couple in their mid-80s who had RVed for more than 40 years and had just “hung up their keys” two years ago. He was also a founding officer of the Wasco Elks.  They shared their favorite traveling tales and stories of attending gatherings in Quartzsite for more than 20 years.  There was a gleam in their eyes as they each shared one of their adventures. After dinner we invited them in to see our front kitchen 40’ Itasca Horizon motorhome, a floor plan they had never seen.  As they were leaving they were talking about taking their car to Quartzsite and staying in a motel for one more time.  We said we would look for them.

On Saturday we had a short drive over the Tehachapi Mountains to Boron, CA 2013-01-05_16-18-32_823(home of the Borax 20 Mule Team Museum) where we were joined by our friends Barbara and Tom Westerfield and other members of the Golden Spikes Chapter of FMCA for an overnight stop at Arabian RV Oasis and dinner out at Domingo’s Mexican Food. The Golden Spikes Chapter is all about trains and being in Domingo’s is like a kid being in a candy store for train enthusiasts.  There is even a working model train that circles above the dining tables.  The restaurant is also a shrine to all of the NASA Astronauts who have landed their space shuttles at nearby Edwards AFB.  The crews are always treated to dinner at Domingo’s after they land and the place is full of space flight memorabilia.

In the past the Golden Spikes have traveled together back down the mountain to the Palm Springs area to a “staging area” in La Quinta where the full club gathers the night before their assigned check-in time. Then the next day they line-up to caravan into the nearby Date Festival Fairgrounds.  This year, however, the group just decided to drive individually and meet at the designated rendezvous – the empty parking lot of a former Sam’s Club.  By Sunday night most of the units had arrived and on Monday morning we were given a numeric identifier that would allow us to proceed into the rally staging area to be parked together as a group.  We were “4 of 18” so our job was to follow “3 of 18” and not lose “5 of 18”.  Despite hitting almost every red light signal en route, we managed to arrive safely and not lose anyone. We were settled into our home for the week, Brown Lot, Street 2,  by 11 a.m. on Monday.

Golden Spikes Lining Up

The Westerfields, aka “3 of 18”, lined up on the next aisle over from us and our job was to follow them.

SUNDAY NIGHT MENTORING

While others re-connected with their Golden Spike Chapter friends, we were invited by our local Desert Hot Spring friends, MerrieAnn and Jeff Martin to come for dinner and to meet their daughter and son-in-law, Kristine and Ken Gula, who were in the midst of buying their first big RV -- a 38’ 5th Wheel. I think the invite started out with “H E L P”,

MerrieAnn & JeffI first met MerrieAnn online in a Monaco discussion forum when she was looking for RV driving lessons. I suggested the RV Driving School and our friendship continued online until we were able to visit them in-person at their winter destination, the Sands RV and Golf Resort.  They have become wonderful travel and golfing buddies that we now see them once or twice a year either in Desert Hot Springs in the winter or in Hoodsport, WA in the summer. They have since sold their RV and the park model and have a beautiful home in the Mission Lakes Country Club golf community,

They were familiar with our travel experiences and my online mentoring of new RVers, so we were invited to listen to Kristine and Ken’s questions and to offer resources to get them going.  As most RVers know, everyone has their own traveling mode, and the Gulas will initially be using their 5th Wheel as a work site home away from home in the Pacific Northwest.  They are computer literate and on their way to learning all they can about RVs.  RVers know this will only be the beginning of their adventures.  They were scheduled for their pre-delivery inspection (PDI) walk-through today and had already learned about DOT tire dates and got the dealer to replace their 10-year old tires before signing the papers.  Hopefully, they will join the Escapees and seek out the excellent forum groups to help them find their way. We wish them well.

Next:  The FMCA Rally is Underway