I’ve done and seen many a thing in my years on the road. One of these things is that I’ve spent a night or two at a VFW, American Legion, Moose, Eagles and Elks, etc…
I usually find these places on Google Earth. All I do is identify the location of where I desire to stay and then ask it to show me the locations of the local clubs. Then Google Earth allows me to zoom in and see the size of their parking lot and if there’s enough room to park an RV.
They number in the thousands and one or more of the clubs can usually be found in the area where I desire to spend the night with my RV. Some have specific RV spaces with electricity available, but most do not. Usually I’m just looking for a mostly flat, safe place in the corner of a parking lot. Then inside I can usually enjoy good drink, food and companionship at a moderate price. Some places request a donation for an overnight stay, most do not.
It’s also an excellent place to get referrals for a local mechanic, etc.. I normally stay only one night, but recently because of waiting on the repair of a vital electrical component for my RV, I spent 13 nights at the American Legion Post #240 in Pensacola, Florida.
Most of these places serve as a social gathering place for persons of similar ilks where everyone pretty much knows everyone. In these places, the members are supposed to be “brothers, if you will. Since I’m usually “just passing through”, it’s interesting how a strange face is received by the local membership.
The first part of the process usually is the showing of a paid-up/current membership card which entitles you to visit the facility. Some places never ask to see it and take my word I’m who I say I am and others have a sign on the door saying only current members may enter.
Since I’m not a local member, I usually cannot use the membership card reader that automatically opens the entrance door. A doorbell is normally nearby that notifies the bartender that a non-local member desires entry. Once the bartender presses the buzzer, the door lock clicks open and entry is made…AND EVERY FACE IN THE PLACE IS LOOKING TO SEE WHO JUST RUNG THE DOORBELL!
Once they see who’s there, most go back to their in-process conversations. I proceed to the bar, and find an empty seat. I usually tell the bartender who I am…name and post location affiliation along the line of…:”Hi, I’m Jim Jaillet, a visiting VFW member from Post #7968 in Apache Junction, Arizona”. I then hand over my membership card for approval, then place my order. A chat with the next sit-ee or two usually develops. That is pretty much what happens at most locations. Sometime the next sit-ees show no indication of desire for conversation, and that’s okay with me. Usually they appear to be in some kind of deep thought, so I leave them alone.
Once in a while, the opposite happens…
Yesterday I had the good fortune to stop at the friendliest VFW (Veterans Of Foreign Wars) Post in Gulf Breeze, Florida. Once through the door, pretty near everyone was shouting at me…”Welcome to the friendliest VFW Post in Florida!” Here even though a stranger, you are truly welcomed as a “brother”. Everyone comes over says hello, shakes your hand, introduces themselves and expresses a welcome. That’s pretty much what happened yesterday. The kinda-sorta leader of this most friendly group was a guy by the name of Mike McDonald, also known as Frogman because he is an ex-Navy SEAL…a long time ago they were called frogmen. He also happens to be the Commander-elect of this local post and assumes his office this July. Mike made sure I met most of the better-than 50 people that came in during the day.
Mike McDonald is the third person from the left of photo.
Post 4407 looking North.
The sign does not say it all. They should add “The Friendliest VFW Post In Florida!”
Post 4407 looking South.
We spent the afternoon (four hours worth) drinking beer, eating hot dogs and waited for the NASCAR Race on TV which never happened because of rain. Most listened to the stories I told of my many years on the road with interest.
All in all, a most enjoyable day. Thank you VFW Post #4407 for making a wayward brother feel at home. You are most certainly the friendliest VFW Post in Florida…and maybe the entire United States!
All original material Copyright – Jim Jaillet 2010
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