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Lollygagger@large: Adventures await travel-starved RVers

MassLive.com logo MassLive.com 3/2/2021 Norm Roy, masslive.com

Gary and Barbara Pouliot used to be happy campers.

Today, the Springfield natives are wildly enthusiastic RVers.

Our paths crossed in January at a Florida gathering of travelers signing up for caravans sponsored by Yankee RV Tours. The company and its founder, onetime Somers resident Rod Coe, were featured in a Lollygagger@large column published by The Republican in June.

“We have never done a caravan, so we are very excited to tour with Yankee,” Barb Pouliot said.

They weren’t alone. Coe said 135 adventure-hungry RVers – masked and respectfully distanced, of course – turned out for the tour company’s annual reunion and orientation at Southern Palms RV Resort in Eustis, about 40 miles northwest of Orlando.

“We signed on for three caravans,” Gary Pouliot said. The first trip, scheduled July and August, will take them through the American Northwest, what he called “our dream destination.” The itinerary spans 35 days, starting at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota and following sections of the Mormon and Oregon trails to the Pacific Coast.

The couple also signed up for two events in 2022: a six-day RV rally in January at Cape Canaveral, Florida, which will include tours of Kennedy Space Center; and in September, they’ll embark on a 20-day caravan through the American Southwest, touring national parks and scenic wonders in Arizona, Utah and Colorado.

Gary Pouliot is 65, a brawny guy with a gentle spirit. His wife, a year younger, possesses a ready and willing sense of humor.

Barb was Barbara Stevenson when her family lived in East Springfield. She attended Pottenger Elementary, Van Sickle Junior High and Technical High schools.

Gary grew up in the Liberty Heights neighborhood of Springfield, off Carew Street. He attended Liberty Elementary, Van Sickle Junior High and Trade High schools.

“We grew up together,” Barb Pouliot said. “We met at Van Sickle Junior High where we became childhood sweethearts.” They were married in 1975 at Our Lady of Hope Church, where their families were communicants.

After marriage, Barb was a stay-at-home mom and provided care for several other children. Later, she worked for Filene’s at Eastfield Mall and Louis & Clark Pharmacy.

Gary was employed by Ferrara Spring Works in Springfield, then joined the Carpenters Union Local 108. He worked on construction projects in the Springfield area, then spent 23 years with Unwinn Overhead Doors in Chicopee. He retired in 2012, and he and Barb took up residence in Alva, Florida, 18 miles northeast of Fort Myers.

The Pouliots’ enthusiasm for RVing shows on their faces and in their speech as they recall more than 40 years of camping adventures.

“We started camping in 1980,” Barb said, when the young Pouliots were ages 5, 3 and 2. “We tent-camped and also slept in the back of pickup truck.” Gary, she recalled, had “made a plywood bed that he put up on top rails of the truck where the kids slept. We slept on floor of truck bed with the dog. It was a great and inexpensive way to go and have lots of fun.”

The next generations of Pouliot campers include daughter Jeannine Pouliot Duquette and her husband, Ben, who live in Springfield with daughters Anissa and Mikayla, and son Gary Pouliot, his wife, Stephanie, and their son, Jordan, who live in Ludlow. Daughter Kathryn Pouliot and her daughters Chloe and Kelsy live in the Three Rivers section of Palmer.

Through four decades of camping, the Pouliots have been through a half-dozen RVs, including a converted van, two travel trailers, a small motorhome, large motorhome, and a 60-foot-long park model on Cape Cod, where they “spent lots time with grandchildren,” Barb said.

The Pouliots now travel in a 23-foot-long MPG travel trailer; the manufacturer states that the name is derived from making more “Memories Per Gallon.” Gary Pouliot emphasizes that the MPG “will probably not be our last” RV.

Barb said she prefers to travel in an RV “because it is the greatest way to just relax.” Gary said he enjoys the lifestyle because “it’s the best and only way to see everything and you meet the greatest people. ... We plan on RVing ‘til we can’t drive anymore.”

Norm Roy, a retired copy editor for The Republican, lives and travels in a motorhome. He is eager to hear from readers about their own travel adventures. His e-mail address is: lollygaggeratlarge@gmail.com

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