Betsy gets a facelift before attending GNR 2015 – Forest City, IA

This part of our adventure had been anticipated for several months, as we decided way back in January that we’d attend our first Winnebago Grand National Rally (GNR).  Our planning indicated we would be in the area at about the right time, and we also wanted to get some paint work done on Betsy at CDI Paint in Forest City.  CDI applies the full-body paint to all new Winnebago and Itasca RV’s as they come off the assembly line just across the street.

Mason City, Iowa
Betsy hustles through foggy cornfields on her way to an early-morning paint shop appointment

The paint work was completed on the Friday previous to the show, and CDI did a beautiful job for a price so low that Steve still can’t believe it.  With Betsy looking pretty spiffy, we pulled into the fairgrounds on Monday evening, the day before the GNR officially opened.

WIT GNR Forest City
Showing off my “first timer” badge at the GNR entrance
Parking at GNR Forest City
Betsy looked pretty ordinary with hundreds of other large and beautiful coaches parked all around her.

Our good friends Joe and Judy, who we had met in Alaska in 2012 and connected with several times since, pleasantly surprised us a few days before the show by letting us know they would meet us there.  Hanging out with friends who had been here before made the experience all the better.  Oh, and Judy’s awesome Gin and Tonics put smiles on our faces!

Socials at GNR Forest City
Dinner with Joe and Judy at the Lowe residence

GNR is amazing.  It’s a gathering of 1,000+ Winnebago and Itasca RV’s in one location, namely at a site adjacent to the Winnebago factory in Forest City, Iowa.  We were blown away by the party atmosphere and all of the activities offered during the five days of the show.  Like Quartzsite in Arizona, the GNR is about the experience of hanging out and having fun with thousands of other RV’ers who are enjoying the same lifestyle.

Forest City, GNR Rally Grounds

The show was comprised of several components that make it a “must-do” for any Winnebago owner who can attend.  First, there were excellent educational seminars offered every hour during the day, and they were presented by the manufacturers of the components installed in the coaches.

GNR Rally Grounds
Several of the tents where manufacturer seminars were held

Second, there were several up-close tours given at the factory that showed owners exactly how their coaches were built – including upholstery, chassis prep, the extrusion of aluminum parts for various components and the actual assembly line, which was a complex and amazing operation.  We really enjoyed touring Betsy’s birthplace!

GNR Rally Grounds
Although we thought we’d miss our exercise here, it turned out that we walked several miles each day while traversing between Betsy, seminars, lunches and other activities

Third, the show sponsored quality entertainment every night.  We enjoyed a great group of singers one evening, and there was also a Beatles cover band that put on a good show.

GNR Rally Forest City

Entertainment at GNR Rally
The singing group Tonic Sol-fa put on a good show one evening, a talented group

Finally, the highlight of the show is the “row party”, where several states and their Winnebago clubs serve foods from their state and/or strong drinks for all attendees to enjoy.  We had a blast (and got a bit tipsy) sampling all of the goodies with our friends!

GNR row party
Just a few folks showed up for the row party!
Row party structure
The structures erected by some of the states were quite extravagant

Of course, this was a great place to buy needed and unneeded items for the RV.  We requested service on our tow bar to have it checked out, only to learn that it had excessive wear and should be replaced.  So we bought a new heavy duty tow bar, and while we were at it we ordered MCD shades for the rest of Betsy’s windows.  It ended up being an expensive but productive week as we got Betsy ready for the many miles ahead.

Blue OX tow bar
Our shiny new Blue Ox tow bar gets delivered

Without going into lots more detail, let’s just say this was an experience that we’ll never forget and hope to repeat.  The seminars, vendors, factory tours, entertainment and fun with friends made this week an memorable experience for us.

RV's lined up at the 10-port dump station as they leave town
RV’s line up at the nearby 10-port dump station to lighten the load as they leave town
2015 GNR Rally
The GNR grounds are owned by Winnebago, that’s the massive factory in the background

Rock on, GNR!




  1. That was quite the gathering — looks like you had a good time meeting up with some of Betsy’s long lost family. 🙂

  2. We have visited the factory which was in itself very interesting but we have never made the GNR – I guess we had better put that on our bucket list.

  3. So glad you had a nice time at the rally. I think the seminars are the most important part. Fleetwood had a huge rally right as we were going fullitme. That was our first big stop and boy are we glad we went. We attended seminars on every part of the coach. So necessary for beginners. You will love your MCD shades!! They are probably our best improvement. Where will you have them installed? You mentioned painting but never explained what needed to be painted on Betsy! Details, please:) That was some state tasting party…what fun!!

    • Hi John and Pam,
      We hope things are going well for you in your part of the country! We are getting MCD shades for 4 windows in the living/dinette area, and another for the large window in the bedroom. We aren’t going to do the windshield at this time, and not sure if we will in the future.

      The paint work – the clear coat had burned through in spots on top of the front and rear caps, so we had both of them done, along with the lower half of the “hood” that opens. They also repainted the 4″ dark strip above the roof rails along both sides, all the way from the front to the back. Price? $425!!! I couldn’t believe it and thought they must have forgotten something. If we didn’t have other plans after GNR I would have stayed to get more work done, but I will definitely use them in the future. I guess they will paint any make of rig there, if you need something done. If not, I’ll loan you our Winnebago emblems and I’m sure they’ll take care of you!

      • We LOVE our MCD shades. We both feel they are the best upgrade we did. We don’t have any inside the front cab area, but have them outside that snap on. I was so thrilled to get rid of the pin holes in the bedroom and hallway. There was always one light that shone through right on the bed. It is also so nice to be able to see outside and people can’t see in. We don’t have the darkened window glass that you have, wish we did.

        Wow! That is a great price for all that painting! I bet Betsy is looking so spiffy in her new paint:) We’ll remember that you offered your Winnebago emblem if we need paint:)

        Sure hope we can reconnect real soon!!

      • I went to a class on convection ovens at Lazydays in Tucson. I found, however, that my oven didn’t work that way. Nothing cooked completely when I followed their formula. I found that my oven works just like a regular oven. So I just follow recipe and all works perfectly. I’ll be interested to hear what you learned and how it is working out.

  4. The Caravan Pub is a hoot.

    All the years we have RVing, we have never attended a rally. Everyone that does has a great time. Glad you two had a great experience.

  5. That’s gotta be quite spooky for the employees to see all of those RV’s back at their birthplace at the same time! Never thought so before, but GNR sounds like a must do to me now!

    • If you have a Winnebago, then a one time experience is really fun especially the specialty factory tours. On this tour we were really on the floor up close to the various process. Fascinating stuff.

  6. I don’t know that we’ll ever go to a rally … just too many people in one place. Glad you had a good time, though.

  7. It s always enlightening to go on a factory tour, Mona Liza. I’m impressed that Winnebago extrudes their own aluminum! The plant sort of looks like the RV version of the Ford Rouge complex. 🙂


    • That is so true, I find factory tours not only enlightening but also fascinating. This is the first time in the many tours that we had been that we were standing next to a heating furnace and saw how a billet of aluminum become a flat at the end of the process, fascinating!

  8. I too never thought I’d go to a rally that large but you’ve made me think I should do it at least once. Is there a before and after of Betsy?? We’d like to get a full body paint job on Winnona and this might be the place to do it. You will love those MCD’s. We put them on the bedroom and living room windows and now want to do the front dashboard window. David installed the others but I don’t see how he could do this one. If you have an installer, I’ll be interested to hear how you like them. Great post! Thanks.

    • Hi Sherry,
      We only had a few sections of Betsy repainted, the tops of the front and rear end caps, half of the front hood and the 4″ stripes along the roofline down both sides. I know the body and paint business pretty well, and I believe this work would easily have cost 3 times more at most shops. If their rates are as reasonable for a full paint job I don’t think you can beat them, and their work is top notch. If you call Dave Nagle at CDI he will give you a rough estimate over the phone, as long as you don’t need bodywork. Good luck!

  9. I don’t do so well in large crowds…and that was quite a gathering! Glad you got things taken care of and at such a great price. Neat idea to have the states serving up their “own” tasty drinks!

  10. What a great meet-up! It must have been really interesting to share experiences with lots of like-minded folk. Betsy must have been so glad that she’s been spruced up for the occasion. 🙂

  11. We have attended one Mobile Suites rally and learned quite a bit when we toured the manufacturing plant where our rig was build. This is where we purchased MCD shades as well and love them! Looks like Betsy is ready for many more years of traveling. 🙂

  12. I forgot to ask, how long did you have that Blue Ox? I’ve been paying attention to the fact that tow gear has a lifespan and wonder how long before you find yourself replacing it?

    • Greetings!
      We purchased our first Blue Ox in 2009, so it survived 3 years of light use followed by 3 years of heavy use. The tech advised me that the old one was a lighter aluminum-tube design and not as strong as the new steel one we just purchased. He said this new one should last for many years of severe use. I noticed right away that it is certainly a lot heavier. If you ever get to a large RV gathering that Blue Ox attends you should be able to have yours inspected and serviced for about $30 – a great investment in my opinion!

      • Thanks Steve. We tend not to go to places with lots of people but we may make an exception — or swing round the factory. Safe travels !

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