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On the Road Again Gang takes monthly outings

by: HOLLY M. GILL - Members of the On the Road Again Gang gather in front of one of Aero Tanker's DC-7s at the Madras Municipal Airport in March. About 30 members took part in that visit - one of the largest Gang groups ever.The call of the open road is powerful for a group of mostly retired Culver residents, who have been taking monthly excursions for the past eight years.

The “On the Road Again Gang,” as they call themselves, started their adventures in October 2005, after organizers Karen and Jerry Campbell, of Culver, noticed that the Culver Christian Church van sat idle most of the time.

After obtaining permission to use the van, which Jerry had been using to pick up local residents for church, the Campbells organized their first trip to see the fall colors on the MacKenzie Pass, with about 10 participants.

The group enjoyed the trip so much, that they decided to make it a regular event. Since then, they have taken nearly 100 trips, visiting Crater Lake, the Maryhill Museum, Fort Rock, and the Prineville Railroad, and taken Sternwheeler rides out of Cascade Locks a couple times and traveled to Salem to ride a carousel.

by: HOLLY M. GILL - Karen Campbell, who organizes the outings, listens to Rex Barber Jr.'s April talk at the Crooked River Gorge Bridge named for Barber's father, World War II hero Rex T. Barber."It's important for us to take people to where they're going to enjoy the experience," said Karen Campbell, who makes all the initial contacts to plan the trips.

They travel as much as three hours away, which allows them to explore many areas of the state. However, she said, "We don't do overnighters. I don't want to plan those."

Prior to the actual excursion, she said, "We make every effort to go to where we're going to have the next tour to figure out the parking, find out if it's a safe situation."

If they visit a location where someone will be giving a talk, before their visit, she asks the person to tell them how he or she got started in the business or activity, provide background, and finally, speak up.

"I make sure that I ask them to speak loudly so we can hear them," she said, noting that some of the participants are hard of hearing.

Although most of those attending are retired, the trips aren't just for retired citizens or Culver residents. "We have two gals that actually take that week off so they can take the trip," she said. "It was mainly kind of an outreach for around Culver and Madras."

The van holds up to 15 people, but that hasn't made the trips any less popular. "If we have too many, which we always do, I have certain people that will take their own vehicles," said Campbell.

When the group visited the Aero Tanker facility at the Madras Municipal Airport in March, a total of 29 participated — "the most we've had in a long time."

In April, a smaller group met at the Rex Barber Memorial Bridge, where Rex Barber Jr. spoke about his father's World War II experience. His father was credited with shooting down the plane flown by Japanese Adm. Isoruku Yamamoto, the strategist behind the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

As with most of their outings, the April visit also included lunch — tea at a Redmond restaurant.

This month, the group returned to Sisters, where they visited with a man who makes cowboy hats.

The trips are documented in photographs taken by participant Bonnie Buckles, of Culver, and put together in scrapbooks compiled by Jane Hagman.

Jerry Campbell does the driving for the trips. "It's fun learning new things," he said. "Even if it's something we've done before, it's interesting. I like the fellowship."

Becoming a member of the On the Road Again Gang costs just $1, according to Karen Campbell. "The cost from that point on is the cost of their lunch, and, if we go to a museum, they pay for that."

The elders in the Culver Christian Church pay for the gas for the van. "They feel like it's a ministry," she said. "Outreach is important."

The Campbells also put out a "gas bag," for those who want to contribute.

Earlene Moon, of Culver, has been involved in the trips since the first one in 2005. "We've been everywhere," she said. "They're very educational, like the one going to the Opportunity Center in Redmond. Oh my goodness, they do so much there!"

"We've done everything from going to Woodburn to the tulip gardens to taking rides on the McKenzie Highway, to Crater Lake, and last fall, to East Lake and Paulina ... so many things."

The Campbells, who have been married 51 years, and moved to Culver 10 years ago after living in Redmond and Bend, love to travel.

They have gone to Scotland, the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, and taken three Alaskan cruises. In their spare time, they also visit their four adult children and 12 grandchildren.

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