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Georgia's oldest Good Sam RV club gathers at Chehaw

Katherine Bateman, a 93-year-old retired Sylvester teacher, stands beside her 1976 TravelMate motorhome on Thursday during an excursion with her Southwest Georgia camping club at the campground at Chehaw.

Katherine Bateman, a 93-year-old retired Sylvester teacher, stands beside her 1976 TravelMate motorhome on Thursday during an excursion with her Southwest Georgia camping club at the campground at Chehaw.

ALBANY -- At 93, Katherine Bateman still enjoys trips in her tiny 1976 motor home, a 16-foot TravelMate built on a Dodge truck chassis.

"It's big enough for one person and that's me," she said of her rig, about the size of an ice-cream truck. Despite it's age, she said she's satisfied with its creature comforts: a television set, a microwave and air-conditioning.

She and about 30 other members of a southwest Georgia camping club, known as Sowega Sams, rolled into the campground at Chehaw, a city-owned park and zoo on the outskirts of Albany on Tuesday to begin three days of socializing, feasting and game playing. A Moultrie couple celebrated their 50th wedding.

Bateman, a retired Sylvester teacher, has been traveling for decades to the club's monthly outings. Sowega Sams is one of more than 1,500 chapters of the North American Good Sams camping organization.

The 18 rigs parked at Chehaw -- motor homes and luxurious travel trailers -- provide all the comforts of home including electric power, hot and cold water, and on some camp sites, sewage.

Danny Jordan, of Moultrie, president of the chapter, said the group is like a large, close-knit family.

"We help ... if someone needs something," said Jordan, one of the younger members at 61.

Mrs. Bateman was the oldest at 93, but many are in their 70s and 80s.

After her husband's death in 1991, Mrs. Bateman drove herself to area campgrounds to be with friends in the Sowega Sams chapter -- named using an acronym for southwestern Georgia. She continued going solo until March, when her doctor suggested she let someone else do the driving.

Now her son-in-law drives her rig to the gatherings, even though she still feels up to the task.

"The doctor says no. My two daughters say no," she said. "When it's in the yard, I crank it now and then. But my son-in-law checks it out when it's time to go."

Her fellow campers know Mrs. Bateman as a fiercely competitive card player, and they relish the carrot cakes she bakes at home and shares on camping trips.

"I don't usually carry anything home but the crumbs," she said with a smile.

Founded at Chehaw in 1972, the southwest Georgia chapter is the oldest continuously active Sams chapter in Georgia, said Jordan.

Each month, the members head for a campground in the area mostly to socialize and play games. Some also attend state "Samborees," the equivalent of state conventions at the Georgia National Fairgrounds in Perry.

Good Sams, founded on the Biblical principal of the Good Samaritan, promotes RV camping and helps members with trip planning, insurance and campground discounts. Its chapters host camping excursions, but also do charitable work in keeping with the Good Samaritan ideal of helping others.

"It's a lot of fun," said Roy Wohlforth, 75, of Leary. "It's a way for old folks to get together once a month. You've got to have something to do."

Faye and Wendell Brown of Moultrie brought a frosty, white cake to celebrate 50 years of marriage with club members. Afterward, their travels will continue with a cruise to Cancun, Mexico.

"We love traveling with our RV friends," said Mrs. Brown.