ON THE ROAD
Whether you spend life on the road for pleasure or work, it's nice to have the comforts
of home as you travel the highways and byways.
TRAILBLAZER checks in with folks who spend a fair amount of time on the road to see just what makes their home away from home.
This month, we chatted with the founder of the Carolina Opry and country music entertainer, CALVIN GILMORE
As an aspiring country music singer in his youth, little did Calvin Gilmore, son of a farmer on a third-generation farm in the Ozarks of southern Missouri, know that making it big in the music world would mean creating an empire in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Wanting to be a country music star, but not wanting to live a life on the road, Calvin decided to create a musical variety show where he could perform and remain in one place - home. So in 1986, he brought a new sound to the Grand Strand with the opening of The Carolina Opry. Now, 28 years later, he is still producing and directing (and performing) at The Calvin Gilmore Theater, with a variety of musical shows and special events that has single-handedly turned Myrtle Beach into the largest country music enterprise on the East Coast.
When Calvin isn't at the theater, he can often be found traveling in the Blue Ridge Mountains, to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, or to his ranch in the Ozarks. And it's often in his off-road Chinook Baja camper. We caught up with Calvin in Myrtle Beach to talk about his love of camping.
How did you get involved in RVing?
I've got a ranch on the Big Niangua River in the Southern Ozarks where I grew up and where I keep cattle. There's a mile-long trout stream below Bennett Spring State Park that's stocked with rainbow trout from the park. That's why I got the RV. It's a real pleasure that I can drive it right down on the gravel bar along the water. It's a 4-wheel drive with dual wheels so you can drive places that you can can't with traditional RVs. I love that I can sleep right on the stream. I had power put in down by the river so I can actually plug in there. It's funny when canoeists go by. Out of nowhere there's this thing on the side of the river that looks like a spaceship right on the water.
What kind of RV do you own?
A 2002 Chinook Baja out of Washington State. When I started out, I thought, is there such a thing as an all-terrain 4-wheel drive camper? So I researched it on the internet and found the ultimate in the Baja. There are only three things I've used it for and that's to go to my ranch in Missouri, to tailgate at Clemson football games (my daughter and son-in-law graduated from there) and camping outings that former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford used to host at Coosaw Plantation. It's got two captains chairs in the front, a little couch and seating booth with table that folds down into a bed, a mini kitchen with all the amenities, a full bath, satellite television, and a beautiful wood-grain finish. It basically has everything you'd find in a much larger RV, but it's all put together so well.
Do you RV for work, pleasure, or both?
I generally use it for pleasure. But when we open a new show or a new theater, I'll sometimes take it there while it's under construction so I'll have an office or someplace where I can do what I need to do. I was in a film called "Bolden!" that filmed in Wilmington, North Carolina, so, while I had a dressing room available to me, I decided to use the Baja instead so I drove it right on the lot and used that as my dressing room and a place to stay between takes.
What's your favorite thing about staying on your RV versus a hotel room?
It's not so much that for me. It's really about having something I can take places where there are no hotel rooms like the river or tailgating. Another movie that I did, "Get Low" with Bill Murray and Robert Duval, was shot in this little town in Georgia. They basically took it over to make it the set for the movie and there weren't any hotel rooms anywhere close by. So I took the Baja and I could stay in it and use it as my dressing room as well.
What are your three favorite things onboard?
Satellite TV, which is real nice because you can watch television anywhere. I also like the big wench on the front bumper for getting yourself out if you get stuck anywhere. The third thing would be the extra gas and water tanks, on the back, for use if you are traveling in the desert. There are also hydraulics for running an electric wench to change tires and fill tires with air. All great things if you are traveling off-road.
What are a few favorite destinations and why?
My ranch in Missouri, the Blue Ridge Mountains, especially the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Clemson games!
What do you like to do onboard while en route?
I do all the driving. My wife isn't too crazy about driving the Baja.
Highways or scenic routes?
Scenic - always "Blue Highways."
What's your favorite meal to make onboard?
Fresh rainbow trout can't be beat. And second, I guess, would be hot dogs.
Has anyone ever approached you at a rest stop or somewhere and asked to see your rig?
Yes everywhere! I can't go anywhere in that thing without people wanting to look in and take pictures. Even RV places that I go for maintenance can't believe it. They want to take pictures with it. I let people come in for a look. But I don't let canoeists in because they get it all wet.
What's the next big project?
I've been working on a Broadway musical called Blue Ridge Thunder that features hip-hop cloggers. There are four of them in our show now. This show, though, would include 20 cloggers and it's based on where clogging really came from. The story is about clogging starting in an Irish pub as an Irish jig and then it comes across the Atlantic Ocean, through the Blue Ridge Mountains, across the states and the Grand Ole Opry to New York where my cloggers were finalists in America's Got Talent. It's really the story of where it all got started and where it is now. We're currently rewriting the book (script) to tell my story.
We're also looking at a property on the West Coast in Monterey, California. We see Monterey as a market that's a little bit like Myrtle Beach. We're also always updating our theater. We just put in all new luxury seating in the Calvin Gilmore Theater in Myrtle Beach. We also installed a new LED backdrop that gives a whole new dimension to the show.