They do it because they have more fun than anyone. It’s a mission that more than 5,000 women in North America, Europe and Australia, strive to achieve with great … well, flair.
The group, called Sisters on the Fly, is an affiliation of women who bring glamorous camping or “glamping” to a whole new level. From cute, glamped out trailers to petticoats and wrangler wear, wine tastings to fly fishing, these women have created a recipe for gal pal getaways that is fun, feminine and empowering.
Several members of the local chapter of Sisters on the Fly gathered with their trailers on a breezy Saturday in March in the parking lot of "Decades Revisited," an antique shop at NW 39 and Portland, to talk about the group.
Why do they go to the effort and expense to fix up old travel trailers and don sassy cowgirl boots in the name of martinis, cigars and sisterhood?
“It (is) amazing meeting all of these ladies ... I’ve dreamed of this for a long time,” said DeAnn Parham, owner of a vintage White Water Retro trailer called “Take Five.” I had friends tell me you can't do that by yourself. So I signed up and I went. I love to fish — I can fish and I have all the pretties. It (is) very cool.”
What happens with the sisters stays with the sisters
The agenda for a Sisters on the Fly event begins with a caravan to the event location.
“We all just caravan. It's like no sister left behind. If something happens, everyone stops. You have that security of being together. It’s not a scary as I thought it was going to be,” said a woman who identified herself as “Buckaroo Becky.” Becky said she doesn’t own a trailer at the moment, but rode shotgun with DeAnn, who led the caravan on the group’s last outing to Arkansas, near Hot Springs.
On arriving at the destination, the schedule is anything but rigid.
“We just went to the Bar 50 (event) in Arkansas,” said Alana Schwarz, owner of a 1974 Nomad trailer, which she hopes to have travelworthy in the near future. “We built a bonfire. We went junking together — horseback riding. Some went to the spas in Hot Springs … “
“We drank wine, played bingo, drank limearitas, toured all the trailers, drank wine … What happens on sisters trips stays with the sisters,” Becky chimed in.
The trailers gathered at Decades Revisited that day were a collection of color and personality.
The rules of the organization dictate that each trailer have a unique name that is registered with the organization.
Vicky Kirkland’s 1962 Lincoln Little Abe trailer is decorated like a gypsy wagon and appropriately is named "Gypsy."
Rusty Dye surrounds herself with paradise in her Hawaiian-themed trailer called “Lil’ Hula Hut.”
Lee Hallman shows her Sooner pride with crimson and cream on her OU-themed trailer. And no, it’s not named “Sooner Schooner” — she calls it “Little Scout.”
Gail McCann named her trailer “Texoma Gal” because she was raised in Texas and lives in Oklahoma.
Leigh Smith affectionately named her turquoise and white, vintage Scotty trailer “Slap Happy,” to go with her cowgirl motif.
And, Terry Brown, the group’s newest member who is looking forward to her first trip this fall, is renovating a 1957 Aljo trailer.
Many women have three, four or even five trailers that they rent to fellow sisters for SOTF events. Others don’t have a trailer at all.
“Women don't need to have a trailer,” said Dusty Norris. “I sleep in a tent. I’ve slept in a yurt, a teepee in Montana —You can glamp those up too. I haven't slept in a trailer yet. You can sleep in the back of your SUV if you want to.
“It's important to me that I can put (the tent) up myself. I just don't want to depend on others. I want to do it by myself. Feels good,” Norris said.
Independence, self-reliance and, “I don’t want some guy telling me I can’t do something,” is a common refrain among the sisters.
“When I came home from my first trip — hitching (the trailer) up, driving, hitching it up to come home, unhooking it — I can tell you, it’s a feeling of accomplishment. It’s a feeling of, ‘You can do this.’ Gail McCann said.
To punctuate these “can do” episodes, the organization awards merit badges for various endeavors. These include badges for: branding a cow; smoking your first cigar; shooting a rifle; drinking wine or martinis; showering outside, peeing outside or being naked in general outside; successfully guiding your trailer out of a tight spot; camping in bad weather; and for getting yourself into trouble … again.”
The Oklahoma City group celebrates other triumphs, too — backing a trailer into a garage, plugging a leak or emptying your first trailer potty.
Building a sisterhood
What is the secret to the success of Sisters on the Fly?
“We have four rules,” the group’s leader Jackie Henry said. “No men. No kids. No pets. Be nice .”
“There’s no drama,” Alana Schwarz said. “There are no secrets. Everybody shares. No cattiness or backbiting. Everybody’s just really sweet.”
Gail McCann agrees.
“Most (of the women) have never met. But this is better than a sorority. There’s no drama. You’re just instantly friends. We are all looking for the same thing,” she said.
And if one group isn’t a good fit, there’s always another one.
“You may not like all the sisters, but you'll like most of them,” Leigh Smith said. “Everyone can find a group. There’s something for everybody.”
About the organization
Sisters on the Fly was established in 1999 when two sisters, Becky and Maurrie, went fly fishing in Montana and decided to invite friends along on the next trip. The group kept growing until the Sisters on the Fly organization was born.
Each state has its own wranglers who help organize local groups. As a member, sisters may attend national events, regional events or local gatherings. Oklahoma has about 120 members.
In Oklahoma City, the group tries to travel or get together every other month.
The annual membership fee is $60 and a woman must be 21 year of age to join.
In addition to camping and staging get-togethers, the Oklahoma City Sisters on the Fly chapter raises money for charity by hosting tours of their trailers. Half of the money raised goes to a local charity and the remainder goes to the national charity, Casting for Recovery, which provides fly fishing trips to women who are going through cancer treatment and recovery at no cost.
With warmer weather in the forecast, the gals are filling their calendars with upcoming trips, including a “Mister Sister” trip where guys can come along, and “Grannies on the Go” that will include grandchildren.
For next year, a Route 66 trip is in the offing that will follow the fabled Mother RSoad from Chicago to Santa Monica, Calif.
For more information about Sisters on the Fly, visit www.sistersonthefly.com or email Jackie Henry at firstname.lastname@example.org.