We sponsor three or four bus rambles each year. These rambles help members get acquainted and visitors usually end up joining the society. We offer three types of rambles, with each one supplying a fun outing for enthusiastic orchid hobbyists with a desire to learn and buy new plants.
At least two of our excursions are day-long rambles. We visit from four to six or seven orchid nurseries within a day’s bus range, or we attend a single orchid show or other event in another county. Ramblers meet at the church parking lot before 8 am and return by 5 pm. Each person brings a bagged lunch, drinks and snacks for the day. Growers usually give a discount to bus ramblers and donate plants to be raffled on the bus. Between 30 and 48 people fill a day-ramble bus and pay $25 to cover the cost of transportation. As they leave each stop, the riders make a note of what they spent on the “I Spent Pad”. Ramblers spent more than $5,000 during our last ramble (even in today’s economy) which makes the growers very happy, so we also generate goodwill among the growers who donate plants for our auctions, and who present programs at our monthly meetings. When it is revealed that ramblers spent only a few dollars at a given orchid house, that place is skipped for the near future.
Our second type of ramble is our annual overnight ramble. We alternate years between visiting Florida’s Gulf Coast nurseries, and its up-state nurseries. We bag our lunches on Saturday, the first day. After our last stop the first day, we often soften the trip to the motel with wine and snacks. On Sunday, we usually visit only one or two nurseries, because by that time the bus undercarriage is full and boxes of new plants are often placed in the only vacant spots on the bus — our laps. Finally, no one is saying, “I just came for the fun; I won’t buy any plants.”
A good bus ramble is not an accident and requires big-time preplanning. First, the leader checks in Orchids to make sure the growers will be at their nurseries, and not away at a show. Then a bus company is contracted for the selected date. After that, growers are contacted, a bus route picked, and nurseries are told when to expect us. It is important to know travel time in planning a ramble, since the growers bring in extra staff to deal with a crowd of people who will only be there for an hour or less. Our schedule may look like this: Leave 8 am; arrive at Stop One 9:15 am; depart Stop One 10 am; arrive at Stop Two 10:30 am; leave Stop Two 11:30 am. The duration of any stop is based on the size of the business.
If you are curious about how other members grow the wonderful orchids you see at meetings every month, this is the ramble for you! We take a tour of four to five members’ homes. Carpooling together, we have pot luck lunch somewhere along the way and a dessert party at the last stop.