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Brian Santin
March 29, 2024
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2021 Flxible Owner’s International Bus Rally Loudonville, OH

Flxible Owner’s International (FOI) has traditionally hosted a bus rally for Flxible owners and bus enthusiasts of all types every other year, on the even-numbered years. The FOI 2020 rally was not immune to the realities of a pandemic and following a postponed 2020 rally, they held this year’s historic rally on August 25-29, 2021 in Loudonville, Ohio. 

This year’s theme was ‘Bringing it back to the Home of the original Motor Coach’. The iconic Flxible Clipper bus has been memorialized on the logo of the Family Motor Coach Association and by most accounts is considered to be the original motor coach. 

The Flxible Bus Company was founded in 1913 in Loudonville, Ohio, hence why the rally is always held in the historic Village of Loudonville. Loudonville is approximately halfway between Cleveland and Columbus in the northern part of the state of Ohio located amongst the beautiful Mohican-Memorial State Forest.

Fortunately, a very large and accommodating campground, Mohican Adventures (MohicanAdventures.com) is located just an 1/8th of a mile south of downtown Loudonville and has been the host site for the FOI rally for many years. 

Mohican Adventures Campground.
Mohican Adventures Campground.

One of the nicest facilities in the campground is the large conference center and kitchen where most events of the rally are held. The conference center serves as the perfect respite, with cool air for rally participants throughout the event whether it be for friendly card games or a place to catch up with fellow Bus Nuts.

Conference Center.
Conference Center.

The 5-day event was fueled by sponsorships from nineteen companies including the presenting sponsor: Sugar-Creek. This year’s event began with a Welcome Reception on Wednesday evening at which Summit Racing Equipment bags overflowing with a variety of donated items were distributed to each rally participant.

Summit Racing Equipment.
Summit Racing Equipment.

Items included Vitamin World bottles of Immune Defense and Fish Oil capsules, AutoShow sponges and Meguiar’s Liquid Wax for keeping the buses looking top-notch, Oscar Meyer Bacon Bits compliments of Sugar-Creek, granola bars, Kleenex packs, and a variety of other goodies.

Vitamin World Immune Defense and Fish Oil capsules.
Vitamin World Immune Defense and Fish Oil capsules.
Everybody received a sponge to clean their bus.
Everybody received a sponge to clean their bus.

Exclusively Yours Catering’s food truck was on hand and fed everyone a fantastic dinner.  They provided a variety of choices that rivaled most brick-and-mortar restaurants which everyone really enjoyed.

Exclusively Yours Catering food truck.
Exclusively Yours Catering food truck.

Following dinner was the first of the Neighborly Campfires held nightly at the rally captain’s site. Arguably the largest pile (two pallets worth!) and the nicest pile of firewood was donated by a local hardwood flooring company – Northwest Hardwoods. We burned some amazing oak, walnut, maple, and other various ‘scrap’ wood during those campfires!

Two pallets of firewood at the start of the rally.
Two pallets of firewood at the start of the rally.

The first full day of the rally found a group of folks traveling by arranged motor coach, compliments of Coach Quarters owned by Mike Middaugh (a 1957 Flxible Starliner owner).

1983 MC-9 coach owned by Mike Middaugh.
1983 MC-9 coach owned by Mike Middaugh.
Welcome aboard the beautiful MC-9 coach.
Welcome aboard the beautiful MC-9 coach.

We traveled in a very comfortable MC-9 motorcoach to a historic state park and working farm – Malabar Farm. The farm and manor were donated to the state of Ohio by the family of Louis Bromfield in 1993. 

Malabar Farm House.
Malabar Farm House.

Bromfield was one of Northeast Ohio’s most influential and colorful characters. Born in Mansfield, Ohio on December 27, 1896, Bromfield would go on to win a Pulitzer Prize for his novel Early Autumn: A Story of a Lady and become one of America’s first proponents of sustainable agriculture and conservation. He is considered one of the founding fathers of the modern environmental movement. 

Malabar Farm is located just outside of Mansfield, Ohio which was a prominent railroad stop for celebrities traveling between New York City and Los Angeles and thus Malabar Farm became a favorite place for Bromfield’s friends to visit, including actor Humphrey Bogart. 

In fact, Bogart married Lauren Bacall in the foyer of the Malabar Farm Big House on May 21, 1945. Rally participants were given a private tour of the Big House as well as a wagon ride around the working farm. 

Wagon tour around the Malabar Farm grounds.
Wagon tour around the Malabar Farm grounds.

Following the brief 15-minute ride back to the campground, a few more people hopped on the 1983 MC-9 bus and off we headed to Landoll’s Castle and the Copper Mug restaurant. Landoll’s Castle is the creation of retired Army Veteran, Jim Landoll who following a two-year tour in Europe returned home with a dream to build a castle in America.

Landoll’s Castle.
Landoll’s Castle.

With $5 in his pocket, Jim founded The Landoll Publishing Company in the early 1970s and grew it to the second-largest printer and publisher of children’s books in America. After selling the publishing company, Jim began construction on the castle in the 1990s and opened it to the public in 2002. The castle sits on 30 acres and at an elevation of 1,200 feet is technically on a mountain.  The woodwork in the castle is simply amazing. 

Following a most memorable MC-9 bus ride up some pretty steep roads, the gang feasted on a pasta buffet lunch and a tour of Landoll’s Castle. 

Pasta Buffet Lunch at the Castle.
Pasta Buffet Lunch at the Castle.

Shortly after returning to the campground, to take a break and to pick up more passengers, we set off just a ½ mile up the road for a tour of the original Flxible Bus Company factory.

Flxible buses lined up in front of the old Flxible Fac-tory during the 2021 rally.
Flxible buses lined up in front of the old Flxible Fac-tory during the 2021 rally.
Behind the scenes tour.
Behind the scenes tour.
Brian Santin introducing us to the old Flxible Bus Factory.
Brian Santin introducing us to the old Flxible Bus Factory.
Back in the day, when Flxible buses were being assembled.
Back in the day, when Flxible buses were being assembled.

The factory is a few hundred thousand square feet of space in an L-shaped building in which all Flxible buses rolled out of many years ago.  It is now owned by a local Loudonville family who run several family businesses in the space. 

The family patriarch and the security guard who works there now also worked at the Flxible factory many years ago, so they were able to provide a narrated walkthrough of the space where several original Flxible logos are still found.

The security guard was able to answer questions about what used to happen in all parts of the factory when they were building buses. This is a definite must-see for any Flxible bus enthusiast.  This place is HUGE!

Still imbedded in the wall.
Still imbedded in the wall.

We returned to our home base later that afternoon with plenty of time to unwind and relax before a fantastic BBQ catered dinner featuring chicken, unbelievable ribs, locally sourced corn-on-the-cob, baked potatoes, Cole Slaw, and all the fixins! Luckily just before the post-prandial food coma set in, folks circled around the campfire and enjoyed a wonderful live concert by local artist, Ricky Mitchell

Ricky performed songs from the likes of James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Jim Croce, John Denver and even slid in some of his more recent funk-style music. Despite an unfortunate pop-up rain shower, only the last fifteen minutes of the concert were ‘rained out’. 

Ricky MItchell on stage.
Ricky MItchell on stage.
Ricky Mitchell entertaining the group
Ricky Mitchell entertaining the group

Day three of the rally started off with the customary coffee and ‘bigger than your head’ fresh-out-of-the-oven donuts compliments of the Mohican Country Market located next door to the campground. With our bellies full and caffeine topped off, the ole MC-9 was purring and standing by ready to transport a full load of folks to the Ohio State Reformatory for a private tour.  Our bus driver thought he may have to go over the scales first, but he decided against it. HA!

To watch a video of our group arriving outside of the building, click HERE.

Ohio State Reformatory Cell Block B.
Ohio State Reformatory Cell Block B.

The widely loved movie, The Shawshank Redemption was filmed at the former prison which admitted its first inmates in 1896.  The Reformatory was originally called the ‘Intermediate Penitentiary’ since it accepted inmates who were too old for juvenile corrections but had committed offenses more minor than those that sent others to the Ohio State Penitentiary.

Site of The Shawshank Redemption as well as many other famous movies.
Site of The Shawshank Redemption as well as many other famous movies.

The goal of the institution was truly to ‘reform’ and rehabilitate its inmates, who received three things during their time: religion, education, and a trade. Inmates were admitted for 18 months, and if they showed progress, they could be released after that time. If not, they received another 18 months of free room and board. 

The model was successful and the Reformatory had a high success rate and low recidivism rate. By the early 1960s, however, the state pulled its financial support from the Reform model and began converting OSR into a maximum-security facility, a purpose for which it was never intended. 

By the 1980s, the conditions had deteriorated to the point where the inmates sued the state of Ohio. The lawsuit was successful, and construction began on a new modern facility nearby. The Reformatory was finally closed in 1990. It sat empty for several years until local activists rallied to purchase the building from the state (for $1.00) and committed to repairing and restoring the historic structure. 

The Reformatory houses the official Ohio State Corrections History Museum and is a popular site for ghost hunters and paranormal enthusiasts. In addition to being the site for The Shawshank Redemption, the building’s striking architecture is a favorite for filmmakers. 

The architecture is such that sunlight shines through four doorways to create a perfect cross on the floor in one of the halls.
The architecture is such that sunlight shines through four doorways to create a perfect cross on the floor in one of the halls.

Films shot there include Harry and Walter Go to New York, Tango and Cash, Air Force One, and Escape Plan: The Extractors. The tour built up quite an appetite with all of the walking and City Grille in downtown Mansfield hit the spot for everyone!

Friday afternoon featured several events that have become staples at the Flxible Bus Rally in years past including a swap meet for all of those hard-to-find bus parts, a book exchange, and a meet-n-greet with fellow bus enthusiasts. 

The hot afternoon sun and good company were met with a welcoming Ice Cream Social sponsored by the local Stakes IGA and featured a Flxible Bus Trivia contest – Jeopardy style! Each correct answer was awarded with a Lucas Oil Products bottle of Slick Mist – Fast & Easy Speed Wax. The breadth of knowledge of Flxible Buses was truly on display as audience members didn’t miss a beat on any of the more than 20 trivia questions….er, answers, HA!

Following the Flxible trivia and throughout each day of the event, rallygoers had ample time to vote for several of the Flxible Bus Awards and place their bids on more than twenty-five raffle packages which were ultimately given away Saturday evening. More on those highly acclaimed awards in just a minute (keep reading!). 

Best of Flxible Bus Rally awards.
Best of Flxible Bus Rally awards.
Raffle prizes were on display all week awaiting bid-ding tickets in Mason jars.
Raffle prizes were on display all week awaiting bid-ding tickets in Mason jars.
Bus cleaning supplies.
Bus cleaning supplies.
Lion Energy provided a Portable Power Unit for the raffle.
Lion Energy provided a Portable Power Unit for the raffle.

In place of the usual Friday night potluck, the rally Captain’s Brian & Crystal Santin opted to provide a complimentary East of Chicago Pizza and a salad extravaganza for dinner that evening – not a single person went hungry with more pizza than you could shake a stick at! East of Chicago in Loudonville reported that this was the largest pizza order in the history of their shop!

Pizza and Garage Beer.
Very appropriate for Bus Nuts.
Pizza and Garage Beer. Very appropriate for Bus Nuts.

Shortly after dinner, Brian got his industrial-sized popcorn popper roaring with freshly buttered popcorn. The husband-and-wife owners of Cappy’s Incredible Caramel Corn, and 1960 Flxible Hi-level Bus owners, Brad and Margaret Wallace donated several cases of their Incredible Caramel Corn for everyone to enjoy during the movie. 

Projected on the big screen was the movie “RV” featuring Robin Williams and more infamously, a Flxible Clipper bus!! Kids and adults alike really enjoyed the evening’s entertainment in the air-conditioned conference center – again, what an ideal venue to host a rally of this magnitude.

Saturday morning tends to be the highlight of the Flxible Bus rally every year as the Flxible Bus Parade takes place throughout the Village of Loudonville. This year, in part due to a donated custom-made 30ft banner hung over Main Street for several weeks leading up to the event, there were several hundred locals and visitors from afar packed into town for the historic event.

Banner welcoming the Flxible buses to town.
Banner welcoming the Flxible buses to town.

Watch the parade of Flxible buses in downtown

Loudonville, Ohio by clicking HERE

Eighteen Flxible Buses were arranged in chronological order and paraded into town led by Dave Muller’s 1939 Clipper – also the winner of the Oldest Bus Award (Congrats Dave!). After petitioning the Ohio Dept of Transportation and Village of Loudonville Council, Brian managed to block Main Street for four hours to allow the Flxible buses to park and allow the public a unique opportunity to view the insides of each classic machine. 

Bird’s-eye view of downtown Loudonville, Ohio on our day.
Bird’s-eye view of downtown Loudonville, Ohio on our day.
Static Display of Flxible Buses after the Parade.
Static Display of Flxible Buses after the Parade.
DJ and Brian Santin downtown making announcements.
DJ and Brian Santin downtown making announcements.

Read aloud via massive speakers by a local MC, each bus description and history were billowed out to the audience. A People’s Choice Award voted on by several hundred visitors was presented to Loren & Krystal Kase’s 1953 Flxible Visicoach “Shangri La”. 

Mike & Fran Middaugh’s 1957 Flxible Starliner was close behind as Runner-Up. After everyone had ample opportunity to check out all of the Flxible buses in town, the entire line-up continued on the parade route around the corner to the site where each had been ‘born’ – the original Flxible Bus Co. factory. 

We managed to cleverly tightly line up the eighteen coaches in front of the building and people snapped plenty of photos; many already making their way into the record books for sure!  Compliments of Brad Wallace, some fantastic drone footage was shot both in town and in front of the Flxible building – we hope to have the drone footage uploaded to https://flxibleowners.org/ in the near future for all to see or check out the Flxible Owners International Facebook page for more photos and videos from this year’s event. 

After everyone got settled back in at the campground, an Ask-the-Expert session featured several interesting talks. Rick Flora Sr, owner of Flora’s Diesel in Johnstown, Ohio spoke about the complexities of squeezing a Cummins ISC 8.3L diesel engine coupled with a turbo booster and paired with a hefty Allison 6-speed automatic transmission into Brian & Crystal Santin’s 1954 Flxible Visicoach. 

This feat of engineering managed to fit while still accommodating the engine driven fan on the diesel pusher and did not require moving the rear axle forward. Note: the fan on the engine and overlying shroud are critical components to cooling the massive engine/transmission combination. Brian & Crystal’s Flxible known as Doloris won the Best Repower Award and Most Likely to Win a Drag Race.  LOL!

Brian has his sights set on running the quarter mile in just under thirteen seconds and top speed of over 120MPH!!! Next, Will Kalbermatter from Ventura, California and owner of a 1947 Flxible Clipper spoke about the process of fabricating identical replicas of the original red lights found on the back of the fluted metal sides on Flxible buses. 

Will Kalbermatter discussing his new tail light assembly.
Will Kalbermatter discussing his new tail light assembly.
Replica of original lighting.
Replica of original lighting.
Kalbermatter replicated the original font to a T.
Kalbermatter replicated the original font to a T.

Everyone was able to get answers to questions concerning suspension, lighting, and general maintenance at the session.

Saturday evening is the 2nd biggest event at each Flxible Bus Rally and this year was no different. It began with a business meeting complete with PowerPoint presentation by the Rally Captains providing a complete breakdown of the planning, sponsorship packet development, execution of, and financial analysis for the rally. 

Next up was a home cooked Amish meal of baked chicken, roast beef, Amish noodles, corn-on-the-cob, salad, and green beans. Dessert comprised of more homemade pies, cookies, and baked goods than imaginable!! No one went hungry during the 5-day event for sure!! Brian and Crystal tag-teamed the awards and raffle prize portion of the evening from opposite ends of the large conference center.

Lucas Oil Products.
Lucas Oil Products.

 The Flxible Bus Awards were presented to 17 lucky recipients and 25 raffle prizes went home with their proud owners.  A few of the standout raffle prize baskets included several Lucas Oil Product baskets filled with numerous products weighing more than 30lbs. each, custom made GMC Scenic Cruiser flowerpot, two ‘mystery prizes’ that won high accolades, and a few unique Flxible items – jacket, baseball cap, parking sign, and mug. A LOT of prizes were donated and all were handed out.

Flxible Neon Sign.

The highlight of the raffle prizes was a custom made Flxible neon sign donated by John & Ruth Maryo and won by Will Kalbermatter. The night was capped off with a standing ovation for this year’s rally captains who responded with sincere gratitude that everyone enjoyed the various off-site events, meals, parade, entertainment, and joy of being together with fellow Flxible Bus enthusiasts. Arguably the largest bonfire this side of the Mississippi ensued shortly thereafter and burned well into the wee hours of the night.

Following a final coffee and donuts morning feast on Sunday, everyone packed up their buses and headed off to their next adventure only after marking their calendar to attend next year’s event – same time, same place, same great times to be had by all – August 24-28, 2022.   

The campfire was very popular each night.
The campfire was very popular each night.

Stay abreast of 2022 Flxible Bus Rally plans on www.flxibleowners.org or our Facebook page – Flxible Owners International. We look forward to seeing many of you there!!

2021 Flxible Bus Awards

Oldest Bus – Dave Muller, 1939 Flxible Clipper

Youngest Driver – Loren Kase, 40 years old

Oldest Driver – Doug Erman, 87 years young!

Best Repower – Brian & Crystal Santin, 1954 Flxible Visicoach

Best SOB (Some Other Bus), i.e. nonFlxible – Chris & Siobahn Nicklow Bluebird

Longest Distance Traveled – Jim Denevan – Santa Cruz, CA (2,519 miles!)

Best Paint Job – Mike & Fran Middaugh, 1957 Flxible Starliner

People’s Choice – Loren & Krystal Kase, 1953 Flxible Visicoach

Best Flxible Clipper – John Tassinari’s 1947 

Best Flxible Visicoach – John & Ruth Maryo’s 1954

Best Flxible Starliner – John & Paulette’s 1958

Best Flxible Flxiliner – Ed & Anne Eyre’s 1969

Best Flxible Hi-Level – Dave & Brenda Martin’s 1960

Best Restoration – Mike & Fran Middaugh’s 1957 Starliner

Most Likely to Breakdown – Dave Muller’s 1939 Clipper

Most Likely to Win a Drag Race – Brian & Crystal Santin’s 1954 Visicoach

Best Tow Behind – Dave Rosique’s 1960 VW Baja Beetle

2021 Flxible Bus Rally by the Numbers

Flxible Buses in Attendance: 18

Attendees: 131

Adults: 122 

Children:

Baby: 1

Meals Provided: 290

Donuts consumed: 688

Ticket Tours: 98

Campsites: 59

Corporate Sponsors: 18

Flxible Owner’s International Rally 2021 Miscellaneous Photos

Article written by Brian Santin

Brian & Crystal Santin became the next in a short list of caretakers of a 1954 Flxible Visicoach bus named Doloris in 2014. Along with Whitney, their 11yr old Australian labradoodle, they enjoy traveling in the vintage bus which was affectionately converted to an RV by Lynn Coachworks in Greensboro, NC in 1983.

The interior of the bus remains circa 1983 with the fabrics and woodwork in pristine condition. Brian, a vascular surgeon in private practice, and Crystal who holds a doctorate in physical therapy and is a Pilates instructor, have always been drawn to classic architecture as exemplified by their current home renovation – (YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram) guided by their design principal: Uniquely Modern with Traditional Sensibilities.

As many fellow Bus Nuts can attest, there is always another project when you own a 67-year-old bus. Having repowered their beloved bus a few years ago and the home renovation coming to completion, next up for Doloris is to retrofit power steering followed by a new paint job. Fingers are crossed that these can both happen before next summer’s Flxible bus rally. Brian is a current Board member of Flxible Owners International.

You can email Brian with questions and comments at BrianSantin@gmail.com

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