And So We Hit The Road
I am honored to be asked to become a member of the RV.net blogging family, and I thank my good buddy Chris Guld from Geeks on Tour for recommending me to the folks who run this website. Over time I hope to bring you some interesting stories from our ten years on the road as fulltime RVers, telling you about the places we have gone and the adventures we have had along the way.
My father always said that the best place to begin something was at the beginning, so for my first post here, I’ll share a little bit about how my wife and I made the transition from stressed out workaholic baby boomers to working fulltime RVers, in an article I originally published in our first edition of our Gypsy Journal RV Travel Newspaper, and resurrected for our 10 year Anniversary Edition, which was printed this week.
And So We Hit The Road
We were no different than so many other baby boomer couples – overworked, stressed out to the breaking point and wanting to make a change. Between the pressures of running two businesses, the long hours required to make the climb up the ladder to “success” and the demands on our time from every direction, we never seemed to have the time to stop and smell the roses. Heck, we usually didn’t even have the time to just sit down and talk about where we were, how we got there and where we were going from there.
Sure, we had all of the toys that come with success – a nice home, complete with redwood deck and sunken hot tub, a minivan and four wheel drive pickup, and even four classic cars in our huge new custom-built garage. But at the end of one exhausting day we looked at each other over the kitchen table and asked ourselves “why?”
Why have a Corvette, if we never had the time to drive it? Why have this big house when it was just the two of us and the kids were grown up and on their own? Why work 70 to 80 hours a week, or more? Did we really want to do this forever? What fun was it going to be even if we did end up being the richest people in the graveyard?
Miss Terry and I have always loved to travel. As an Air Force brat, she spent her formative years moving from duty station to duty station. My father’s work uprooted our family so many times in our childhood that I really had no emotional ties to any place I called “home.” We both seemed to have a bit of gypsy in our souls. Our dream was to someday buy a motorhome and take to the road. But, at age 46 and with one heart attack under my belt already, one has to wonder just how good the chances of making it to “someday” really are. Then we had a wakeup call.
I owned the weekly newspaper in our small Arizona mountain town, and one day I picked up a load of newsprint for our press. Newsprint comes in big rolls that weigh anywhere from 1500 to 1800 pounds each. I was driving a step van with no partition between the driver’s compartment and the cargo area, and the people at the paper mill had not chocked the load properly, and since I usually did not pick up the newsprint, I didn’t know the procedure and failed to check the load.
A mile or two from my office, somebody ran a red light in front of me and I slammed on the brakes. The load broke lose and pinned me between the steel framed driver’s seat and the steering wheel. My lungs were so compressed that I could hardly breathe, but I managed to switch off the van’s ignition and somehow squeezed out from under the newsprint and fell out into the street.
In small towns, news travels fast, and rumors travel even faster. Somebody saw a paramedic holding a sheet over me while others cut my clothes away to see how badly I had been injured, and called Terry at her office to tell her I had been killed. My employees got the same message.
Terry called the police department and was only told to get to the hospital quickly. The poor woman thought she was going to identify my body, and today she says she can’t even remember driving herself to the hospital.
As it turns out, my overly large belly probably saved my life. The doctors told us later than a thin man probably would have been killed, but that my stomach acted as an air bag to absorb the impact from the steering wheel, which ended up bent into almost a U shape. As it was, my internal organs were bruised and battered, and much of the lining that holds things in place was torn, but it could have been much worse, and we are thankful it wasn’t.
That was our wakeup call that life is a precious and fragile thing and not to be wasted doing something we really didn’t want to do anymore.
So, late in 1998 we found ourselves standing on an RV dealer’s lot in Mesa, Arizona, and within days we were the proud owners of a 36 foot motorhome, complete with all the goodies, including two slide-outs, an on-board washer/dryer combination, a side by side refrigerator/freezer and a satellite TV dish on the roof. All the comforts of home, even if it lacked the square footage of our “real” home.
We realized that even with all the floor space in our current home, we actually utilized very little of it – a great majority of our time was spent seated at the kitchen table eating or reading, parked in front of my computer or sleeping in our bed. The rest of the space in our home was filled with “stuff’ – stuff we seldom used: a huge collection of antiques, two bedrooms that had been empty since the last child became an adult, closets full of clothing we no longer wore.
Among its other amenities, our new motorhome had a kitchen table, a bed, and a computer workstation – plenty of room to accommodate the activities we enjoyed during our few free hours a week. And because it was so much smaller than our house, a lot of that “stuff’ we had been hanging on to would have to go. Suddenly, downsizing and taking to the open road was very appealing to us.
There were a lot of things to consider when making such a major lifestyle change. What about our many friends we would be leaving behind? What about all of the work we a put into arriving at the station in life we presently occupied? What about our beautiful home, filled with all of our “stuff?” Someone asked if we were really willing to give all of that up to run off in a motorhome and travel all around the country, stopping in a new place every few days or weeks, being surrounded by strangers, and relinquishing the “security” our conventional lifestyle held? We looked at each other, grinned and said “YES!”
And so we hit the road. We had both been workaholics for so long that we knew we couldn’t live life as an endless vacation. Nor would our budget allow it. We knew there were many people who traveled fulltime and earned some or all of their money as they went. Miss Terry and I sat down, listed all of our talents and skills and discussed how those abilities might be able to help us earn a living as we traveled around the country.
I have owned several small business, and had spent years as the editor and publisher of small town community newspapers. We were confident my experience in crunching words, advertising, and newspaper production could be put to use somewhere – hence the Gypsy Journal.
As a lifelong gun collector, I was familiar with the gun show scene and knew quite a few people who made good money displaying and selling at gun shows. We were both avid flea market shoppers, always searching for an antique oil lamp or other goodie that caught our eye and would fit into our collection. Over the years we had met and talked with many people who picked up spare change, or even made a fulltime business out of flea market vending. Miss Terry’s good eye for a bargain and sharp negotiating skills could very well make flea market vending a profitable addition to our income earning plans.
As the working manager of a commercial glass shop, my wife had put many a good old boy in his place when “that little gal” climbed up onto the hood of his eighteen wheeler to repair a rock chip before it spread into a spider web of cracks, or even replaced the giant windshield herself. The equipment and materials needed to repair windshields were small and fit easily into one of the basement storage bins of our motorhome. Another income possibility.
We realized that, if nothing else, we both possessed strong work ethics and a willingness to do whatever it takes to get any job done. We had managed and owned businesses long enough to know that those are qualities most employers in this country are always seeking, and decided that somehow or someway we could make a buck when we needed to.
The Gypsy Journal is our record of our travels. We share with you the places we go, the people we meet, and the things we see. We hope that maybe someday another overworked couple out there will look at each other over the kitchen table at the end of a long, stressful day, and say to themselves “If they can do it, we can too!” When that day arrives, we hope our experiences will help you make the decision to escape to the freedom you so very much deserve. If you encounter us along the road somewhere, honk and wave as you pass. Happy Trails!