Road Trip

Originally published in VLife Magazine, June 2011
• Photos by James Gibson •

Gas prices are astronomical,
but the RV Nation is alive
and well — and growing!

Just try to find a campground that isn’t packed with RVs this summer. For that matter, try to find a place to park an RV near The Villages, where a waiting list for RV storage spots extends until the fall. Record-breaking gas prices haven’t deterred the more than 8.3 million Americans who own recreational vehicles from hitting the road. In fact, the numbers are even growing: RV shipments in 2011 will rise to 246,000 units, an increase of 3.9 percent from 2010 totals. In addition, another 30 million people are RV enthusiasts — those folks who rent or borrow RVs for pleasure.

As the country music group Rascal Flatts says, “Life is a highway,” and the veteran and novice RV owners who shared their stories with VLife agree that fun begins on the road.


On the Road Since 1972
Most miles logged in a year: 6,500
Favorite Place: Assateague State Park, Ocean City, Maryland
Next Trip: North Carolina

Skip and Janemarie will celebrate 40 years of camping in 2012. Their love of life on the road began with a rented travel trailer in 1972 when they attended a square dancing event at Cherry Ridge Campgrounds in Pennsylvania.

“We met people that weekend who now live in The Villages,” says Skip. “Many of them are still dancing and still camping.”

Since their first trip, Skip says they’ve had four or five recreational campers or vehicles. When their children were growing up, they needed larger units because camping trips could last as long as six weeks. Three years ago, they opted to trade “down” to a smaller 26-foot Class A Itasca.

“It has everything we need,” says Janemarie, “and it’s easier to maneuver.”

The couple, who teach country line and country partner dancing in The Villages, try to get away as often as they can, even if it’s just for a long weekend.

“We love the state parks, where we park for $10 to $15 a night,” says Skip. “We’ve been to Assateague in Maryland 10 to 12 times and it’s still our favorite place.”

Janemarie especially loves the convenience that RVs offer. Owning an RV also has made it easier to take spontaneous trips like the year they headed to Rhode Island when she heard from a work colleague that the tall sailing ships were in port.

“We can read or hear about a place and at the drop of a hat make plans to go,” she says. “We’ve been RVing for so many years that we can pack up quickly and be on the road.”

Freedom and flexibility are two advantages, but the people they’ve met along the way have made trips most memorable. They joined The Villages RV Club shortly after moving to the Village of Palo Alto 12 years ago.

“The RV Club is well-run and well-organized,” says Janemarie. “The people we travel with are great and lots of fun.”


On the Road Since 2010
Most miles logged in a year: 10,000
Favorite Place: Grand Tetons, Wyoming
Next Trip: New Brunswick, Canada

Suzanne and Ty Giesemann lived aboard a sailboat for four years so they already knew how to squeeze into tight spaces. But one day Suzanne woke up and decided she wanted a place “to go home to.” The couple bought their Village of Mallory Square home in 2007 and fueled their landloving passions for hiking and biking.

By 2010, however, they were ready to hit the road and decided an RV would be their next home away from home. Listening to Suzanne’s parents’ positive experiences as RV owners convinced them to give it a try.

“We had seen quite a few places abroad,” says Suzanne. “It was time to see more of the United States.”

Their first major trip was a huge rectangle through America from Florida to Arizona to Montana to Maine and back to Florida.

“We covered 10,000 miles in four months, and both of us checked off the final four states we hadn’t seen,” says Suzanne.

The trip was so successful that the couple traded their Class C 29-foot RV for their current 40-foot dream coach. Rising gas prices did not deter their decision to “trade up” because, as Suzanne explains, they do not spend a lot on other things. “This is our lifestyle,” she says.

The best part of RV traveling, say both the retired U.S. Naval officers, is taking their beloved Dachshunds, “Rudy” and “Gretchen,” on trips, too. Ty adds that not having to unpack suitcases in hotel rooms every night is also an advantage.

An outdoor enthusiast, Ty caught his limit of trout in an Arizona lake last year. He took them back to the RV camp and cleaned them himself.

“You can’t do that in a hotel room and expect to stay there long,” he says with a chuckle.


On the Road Since 1985
Most miles logged in a year: 15,000
Favorite Place: Alaska
Next Trip: Yosemite National Park

The only thing stopping Bill and Pat Miller from seeing all 50 states is water.

“We’re waiting for the bridge to Hawaii to get finished, and then we’ll drive there,” says Bill who has driven through the other 49 states.

The Village of Glenbrook couple takes their 33-foot Class A Winnebago on at least one extended trip every summer, usually westward. In addition, Bill returns to his native Michigan for two weeks each fall for hunting and photography — his passions when he’s not on the road. Add in the long-weekend jaunts, and annual road trip mileage can top 15,000, as it did in 2007.

Camping was always a big part of both Bill and Pat’s lives before they met each other. Since the 1960s, Bill has camped near Michigan’s Au Sable River and run the gamut from owning tents to fifthwheelers to the current motor home. Pat and her late husband owned an RV and she always loved exploring new destinations.

“I always said that any man I married would have to love to travel as much as I do,” says Pat. “And I prefer RV travel because I can sleep in my own clean bed at night and cook my own good food.”

Shortly after their 2006 marriage, Bill and Pat embarked on a four-month journey to Alaska and had so much fun that they repeated the trek in a larger RV in 2009.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d ever see 49 states,” says Bill. “But to see Alaska twice in my lifetime is a dream come true.”

If it weren’t for the rough roads through Canada, the couple would make a third trip to Alaska but, for now, are planning a late summer trip to the Yosemite National Park in California.


Most miles logged in a year: 9,000
Favorite Place: Bend, Oregon
On the Road Since 2004 (Full time)
Next Trip: Yuma, Arizona

Many RVers dream about staying on the road full-time, but, for most, the reality is they have to return home. Jack and Jan Delauter, however, were able to make the dream come true. In 2004, they sold their Leesburg home and hit the highways for a compact lifestyle that Jack describes as “the best way to see America.”

The retired senior petty officers in the U.S. Navy are currently parked at 7,600 feet above sea level in California’s Sierra Mountains, where Jack serves as a “workamper” checking other campers in and out of the park and maintaining campsites for the summer. When the weather turns cold, the couple will head to Yuma, Arizona. Along the way, they’ll
leisurely see whatever sights grab their interests. Next winter, they’ll visit the Clermont area for the birth of their fifth grandchild.

“You can’t believe how vast this country is until you get off the interstates,” says Jack. “I wish everyone in the country would explore America’s roadways and chat with people they meet.”

When the couple was living in Florida, a friend told them about a motor home for sale at a great price. They used it one weekend, traded for a larger one, and put their home on the market — all within about three weeks.

“We are sort of rash people,” explains Jack with a laugh. “We really liked camping and decided that the time was right for this kind of lifestyle.”

They called in an auctioneer and the house sold quickly. The first year they rented an 8’x8’ storage unit for things they weren’t ready to part with. Now, says Jack, they can fit everything into a PT Cruiser and their 40-foot Gulf Stream Friendship RV.

What little mail they get goes to a daughter’s home, but for the most part they have gone paperless. An antenna and satellite system gives them Internet access as well as television reception. Although space is at a premium, Jack says he and his wife have never looked back on their decision.

“My wife and I are perfectly suited to this lifestyle,” he says. “We both love to read and work on the computer. We even have the same outdoor interests.”

His advice for anyone considering chucking it all for a life on the road is to try it for at least three months.

“Then you’ll know if you can do it,” he says.

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