Written by: Anna Sibal
12/15/2013 9:30 AM
As much as we love traveling in an RV, getting into the full-time RV lifestyle isn't really everyone's cup of tea. Some people are born to be nomads, happiest when they are on the road and painting their lives with the vividly colored experiences they get from their journeys. Some people are decided landlubbers, preferring to stay in one place where everything is familiar. Some, on the other hand, are still straddling the fence and haven't figured out whether to stay where they are or to simply let go and embrace the RVing lifestyle.
At CampingRoadTrip.com, we are blessed to meet people who have made the jump and did the transition to full-time RVing. It is so fun to read their stories, not just because of the interesting places they've been to. What makes their stories fascinating is the joie de vivre you feel as you read them. It pulls you in and makes you want to live free as these full-timers do.
Among the full-time RVers we have met are Rob and Linda Cook, the Class A Boomers. They're relatively new to the whole full-timing deal, but they already have such wonderful stories to tell, stories that Linda has documented in her blog. We asked Linda to share with us her and Rob's RVing story.
CRT: Please tell us a little about yourselves: Who are Rob and Linda Cook?
Linda Cook: Rob and I met over 30 years ago during his custody battle for his three daughters. When his daughters returned home, along with my two daughters, we formed a family-five daughters! One of the first things we discovered we had in common was our love of camping. We had been dating about two months when I invited Rob to join me and my family on a camp out to which he enthusiastically accepted. This camp out was what my family called 'Summer's Beginning.' It was an annual event that spanned four days over the summer solstice and was attended by my parents, maternal grandparents, aunt and uncle, cousins, siblings and various other extended family and in-laws. Rob fit right in. That was just the beginning. We learned we had much in common in terms of our beliefs and values and that we worked well as a team. I learned that Rob was honest and true, and Rob learned that I was easy-going and loyal. Rob likes to tell people that we've never had a fight-and its true-but I like to tell people that, while we've never really had a fight, I have been known to roll my eyes. What this means is that we've never wanted to change each other, but accept who each of us is even if we don't always agree. There is little ego between us but a great deal of respect.
Rob has always been interested in flying and, instead of piloting airplanes and helicopters, as he has in the past, he now flies a paraglider. In finding my own interests after becoming an empty-nester, I picked up a camera and found an interest that continues to grow.
What did you guys do before you retired and started RVing full time?
Rob was a stockbroker when we first met and I was working on getting my real estate license. Over time, our career choices changed. Rob pursued his interest in woodworking. He became the editor of the national publication "Popular Woodworking" until it was sold to an out-of-state publisher, at which time he opened his own graphics design business. This eventually transformed into teaching graphic design at a local career college. I, on the other hand, stayed in the real estate industry first as a loan officer then as an escrow officer. I remained an escrow officer until I was laid off in 2008. I decided at that time that I would not attempt to reenter the escrow profession because escrow officers were being hired at one third to half the income we once enjoyed. I was burnt out and it didn't make sense to engage again in this extremely stressful field at the cost of my well-being and health. So I pursued my interest of photography and traveling the country has helped me hone my skills.
I've read in one of your blog posts that you call your RV "The Beast." Is there a story behind the name? How did you find The Beast and did you have him/her/it modified?
Last year, 2012, after Rob had been retired about a year and a half, he came across an article in one of his paragliding magazines, which he showed to me. It was about a fly-in to be held in Colorado and I said, "Let's go!" So we registered for the event, packed up our tent-trailer, and headed to Colorado. We immediately wondered why we hadn't been doing this all along. We'd gotten into a sad rut. While on the road, we would pass all these motorhomes and we'd sigh and say to each other, "Wouldn't it be so great to do that?" We'd said that same thing to each other many times over the 30 years we'd known one another.
At each campground we stayed, Rob queried so many people who were full-timers that, by the time we were headed back home to California, we were considering how we could make that dream happen. We decided that when we got home I'd begin doing internet research into makes, models and manufacturers of RVs. That was about July 9th.
After five days of research, we set out on a Saturday to take a look at what was for sale at a couple RV dealers. The first one had three models that fit what we thought were our requirements: 34 to 36 foot Class A. I made extensive notes on the likes and dislikes of each. Then we decided to head up the road to Camping World, where we were met by a great guy and salesman, Smitty. We told him what we were looking for and he told us there was really nothing on the lot that fit our requirements but we were welcome to look around. He walked and chatted with us and nearly kowtowed to Rob when he found out that Rob is a Viet Nam vet, and started calling him 'Murdock' from the "A-Team".
As we were walking, we came across this huge 40 foot Class A, which was beyond the size we wanted as well as the price tag. I asked if we could see it anyway even knowing that we wouldn't buy it. Well, long story short, we, um, bought it. Yes, we did. And neither of us slept that night! It is a 2003 Itasca Horizon 39qd and it couldn't be more perfect for us if we had designed it ourselves. So it had been a total of 14 days from decision to driving The Beast home.
The Beast got its name pretty much from the day Rob drove it home. There is a stretch of freeway that is commonly windy and the day Rob drove it home it was uncommonly windy. He pulled up in front of our house, stepped out of the motorhome and said, "that thing is a beast!" Then several weeks later, we took The Beast to the Costco parking lot on a Sunday afternoon, waited for the place to close and the last employee to leave, and I drove it for the first time. I'll tell you, I wiped out several imaginary cars that day. I had to agree: It was a Beast! So, thus, the name. Affectionately, The Beast.
There are several reasons why The Beast is perfect for us: First, there is the perfect place for Rob to have his laptop in the lounge area where he can attend to our investments and watch the financial news at the same time. Second, the bedroom is outfitted with a 'vanity' with a knee hole where one can use a chair. This is my desk upon which my 21 inch iMac sits. A necessity for photo processing. Third, this model was built with a dinette with bench seats. Instead of having drawers that pull out of the ends for extra storage, the seats lift to expose a carpet lined storage compartment. Under one bench seat, we lined it with quarter inch plexi-glass, sealed, with a hole cut out of the side, as well as a hole cut out of the front of the bench panel. We installed a kitty door and created a built-in litter box space for our cats. Rob even went so far as to vent the area to the outdoors using a screen covered hose and a fifth-wheel battery vent cover.
What were the biggest adjustments you had to make when you first started living the RV lifestyle?
Truly, after letting go of the stuff that filled our house, the only real adjustments we had to make was learning to simply go with the flow and never feel that any pre-arranged plans were set in stone. After the grind of working and raising a family where structure was a central aspect of life, we had to rediscover and embrace spontaneity.
Was there a moment in the first few months of your full-time RVing when you thought that the life wasn't for you after all? How did you deal with it?
My brother is a long-haul trucker and recommended that we take an extended trip of two or three months to make sure we really wanted to live this life full-time. It was excellent advice and we did exactly what he suggested. After hosting our last big Thanksgiving by making sure all our daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren attended, we hit the road for two months. By the end of it, we did not want to come home. So, for us, we have yet to feel any remorse. On days when we feel a little bored, like after spending several days cooped up because of rain or some such thing, I remind myself that I could be just as bored in our house, too, but at least in The Beast, we have a different view to look at on a regular basis. But there's nothing like cabin fever in an RV!
What's the biggest challenge you've had to face as full-time RVers so far?
We live on a fixed income so, for me, the biggest challenge is not to feel like Chicken Little when something 'goes wrong' or requires repair on The Beast. We've learned from day one, and from talking with others, that whether old or new, it's always something when it comes to motorhomes. Rob can fix anything, but I still feel sometimes like the sky is falling.
I understand you have furry friends traveling with you. How did your cats cope with living in an RV and traveling all over the country?
We started out traveling with two cats and a bird. We increased that number to three when we adopted a starving cat left behind in a campground. Our cats adjusted once they became familiar with their surroundings. It took longer for them to adjust to being on the move. One cat, our little girl Brandy, took to hiding next to the litter box, which she still does. Her brother, Louis, has a tendency to get carsick, but he finds he feels better if he just stays put on the couch where he can see out the windshield and me. Our new addition, Spooky (named for being all black and adopted by us on Halloween), just goes with flow. Our parakeet, Ollie, gets his cage bungie-corded down to the dinette table and acts like everything is normal while on the move, but otherwise lives atop the dashboard entertaining anyone who notices him as they're passing by. I am always surprised at how well everyone, human and otherwise, has taken to this life.
What do you love most about being full-timers? Are there activities you love doing now that you weren't able to do before you went full-time?
I had become almost a hermit before making this huge change in our lives. I was no longer interested in going out into the densely populated area in which we lived, driving in traffic and seeing the same-old, same-old all the time. What I love most about being full-time RVers is seeing new places and meeting new people. In fact, we altered our plans and are staying at an RV park with people we met in August while in West Virginia, whom we now count as good friends.
As we move around the country we look for places where Rob can do some paragliding. I follow with my camera. We bought an inflatable kayak so we can enjoy paddling in the rivers and creeks of the places we explore as well.
Of all the places you've been to so far, do you have a particular favorite that you see yourselves visiting again?
We both really loved West Virginia. It is a beautiful state and there are so many pretty places to visit. We haven't seen even a microscopic portion of what that state has to offer. I do want to return, but not until more of the country is marked up on our atlas.
What do you consider to be the most memorable moment in your RVing adventure?
Rob's most memorable moment in our RVing adventure was visiting the Steamboat Arabia Museum in Kansas City, Missouri. It was quite well done and fascinating. I won't spoil it for you. You have to see it for yourselves. My most memorable moment was finding our bedroom slide leaking on my side of the bed during a severe rainstorm. It was a simple fix once Rob figured out where and why it was leaking, but waking to the steady drip, drip, along with sopping it all up with towels in the middle of the night left an indelible imprint on my mind. Sigh.
Now that you have a period of full-timing under your belt, what advice would you give those still aspiring to become full-time RVers but not yet quite there?
Believe it or not, we have been full-timing for only seven months. For those who are thinking about becoming full-time RVers but aren't sure about what to do with their belongings or whether or not to sell their homes, I say this: Do as my brother suggested and take an extended trip. Make sure it feels right to you. If you decide to do it, rent out your homes, but don't sell until you know in your heart that it is the right move for you and/or you're sure you don't want to settle in the same area again in the future. When it comes to your belongings, make note while you are on your extended trip whether you even think about or miss all that 'stuff' you've collected, thought you needed or just had to have, over the years. If you don't miss it, sell it. You'll know what's important to keep. But otherwise, it's just stuff. You can't take it with you when you die, and you only live once.
When we made the decision to do this, the thing that helped me overcome my doubts was a line from the movie 'The Shawshank Redemption.' In the scene after Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), got out of solitary confinement, he tells Red (Morgan Freeman) that you have a choice to make in life: You can either 'get busy living or get busy dying.' We chose to get busy living-while we still can.
You can follow Rob and Linda's RV adventures through their blog, Class A Boomers. You can also view Linda's work as a photographer at Casa Linda Photography.
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