"Life is like a box of chocolates," famously said Forrest Gump, "...you never know what you're gonna get." What do you do if you bite into peppermint crème when your favorite is caramel nut? For RVers, like everyone else, life happens. So what do you do when you find yourself single in an RV world that is mostly geared towards couples? For a group of kindred spirits, you happily RV on.
Loners on Wheels is an RV club of single men and women who enjoy campouts, RVing, traveling and spending time with other interesting people. "It's not a find-a-mate, make-a-date club," emphasizes Christine Beliveau, President of the Loners on Wheels (LoWs) Penn Chapter. It is a place where companionship, friendship and hugs are offered with all good intentions.
"I had lost my husband eight years ago and then had to have a knee replacement, so I was feeling pretty down." It was at one of these fateful appointments that Christine's doctor handed her a news clipping of a meeting of singles with rigs. "Camping really is made for couples. When you're by yourself in a group, it can be awkward. It's the little things like where do you sit?" At Loners on Wheels, awkward is replaced with fun.
According to Christine, every campout has fun to it. She organizes many of the Penn Chapter RV trips. "We are not just art lovers. We went to a demolition derby in September!" Christine even keeps a "basket of twiddlies" in her RV for campouts. These puzzles and fun fiddly things are brought out 'round the campfire to stir up giggles and foster team work, and this connection extends well beyond campouts. "We are interested in each other's lives. We call each other when someone is ill. Grandchildren will camp together. LoWs have become my second family."
In thinking of Loners on Wheels as family, Christine is not alone. After Fran 'Frankie' Grochowski's husband was killed seven years ago, it was difficult for her to pick up the pieces. She had always loved RVing, but getting back in the driver's seat took a lot of courage and a little bit of encouragement. As seasoned RVers will tell you, there is a routine that we all fall into. Whether it is working the dump stations, getting the campfire going or reversing into the camp site. Frankie had a Class C, and when she first arrived at Texas Longhorn campouts, she recalls that "all the men would come out to watch her park. It was entertainment for the night!"
For most Loners on Wheels, it is about getting back out there. Frankie eventually built up the courage to travel through Alaska, Maine and South Dakota by herself. One of the funny moments she recalls is when she met a man who was shocked to hear that she was RVing by herself. He disappeared home, returning later with a can of mace for her, for protection! In Missouri her love for RVing inspired a woman to jokingly declare in front of her bewildered husband, "When he dies that's what I'm gonna do!" Frankie loves the people - "I don't know what I'd do without LoWs!" - she loves the welcome committee hugs on arrival, but most of all she loves the dancing. She'll be first in line at April's Dance Rally in Bandera, TX.
For many others, being part of Loners on Wheels has helped them to get into an RV rhythm. LoW Road Runner club's Marcia Griffith says, "I have met so many wonderful friends and have learned so much from everyone that has had much more experience than I." Judith Blazer, a professor who RVs with the Penn Club says, "The people are extremely diverse - everything from professionals, employed, retired, stay-at-homers, men and women, black and white. What is also great is that the people are nonjudgmental. I love that. We eat together or not, potluck together or not, gather around the campfires or not, and visit local interesting sites or not."
It is this well balanced paradox - freedom and a sense of connection - that attracts most singles to LoWs. Although united under the national Loners on Wheels singles club, each chapter has unique campout rituals. Joel Kiester joined the Colorado Hi-LoWs after he retired. "We have coffee hour (and recently pancakes) every morning, a 4 PM Happy Hour, maybe a group dinner, weather permitting a campfire. And a lunch potluck." At LoWs it is all about lending a hand, "a number of the widows had done a lot of camping with their husbands, who did most of the chores of camping, like backing into a camping site, hooking up, and other RV chores, and they had to learn. Most of us guys were always glad to help anyone who wanted help, and a few did NOT want any help. They can do it themselves. It's the people who make it a great community." Joel had tried other travel clubs for single travelers but decided to take off with Loners on Wheels as it "seemed a larger and more friendly, less regimented, group." With over 50 members in the Colorado Hi-LoWs it is one of the most active chapters and many out-of-state Loners drop by this popular destination and enjoy the open door hospitality.
The fun, community and hospitality that Loners on Wheels offers has inspired many kindred spirits to follow in their footsteps. Leonard is a self professed dreamer. After going to his first campout, like many "Loners", he recognized he had met other kindred spirits. Leonard had always wanted to be a full timer. "It changed my life. I met people out there who have been going to this for years. Some had more than I had, others had less, but somehow they managed to make it work. It dawned on me that if they could, then I could too!" And with that epiphany, Leonard headed across the country to Deming, NM (the Loners on Wheels Ranch and headquarters) in a school bus conversion. "I had made up my mind to full time come October. It had been a dream for a long time."
RVing is most fun when enjoyed with others, but for people who find themselves as a 'single' it can be a little more challenging. For these wonderfully courageous travelers, the journey has not ended when two becomes one. These stories are special, but not unique. If life is like a box of chocolates, then perhaps for those brought together by Loners on Wheels, it is truly a sweet surprise.
Many thanks to Christine Beliveau, Fran Grochowski, Marcia Griffith, Judith Blazer, Joel Kiester, Leonard, Heather, Eve Lurie, Charles Nelson, Elizabeth Kieffer, Bill Houston and Barbara Schow for their generous contributions to this article. There are many Loners on Wheels Chapters across the USA, Canada and Mexico, you can visit Loners on Wheels to find one near you.
Copyright ©2012 Camping Road Trip, LLC
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