“It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” ~Ursula K. Le Guin
That quote, or a version of it, has sorta been my mantra for a long time. Since the summer after high school graduation, when I went on a month-long trip to Europe, I’ve had a yearning for travel. It’s why I enlisted in the military; “Join the Navy and See the World…” I suppose I could go back even further to when I was younger, to all those fun summertime family camping vacations from our home in Arizona to Wyoming, Colorado, or some other western state, mostly so Dad could fish for trout at a scenic mountain lake or river. Of course I didn’t appreciate it then, I was just a kid impatiently waiting in the camper, staring out the window until we got there, wherever “there” was so I could go exploring. Are we there yet? I guess I was just born with itchy feet.
And then many decades later I developed chronic hitch-itch, a pleasant condition created by full-time RV living and a desire to see what’s around the bend. Sherry, Dixie and I hit the road 13 years ago and we’ve been scratching that itch un-regrettably ever since. But there’s change a-coming and I have another quote to share…
“I think I’m done writing the blog for a while.” ~Jon Hockersmith
I’ll explain that later, first I want to re-share the beginning of our story. The following is an excerpt from the first page of my blog…
October 17, 2009 Day numbah one of a new lifestyle. What a wicked good feeling to finally be on the road, starting a somewhat whole new way of life for us—full-time RVers. We left Jellystone Park this afternoon turning right at the exit which immediately pointed us in the desired direction—South. South ‘cause that’s where Florida is located relative to New England.
This is the beginning of a journey we hope will last many years. We’ve planned and prepared for this day and the new lifestyle for years. In fact, I can trace it back to sometime in 1998, I think, when a Navy friend I worked with at Combat Camera in Norfolk retired and headed to Idaho with his bride to do seasonal work on some remote BLM land, live in a mobile home provided by the government, and receive a small monthly stipend. He told me there are lots of “workamping” opportunities like this and referred me to the Workamper News magazine and website, a resource for finding these jobs. I was instantly hooked on the idea of traveling around the country in order to be able to work and live in a variety of locations, most of which are vacation destinations. Yellowstone was always my favorite example back then when gushing about workamping to Sherry…imagine spending a whole summer there so you could really explore the park, while at the same time getting a paycheck. Well, work would be necessary, but it’d be worth it.
So, the seed was planted in ’98. I never stopped wondering about how/if Sherry and I could do that. For those not familiar with workamping, the lifestyle generally involves living in an RV of some sort, as many jobs are in campgrounds or provide sites as part of the deal, and having a home on wheels just makes sense when chasing seasonal jobs all over the country. Therefore, the tough sell would be Sherry. She liked living in a sticks and bricks home, having a base, and most of all, having stuff. Although she loved camping and traveling – heck, we tent-camped on a pseudo honeymoon trip from Washington to Arizona – and we had many adventures in two different pop-up trailers, getting her to LIVE in a trailer was altogether different. She was never fond of the idea when I shared my workamping fantasies with her prior to my retirement in 2003. At one point she was kind and supportive enough to say to me “Jon, why don’t you go do it. Go to Yellowstone for a summer and get it out of your system.” Bless her heart. “…get it out of my system.” Right.
There had to be way… So I approached her from a different angle. In the summer of 2003, while on a well-planned three and half month terminal leave, we hit the road pulling a 24-foot travel trailer. Retiring from the Navy, we were moving from Rhode Island to New Hampshire by way of Alaska. Calling it the Big Trip, we traveled more than 15,000 miles that wonderful summer and our home was an 8 X 24 box on wheels filled with just the stuff we needed including our two cats (copies of that trip journal are still available!). Sherry enjoyed nearly every minute – there was a nasty canoe paddling incident one windy day – and she softened to the idea of doing it full time.
We went on to our post-Navy life in New Hampshire; our nice log home, building wood boats for a little while, and college–Sherry on staff and me in class. We liked New England and our home but eventually we both realized we had itchy feet. Every three or four years during the first 15 years of our marriage we transferred to a new area and had fun exploring new places and seeing the sites. We missed that. But how could we travel AND earn a living. Hmmm.
“Hey Sherry, what about workamping? We could buy us a big ol’ trailer, one that has a space for you to work on stamping and crafts, and is set up for comfortable living. We could work down south in the winter so you wouldn’t have to drive on the snow and ice we occasionally get during New England winters. Remember how much fun we had on the Big Trip?”
That was the hard part, selling it to Sherry. But I was patient and persistent. She’ll say it was her idea. I respond thusly: “Yes dear.”
The easy part was selling our home. That happened last summer and coincidentally our new 35-foot fifth wheel trailer was delivered from a dealer in South Dakota about that time. Several yard sales and donations took care of most of the stuff, and by mid July we were living in the trailer in nearby Jellystone Park Camp Resort, a campground which by another coincidence was my employer the past four summers, where I was getting valuable workamper experience. Most importantly, working there helped answer the question “could I work in a campground full of screaming kids and costumed cartoon characters?”
We wintered in a small rented cottage on Loon Lake in Plymouth. Sherry continued to work at Plymouth State and my job was to keep Dixie (our little Muggin) and Sherry fed and exercised, as well as clean up after them. In February we bought a great used Chevy 1-ton dually set up for towing a 5th wheel from a nice couple who gave up traveling the country, and I used it in March to deliver a load of goods to Sherry’s mom in Texas (stuff we didn’t want to get rid of but couldn’t carry in the trailer).
In the spring, May 3rd to be exact, we moved back into the trailer at Jellystone. Technically this should be the date we began the full-time RV lifestyle, maybe we should refer to it as the “soft” date we started. Fast forward through a normal summer at Jellystone, which included selling a few more big ticket items – a car, teardrop trailer, canoe trailer, the Voyager strip canoe, some antiques…and we’re ready to hit the road today. The only kink was the Jeep; we haven’t been able to sell it yet, dangit! All our planning and preparing, really since 1998 when the seed was planted, has paid off and we’re able to enter this new lifestyle fairly well set. There were/are a thousand details to consider in making the transition to an RV life, but we were fortunate enough to have the time – a year and a half, and employer – Jellystone, to make it possible and less stressful.
So…somewhere in the middle of all that we swapped the “sticks and bricks” for a wood/fiberglass/metal box on wheels. Soon we’ll be swapping the full-time RVer lifestyle for the part-time Snowbird RVer lifestyle. The beach house we bought last year in Washington will be our summer home, and we’ll spend the winters in Arizona in The Fox, our current trailer.
Next April we’ll haul our stuff — new stuff we’ve acquired and carried around since getting rid of the old stuff along with the stuff we never got rid of — up to Washington and move in. In a nutshell, we’re coming to the end we’ve journeyed towards.
Therefore, since we are parked at Mom’s house until then and will be doing pretty much what we’ve always done during the winters here, everyday things that you may have already read about or cheerfully skipped over in years past, I’m gonna take a sabbatical from doing the blog every two weeks. The next time we hitch up will be in the spring when we beeline to Washington, then after that maybe not again until October or November when we head south again. Not sure when I’ll post again. The long term plan is to travel overseas and spend some time exploring our neighbor’s exotic backyards, which you know really means “go geocaching” in foreign lands, when we sadly lose our little Dixie anchor. I’ll probably write up those trips and any longer RV trips we go on, perhaps the occasional hiking/backpacking/canoeing photo treks I do, and Sherry has plans to drive Route 66 from Chicago to LA sometime. We’ll need something in writing to refer back to when we’re sitting in our porch rockers someday reminiscing about that trip to Taiwan…or was it Italy?…it had a T in it…when was that?
To kinda memorialize our extended road trip I recently spent several hours reading through the blog from day one in order to roughly trace out our journey since 2009 on a map suitable for hanging above the mantle, or in a closet Sherry says. Now you know why I always included the boring route details every time we hitched up…to give my aging brain assistance in creating this work of art. I chose a blue sharpie in honor of the book Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon, an inspiring roadtrip book that helped me figure myself out in the early 1980s. We’ve covered a lot of asphalt and dirt roads, touched every state (well, not Hawaii), commonwealth, and district, but you can see there’s some gaps. Future trips?
Thank you for subscribing and reading my blog but please don’t give up on us, we’re not going away. I’m just going to pause the bi-monthly dose of wherervgoing-Metamucil.
Life is Good!
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time