By Eldon and Bonny Parker, F144217
Our meandering, adventurous full-time RV journey has taken us through 46 states, countless national and state parks, Forest Service lands, historical sites and museums, busy cities, and quaint villages.
We’ve traveled through California, Oregon, and Washington on Interstate 5, and have taken the Pacific coast highways, chiseled into cliffs above tidal pools teeming with marine life. We’ve driven across the United States to Interstate 95 and the Atlantic coast, following meandering roads that led to lighthouses and fishing villages surrounded by jagged coastlines. We cruised along Interstate 10 through the Gulf Coast states, across the vastness of Texas, and past the deserts and mountains of the Southwest. We tooled across the Northern states on interstates 90, 94, and 80 through rugged, snowcapped mountains to the plains and their endless fields of grain, and to the Great Lakes and beyond. We logged many miles crisscrossing the interior states on scenic byways, historical cobblestone lanes, and back roads, where every turn offered a surprise. Sometimes we stopped along the way for days and weeks at a time, or just long enough to enjoy a quiet stroll or an invigorating hike.
We rode our bikes hundreds of miles, as a challenge, sometimes in the rain. We purchased a towed car with climate control and a never-tiring engine, extending our range for day trips from 15 miles a day to whatever.
We stayed in small Forest Service campgrounds among some of the most spectacular scenery, and in full-service resort campgrounds that offer everything but room service. We attended FMCA conventions with occupants of more than 4,000 other coaches, having access to more events, activities, seminars, and coach displays than any two people could see or attend in the time allotted. We met special friends at some of our favorite places and made new friends along the way.
We wore shorts for so long a time that slacks felt uncomfortable. When seeing a person without a tan, we wondered if he had been under the weather. We were caught in a snowstorm above the timberline in July and walked on a quiet, warm, sunny Gulf Coast beach in January. Both times we thought, “This doesn’t make sense; have the seasons flip-flopped?”
We visited historical sites steeped with the nation’s beginnings on the East Coast. In the Southwest, we inspected cliff houses built into canyon walls, which sheltered the earliest stewards of our land. We walked in the silent footsteps of the pioneers, reading their names carved in the cliffs along the wagon trails west. We grew misty-eyed as we observed the battlefields of Gettysburg. We walked through the stage sets from the movie Dances With Wolves and wondered, “Will man ever learn?”
We peered into the depths of colorful canyons, and jumped across the beginnings of great rivers that eroded those natural wonders. From a mountain campground 2 miles high, we viewed a night sky so clear that the closest stars resembled aircraft landing lights, framed by a light show in the distance that surpassed anything humans can produce.
We drove up an unexpected 14 percent grade in the lowest gear possible, on a curvy, one-lane road that struck terror in our hearts until we leveled out. We took a shortcut on a barely visible road on our map and encountered a 10-foot-high tunnel that mandated a seesaw method of turning around, while Bonny stopped traffic and endured the comments. We drove maintenance-free for many enjoyable miles. We spent the night inside a service center waiting for a part to be delivered the next day, listening to the quiet of a thousand tools at rest, with only the creaking sounds of a metal roof keeping us company as the sun went down.
We dined on Southern food in a haunted tavern in Natchez, Tennessee, and ate fresh lobster on a wharf on the coast of Maine. We fried trout over an open fire in Wyoming, with mosquitoes as our guests. We dined in style overlooking the 18th hole at Pebble Beach. But we found that nothing can compare to enjoying a sunset while sharing a meal by candlelight in our coach.
We have awakened in the middle of the night, wondering where we are.
We’ve sat on the floor of our rocking coach, riding out a violent Wyoming dust storm. We endured 14 inches of rain during a nor’easter on Cape Cod. We experienced a 40-minute hailstorm in Colorado, watching the balls of ice crash through our coach skylight. We took cover in a basement with more than 40 other people and five dogs while a tornado missed us by the width of a Nebraska interstate road. We drove for endless miles under a blue sky dotted with puffy white clouds.
We suffered through the loss of our beloved Irish setter, our traveling companion of many years, remembering the joy he brought us. We adopted an English cocker spaniel several months later, who helped fill the void in our lives and became our pint-sized companion.
We observed delicate wildflowers high in the harsh environment of the tundra, and flowers in the lowlands and swamps that were so large they appeared to come from a fairytale book. We observed so many species of birds and animals in their natural habitat that the Discovery Channel seems old hat.
We became part of events that will stay fresh in our minds forever. We said good-bye to Keiko the whale, star of the movie Free Willy, on the Oregon coast before its departure to Greenland. We observed members of the Blue Angels flight team practice over a secluded beach while dolphins played in the surf. We witnessed the awesome power of nature from a high mountain range as a storm split on both sides, leaving us in sunshine while lightning and rain flanked us. We observed a rescue on snow-covered Mount Hood, where an avalanche took its toll on a climbing expedition. We helped to save a little girl who fell off a fishing dock into the murky waters of a Southern bayou. We unwittingly encountered an elk “nursery” where a few mothers were feeding their young, and we watched over the calves while most of the mothers were feeding in the meadows. We drove into an area in Sacramento just as it was being roped off behind us, full of SWAT team members.
Having the time to study and better understand our historical beginnings from past to present helped us appreciate the United States’ constant struggle for independence. Observing the changing geologic features from coast to coast gave us an overall picture of how our continent was formed. We saw firsthand how fragile the earth is due to natural catastrophes and man’s past and present mistakes. This wealth of information helped us to understand how everything is interwoven.
We hope this provides a glimpse of why we chose our full-timing lifestyle. Not all who roam are lost!