The son of motorhomers is now carrying on a tradition started by his father in 1971.
By Terry D. Gilbert, F234674
There it was, a dream come true, parked in his own driveway. It surely was an impressive piece of machinery: a sturdy-looking tan-and-brown motorhome.
The year was 1964, and the Clark Cortez was among the first breeds of type A manufactured coaches on the market. Dad had just become the proud owner of one. The Cortez had a low center of gravity, front-wheel drive, and a standard gearbox; it was powered by a Chrysler slant six-cylinder engine and delivered 14 miles per gallon. The interior appointments were very comfortable, with a built-in bath and shower, and the coach could sleep six. I could just see Dad light up as he took his seat behind the wheel. It truly was a well-built machine, and the quality was, as I learned in later years, well above average.
Dad had always had the travel bug, which could be attested by my brother, sister, mother, and me. Our vacations consisted of extensive auto travel through many parts of the United States. Now Dad could travel in a motorhome instead.
And so could I and my wife, Lois, and our two small girls. You see, Dad was a generous father. He gave my family and my brother’s family many opportunities to use his motorhome. Dad owned his own business, so he could be flexible when choosing time away from work. He gave us first pick on the usage of the Cortez.
In 1964, a unit like the Cortez was something of a rarity. We remember the time we were parked at an amusement park and someone knocked on the side window and asked if we were selling ice cream.
Lois and my brother’s wife were both very particular about cleanliness; each time we returned from an outing in the motorhome, the wives tried to make the coach sparkle a little more than it did before we left. Already two generations had been bitten by the RV lifestyle.
Dad kept the Cortez until 1971, when he ordered a new Superior motorhome with a Dodge V-8 engine on a larger wheelbase. But it was hard to beat the quality of the Cortez. The Superior proved to be a pretty rugged piece of equipment; however, we missed the ride of the Cortez, with its low center of gravity and shorter drive shaft.
My lasting memory of the Superior was the first vacation that my family and I took in it, in the summer of 1971. We had scheduled our trip before Dad made the trade. The Superior came into the family just two or three days before we were ready to go. I said, “Dad, we don’t want to be the first to take the new motorhome. After all, it is ‘your’ motorhome and you and Mother should be the first to break it in.” Of course, Dad refused to disrupt our plans, and a few days later we took off in the brand-new Superior. It was a great vacation, and thank goodness we didn’t put any scratches on that new coach.
Dad and Mother began to use the motorhome more often, because Dad needed more time off from his demanding work. By the time Dad was 55, in 1971, he announced that he intended to sell his business, which my brother bought. Mom and Dad then sold the family home and made plans to live full-time in the Superior. I still remember the day they officially became full-timers. The entire family was on hand to wish them bon voyage as they pulled out of the driveway for the last time in the Superior, with a compact car in tow.
They weren’t on the road very long until they felt the need for a larger unit, and moved into a new 1976 Airstream Argosy. This officially concluded the sharing of the motorhome with the “boys.” Dad and Mother were on the road for eight years before they purchased another home. They said many times that it was one of the most memorable times of their lives.
In 1981 we saw our first opportunity to buy a small RV for travel. By then our two girls were grown and in college. The little Mobile Traveler was just the ticket for us. We enjoy antique cars, and were able to travel to many shows across the country and be right where the action was by staying nearby in the motorhome.
Of course, by 1986 we “needed” a 25-foot type A, and by 1992 a 27-foot type A came along. I also had my own business, and like Dad, by the time I hit my early 50s I was ready for a lifestyle change. So in 1997, after selling my business and our home, Lois and I moved into a 37-foot diesel pusher with a super slideout, and hit the road as second-generation full-timers.
The story doesn’t end there. We are currently in our fifth year on the road, enjoying the great lifestyle motorhome living affords. We know that we don’t want to do this for the rest of our lives, however, and at some point we are going to “settle down.” We originally said that we would take five years and travel across the United States, keeping a keen eye open for a place where we would like to put down roots. We have a list started and it’s quite varied; but, for now and for some time to come, we will be traveling down the highways.
It feels good not to have a tight schedule, but we do find pleasure in volunteering, and have done so at a national park. I have time to pursue my bicycling. My bike odometer tells me that I have traveled nearly 14,000 miles in five years — that’s a lot of pedaling. I also find fishing to be an interesting hobby. Lois is a cartoon portrait artist, and she gains plenty of satisfaction making use of that talent. But perhaps the best bonus of full-timing is the experience we gain from meeting other fine people across this country. We do believe that we are purpose-driven, hoping to make a difference wherever we find ourselves. I like the phrase that most of you have heard: “Bloom where you are planted.” Our desire is to encourage all those we meet and ask God’s blessing on their lives.
So, there it is: a dream has come true for two generations of one family. The dream started with that new Clark Cortez back in 1964. Dad didn’t live long enough to see us traveling in our 1998 diesel pusher, but if he could, he would be reliving his dream, enjoying some of the best times of his life. Of course, Mother shared those experiences, and she still enjoys an occasional trip with us.