Mike’s Story

“How’d you end up doing this?”

If I could have had a quarter for every time we’ve been asked that about our roadtreking.com RV blog we could buy another motorhome.

Here’s how:

This Roadtreking RV blog is a dream come true for me. Decades in the making, but now being lived out like one giant movie, seen through the wide expanse of my motorhome’s windshield as North America rolls on by. We can stop anytime, explore anywhere.

And we do, sharing it with you.

It’s all very much serendipity. Serendipity means  a “happy accident” or “pleasant surprise,”   something fun and useful and enjoyable that was discovered by happenstance along the way. That’s a perfect description of what we find every day in this new wandering life in a motorhome.

licenseplateIt started when my wife Jennifer and I bought a Roadtrek Class B motor home in early 2012 after years of dreaming. This blog is about seeing North America, enjoying our compact little motor home and then reporting the interesting stories about the people and places we come across. Most of the entries are mine, though recently I have invited a few guest bloggers to offer their expertise in RV travel and the small motorhome lifestyle as “Roadtreking Reporters.”

The goal is to share our Roadtreking life. I have to admit right at the start, I am not very mechanical. It took me an orientation session with my RV dealer to find out where the gas, ah, make that, diesel fueling point was on the vehicle. So this is not a blog aimed at tinkerers and mechanics.

It’s about the RV lifestyle our motorhome allows and the great things to see and do out there on the open road.

mikeinrtBy background, I’m a journalist. I have to tell stories. I love meeting people, learning and seeing new things, enjoying God’s awesome creation. Taking pictures. Making videos. I’ve been doing this for more than three decades, for major newspapers, TV networks, radio stations and magazines. I’ve written six books. I’ve won 18 EMMY awards, honors from the Associated Press, Ohio State University and Wayne State University. I’ve reported from all over Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Central America.

advI used to travel so much as a journalist that one of my employers, the Detroit News, once took an ad out in a journalism trade magazine referring to me as “one of America’s most well-traveled reporters.”

Much of that traveling was what we call “parachute journalism.” I’d fly in, cover the story and fly out, sometimes the same day, often using scenery and skylines as backdrops for my stand-up TV bits. I remembered so many times looking out at a mountain range or across some valley or in some small town or metropolis and longing to spend time, walk the streets, hike the trails, climb the hills, experience the sights and sounds and smells of a place. And, of course, meet the people. It seldom happened. There was always another story in another place on another deadline.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved those journalism days. I had a front row, window seat to history. I covered Presidents and movie stars, CEOs and government leaders and even the Queen of England and a Pope. Those were heady days.

emmyBut as I approached retirement age, I knew I missed a lot of stories out there over the years, stories about people, places and the things that make the U.S. and Canada such wonderful countries. The kind of good news and general interest stories hard-nosed editors and news directors tend to skip over in favor of the sensational and controversial. The world of big media today concentrates on strife and tragedy and bad news. It has little time for good news.

In retirement, as my own boss, I decided I wanted to go back and actually see and experience the country and tell those good news stories that I am convinced people are really hungry for.

A motorhome was my solution.

So I got one and, with wife, and dog, we set out to meet people, discover places and take to the the road in a world of $4 plus a gallon and climbing fuel costs.PicsV

The one work obligation I still have every week is with NBC-TV, where, since 1994, I report on personal technology. I’m known there as

mikejentai

“PC Mike” and my reports are sent weekly to the NBC Newschannel service which distributes my “PC Mike” report to all 215 stations each week.

That’s all possible because of a 4g LTE mobile connection from Verizon Wireless.  I use that connection to report, write and file my Roadtreking stories, post my videos and photos, update this blog and even send my edited “PC Mike” story to NBC each week, all from my motorhome as I travel North America discovering all the interesting people and places I didn’t have time to meet when I was a news reporter working for newspapers or TV stations. But technology, like the motorhome, is a big part of my life and being able to try out new tech toys and stay connected while on the road makes every day an adventure. You can read about my tech gear here.

Right now, we’re traveling in a 2013 Roadtrek eTrek, an eco-friendly, solar-powered Class B motorhome built on the Mercedes Sprinter chassis. We chose the eTrek because we love to “boondock,” to stay in remote places, off the commercial power grid, typically in natonal or state forests, National Parks or wilderness areas. The eTrek allows us to be self contained for long periods of time. rtetThere is no propane system or conventional generator. Heat comes from an industry-leading Webasto diesel powered combination water heater and furnace. Electrical power generation is provided by a 3500 watt generator mounted to the van’s diesel engine that can charge eight dead auxiliary batteries in only 40 minutes. Supplemental power comes from a 240 watt solar charging system. All this reserve power is stored in eight 6 volt AGM batteries (1600 amp. hours) and distributed directly to 12 volt lights and appliances and through a 5000 watt inverter to 110 volt appliances like the air conditioner, inductive stove, instant drinking water heater and convection/microwave oven. The system features surge protection, power monitoring, battery minder/balancer, and solar charge controller.

We began this blog in March 2012. Sicne then, we have covered about 70,00 miles. Typically, we mark out a route, identify a few spots we want to be sure to visit and then take off, stopping when we want or find something that interests us. An old editor of mine once told me that “every person has a story to tell.” My journalism career has shown me that to be very true. It’s the same with most places. Places have stories, too. So we like to wander, chat up the people we meet, and start taking photos and videos. Usually, we return with more stories than we can do.

We try to travel year round, even to cold, snowy places in the winter. We have driven the eTrek to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and the North Lake Superior shore of Minnesota in the month of January, where we found a winter winter wonderland that most people never see. There was 28 inches of snow on the level ground and one night, deep in the wilderness, it got down to -21 degrees F. It was an awesome experience. We slept snug and warm inside our eTrek and realized winter is no excuse to put the RV in storage.

mikjenTypically, we’re on the road two to three weeks every month. We’re not fulltimers. We need grandkid fixes. So we return to our Michigan home for at least a week or so every month.

We also like to visit RV rallies and events. A highlight for us is the Family Motor Home Association reunions each year. In 2014, it will be in Redmond, OR. I am the official on-the-road reporter for the FMCA and author the Open Mike column each month in Family Motor Coach Magazine.

Some people have looked at our schedule and the amount of material we produce and laugh. “I thought you retired,” they’ll say.

As a matter of fact, I’m probably writing and reporting more now than I did when I was a fulltime employee of the various news outfits I’ve worked for over the years. But the difference is I’m my own boss and telling the stories I want to tell. That makes it not like a job at all.

Truth is, though, that if I’m not careful, Roadtreking.com could become all-consuming. The blog has been growing so fast that we also started a weekly RV newsletter. We opened an online store for RV related clothing and accessories. Our Facebook Page is approaching 200,000 “Likes.” Roadtrek Motorhomes helps support our work here and we have picked up other sponsors for various projects. My son, Jeff, has pitched in to help run the “enterprise” so I can concentrate on traveling, content development and reporting.

We have a number of excellent writers also contributing to the blog, folks like the legendary “Campskunk,” who fulltimes in a Roadtrek with his wife and pet cat, Fiona the Fearless. Roger and Lynn Brucker, two veteran Roadtrekers who are experts at do-it-yourself motohome projects, also contribute, as do a couple of solo female travelers, Janet Arnold, a recent widow from California, and Laura Robinson, a St. Louis area photographer. Yan Seiner, an engineer who loves wilderness camping, is a recent addition to the team and even Jim Hammill, the President of Roadtrek motorhomes, has been know to write an occasional blog post.

I should point out that while Roadtrek Motorhomes is a sponsoring partner for this blog and my newsletter and we have a warm and close relationship that has given me frequent access to company executives and the Roadtrek factory in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, I am not an official employee of Roadtrek. I am an independent journalist that happens to love the Class B motorhome lifestyle. The blog is a labor of love. It is all my own work and that of the Roadtreking Reporters who contribute, and even if I didn’t have any advertisers, I’d still be publishing it.

Like I said, I have to tell stories. It’s in my DNA, I guess.

For the record, Jennifer and I have been married for more than 40 years. Our brick and mortar home is in Oakland, MI. We have three grown children and six grandchildren. Our son, Scott, lives in southwest Georgia with his wife, Lauri, and four sons. Our daughter, Wendy, lives in suburban Detroit with husband, Dan, and two daughters; and son Jeff lives with wife, Aimee, in Kalamazoo, MI.

Jennifer is a certified fitness instructor by occupation, specializing is water exercise. Besides journalism, we’ve both been very active at our church and have led in-depth Bible studies for many years. In addition to RVing, I  enjoy bicycling, SCUBA diving, kayaking  and fishing.

roadOne of the joys of doing all this is working with my wife, who now appears regularly with me in reporting our Roadtreking stories in the “How We Roll in our RV” series of reports that answer reader questions.. That’s not to say that there sometimes isn’t conflict.  Jennifer insists on working out and exercising while on the road. We’re not talking campground strolls, bike rides and hikes – all of which we do. We’re talking hard core workouts. In a gym. A constant challenge for me in our travels is finding a health club or workout facility for Jennifer. I’ve learned that unless she gets in a workout three or four times a week, things in the confined space of our motorhome can get a bit strained.

For her part, Jennifer has had to adjust to the unpredictability of my serendipity style. “Where are we going to spend the night,” she’ll ask? I seldom know. I am not one for making reservations. There are too many variables out there, places and people that make me spontaneously pull off the road and strike up conversations that could lead us to a totally unexpected delight of a story just around the bend.

You can read and watch many of them here on the blog.

I welcome your comments and feedback and thank you for visiting this blog. You can reach me at http://roadtreking.com/contact.

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