Our RV Life: Discovering the beauty beneath the blur

All my life as a journalist- for more than three decades – I’ve been on deadline.

The presses would roll, the red light on the studio camera would blink on and, that was it.  I had to be ready. Done. No more time.

So the clock ruled my days. I was single-mindedly focused on finishing, getting to press time or air time. Then, I could breathe a little… and get ready for the next day.

It was a wild, crazy, fun, frustrating and high adrenaline occupation and I wouldn’t have traded it for the world.

falls

Noccalula Falls near Gadsden, AL where the statue commemorates a lovesick Indian maiden's legendary plunge over the falls. The statue was made from pennies collected by schoolchildren.

But last year, as I neared retirement age, I couldn’t help but get excited at the prospect of life NOT on deadline.

That's how I have been living the past 18 months.

I have to admit,  old habits are hard to put aside.

“Why are we in such a hurry?” my wife Jennifer asked on our first multistate trip in our new Roadtrek back in the spring of 2012. I was 600 miles in on the first day and getting crabby. I wanted to make 800.

“Because….,” I started to reply. Then I blanked. I couldn’t come up with a reason. I didn’t have to do 800 miles. In fact, there was no reason to be on the road as long as I had been that day. There was no deadline.

That was the first lesson I learned on the first day of the first trip.

It’s one I have to keep re-learning.

There is no hurry. The journey is just as important as the destination. Getting there is, indeed, half the fun.

The RV life is about being mobile, on the open road in our Class B motorhome, has taught me how to decompress.

lake superior sunset

Jennifer and our dog, Tai walk in a UP Michigan sunset along Lake Superior

So many times in my journalism career, I’ve flown over the country, chasing some story, heading somewhere, fast, on deadline.  I’d look down below from 35,000 feet and see a green and brown blur. Now, behind the wheel and on the ground in our Roadtrek, I’m discovering the beauty beneath the blur.  It is a magnificent land and being on it, instead of above it, is both soothing and stimulating.

I never thought I’d end up in an RV.

But in so many ways, it’s been the perfect choice for Jennifer and me. Not only are we able to connect with each other, we’re meeting other people and learning things I never did standing in front of a camera using the land as a backdrop for my standup, or pushing a pencil in a reporter’s notebook.

When you stop living on deadline, your eyes open wider.

Life becomes an adventure of serendipity.

Like the bit of history we picked up on a summer trip north to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and the southern shore of lake Superior.  Standing on a wilderness bluff next to a towering sand dune called the Log Slide, we learned that in the 1880’s lumberjacks slid 100-foot white pine logs down the dunes to the water, where they were gathered into huge booms and floated seven miles east to the town of Grand Marais.

frisandhills2

The beautiful golden sandhills of Nebraska

That sent us to that town and a delightful but seldom-visited little museum tucked away in a building once used as the post office. We spent an afternoon looking at old photographs and learning how Michigan’s lumber era was as lucrative as the California Gold Rush of the same era.

In Gadsen, Alabama,  we found a campground located on Black Creek and right next to the awesome 90-foot Noccalula Falls. There, instead of rushing back to the road the next morning, we lingered again over local history when we discovered the first statue of a person jumping off a cliff. The statue is of the Cherokee princess Noccalula who, according to local legend, plunged to her death after being ordered by her father to marry a man she didn’t love. It is made entirely of pennies collected from local school children in the mid-1960s.

And on a trip back to our Michigan home from Florida, We decided to pull off the interstate and travel the two-laned US 127, which roughly parallels I-75 north through Tennessee and Kentucky, anywhere from 10 to 50 miles to the west.  We leisurely made our way through scores of small, picturesque mountain communities and ended up at the Big Bone Lick State Park in northern Kentucky, about 35 miles south of Cincinnati. There we dug into America’s prehistoric past, learning about the bones of mammoths discovered there submerged in muck. President Thomas Jefferson has fossils found there in his personal collection.

Those are just three examples about things I’d never have seen if I were still living on deadline.  But because we were in our RV, staying right there, far from the look-alike chain hotels that cluster around the freeway interchanges, we were able to experience fascinating places that wouldn’t even have caused a blip on our GPS.

groupshotAO

Campfire friends

Then there are the campfires and the people we meet sitting around them, the help and suggestions they give us about living in a motorhome.  There are the bicycle rides on trails and roads we’d never ride if we weren’t able to haul our bikes on the back of our Roadtrek. And the special walks we take with our Norwegian Elkhound, Tai, who travels with us but would have to be left at home if we were hoteling it.

We've driven 42,000 miles in our Class B RV since March of 2012 and living out  this motorhome adventure.

I may not be living on deadline anymore. But I’m still a journalist at heart, this time telling the stories I want to tell about people and places I’d never experience if I wasn’t out there in my RV.

I look forward to meeting you down the road.





  • Maureen

    Well said Mike! We are so fortunate that you chose to share your new life and adventures with us.

  • Judi Darin

    Great essay Mike. And a great life philosophy.

  • Yolanda Anguiano

    I’m so glad I found this! I’m in my fifties and looking forward to the day I can start my own Roadtreking journey. I will be following and learning.

  • Campskunk

    that’s the beauty of RV life for me. we started exploring the country twenty years ago by car, but it was always with the worry of finding a motel at the end of the day, because the places we liked didn’t have motels nearby. we drove and drove – once on a labor day weekend we drove from the oregon coast all the way inland over the coastal ranges to find a motel with a vacancy. during leaf season in vermont the nearest available motel turned out to be in allentown, pa. now, as the sun goes down, we just look around for a spot to park. having an RV is great for your health – no more schedule worries. having a class B is even better, because you can go anywhere you can in a car, and it’s as easy as one to drive. mike, our former bosses wouldn’t recognize us anymore 😉

  • Pam Hicks

    I love this article, Mike – one of your best on this site. Not only did you capture “IT”, but you even got me a little emotional 🙂 And I want to give a special shoutout to Jen. She is as much a part of each & every one of your articles as the author himself – thanks, Jen!

  • Karsten Askeland

    I can relate. For 35 years my life was ruled by the clock. Everything I did had to be documented and recored by date and time. Time in some cases could mean the difference between life and death. Now that I am retired I don’t even wear a watch. When some one asks what time in is … it’s daytime or nightime. I don’t care most times what day it is … it just doesn’t matter any more. I love the RV lifestyle!! 🙂

  • Angelique

    I was facing a weekend of grading essays in my apartment. At 7:30 on a rainy Friday evening I decided instead to throw a few things and my dog in the RT Adventurous and head to a state park not too far from home. I still graded the essays, but I did it with a view of the lake, taking a break to rent a kayak and grill hot dogs for dinner. Not retired yet but I’m practicing!

  • Dave

    Nice read, Mike. Cheers.

  • Rich and Veronica

    Mike,
    Another great piece of writing, kudos!! It really hits home. My DW and I started our cross country journeys forty years ago this year in a 1968 Chevy van that we used for camping and traveling. What was to be a cross country camping trip and possible relocation out west from the east by two teenagers in love ended up being a 4 month wedding honeymoon traveling and crisscrossing the western countryside. We had planned for several months to see the great wilderness of the west, gathering topographic maps, road maps, (pre-computer and cell phone days) plenty of food along with our camping gear and clothing for various seasons. We planned a route for our journey but not once did we ever know where we would end up that night. As we got closer to where we thought our travelling day would end (usually about 500 miles a day) we would pull out one of our maps and look for the little tent/camping symbol of one of the numerous maps no matter how desolate. We were fearless teenagers back then, forty years later I’m not so sure we would end up in some of those sites but I am willing to give it a try, just have to convince my DW.

    Many changes have occurred since our first ‘Great Cross Country Trip’. We ended up back east, we have two wonderful adult children and a demanding career (which soon will be a memory also, 102 days and counting).
    We have taken numerous camping trips both out West and East with our children who now also love to explore the outdoors. We are so grateful that we never got rid of the exploration bug to see this wonderful North America land of ours.

    Earlier this year we purchased our first real RV a (new to us) 2008 a 210 Popular RT. We have had numerous vans that I converted but they were never a full fledged RV. This year we are having a ball practicing our new revived RV lifestyle! As we now near our freedom days we are also looking forward to cross many of the paths of our fellow Roadtrekers near and far especially the infamous Mike W.

  • Vic Westgate

    I enjoy your website info each week Mike. I also admire your enthusiasm on the road; you are an inspiration to those of us just starting down the road. In 2013 we traveled in our SS Agile to Savannah, Key West, NYS Parks and the Erie Canal by bike with our Duck Toller, Daisy, and loved it. We are planning our spring get away as we talk! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year .
    Vic W

  • Scott Atkinson

    I am more than ready…;)

  • Roger

    Absolutely love this article Mike! You really encapsulated the dream. I think my favorite line is, “When you stop living on deadline, your eyes open wider.”

  • Very beautiful

  • Gorgeous !!!

  • The colours are wonderful

  • I love readings about your adventures and seeing your pics. Hopefully my dh and I will experience many of these same places, as we’re just beginning or adventures!

  • amazing just beautiful

  • Well, looks like all I need is a Class B that runs good and a about $10,000. Well – a girl can dream!

  • Beautiful view

  • Enjoyed the article – My wife & I seem to end up on the roadless travelled when ever we travel. How else would we have found Johnsonville VT and many other great places in Canada & US.

  • We are leaving in the morning for a roadtrek to Yellowstone from Reno, Nevada in our class A diesel pusher ! First big trip, can’t wait !! Love your page, have read so many helpful hints! Thanks !!

  • Beautiful