Youngsters on Wheels

I have a beautiful new friend.  She calls me her “Bestie” and “BFF.”  She is young enough to be my daughter, so to have her put me into the category of friend like that simply makes my heart giggle.

Laura, her husband, Adam, and their young daughter, Daisy, joined the ranks of full-time RV’ers a year and a half ago.  Unlike so many of us out here, they are far from retirement age.  They home school Daisy and must actively earn a living while on the road.

Laura agreed to share some of their story for this blog posting.  I’ve changed names and minor details for the sake of her family’s privacy.

Before taking such a drastic step, they were living what many would identify as the American dream.  To afford this dream, Adam worked two full-time jobs.  In addition to home schooling Daisy, Laura worked full-time at a small business they ran and cleaned houses on the side.  Two people, four jobs…  all to pay for a beautiful house they could barely enjoy and vehicles to drive them back and forth from this house that was filled with all the trappings.  (There is a reason they are called “trappings,” you know.)

Exhausted, distracted, frazzled… stress was their daily measure.  Even though she home schooled Daisy and they were together nearly constantly, Laura was so worn out she couldn’t truly invest in her daughter.  Not thoroughly, not deeply.  It broke Laura’s heart that she was not able to be totally there for her.

Or for her husband.

Laura and Adam had met at a dance bar when they were just 18 and 19.  Laura saw Adam dancing.  She told her friend, “I’m going to marry that man.”

When Adam approached the two young ladies, he made a bee line for Laura and asked her to dance.  They’ve been together ever since.  Laura later asked him why he came to her and not her friend, who was the type who usually attracted male attention.  “Because you were real,” Adam replied.

Each of them had recently suffered deep heartbreak, however, so they decided to take things slowly and to date other people, even though each knew in their heart of hearts that the other was “the one.”

A year or so into the relationship, they were in a bad accident.  Taken to different hospitals, Laura freaked out.  Was Adam all right?  What if he wasn’t?  She hadn’t even told him she loved him, and oh, how she did love him!  She made contact with him through friends of her Mom’s, who worked at the hospital.  Yes, he was quite a mess, but he was alive.  And he loved her, too.

“It’s about time,” Adam responded to the third-party message.  He knew Laura was the one from the start and had waited patiently for her to get to the same page.

Now, over 20 years into their marriage, they were at another turning point.  Exhausted from the rat race, Laura and Adam sat down at the dining room table one evening for a serious talk about their future.  Adam’s father had recently passed away.  He had all these wonderful plans to travel after his retirement and hadn’t been able to enjoy them.  After his father’s funeral, Adam realized that he wanted Daisy to know him well enough so that when his own end time came, she would be able to stand and say what a wonderful man he had been, not just listen to accolades from friends and coworkers who knew her father better than she.

Realizing that they were not guaranteed anything, let alone tomorrow, Laura and Adam decided to get a grip on their lifestyle.  Take back control.  Reorder their priorities.  The first step would be to drastically downsize and simplify.

After briefly considering the tiny house trend, they were increasingly drawn to the idea of a tiny house combined with mobility.  They had a small towed trailer they had used for vacations the past two summers.  If they went bigger, they could have enough room for all three of them to be comfortable and even have a workshop in it for Adam.

The romantic appeal of a nomadic, gypsy lifestyle totally captured Laura’s heart.

Before making the final decision, the little family took a two week test run in their camper from the Smoky Mountains to the Atlantic coast.  It rained every single day.  And they had the best time ever.  They played in the rain, walked in the rain, listened to the rain on their tiny roof.  They loved each other in the rain.  They found hope in the rain.

Laura realized she had fallen head over heels in love with her husband again.  She saw the man she originally fell in love with emerge from the confining shell that society uses to package its participants.  When they returned home, she couldn’t wait to sell their stuff and hit the road.

That was September.  By December, their house was sold and by March, they were living full-time in their fifth-wheel trailer.  They had spent the winter between a rental apartment and their RV, downsizing and figuring out what was and what was not needed.

Adam makes a living for the family doing an assortment of jobs, including his crafting business which he operates out of the workshop in the back of the rig.  Laura is proud and delighted to contribute by doing workamping jobs that earn them free site rentals.  They are independent, entrepreneurial, and smart–good traits under any circumstance, but especially valuable when on the road.

I asked each of them what their favorite thing was about living full-time on wheels.

For Daisy, it is all the friends she is able to make now.  Indeed, Daisy is the social butterfly of the campground, flying around on her bicycle or her scooter, an assortment of other children peddling in her wake.  The best thing is, not only is she a natural leader, she is a kind, good-hearted friend.

For Adam, it is accompanying his daughter as she spreads her wings.  Rather than turning around one day in surprise to find that Daisy is four inches taller, her growth is now imperceptible simply because he is there for every moment of it.  Imperceptible and huge, all at once.  It’s a good thing to take time when witnessing a miracle.

As for Laura, she is thrilled to follow the love of her life to the ends of the earth once again.

You see, Laura lives a very spiritual life.  A life of faith.  She prayed before going into this.  She prays before they make any kind of big decision. She prays prayers of gratitude.  For her husband, for their daughter, and for each day.  Before their change in lifestyle, Adam had left the little church they had long belonged to.  This caused a deep conflict in Laura’s heart.  Once they set out on their adventure, though, she realized her husband may have left the church, but he did not leave God.  Indeed, she sees him now as a better man than ever before.  Where she had been blaming him for so much of the negativity that she had been feeling, she can see now that much of that negativity came from pressure and judgment put on by the outside world.

We are never totally free from judgment, which is often shrill and, more often, takes on subtle disguise.  Indeed, being human, we each carry our own judgmental tendencies with us wherever we go.  There were at least a couple of family members who were very resentful of Laura and Adam’s choice, but that didn’t sway them from taking the path that they felt was right for them.  One family member has come around since then, and has admitted that her reaction came from a place of selfishness, and that when she looked at the situation after some time and with clearer eyes, she was able to understand and accept.

Maybe some day Laura and Adam will buy a small house and settle down in one place for a spell, but they hope never to get drawn back into the same trap as before.  Meanwhile, they continue to live their dream on wheels, all wrapped up in one another.

(Photo at top of post is complements of Daisy’s Legos and her toy truck and fifth-wheel trailer.  For those unfamiliar with different RV styles, a fifth-wheel is a towed trailer which, instead of mounting on a hitch on the back bumper of a truck, mounts in the truck bed over the rear axle.  Fifth wheels have more head room inside, more storage, and more versatile floor plans than most travel trailers.  Laura and Adam’s bedroom and bathroom is upstairs in the part over the truck bed.  Daisy’s room is a loft over her dad’s workshop in the rear of the trailer.  They even have room for a washer/dryer and a growing puppy, critical items acquired since hitting the road.  The cat, well, the cat came along for the ride.  And yes, like most cats, he is quite critical.)

An AHA! Moment

Have you ever watched a movie that you first saw a long time ago…  A movie that became one of your all-time favorites, but it has been so long since you’ve seen it that you can’t remember just exactly what it was about it that moved you so?

Have you ever seen that movie again, much later in your life, and heard loud and clear–AHA!–what had only been seductive whispers years ago?

Here is what I vaguely remembered about the 1993 film, “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?”:

  • Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance (he plays Gilbert’s mentally challenged younger brother, Arnie) was the most stunning thing I have ever witnessed.
  • Johnny Depp (Gilbert) was gorgeous.
  • There was a sweet love story in there somewhere.
  • Johnny Depp was gorgeous.
  • There was a fair amount of family and personal drama, but not so much that it ruined it for me.
  • Johnny Depp was gorgeous.

I saw the movie again recently.  Here is what I now know:

  • There is an RV in it (an Airstream travel trailer)!
  • Becky (Juliette Lewis) and her grandma come to town in the Airstream.  They are full-time RV’ers.  Becky, quirky and oddly beautiful, is a free-wheeling, healing spirit.  A baby earth-mother of sorts.
  • The Momma of Gilbert’s family is Becky’s opposite.  She is me a while back, in so many ways.   Her house, which she rarely leaves, is falling apart around her and her family.  Morbidly obese, her emotional paralysis and neglect are slowly eating away at everything and everyone.
  • Freedom comes at the end with the death of Momma and the destruction of the house.  Merciful freedom.  Fresh air.
  • Gilbert and Arnie go off with Becky and Grandma… in an Airstream caravan!
  • Johnny Depp is gorgeous.
  • Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance, stunning.

Life and the cinema sure can be funny.

Now, where is Johnny’s number…?

We interrupt this blogcast…

I’m going to take a short break from my usual ramblings to sing (unsolicited) praises of my little house’s manufacturer, Phoenix USA (website:

Yesterday I was at their factory in Elkhart, Indiana, where they took several hours to go over my list of items and questions, one by one, while I am still covered by the one-year warranty.  Mr. Bob, who has been with the company for 25 years–most of Phoenix’s employees have been working there for similar lengths of time, which says a lot in my book–took care of each item on my to-do list with great care and efficiency.  He patiently addressed each of my many questions in a thorough, thoughtful manner, and showed me how to do some of the maintenance things myself.

Phoenix USA specializes in Class B+ motor homes.  These are smaller than the big bus-type Class-A rigs and more aerodynamic than the Class-Cs, which have a sleeper bunk over the driver’s cab.  This is a perfect fit for someone like me, who values simplicity and something easy to drive, as well as for many seasoned RV’ers who are looking to downsize to a more nimble option.

Because Phoenix does not use a dealer network, but sells solely factory-direct, the money a customer might spend on the dealer’s fee can instead go back into their pocket (more gas money!).  I put that savings into some options that I thought made a lot of sense for a full-time RV’er, like a solar panel, hydraulic leveling jacks, and paint protection.

Lack of a dealer network does not complicate after-sales support, either.  The company’s owner, Mr. Kermit, has readily reimbursed me for any repairs I’ve needed while on the road while I’ve been in the warranty period.  He and Phoenix employees are very willing to advise RV repair shops of any details needed to troubleshoot a problem and make a successful repair.  Many Phoenix customers go back to the factory every year or two if they are in the area to have the real experts work on their rig.  The charge for this, after the warranty period, is exceedingly reasonable.

Phoenix USA bends over backwards to accommodate customer requests and needs.  The model I purchased, the 2351, was created because of an earlier customer’s request to modify the 2350 in such a way that it added an extra foot, a dinette instead of a couch, and additional storage.  It worked so good and generated such interest that the company went along with the flow and made it an official model–just in time to make one for me!

Back when I ordered my little house (a year ago!), I asked for a simplified paint job without all the swirlies you often find gracing many RV skins.  I wanted something low-key.  Phoenix was so accommodating that they didn’t even put their name on it anywhere.  The funny thing is that this has drawn even more attention to my rig as people often stop to ask me who the manufacturer is.

This kind of responsiveness is a tremendous strength.  When I was trying to figure out other details and options to include, I solicited suggestions on Phoenix’s customer forum, located on their website.  Their forum community is terrific, by the way–very helpful, supportive, and knowledgable.  When I went back to Phoenix’s sales manager, Mr. Earl, with endless questions and requests, many of those things had already been incorporated as standard items into Phoenix’s builds because they pay attention to customer input.

So, anyone out there who is interested in a small to mid-size, high quality motor home, made by a small company with a dedicated workforce, hop on over to Phoenix’s website ( and check out what they have to offer.  When you first look at the floor plans, keep in mind that modifications can be made to the extent possible and practical.  Also, if you are like me, and value simplicity, some of the floor plans can be made with no slide (just something to keep in mind since their home page shows only rigs with slides).

I enjoyed taking some time to complement a terrific American company.  Thanks for listening, and I hope it has been helpful to at least a few readers.  Next post, I’ll be back to my usual style:  rambling while I ramble.  Or maybe Dawny will have something to contribute, since she is feeling feisty and insisted on hogging the picture for this post.