I really can’t remember when or how the idea of taking a retirement trip began in form in our minds. But as it developed, I began to realize that, for me at least, there’s probably a genetic component.
My paternal great grandfather came to be know as “wandering Willie” because, at age 13, he left home and disappeared for a time, causing great concern to his family. Eventually he surfaced again, but never really did settle down. Oh, he married, bought a farm, and sired a family, but when the boys were old enough to take over, he began wandering again, calling himself a missionary. He spent time in Florida with his brother Paul, ministered in India and Samoa, and I’m sure in other places I don’t know about. He died in India at an advanced age and is buried there.
My maternal grandfather was a thrifty Vermonter, but he saved his money so that he could indulge in his three loves—photography, gadgets and travel. He and Nana took a spring and fall trip each year (economy-style, of course), and he was proud to state that he had over the course of his life visited all the contiguous 48 states. To save money, he and Nana traveled with another couple, and he always looked for cabins or motels that looked like they had a little age on them, because he figured the rental price would be lower. They carried food in the car and fixed meals at roadside parks. He came home from his travels with an abundance of photographic filmstrips and movies, and would give little travelogues to his friends and family, since this kind of travel was not common in those days.
I never knew “Wandering Willie,” but I think Grandpa Doten would be proud of me. Over the course of our child-rearing years, we saw much of the country in our travels first with a tent, and later in our Vanagon camper, which we reluctantly parted with a few years ago. But this month, on the day after our last child’s wedding, we bought a Chevy cargo van and are outfitting it to spend a year (to start) traveling the USA and perhaps Canada “grandpa-style,” that is, “on the cheap.” The bed is in, the curtains and screens are finished, and by the time we take a trial run in October, we hope to have inverter, stove, folding table, and a few other necessities purchased, and all our other camping equipment and supplies installed. Then in February, when Art retires, we hope to take off for Florida, heading for his brother’s home in Miami, where his mother lives. In the words of another traveling friend, “Coming soon to a Wal-Mart near you.” This will be the story of our adventures.