At 68, Barbara Miller Elegbede is living proof that flower children need not grow up, according to a Reuters report.
A self-described hippie, she attended a San Francisco college at psychedelia’s height and remembers friends constantly crashing on the couch of her apartment, just a block away from Janis Joplin’s pad in the hip Castro neighborhood.
Now retired from teaching and secretarial work, Elegbede, has become a full-time “couchsurfer” herself, living in other people’s guest quarters all over the world. (She has a temporary apartment in Tempe, Ariz.)
“I’ve lived in Africa. I know how to take a bath from a bucket … I’ve lived in caves in Greece and hitchhiked all over the world. Next year, I’m off to India for two or three months.”
Call Elegbede one of the “rambling retirees”: folks who give up the senior community or a comfy house for a life of constant travel. And they’re not all hippies.
“The RV (recreational vehicle) has replaced the rocking chair, and the whole notion of retirement has changed in the last 10 years,” says Ken Budd, executive editor of AARP magazine and author of “The Voluntourist: A Six-Country Tale of Love, Loss, Fatherhood, Fate and Singing Bon Jovi in Bethlehem.”
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Malia Lane decided, in 2001, that two weeks of vacation a year was just not working for her.
So, according to a report in the Petoskey (Mich.) News, she quit her full-time job, bought a recreational vehicle and since, has explored states ranging from Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas to Maine, New Mexico, Oregon and now Michigan – all on her own.
“As soon as I crossed into Alaska, I pulled over to the side of the road and just sobbed,” she said, describing her feeling of accomplishment.
Lane, 60, originally of New Orleans and currently of Austin, Texas, said Alaska was stunning, but Michigan was something else entirely — something she wasn’t entirely prepared for.
She started her RV tour of Michigan’s coast on the east side of the state. Lake Huron made a distinct impression.
“I thought, oh, my God, the dunes! Oh, my God, the lake! Why would y’all lie to me!” said Lane about Hoeft State Park near Rogers City, where campers can see the sun rise and set from one vantage point on the park’s dunes. “I’ve lived in Maui, but I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Lane has made her living since 2001 as both a temporary legal assistant and a virtual assistant for lawyers around the country.
She also maintains a website called Malia’s Miles, on which she blogs about her adventures and reviews state parks she has stayed in for each state’s departments of natural resources.
“What’s great about Malia is that she’s a full-time RVer. She knows what RVers are looking for when they’re planning their trips,” said Maia Stephens, recreation programmer for the Michigan DNR. “She’s an invaluable resource for us.”
In particular, Lane has pointed out confusing signage that led her, driving a 36-foot Itasca Sunflyer, to a dead end.
“Also, Malia is not from Michigan, and has not been born and raised here, so it’s been great for us to get her perspective on things … not only Michigan’s topographical and geographical differences, but the different personalities you can find in each region of Michigan,” said Stephens.
Northward up the coast of Lake Huron, Lane said everyone she met along the way assured her: wait until you get to the Upper Peninsula.
And along with the kindness of a stranger, who helped her with her car trouble, Lane was about to see what everyone was talking about: for Lane, it was Lake Superior.
“I started getting it at McLain State Park (in Hancock),” said Lane, whose RV was perched atop a bluff overlooking Superior. “By the time I got to the Porcupine Mountains, I got it. … I got to the Porcupines, and it was zip. Stop. I don’t want to go anywhere else. … Alaska was my biggest accomplishment. I saw lakes melting there. I saw the biggest baddest glaciers. But I would never live there. I would consider living in the Porcupines — that’s my heart’s home.”
But wait — a woman, alone with her RV? Full time? How does she do it, and is it vacation every day, like eating ice cream for every meal?
Hardly, she says.
“Look, people think I’m brave. I’m not. I try to make that clear,” she said. “I get depressed, I get anxious, I get scared, shaking in my boots. But please understand, don’t let fear stop you. It can pause you, and you can go under it and around it, but don’t let it stop you.”
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By making innovative changes, Redwood said it has developed a front living room model with unique features that better meet the needs of the full-time consumer.
“The 36FL is uniquely Redwood. We’ve taken one the best and made it better,” explains Tom Montague, general manager for the Thor Industries Inc. subsidiary.
The 36FL kitchen has been expanded by moving the slideout to the off-door side and adding the industry’s largest moveable dinette table capable of accommodating six adults.
The living room is also improved by relocating the entertainment center directly across from the living room chairs for more comfortable TV viewing. The entry way is larger and enhanced with a grand staircase and two hand rails.
Other improvements include an 80-inch sofa, pullout desk, and fireplace. Redwood also offers an optional sliding patio door for customers who stay in one area for extended periods of time.
Redwood focuses exclusively on building full-time residential fifth-wheels with models ranging from 34 to 42 feet. All units include an industry exclusive two-year limited protection and five-year structural warranty.
For more information visit www.redwood-rv.com.
Editor’s Note: This letter to the editor was published in the Sioux Falls (S.D.) Argus Leader and pertains to that community’s attempts to legislate how long campers may stay within a given campground.
I am writing to respond to your July 10 editorial relating to the proposed time limit for campers in a campground.
I managed Duane Spader’s campground in Sioux Falls for 25 years. I am writing to correct some misconceptions about the campground business that the city has created. The Argus Leader editorial promotes these misconceptions.
The editorial begins by stating, “Campgrounds are designed for temporary, recreational activity.” It goes on to say that RVs are not designed to be someone’s permanent home.
What source do you have that says that campgrounds are designed only for temporary recreational activity? This simply is not true. A quick check on the Internet will lead you to multiple listings of campgrounds that offer services for long-term — even full-time — campers.
The following are excerpts from an RV industry publication that further reinforce the concept that RV stays often are extended and even permanent across the U.S.
From RVBusiness in September 2008: “Just about every weekend in August, Indiana computer technician Tom Mackowiak packed up and headed out to meet his wife and teenage children at their “summer cottage” in a campground. The Mackowiaks spend their summers in something called a recreational park trailer, complete with luxuries such as high-speed Internet, central air and satellite TV.”
From RVBusiness in November 2007: “Recreational vehicle parks in Gulf Shores are numerous but generally the traditional type in which travelers rent space, be it for a summer weekend or a full season.”
Good friends of mine sold their home several years ago, purchased an RV and have been full-time RVers ever since. Their RV is parked in a campground along with many other RVs serving as the residences for other folks who enjoy the same lifestyle.
RVs can serve as an alternative home for people in many situations.
What about individuals who are temporarily working in the Sioux Falls area and wish to stay in their RV while they are here? What about people who have a family member hospitalized in Sioux Falls for an extended period of time and wish to be close by? What about families who can’t stay in their home for an extended period of time because of fire or building of a new home?