Collect Moments, Not Things.
In 2018, the year of our retirement, we (my wife Peggy, our dog Merlot and I) decided to purchase a Class A Motorhome and to hit the road for a few years. This journey is coming to an end soon and I would like to share my reflections. A wise man once said “The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams” - and so we did.
Since our experiences were so overwhelming I will try to structure this short journal.
Lets start with places. The Unites States of America is such a wonderful country that it is almost impossible to plan for a trip of a lifetime. Our mantra was to get lost in the right direction and to follow Susan Magsamen’s advise to ”look for chances to take the less traveled roads - there are no wrong turns out there”. As much as we liked places like Bryce or Yellowstone, we always looked for the quiet spots within those megaparks. We selected the less visited National Parks, and found State Parks within the same region, with the same or similar spectacular views and less people. We enjoyed our hikes at Big Bend National Park, meeting only a handful of backpackers while exploring the South and the East Rim. A harp concert by a local artist introduced Rocky Mountain National Park totally different to us. The deep valleys of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison took our breath away. Kodachrome Basin State Park as well as the Red Canyon in Utah were jewels we found along our way. Rick Warren said “those who follow the crowd usually get lost in it” - we feel blessed that this did not happen to us and that we were able to feel nature as the art of God.
People are next. We never could imagine that this will be one of the most valuable treasures of our multi year RV life and I fully agree with the words of wisdom “good people make good places”. We have met people of all ages, all educational backgrounds, many nationalities, languages and religions. Peggy and I became part of a group of likeminded travelers and making unexpected new friends made us happier. We shared stories, helped each other, and we are still staying in touch. Our dog’s Facebook page is the vehicle of sharing our continued story and of receiving updates of camping experiences from other “Wanderers”. Merlot’s Tails brings an active “band” of close to 800 friends together and we are looking forward to read about their travel stories from “on the road” while we get acclimated to our house without wheels. One story still stands out for us: While volunteering as campground host at Big Bend NP, we always checked on our guests in the evening to find out about their experiences of the day and to learn more about hikes we had not done yet. This created friendships and lead to conversations beyond hiking and the vistas of the day. We enjoyed those evening talks very much and are staying in touch with many of our Big Bend friends. This includes Katelyn and Heather. The evening prior to their departure we had them over for a camp dinner. We talked about youth, where we want to go to, where we are in our lives and that being happy does not always mean that you have to be rich or climbing the career ladder. What a nice and meaningful chat. The next morning they stopped by to thank us and to say good bye. They surprised us with a hand drawing of Emory Peak, the highest point in the Chisos Mountain. The poem under the drawing says: “The sun reaches out to the mountain lined horizon and colors everything in orange, red and pink. It is here where travelers meet”. Life is beautiful because of the people we have met on our journey.
What about learning? Traveling made us realize that no matter how much we know there is always more to learn. We decided on a format for our life on wheels which is a combination between traveling and volunteering. The travel part allowed us to go and to experience places we have not seen before, the volunteer part made a major contribution to the learning. Being at a place for three to four months granted us a much deeper understanding of the area, its history but also the volunteer job we had signed up for. The stay at Big Bend taught us how to coach our visitors to prepare for their hikes and to stay healthy while experiencing the mountain and desert challenges during summer time. Volunteering at Reelfoot Wildlife Refuge opened our eyes about the importance of the National Wildlife Refuge system in general and how the local goal is achieved to provide a high quality habitat for waterfowl and other migratory birds. Being part of the team at a National Fish Hatchery in Arkansas and in North Dakota helped us to understand the day to day tasks of a fish hatchery. Especially the time at the Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery provided us with so much information about different species, their hatching times, upbringing, feeding, and distribution. We never thought that we will learn how to spawn a fish right in the body of water this specific species (Walleye) calls home. It also taught us about the impact of recreational fishing in ND. All in all it made us to be better visitor guides and were proud to walk our guests through the hatchery and to be able to answer (most) of their questions. Our off days gave us a chance to learn about the area and to make day or even overnight trips. Now we act as ambassadors for all the areas/states we have volunteered in and we are enjoying it. North Dakota for example was also a great place to dive into Native American and Louis and Clark history. There is no doubt, adventures are the best way to learn.
Relationship is last but not least. Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote: “Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking together in the same direction”. Traveling for almost four years in a motorhome has made our relationship stronger and definitely coached us to have the same compass. During our business careers we always joked that we would not be able to work together, but volunteering created for us the best environment to collaborate and to use our different skill sets. I am certain that this will last into our life after full time RVing.
We are looking forward to move back into our house and to enjoy the old neighborhood, seeing friends and getting active in the community again. This amazing phase of our life is coming to an end but the memories will last forever. I recently found a quote that summarizes our time on wheels best: “The most beautiful things in life are not things. They’re people and places, memories and pictures. They’re feelings and moments, and smiles and laughter”.
6/17/2022 11:44:22 am
6/17/2022 11:54:23 am
Wonderful journey by wonderful people (and canine) and a wonderful commentary over your tears on the road. It’s no longer “On the Road with Charles Kuralt”, but “On the Road with Peggy and Helmut”!!
6/17/2022 11:57:53 am
Years, not “tears” on the road…
6/17/2022 05:31:07 pm
Well, there were some tears of joy. Thanks for putting us on the level of a TV icon when it comes to our trip reporting. See you at the Waldheim!
6/17/2022 05:28:28 pm
It will be great to be back in the hood.
David “ABBO “ Abbott
6/17/2022 11:49:20 am
Wonderful read and wonderful news you’re coming home! Radar is excited to see Merlot. You have lived my mantra “ You’re not lost if you don’t care where you are “
6/17/2022 05:32:53 pm
Sometimes the places which were not on my itinerary were the best.
6/17/2022 02:01:26 pm
Oh my gosh this is so wonderful......can't wait to see you both & Merlot. Welcome home!!
6/17/2022 05:33:52 pm
Look forward to be back at the hood and to reconnect to the community.
6/17/2022 03:22:01 pm
Truly enjoyed all your adventures. Best of luck in your new home.
6/17/2022 05:35:18 pm
And even when we are back at the house that has no wheels we are already planning on new adventures.
Christie Devereaux De Cesare
6/18/2022 03:55:25 am
Thank you for sharing your adventure over the past years because reading about all the experiences, people you have met, and places you have been has been fascinating. All the amazing photos that both of you have taking have been a great source of inspiration for me. You have enriched everyone's lives that you have met along the way as well as mine. Blessings and continued joy in everything you do. ❤
6/18/2022 12:05:35 pm
Thank you for your kind comment. Our life has been enriched by all the beautiful places we have seen and the people we have met. This journey exceeded our expectations and we are so thankful for it. We are also blessed for technology that allowed us to share our experiences.
6/18/2022 04:58:15 am
What a beautiful summary of your journey. Nevertheless, I am also really looking forward to see (and hug) you both in person soon!
6/18/2022 12:07:41 pm
Great talking to you this morning. We will have many stories to tell when we see each other this year. Love!
6/21/2022 02:14:22 pm
I have so enjoyed following my buddy Merlot’s journey. Enjoy being back at home and we will see you in February!
6/23/2022 09:52:15 am
I don't think this is the end of our journey. Look forward to seeing you in February. Blessed to have you as friends.
7/3/2022 05:21:54 am
This is one of the most elegant and resounding summaries of what the joy of RV travel is. I have been fortunate to make several cross-country trips and look forward to embarking on the next trip after a 2 year pandemic hiatus. Your descriptions and quotes have served as a catalyst toward exploring more territory out West: having spent the majority of my life living and working in cities, I am now drawn to the wide open lands of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. I will be following your blog and Merlot’s Tail to read more about your future reflections.
7/4/2022 02:12:24 pm
Dear John, Thank you very much for your kind reply and I am happy that I could give you some inspiration for your upcoming journey. We will take a break from RVing but I plan to keep my travel blog alive by selecting a specific image of a place we stayed and tell the story behind it. Please feel free to get in touch with us via Merlot's Tails on Facebook so that we can share some of our experiences and give you some travel advice. Not that I think we are the most experienced travelers. Hope to stay in touch.
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