Debbie retired from Mercury Marine in 2008, and Greg retired after 42 years of dairy farm consulting in 2015. We grew up in rural southeast Ohio but have lived on our Oakfield, Wisconsin farm since 1992. Although we greatly enjoyed our careers, we felt it was time to try some other pursuits in our latter years.
As we approached actual retirement, we wondered how we could give back to God for all the blessings we had received over our lives together. While we were still working, we had spent a week or so in Florida in the winter but felt being snowbirds all winter wasn’t for us. While we were still physically able, we felt the need and desire to remain servants.
We contacted a few well-known mission organizations, but they didn’t seem to be a match for us. Greg has had several back surgeries, and sleeping on gym floors while assisting a natural disaster would not be possible. So how could we stay active as the Lord’s servants, travel around the United States, do volunteer work in the winter, and have a comfortable and affordable way to travel?
Early in our marriage, we had tent camped and had done some backpacking. Then, raising a family, careers, and part-time farming replaced our love for the outdoors until a personal tragedy caused us to look for a way to recover from our loss. In 2005, we decided to rediscover backpacking and started to travel during our break from our full-time occupations. We explored some of the most remote places in America until Greg’s spine problems no longer permitted such intense physical activity.
It was in 2010 that we bought our first RV. It was a 2000 Roadtrek 210 Popular on the Chevrolet chassis for $18,000. In the seven years we owned the Roadtrek, we traveled much of the United States and Canada. When Greg retired from Dairy Consulting in 2015, we took the Roadtrek on a 14,500-mile trip to Alaska, California, and Wisconsin.
Discovering the Leisure Travel Van
While on our journey to Alaska, we met a couple from Toronto, Ontario. They had this beautiful Class B coach, a little larger than our 21-foot Roadtrek but still very compact. As is often the case with Leisure Travel Van owners, the very nice French couple showed us the entire coach. The interior was gorgeous! Yet, that evening, I told Debbie we would own a Leisure Travel Van.
Learning About the SOWER Ministry
While on the ferry from Juneau to Ketchikan, we talked with a couple participating in a volunteer organization called the SOWER Ministry. They gave us information about the organization, and we stuffed it in our Alaska trip journal.
We didn’t think any more about the information until the fall of 2017 when we started to get more serious about service work. As we thought about spending months in an RV, we didn’t think the Roadtrek would be conducive to long-term occupancy.
Throughout the fall of 2017, we contemplated trading in the Roadtrek for a new LTV. Being ultra-conservative by nature, we had a great deal of trouble parting with that much of our hard-earned savings. But through prayer and a winter of soul searching, we traded in our beloved Roadtrek for a Unity Twin Bed.
What is the SOWER Ministry?
The SOWER (Servants On Wheels Ever Ready) Ministry is a non-profit denominational Christian couples RV work ministry that provides volunteer help to selected non-profit Christian ministries. These ministries include camps, conference centers, orphanages, schools, missionary retreat centers, training facilities, homes for abused children, and adult recovery homes. Ministries provide RV hookups, work supervision, specialty tools, and materials as needed. SOWERS supply helping hands, and SOWER couples can stay at projects for one week following a three-week work commitment, giving them an opportunity to see the local sights or rest and relax.
Debbie and I leave for somewhere warm after the holidays. We have volunteered in Florida, Texas, and Arizona during the winter and other projects across Colorado, Idaho, and Ohio in the summer. We have found it desirable to combine a month of vacationing in places like Yellowstone and then travel to Colorado for a month of service in the early fall. Then we leave after the holidays for somewhere warm.
Making New Friends
Volunteering for the SOWER Ministry is not all work by a long shot. We often cook and dine together, sightseeing together, study together, and often play games. We have made many really good friends during our six years in the organization. Personally, we, too, have grown in our walk with the Lord and have experienced personal growth in many other ways.
The month we spend at a volunteer site allows us to see and understand different parts of our country. You become a member of your work site group and a member of the community at large where you have been living for a month. Many couples have sold their homes and embraced the full-time RV lifestyle. They, too, will often mix volunteer work with personal sightseeing and activities. As half-timer RVers, we have found the mix of three months of service in the winter and a month of summer service/personal travel and activities to work for us.
The Perfect RV
The perfect RV does not exist, but for us, our Unity Twin Bed comes close. We do around 10,000 miles a year pulling our Jeep Cherokee. We get 15.3 mpg pulling the Jeep and up to 17 mpg without pulling the car. That is better fuel mileage than my old Ford half-ton pickup truck ever gets without hauling anything. Ferry travel with your LTV is also much more feasible when it costs $45/foot to bring your home-on-wheels along.
We just returned from a once-in-a-lifetime, 6600-mile trip to Newfoundland. Our Minnie-Mo-Ho, as we call our LTV, performed flawlessly. Being of the conservative nature, we like the 16.2mpg (without pulling the Cherokee) we got on the entire trip. We were able to manipulate very steep and narrow streets in St. Johns, Newfoundland, get in small campsites around the island, and find places to part in tourist venues.
We both like to hike, and Gred is an avid fly fisherman. Pulling the small, four-wheel drive Jeep allows us to get to out-of-the-way places to hike and fish. We like staying at remote National Forests, which are sometimes hard to get to and too small for many rigs. We try to stay with a limit of 10 miles on gravel to protect our home on wheels.
Balance of Life
Nobody has the perfect lifestyle or RV, but our Minnie-Mo-Ho works for us. Do we ever wish we had more room? Sure! But then, the next time we drive on small city streets or pull up to the diesel pump, I soon forget the days we felt a little confined. John Muir said, “The mountains are calling, and I must go,” and it is said, “Travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer.” We hope to see you in a remote National Forest sometime soon.