Octogenarians hit the Road

Evelyn Lerman
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Last year, at an age when most people have sold their RVs, we bought ours.

Al was 88 and I was 87. A year later and a year older, we have now completed two 10,000-mile trips and I began thinking about what it takes to be successful RVers in your eighties.

First of all, buy the nicest RV you can afford in a size you want to haul. We bought the smallest van we could be comfortable in, a 24-foot Leisure Travel Van from Canada, with a Mercedes chassis and a Leisure Travel Van Unity Island Bed body. Having been boaters way back in our youth, we knew we could get along in a small space, but we had to have certain comforts: a comfortable queen-sized bed, an electric blanket and heat for the cold one (me); air conditioning for the hot one (he); a two-burner stove; a refrigerator and freezer; a microwave oven; superbly comfortable, convertible seats for the driver and passenger; a good radio/DVD/CD player; a TV; a hopper and sink; a shower; an awning; and a dinette table with two chairs. We found all of this in cocoa-colored leather furniture with matching walls and floor. The outside was a combination of desert colors—café au lait, cocoa and beige. So, in addition to it being the right size and all-purpose comfortable, it was also beautiful. Our physical and psychological needs were satisfied. Leisure Travel Vans Unity


Negotiate your space. As for space, we learned how to navigate—wait while one walks down the short corridor between the bedroom and the kitchen, pull your chair up while the other wants to go back into the cabin from the driving area, sit down while the other retrieves things from the cabinets so nothing falls on your head, be aware of who is where and take it slowly. Then, of course, if someone forgets the above or you hit your head when you forget to duck, be of good cheer. The body adjusts to small spaces.

Second, you’d better be best friends. In addition to sharing a very small space, you are also the only company you may have for days. In our 36 days on the road this year we made friends with one wonderful couple of fellow RVers, Roz and Manny de Lizarriturri. Outside of that it was waitresses, RV park managers, and an occasional RVer to chat with. On our first trip the national parks were our goal and we loved every one. This year’s trip was more social: we visited with old friends, family and counselors from camp whom we hadn’t seen in years. Those visits were a highlight, as were the wonderful scenic routes we explored. In addition to each other, you need new experiences to keep you excited about traveling.

Third, you need a talented trip advisor, one who not only knows the places you want to go to but the places to which you should go. More important, he knew the places you shouldn’t bother to go to. We found one such treasure—an AAA man we called Mr. Gospel (Gausepohl) at our local Triple A in Sarasota. He gave us all the info, and then Allie planned the RV stops around his suggestions.

Fourth, you need patience and fortitude to do the planning. My dear husband has untold fortitude and develops patience as he goes along. He did the most wonderful planning, choosing RV parks all over the US and Canada, and surely deserves an A+ for his efforts. He spent hours and hours at the dining room table, surrounded by maps, travel guides to every state and province we would visit, national and state park books, using a magnifying glass and a compass as he plotted the routes. Together we planned the needs for the RV: bedding, kitchen equipment, basic foods, clothing for all kinds of weather and desk and entertainment supplies. I did the arrangements, making reservations at the RV parks and booking tours where appropriate.

al_and_evely_lermanFifth, and perhaps this should be first, you have to keep thinking about the needs of your partner. Al knew that I found our first trip too difficult, as we were doing too many miles a day and I was having problems with my ankles swelling. So this year he planned much shorter days so that we arrived at the parks for the night early in the afternoon, with plenty of time for showering, doing laundry, sunbathing, reading and sleeping. Some parks were gorgeous and had beautiful appointments; others not so much, but those are the experiences and you take them in stride. From my point of view, I knew that what Allie needed was quiet while he was driving so he could concentrate on the road, a good lunch, a few stretches en route, and a shot of scotch when we landed, preferably with mixed nuts on the side.


Sixth, you need certain skills, and if you don’t have them, you’d better learn them. Al mastered the GPS (an absolute necessity), I became more familiar with my iPhone (still learning), he familiarized himself with all the controls on the chassis and in the cabin, I became a proficient map reader (I had a long way to go but I did it), and together we figured out how to eat healthy food and stay healthy if possible.

Last, but surely not least, you need to have or develop the qualities that make what could be a long, hard trip both fun and worthwhile: humor, courage, confidence, patience in planning, flexibility, thoughtfulness, a loving nature and… just one more time, a sense of humor.

To those of you who may be planning such a trip, bon voyage and have fun.


Evelyn Lerman

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