The "disappearance" of an RVing couple,
as told through the eyes of their daughter.
It all started innocently enough. My parents, having spent the better part of their lives raising children and remodeling a house, threw caution to the wind and purchase their first home on the road: a brand-new 1978 10-foot Mapleleaf slide-in in truck camper.
The RV was adorable but small. My father stands some 6 feet tall and weighs more than 200 pounds. Yet he'd bustle around inside, comfortable as a bear in his cave. A roomy double bed was sent over the cab, and it had a compact and efficient kitchen, plenty of storage, and even a full bath albeit one in which you could shower, brush your teeth, and take your business all at one time.
This from a man who could never sit still for more than five minutes before digging into some noisy, messy, project that entailed building or fixing something, and a woman whose idea of perfection was an elegant apartment on New York's Fifth Avenue, with designer clothes and every imaginable style of shoe lining the closet.
So, our whole family was dumbstruck as these two whisked themselves off for a weekend to hang around in sweatpants, relax in lawn chairs, sip drinks, and chat aimlessly with other road warriors.
At first, they were content with the occasional weekend exploration of Connecticut's woodsy campgrounds, or Newport, Rhode Island, and Northern New England sites. Before long, they had extended their trips to a week or two. Then, to my total amazement, they took off with another camping-crazed couple free two-week trip to Florida! Four adults in a camper the size of a tree fort! I thought this would certainly dampen their traveling spirit.
Not only did they have a dandy trip to Florida, but they managed to hook up with a couple who was selling a slightly used motorhome. The next thing I knew, one afternoon Mom and Dad rolled into the driveway with their 1986 27-foot Jamboree.
These two weren't messing around. That summer they made arrangements to take a full month off and travel. There were sites to be seen: snowcapped mountains, pink rock ledges, desert landscapes, the Pacific ocean. Westward, Ho! After a sweep through the Southern states, including a visit to Mom's Shreveport, Louisiana, childhood home, he ended up on the West Coast. Mom fell in love with Southern California, and Dad marveled at the coastline of Northern California, Oregon, and Washington.
Hey, but why stop there? Their trip took a short detour to allow time for an Alaskan whale-sighting cruise. My parents had once considered a Sunday drive for ice cream an exciting afternoon. Now they searched for whales!
After the trip out west, I figured they'd both return home and things would get back to normal: working, puttering around the house, stopping to visit on weekends. Parent stuff. Instead, these two crazy ol' folks had a master plan: early retirement; summers at home; winter someplace nice and warm.
Through different stays at various campgrounds, they developed a network of cruising friends. I had to admit that this was a wonderful change for my parents, who'd always been too busy to become involved in town social events. Many in their group met every winter at the same campground in Mississippi. Had a community of friends - a family - who compared notes about travel and living expenses, discussed winter havens, and mapped out strategic plans toward becoming full-time roadies.
I was thrilled that my parents were having such a good time in their later years, but I was feeling a little resentment concerning their new lifestyle. I missed having both of them available. This was the time of life and my parents were supposed to be hanging around and annoying me, not taking off for months at a time, leaving me to field the calls from irate elderly relatives who asked, "Where are your parents? When are they coming home? What's gotten into them?
My parents do not have a phone. This is a conscious decision on their part. "Out of sight, out of mind," my mother is fond of saying. "Of course," she remarked, "We miss you and Steve." Secretly, I think they enjoy their own inaccessibility.
Undaunted by disconsolate relatives, my parents set their ultimate plan into action. Spring of 1993 found the motorhome shopping. They'd been doing her homework for quite some time and we're ready for the big one. They shopped and compared, analyzing every detail, each nook of storage space. In July 1993 they purchased a 1994 34-foot Gulfstream Scenic Cruiser. It was simply beautiful. Teal and white outside, sleek and contemporary, with rose and gray-blue accents inside, sporting a full bedroom and bath.
But they weren't quite finished. Between April and September of 1994, with the help of family and friends, they returned to Connecticut, but their home on the market, and sold it, along with 40 years' worth of stuff (stashing some away and several lucky recipients' attics and cellars). They change the residence to outside of Connecticut (too expensive, they moaned) and were once again going like the wind.
My husband I was so exhausted from tag sales, packing, selling, moving, and lugging, not to mention searching and filing, but somehow the reality had not yet set in. My parents had sold my childhood home along with all the fixings and were gone. Free. Unencumbered. Relaxed and youthful once again.
During the summer of 1995 they visited for two brief months before they took off again to seek out territories unknown: Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona.
"See you next fall!" Mom exclaimed.
"Maybe," Dad jokingly added.
Hmm. I wonder if he was really kidding.
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