Fulltimers Delay Trek, Settle on Maine Island
Bill and Barbara Wright sold their house in Georgia two years ago and drove off in their RV with plans to visit 50 states in five years. But record fuel prices have forced them to cut their annual mileage in half, add at least a year to the schedule and give up their dream of driving to Alaska.
The Wrights, who have parked their RV at a campground on Orr’s Island, Maine, this summer, show how soaring energy costs are cooling the wanderlust of recreational vehicle owners and their romance with the open road. The unexpected pain at the pump is causing many to rethink or even relinquish the spontaneously scenic retirement lifestyles they have carefully budgeted for, according to The Boston Globe.
"A lot of people travel the West," said Daniel King, a 50-year-old administrator at North Yarmouth Academy in Maine. "My goal was when I got a little bit older to do that, but I don't know with the way prices are if I'll do that or not."
RVers today are rambling less often. Some are leaving motorhomes in the driveway, others are traveling shorter distances. Still others are staying longer at campgrounds and RV parks – even to the point of putting down roots.
It's all diminishing a nomadic lifestyle nearly as old as the nation. Since Colonial days, a certain breed of American has always been on the move, seeking new sights and new adventures and calling "home" wherever they happened to stop.
"Americans are vagabonds," said RV historian Al Hesselbart. "Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett – had they had cars and trailers, those guys would have been RVers."
But even Boone might have thought twice about crossing the Allegheny Mountains into Kentucky had he faced gasoline and diesel at $4 to $5 a gallon. Those prices made the Wrights rethink their plans to motor to Alaska in their 38-foot trailer pulled by a diesel pickup truck. Fueling the 10-miles-per-gallon guzzler would cost more than flying and taking a cruise ship to admire the glaciers.
They've made other adjustments, too. In past years, the Wrights wouldn't have spent more than a few days in any one place before driving off to discover what's around the next curve. But this year the retired couple – she is 57 and he is 58 – plan to spend all summer at Orr's Island Campground with beautiful but unchanging views of lobster boats, rocky beaches and about 60 other RVs.
As a result, the couple has planted a garden, growing jalapeño peppers, cherry tomatoes, cilantro, radishes and four kinds of lettuce. They've become friendly enough with local lobstermen to buy the daily catch at wholesale prices. And once a week, in Casco Bay's fading twilight, they host a campfire in front of their trailer for other long-term campers,
King has towed his RV trailer for 30 years. He loved logging 3,000 miles a month hopscotching among racetracks as far away as Nova Scotia's Cape Breton. No matter where he wandered, he could enjoy surround-sound stereo, flat-screen television, and a refrigerator and freezer stocked with Cokes and Black Angus burgers.
Today, however, he won't even drive his trailer to Bar Harbor, about 170 miles away.
RVs turning into New England campgrounds these days rarely carry license plates from the West Coast or Deep South. More often than not, they've come from communities within a two-hour drive.
That means less diversity among campers. Part of the allure of RVing has been waking up each day to find new neighbors; listening to the wide assortment of twangs and accents peppering good-morning greetings; and making friends with people from the farthest-flung places. A little of this roving romance is lost every time a gas tank goes unfilled.
At New England campgrounds, Floridians like Raymond and Gladdie Coultas, of Vero Beach, have become a rarity. They've tried to hold down expenses by limiting grocery runs from Orr's Island to Brunswick, 11 miles away, and turning off their propane hot water heater after morning showers.
"There's no question the price of gas is having an impact on everything you do," said Raymond Coultas, 75. "It means now you drive up in the spring and back in the fall."
In the meantime, if something comes up in Florida that requires quick attention, the couple returns home by the most frugal means possible, he said. "You fly."