Full-time RV Pioneer & Escapees RV Club Co-Founder: Kay Peterson

June 2017 – We just received the very sad news that Escapees RV Club Co-Founder Kay Peterson has died.

Kay was a guiding light in the RVing community for many decades, a woman who lived her dreams to the fullest, despite many seemingly impossible road blocks along the way. Nearly two years ago Mark and I were utterly blessed to spend several very memorable hours with Kay learning about the winding road she took through a fascinating life.

As we all know but too often forget, “Time stops for no man,” and if there was anyone who understood the power of those words it was Kay Peterson. If you have a big dream but keep putting it off for one reason or another, Kay’s rich life offers all the inspiration you need to squash your fears and live life with gusto.

To give you a sense of the way Kay approached her life, I just received a touching note from Cathie Carr, Kay’s daughter and retired leader of Escapees RV Club. As Kay lay dying and holding Cathie’s hand, she faced her future with a profound optimism as she said:

“When you’re born, you cry and the world rejoices. When you die, you rejoice and the world cries.”

For our newer readers who do not know her incredible story, we are re-publishing this post today in honor of Kay Peterson’s life.

Escapees Magazine Cover Jul-Aug 2016 Photo by Mark Fagan

Escapees Magazine — July/August 2016
Cover Photo by Mark Fagan

The July/August 2016 of Escapees Magazine features a lengthy article I wrote about Kay Peterson, the co-founder of Escapees RV Club and a pioneer in the full-time RV lifestyle in the 1970’s.

Writing this really fun article followed a truly inspiring personal visit that Mark and I enjoyed with Kay last fall

You can read the Escapees Magazine article here:

Kay Peterson – Escapees Magazine July/August 2016

Like many new SKPs (the Escapees RV Club nickname for the word “Escapees”), our first real evidence of being members was in receiving and reading the bi-monthly Club magazine, Escapees Magazine.

We knew little else about the club when we joined, but when I saw the first issue of the thick magazine, I was struck by two things: the artistic cover photo and the very first article inside called “Thoughts for the Road” written by Kay Peterson.

As the months went by and more issues arrived, I was always very taken by the images on the cover of the magazine, and I couldn’t help but sit right down and read Kay Peterson’s opening essay immediately.

She always spoke of the importance of pursuing your dreams, of taking chances, of overcoming your fear of the unknown and of following your own heart.

She seemed to be speaking right to us, because those topics were hot on our minds as we discovered true independence and freedom in our first few months and years on the road.

After decades of living a conventional lifetsyle, we’d struck out on our own in a little travel trailer and we were loving every minute of it. “Everyone should do this!” we kept saying to each other. “What’s holding them back?”

And then we’d read Kay’s latest installment, and she’d remind us that too often people are held back by fear. They want to wait for a “better time” in their lives to chase their dreams, a time when they have more money, or more time, or fewer responsibilities.

I was astonished that this RV club magazine would dive right into these weighty, philosophical topics, and that Kay would keep persisting, gently prodding us to think about the important things in life. Who was she, where had she come from, and what had her life been like? I wondered.

Full-time RV pioneer and Escapees RV Club Founder Kay Peterson


At that time, we had no idea what the Escapees RV Club was all about beyond the magazine. We aren’t joiners or “club” people, and we had started RVing full-time to get away, not to become part of a social group. But the quality of the magazine and those intriguing opening essays that Kay wrote touched us both.

The images on the cover of Escapees Magazine were always beautiful, and the articles inside had a different thrust than other RV magazines we subscribed to that focused on RV reviews, product reviews and info about RV gear. Escapees Magazine had a lot of that stuff too, but it also went into detail about the unusual things that affect people who live on the road in their RVs full-time or for months on end.

Escapees Magazine Covers

Escapees Magazine is different than other RV magazines

I felt an affinity with Kay Peterson right from the get-go, but when she mentioned in one of her essays that she’d gotten her start as a writer when she sent an article to Woodall’s Trailer Travel Magazine and that they responded by publishing it and sending her a check for $75, I was blown away. I had just sent an aritcle to Escapees Magazine about Goblin Valley, Utah, right in time for the Halloween issue, and they had responded by publishing it and sending me a check for $75!

Kay’s writing, her philosophy of life, and the essence of her message stayed with me, and as I wrote more and more, on this blog and elsewhere, I often felt her influence in the back of my mind. She is a generation ahead of me in age, and she was like a guide and mentor, even though we had never met.

Mark and I finally had an opportunity to meet Kay last fall when we were in Texas, and what a fabulous experience that was.

Kay Peterson and Emily Fagan full-time RVers

I was thrilled to be able to chat with Kay Peterson

She was warm, animated and downright charismatic as she told the two of us her life story. She has lived an incredible life, going through lots of twists and turns and bumps in the road on her way to many impressive achievements, and her intriguing journey continues to this day.

As soon as she greeted us, I had to smile at hearing her light Boston accent. That accent is near and dear to my heart, because I grew up there, and even though I don’t have the accent and can’t mimic it, whenever I hear it spoken authentically (not the Hollywood version), it sounds like home.

What was much more surprising, though, was to find out that she got her nurse’s training in the 1940’s in the exact same hospital where members of my family had been born and died in the 1960’s and 1970’s. As it turned out, Kay and I had grown up at the same end of town!

I was also fascinated to learn that back in her day, the student nurses lived in dormitories at the hospital while they were in nursing school.

Full-time RV pioneer Kay Peterson and Emily Fagan

We found we had a lot in common!

For most of us born after the Great Depression and World War II, the events of the 1930’s and 40’s exist only in faded black and white photos and jittery newsreels. Even though, for me and Mark, the war ended just 10-15 years before we were born, about the same distance back as 9/11 is today, it is impossible for us to understand what life was really like back then.

But as Kay described her childhood and youth to us, that era suddenly came to life in vivid color. She came of age as the war was ending, and her young adulthood was intricately tied to and shaped by the events around her.

It’s easy to take society’s changes from the Women’s Liberation movement for granted now. Having forgotten just how much the world has changed in the past 65 years, Mark and I were both very affected by the movie Philomena, which is about a young woman who was forced to live in a Catholic home for unwed mothers and give up her baby for adoption in Ireland in the 1950’s. But as we listened to Kay’s story, we were shocked to hear that tale told again, but this time in the 1940’s in America.

Likewise, we have always known that tuberculosis is a terrible disease, but we had no idea that until the vaccine for it was developed and made available, patients were isolated from society in institutions to prevent spreading it further. Most didn’t make it out alive, but Kay did.

Hearing Kay’s tales of her past, we not only saw how perseverance and optimism can lead to a fulfilling and rich life, as happened for her, but we got a history lesson as well.

Escapees RV Club founder Kay Peterson with Emily Fagan

I scribbled notes furiously but was captivated when I read her autobiography later!

Kay tells her life story in riveting detail in her book, Beating the Odds, published in 2013. After Mark and I spent several hours listening to her story in person during the course of two different visits, we absolutely devoured her book. It is an inspiring tale of overcoming and becoming that we couldn’t put down.

Kay faced many brutal hardships, from poverty to an abusive husband, and she struggled against many agonizing obstacles in her early years, including a life threatening disease, but she never lost her belief that life could be better.

A turning point came for her when her beloved grandmother died and she realized, while going through her belongings, that this woman she had always adored had lived more timidly than bravely and had died without ever allowing herself to be bold enough to insist on living her dreams. At that moment, Kay vowed never to fall prey to fear like that herself.

Escapees RV Club Sharing the RV Lifestyle

Kay and her husband Joe created the Escapees RV Club in 1978

Upon meeting Joe Peterson, she found her soulmate, and the two of them began to make history together when, at age 43, they joined the tiny ranks of people who were living in their RVs full-time in the 1970’s. Joe had the ideal mobile occupation as a “tramp” electrician, and in a few short years, she became a writer for both Woodall’s Trailer Travel Magazine and the Snowbird Newsletter.

These writing gigs led to her starting an RV journal of her own, which ultimately became Escapees Magazine. From that came the founding of the Escapees RV Club in 1978. The rest is history, as Escapees RV Club has grown in all kinds of creative ways since its inception.

But the most fascinating thing for me is that Kay Peterson has grown too.

Besides co-founding Escapees RV Club, overseeing the development of an outstanding RV magazine, and creating the first of its kind assisted living center for RVers (Escapees CARE or Continuing Assistance for Retired Escapees), she has published a slew of books, including the first book ever written about full-time RVing, called Home Is Where You Park It. This bible for full-timers was in print for 22 years until its last edition came off the presses in 1999.

Her fifteen years of full-time RV travels with Joe ultimately whetted their appetities for more travel adventures and led them further afield to explorations that took them overseas to Europe, Africa, Australia, Fiji and other exotic destinations.

A few years back, when she was in her mid-80’s, she mentioned in her Escapees Magazine column that she was now pursuing a dream she had held since her youth but had never made a top priority: writing a novel.

Never one for mere pipe dreams, in 2013, she published 13 Days in Africa, a novel that was inspired by her own safaris in Africa. This novel was so well received that she sat down and wrote another, and this past winter, on her 89th birthday, she published the sequel called The Elephant Bond.

Escapees RV Club Rainbow's End RV Park

The Escapees headquarters campus in Livingston, Texas, is so extensive they offer tours on a trolley bus!!

Dramatic and poignant, her novels draw from all of her life experiences and are compelling dramas. Kay was not quite finished discovering the stories behind her characters after the second novel, however, so she is planning to turn this pair of novels, whose stories now span three continents, into a trilogy, with the publication of a third novel in the series on her agenda now!

Added later: Kay completed the trilogy and published her third novel in the series, When Cultures Collide, in February 2017.

Escapees RV Club CARE Center for Retired RVers

Escapees CARE (Continuing Assistance for Retired Escapees)
Kay’s proudest accomplishment, and one which took extraordinary patience and fortitude!

At the moment, however, she is attending the Escapade RV rally in Essex Junction, Vermont (held July 21-23 in 2016), and lots of lucky Escapees members are having a chance to meet her in person and listen to her wisdom at the rally.

For those who have a dream — whether it’s a travel dream or lifestyle dream or something totally different — Kay stands out as one of those rare mentors who not only made their dreams a priority and made them come true, but who has consistently reached out to those around her and encouraged them to pursue their dreams as well.

I highly recommend reading Kay’s autobiography, Beating the Odds, and her book of essays, Chasing Rainbows.

The essays are drawn from over three decades of her inspirational Escapees Magazine articles. She offers many pearls of wisdom and gems of hope that are great reminders of how important it is not to let life pass us by.

Two of my favorite Kay Peterson quotes:

If you don’t fulfill your dreams now, when will you?


Some of us prefer to live 365 days in a year crammed with as many experiences as possible.
Others are content to live the same day 365 times in a row.

In addition, I highly recommend that all RVers, especially those who use their RV for extended travel, join Escapees RV Club, even the “non-joiners” and non-club folk like ourselves.

Of the many things that Escapees RV Club is involved in — a myriad of overnight parking options (from free sites to site ownership), an online RVers forum, RV rallies, RV education, an RV weighing program, assisted living for RVers, and a massive mail forwarding outfit — the RV advocacy work they do benefits everyone who owns an RV and is well worth supporting.

US Mail truck Escapees RV Club Headquarters Livingston Texas

This US Mail semi tractor trailer full of RVers’ mail pulls up at Escapees HQ in Texas EVERY DAY!!

The cost to join is minimal but the impact that a large, cohesive group can have on the rights of RVers is enormous. Besides, the magazine is excellent. You can join here:

Join Escapees RV Club

If you happen to join, we’d appreciate it if you’d let them know you heard about Escapees from this blog, Roads Less Traveled, as they will put a little something in our tip jar. This might sound shallow or self-serving, but the truth is that we have spent years recommending Escapees to other RVers and did so long before Escapees even knew we had a tip jar!

Full-time RV Pioneer Escapees Founder Kay Peterson with Mark and Emily Fagan

What a special time this was – Mark, Kay and me.

Also, for any Escapee with a camera or a flare for words, Escapees Magazine is always looking for photos and articles from members.

Mark’s cover photo in the July/August issue (at the top of this page) is a classic example of how a beautiful photograph taken with an inexpensive point-and-shoot camera can end up on the cover.

When he saw a Class C motorhome reflecting in his mirror in our truck, he grabbed the shot with the closest camera he could put his hands on, which turned out to be a cheap one he’d gotten years ago. We both then tried to improve upon his image with our fancy cameras, but gosh darn it, that little point-and-shoot got the best photo of them all.

So there it is, proof positive that sometimes the best way to go is just to jump in and do it, whatever “it” is, regardless of your gear or preparation, because that first impression and rush of enthusiasm may give you the biggest return.

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Kay Peterson’s Books:

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Alice Cooper Sells Us a New Truck!

He what??!!

Alice Cooper VIP Benefit Concert for Solid Rock Foundation

Would you buy a truck from this man?

December 2015 – When we bought our Dodge Ram 3500 single rear wheel truck brand new in 2007, we purchased it to tow our lightweight full-time home, a 7,000 lb. 2007 27′ Fleetwood Lynx travel trailer. For such a big, monster truck, that little trailer was a featherweight. But within a year, we had upgraded our year-round living quarters to a 36′ 2007 Hitchhiker Fifth Wheel trailer, a beast that weighs in at 14,000 lbs. fully loaded.

Dodge Ram 3500 truck with 36' Hitchhiker FIfth wheel trailer RV

Our ’07 Dodge Ram 3500 truck and 36′ Hitchhiker fifth wheel trailer — at home on the road!

This trailer was the absolute maximum size our truck could tow safely.

Over the years, our truck has valiantly lugged our home up and over 10,000′ mountain passes in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and other mountainous states and endured many a 7% or steeper grade in the process.

The truck’s GCWR (Gross Combined Weight Rating) is 21,000 lbs., but our truck and trailer weigh 22,150 lbs. when hitched up and fully loaded. The truck’s GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) is 10,100 lbs., but the truck weighs 10,850 lbs. when the trailer is sitting on its back.

When it comes to safety on the road, we’ve been pushing it!

2007 Dodge Ram 3500 single rear wheel truck

Our big beautiful trailer maxed out our big beautiful one ton truck!

We gave our truck bigger lungs and stronger muscles by installing a K&N Cold Air Intake Filter and an Edge Evolution Engine Tuner (installation and review HERE). We also gave it broader shoulders to carry heavy loads by installing a Timbren Suspension Enhancement System.

These upgrades helped, but even though the truck was very happy towing our trailer on flat roads, it worked awfully hard when it was put to the test on mountain grades. Frankly, the transmission and modest rear end were not really 100% up to the task in the Rockies.

Edge Diesel Evolution Tuner

We gave the truck’s engine more horsepower and torque by installing an Edge Evolution Tuner

Back in 2013 when we moved off of our sailboat and said goodbye to the cruising lifestyle, and recommitted ourselves to living the RV lifestyle full-time, we began tossing around the idea of upgrading our rig.

The beauty of having a towable RV is that we could replace the RV’s engine and drivetrain independently without affecting our living quarters (and vice versa). A new truck would revolutionize our driving experience on the road but not cost nearly as much nor be nearly as chaotic as replacing our home at the same time.

We were also toying with the idea of getting a truck camper someday so we could travel to more remote places. The weight of many truck campers requires a dually truck (four rear wheels instead of two to support the weight), so we began flirting with the idea of buying a dually.

We had a lot to learn about the latest trucks, and we studied everything we could about the myriad of improvements that diesel trucks have undergone since we last paid attention in 2007.

2007 Dodge Ram 3500 with 2007 36' Hitchhiker Fifth wheel Trailer

Our ’07 Dodge Ram 3500 single rear wheel truck was great, but a stronger truck would be better.

We began test driving new trucks right away when we arrived back in San Diego after our Mexico sailing travels. 2013 models were on dealer lots at the time, and in the ensuing months, the 2014 models began to arrive at the dealerships.

Since then, we have taken Ford, Chevy and Dodge trucks on over 200 miles of test drives, and visited at least 25 dealerships across the country. Mark subscribes to Diesel Power Magazine, and he has studied the subject of diesel trucks endlessly.

After much deliberation, we finally decided that a Ram 3500 dually was our truck of choice.

When we saw that the centerfold for the 2016 Ram Trucks brochure mentioned Roads Less Traveled, we had to have a 2016!

Dodge RAM Brochure Cover

2016 Ram Trucks Brochure centerfold — It was meant to be!!

Diesel trucks improve every year, and this new one has a whopping best-in-class GCWR of 39,000 lbs as compared to the 21,000 lbs of our old truck. And that was just the first item on a long list of eye-popping stats.

Our only question was where it would be best to buy it. Because of our mobile lifestyle, we could buy it in any state at any dealership.

By the summer of 2015, Mark had come to know more about each option on the new Ram trucks than most of the salesmen we talked to. He also knew exactly which options he wanted and which ones he didn’t want. Unfortunately, this made it nearly impossible to find “the ideal truck” just sitting around somewhere on some random Dodge dealership lot.

Throughout our 2015 travels across 24 states, we checked in at almost every Dodge dealership in almost every town we visited to see if they had “our truck.” None did. We repeatedly searched online to see if a detour of 100 miles in this direction or that would bring us to our dream truck. No dice.

2014 Dodge Ram 5500 truck

We test drove Ford, Chevy and Dodge trucks all over the country for two years.
In Wyoming, we even test drove a custom 2014 Dodge Ram 5500. Very cool, but very stiff!

We soon realized that we would have to place an order for our truck in order to get the combination of options we wanted, and we would have to wait 8 weeks for it to be built and shipped to a dealership.

We were in perpetual motion driving from Arizona to Nova Scotia and back in 2015. Our favorite dealership was Marshall Motors in Salina, Kansas, where diesel truck salesman Alex Thatcher was the most knowledgeable of any we’d met. But we wanted to keep moving to get back to Arizona for the winter.

Logistically, ordering a truck in Arizona made the most sense for us because we were going to be there for a few months. But which dealership would be best?

2007 Dodge Ram 3500 truck with 2007 36' Hitchhiker Fifth Wheel Trailer RV

Mark LOVED our ’07 truck and worried he might not love a new one as much…

We got a tip that Airpark Dodge in Scottsdale, Arizona has an annual Christmas holiday “Buy a Car Get a Guitar” promotion where anyone that buys a new car also gets a glistening new electric guitar signed by rock star Alice Cooper as part of the deal.

When Mark heard that, he was sold — We were THERE!

Mark has been a huge Alice Cooper fan since the day the rock star exploded on the scene in 1971, and we listen to his music all the time. Mark turned 18 shortly after Alice Cooper’s clever and poignant song “I’m Eighteen” came out, and he graduated from high school the year Alice’s hit “School’s Out” soared to the top of the charts.

Alice Cooper and Mark were both born in Detroit, and both spent their adult lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Mark didn’t move across country just to be like the rock star, but he went to a ton of Alice Cooper concerts in both cities over the past four decades, and he dressed up as his idol on many a Halloween night!

Alice Cooper Wannabe Cooperstown Phoenix Arizona

Wild eyed fans love to dress up as Alice Cooper, even to this day.
Mark morphed into Alice Cooper for Halloween many times!

As a kid, Mark used to have a t-shirt decorated with Alice Cooper’s early trademark mascara eyelashes, and he wore it so much he wore it right through to rags. On the occasional day he didn’t wear it, a friend would ask him, “Where’s your Cooper shirt?”

Before we started traveling full-time, back when Mark and I were avid cyclists, we rode our bikes past Alice Cooper’s house all the time. Mark would always point it out, and we would wonder what life was like behind the huge front doors that had handles shaped like snakes.

There was no doubt that now, if Mark could lay his hands on a guitar that Alice Cooper had actually touched and signed, he would be totally beside himself. We knew exactly where we would be ordering our new truck!

Here’s the TV ad for the Airpark Dodge promo — check it out:

Buy a Car, Get a Guitar starts Dec. 10th.

Buy a Car, Get a Guitar starts Dec. 10th.

Posted by Airpark Dodge Chrysler Jeep on Tuesday, December 8, 2015


At the end of the ad, after passing out a slew of free guitars for car buyers, Alice asks: “I wonder what you get if you buy a truck?”

OMG — We sure found out!!

To begin with, when we got to Airpark Dodge to pick up our new baby, Mark was given his signed Alice Cooper electric guitar. He was in seventh heaven!

New Alice Cooper Guitar Giveaway for Dodge Ram 3500 dually truck

A new electric guitar signed by Alice Cooper – Wow!!
Oh…. and a new truck too.

As we admired the Alice Cooper memorabilia on the walls of the dealership, we discovered that the GM of Airpark Dodge is golf buddies with Alice Cooper. To our amazement — and dismay — we found out that the week before we got there, Alice had been hanging out at the dealership kick-starting the promotion.

Oh, man. How did we miss seeing him in person at the dealership?! We were so bummed!!

Alice Cooper's Office at Airpark Dodge Scottsdale Arizona

Alice Cooper hangs out at Airpark Dodge in Scottsdale Arizona so much he has his own office
(well, ummm… it’s a broom closet!!)

But then we found out that “Coop,” as his friends know him, was going to be performing at Talking Stick Arena in downtown Phoenix two nights later. Concert tickets were sold out, but afterwards he was going to host a special party at his bar/restaurant across the street (called Cooperstown) to benefit his teen rock center and rock music school in Phoenix called Solid Rock.

With that tid-bit of inside scoop, we dashed downtown on the appointed night, and before we knew it, we were mingling with a crowd of other fans at Cooperstown, waiting for the official concert across the street to end and for Coop to come on over and play at his bar.

Suddenly, a crazy Alice Cooper lookalike in a straight jacket and tall leopard boots grabbed Mark by the neck. Yikes!

Alice Cooper impersonator

Ya gotta watch out for those rabid fans!

He let Mark go, and we wandered around admiring the posters and wacky stage props and guitars and other memorabilia that cover the walls of Cooperstown.

Cooperstown Alice Cooper Restaurant Phoenix Arizona

There’s all kinds of cool stuff on the walls at Cooperstown in Phoenix

Suddenly, Alice Cooper appeared. He’d removed his stage makeup from the big concert across the street at the arena and was mingling with his fans around the restaurant. He knew some of them and recognized others from previous encounters.

Alice Cooper with a fan in Phoenix Arizona

Alice Cooper chats with a fan who’d brought him a special gift she’d made.

His son Dash got up on stage and performed with his band Co-op (“Coop” with a Dash !!). I had to smile as he leaned over the rail to watch his son in action.

Alice Cooper watches his son perform at Cooperstown Phoenix Arizona

Alice Cooper watches his son perform at Cooperstown

Moments later, he turned around, and we caught him just long enough to get some photos with him. He was very obliging, and oh lordy me, we were both totally star struck!

Alice Cooper up close and personal

From Mark’s lifetime bucket list of dreams – Meet Alice Cooper…

Moments after Dash’s band finished, Alice was up on stage with his own band, rocking out just steps from where we stood. Holy Smokes!

Alice Cooper band in concert Cooperstown Phoenix Arizona


Alice Cooper Solid Rock benefit concert Cooperstown Phoenix Arizona


We laughed and sang along and clapped and cheered with everyone else. This was AWESOME!!

Alice Cooper band at Cooperstown Phoenix AZ


Alice Cooper in concert benefit Solid Rock_

Hot hot hot!

Between singing along, we both managed to snap some fun pics.

Alice Cooper in concert Solid Rock Foundation Benefit


Alice Cooper VIP Benefit Concert for Solid Rock Teen Center


Not only was Alice Cooper phenomenal, but his band was incredible too. His guitarist, Nita Strauss, is stunning in every way!

Alice Cooper bandmate Nita Strauss

Nita Strauss is a mind blowing guitarist in Alice Cooper’s band

All of a sudden, Alice Cooper’s son jumped back on stage and began singing with his dad. How cool is that?!

Alice Cooper and son Dash sing together

Alice Cooper sings with his son Dash

What a fantastic night this was. What fabulous memories!!

Alice Cooper sings at Cooperstown Phoenix


Alice Cooper in Concert Phoenix Arizona


Needless to say, we were gushingly excited. And we listened to Alice Cooper songs for the next week, nonstop.

Alice Cooper Solid Rock Benefit Concert Arizona

Looking down at the stage and crowd of fans in Cooperstown

Oh… and our new truck?


Here are the details explaining exactly what we ordered on our new truck and why:

2016 Ram 3500 Dually Diesel – Best RV Fifth Wheel Towing

Buying a new truck meant buying a new fifth wheel hitch. We got a B&W hitch that we installed ourselves in one hour!! Here’s more info…

B&W Companion OEM 5th Wheel Hitch – Step-by-step Installation Guide

Also, our new diesel truck requires the use of DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid), and we learned a bunch about where to get it cheaply and how to get it in the truck without spilling…

How to Put DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid) in a Truck and Which Brand is Cheapest?

2016 Ram 3500 dually pickup truck

What a ride!!

If you are in the market for a truck, swing by Airpark Dodge in Scottsdale and see if the Coop is in! If he isn’t, talk to our salesman, Ed Kulas.

More Alice Cooper links below…

The hit song “I’m Eighteen” that has captured the hearts of 18 year olds for over 40 years:

“School’s Out” – This song, along with the drinking age dropping from 21 to 18 in most states and the draft ending nationwide — made 1972 a very special year for an entire graduating class of high school seniors:

“Elected” — Very appropriate for the 2016 election year, or for any election year for that matter. Alice Cooper wants to be elected, and he promises the formation of a New Party, a Wild Party… a Beer Party!!

Nowadays, Alice cooper is a pitchman for lots of companies. Here’s a super cute TV ad he did for Staples during the Back to School sales season:

Here’s a fun ad he did for Residence Inn:

And here’s a cute one for Service Arizona, the online vehicle registration service from Arizona’s Department of Transportation:

Wonder where this wacky rock star came from? Here’s a bio of how Vincent Furnier evolved into and then away from his alter ego Alice Cooper:

Here’s Alice Cooper talking a bit about his stage persona, his thoughts on Lady Gaga and music today. Skip 2:17 into the interview and you’ll hear him tell the TRUE story behind the urban myth that he killed a chicken on stage (I sure remember hearing THAT rumor circulating among my teeny-bop friends…yikes!):

Here’s a wonderful interview that gives insights into the now “lovable” and truly beloved Shock Rock star:

An interesting morsel we discovered in all of this was that Alice Cooper was approached and offered tons of money to do a reality TV show about his life today. But when the producers found out he’s a sober, drug-free family man who plays golf six days a week and goes to church every Sunday, they went with Ozzie Osbourne instead.

Here’s Alice Cooper, son of a pastor/evangelist, grandson of a pastor/evangelist and son-in-law of a Baptist minister…on Christianity:

Alice Cooper talks to golfers about how an addiction to golf saved him from an addiction to alcohol:

Here’s a little more from Alice Cooper about his faith and Christianity. Skip 6:05 minutes into it to hear about his foundation for at-risk teens, Solid Rock (the website given in the video has been replaced with www.alicecoopersolidrock.com):

Here’s a 2013 Arizona Republic newspaper article on Alice Cooper’s Solid Rock Foundation

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Keep Your Daydream Podcast – An Interview with RLT!

Keep Your Daydream podcast album cover

June 2015 – There is an exciting new podcast, Keep Your Daydream, that has recently begun production, and Mark and I were interviewed for their very first episode.

This is a cool podcast that has quickly climbed the charts at iTunes, ranking #1 in its category within a few short weeks of its debut.

If you want to hear what our voices sound like, click the link below to listen to 46 minutes of us telling stories about how we got started in this crazy full-time traveling lifestyle and what our life is like now!

–> Roads Less Traveled Interview on the Keep Your Daydreams Podcast <--

The origins and purpose of this podcast are near and dear to our hearts. Back before we started traveling full-time, we were avid cyclists in Arizona, and Mark’s good buddy Marc Leach was a particularly speedy cycling friend.

Mark and Marc happily duked it out on many a hill climb, and a great friendship was forged during night races on the city streets after work.

When we had dinner with them one night years later, after we’d finished our cruise of Mexico, they told us they dreamed of sailing off over the horizon too (although we highly recommended that they trying RVing first, as it is a much easier lifestyle than cruising in foreign lands!).

Nowadays, Marc Leach and his wife Tricia still dream of casting off on boating adventures, perhaps following in our sailboat Groovy’s wake, and likely going much further afield. However, they have three kids to finish raising first.

Tricia and Marc Leach of Keep Your Daydream podcast with their family

Right now Marc and Tricia are busy raising their kids — but their travel dreams are very much alive!

Note added in 2022 – Now 7 years since this post was written, Marc and Trish’s Keep Your Daydream YouTube channel has gone off the charts in popularity and is a wonderful way to get a taste of the RV lifestyle and get inspired to travel.

Probably lots of people are in a similar situation — the adventure dreams are there, but the circumstances aren’t quite right, yet!

So, how are Marc & Trish keeping their daydream alive in the meantime? They are introducing themselves to the people that are out there doing it, and they are interviewing them to find out what it’s like to jump in with both feet and live your dream!! And they are sharing these interviews with anyone that has an internet connection.

What a truly inspired idea!!

Marc and Tricia Leach of the Keep Your Daydream podcast

Marc and Tricia dream of sailing off over the horizon someday

Together, they have scoured the internet looking for interesting adventurers who are living an unsual lifestyle and fulfilling their dreams. From RVers to sailors to a guy that spends each year living in a new country to a young mom traveling Greece with her son, they are finding truly daring and unique folks.

Rather than just sitting back and reading these travelers’ blogs, Marc’s wife Tricia, a former fitness champion, gets up the nerve to contact the travelers themselves, wherever they are in the world, and set up a Skype interview with them.

What we loved most is that Tricia is a super interviewer. She’s upbeat, she’s got great questions, and she’s really fun to talk to.

Tricia Leach conducts an interview on the Keep Your Daydream Podcast

Tricia Leach conducts an interview on the Keep Your Daydream Podcast

There are thousands of outstanding RV, sailing and adventure travel blogs out there these days, but unfortunately there are still only 24 hours in a day to read them all.

The great thing about Keep Your Daydream is that for anyone who spends hours in their car, you can listen to it as you drive.

I did hundreds of thousands of miles of commuting when I worked in the corporate world. I think Mark did even more! How wonderful it would have been to have spent those hours listening to entertaining interviews with people who were living adventurous lives far from home. Even though that life couldn’t have been mine at the time, I would have come away from each episode inspired and excited.

Kudos to you guys, Tricia and Marc, for a great new podcast. We can’t wait to hear more!!

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The Tube Dude – Spreading Good Cheer in Sarasota, Florida

May 2015 – While we were in Sarasota, Florida, we kept seeing these funny looking metal figures all around town. This big stick figure guy was always busy doing something, and he was always smiling.

Tube Dude baker at Pastry Art Bakery in Sarasota Florida

We saw metal figures like this pair at the Pastry Art Bakery all over Sarasota!

I finally asked the folks at the Pastry Art Bakery downtown — who had a cute pair out front — what these stick figures were all about.

“Oh, that’s the Tube Dude!” the gal behind the counter said with a smile. “He’s very popular around here. A local guy makes them…”

Fishing Tube Dude in Sarasota Florida

The Tube Dude goes fishing

I looked online, and sure enough, he has a website: www.tube-dude.com.

The Tube Dude hangs out on people’s lawns and in front of businesses, doing all kinds of things, from kayaking to getting the mail to parasailing:

Kayaking Tube Dude in Sarasota Florida

The Tube Dude takes a ride in his Hobie Kayak

Mailbox Tube Dude in Sarasota Florida

The Tube Dude holds the family mail

Dentist Tube Dude in Sarasota Florida

Holding a toothbrush, he greets patients at a dentist’s office

Tube Dude at a law firm in Sarasota Florida

The Tube Dudette holds the scales of justice at a Sarasota law firm.

As we drove around town, one or the other of us would spot him in a front yard or next to a business.

“Tube Dude!” We’d yell, pointing.

Parasail Tube Dude Sarasota Florida

On his days off, the Tube Dude goes parasailing!

It wasn’t always possible to get a great pic, but we sure had fun spotting him.

Parasailing Tube Dude Sarasota Florida

The Tube Dude is ready to take off with his parasail.

He’s a busy and happy guy, very similar to his T-shirt brother, Jake, who loves the outdoors and always says, “Life is Good!

Animal Hospital Tube Dudes Sarasota Florida

Tube dudes provide emergency care at an animal hospital.

If you spend any time in Sarasota, Florida, keep an eye out for the Tube Dude.

Bakery Tube Dude Sarasota Florida

Making pizza on a rooftop.

He’s all around town, grinning from ear to ear, and spreading his special brand of good cheer in Sarasota!!

Tube Dude Baker Sarasota Florida

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Flashback – Meeting Toller Cranston in Mexico

January 2015 – Our sailing cruise in Mexico introduced us to many wonderful people, and while we were traveling inland to visit the colorful city of Guanajuato, I had a chance to spend some time with my lifelong idol and mentor-in-spirit, figure skater Toller Cranston, at his amazing home in San Miguel de Allende.

This post is a departure from the normal fare found on this blog. However, it is a post I’ve wanted to write for a long time. I just couldn’t find the words. The shock of Toller Cranston’s death over this past weekend opened a floodgate of emotions for me when I learned about it yesterday, and suddenly the words were there. So here it is.

San Miguel de Allende Mexico Street Scenes

A street in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, Toller Cranston’s home for two decades

San Miguel de Allende Mexico street musician

A street musician in San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel de Allende Mexico Cathedral La Parroquia

San Miguel de Allende Cathedral — La Parroquia

Mexico window flower box

Flowers and window boxes on a house in San Miguel de Allende

Emily skating

I spent my childhood and youth on the ice.

As a child and young teenager, figure skating dominated my life, and I competed at a high level. At the time, spending six to seven hours a day on the ice seemed perfectly normal, because all my skating friends and rivals were doing the same thing. You couldn’t stay competitive with anything less.

It was only decades later that I realized that from age 13 to 16 I had put in over 40 hours a week learning to master the ice, to skate with abandon and grace, and to perform. It was a huge effort, but I loved it. I treasured every minute of being a skater, especially when an unusual Canadian skater, Toller Cranston, showed up in the world class competitions and opened my eyes to the vast potential of the sport.

Competitive skating is very conservative and is largely made up of cute little girls in pink dresses and the dour middle aged judges in heavy coats and sweaters who rank them.

Skaters pay their coaches big bucks to help them determine exactly what the judges want to see and then learn how to do it. The judges are not paid for their time but are reimbursed their expenses, and the skating we see on TV is a perfect reflection of what they have rewarded throughout skating’s ranks with good marks on their score sheets.

Little girl competes in Sun Valley Figure Skating Championships

A little skater shows me her medals.
I was like this nearly 50 years ago too!

If the judges want jumps with tight rotations, the skaters deliver. If it’s dizzying spins with many changes of position, they’ve got it. Fancy footwork — done.

Skaters learn very young not to let a single hair be out of place, and by age 12 the most elite among them are seasoned “professionals” that are well accustomed to being stars, signing autographs, dealing with fans, and receiving ovations.

Figure skating as an institution is slow to change, and it’s a world that is highly averse to rebellion. The judges can squelch any renegade with the flick of a pen. And they do.

So it was with total shock that this insular community witnessed Toller Cranston coming into his own in the mid-1970’s. He took on the Establishment in ways that the Hippies, who talked of such things, couldn’t possibly imagine. Brash, bold, outspoken and charismatic, Toller introduced drama and passion into skating to a degree that had never been seen before.

Figure skating judges at a competition

The judges call all the shots in skating. I was a judge at one time!

I was mesmerized. On the cusp of adulthood myself, I watched this man in awe as he battled for all he was worth to show the world his vision of what skating could be. He did moves no man had ever done, and no man would dream of doing at the time. Prancing on his toes, swooping his body into wildly rounded and angular shapes, and leaping into the air with total glee and nary a rotation, he was exotic, exciting, thrilling.

I don’t have any pics of Toller skating, but there are two wonderful pics here and here.

Competitive skating is a tiny world too, one where skaters know and “know of” each other even if they haven’t met. When my own skating career came to a screeching halt after I developed spondylolisthesis (probably from too many double axel attempts), Toller wrote me a letter of encouragement and sympathy.

Toller Cranston's House Front Gate

We arrive at Toller Cranston’s imposing front gate.

At the time, he had started “The Ice Show,” a fabulous new style of skating entertainment, and in his unique hand-written scrawl, he said he wished I could have been part of the group. I was blown away, unbelievably touched and absolutely crushed at the same time. I was 17 by now, and living away from home in a new life at a unique high school trying to come to grips with giving up skating. If I could have, I would have run away to be a part of anything he was doing in a heartbeat.

That thoughtful letter and those few words have stayed with me throughout my life.

Toller Cranston leads us through his garden

We follow Toller through his garden

Toller went on to take on far bigger worlds beyond skating, and I lost track of his many projects.

But the essence of what he did on the ice — his fearless pursuit of his passion, his daring moves that flew in the face of everything the skating world held dear, his steadfast commitment to doing what he believed in, and his utter whimsy and charm — continue stay with me to this day.

I’ve always wanted to live my life with a fervor and soul that is just as deep and just as free.

While our sailboat Groovy was anchored in Zihuatanejo, I became friends with Pamela Bendall who, at 57, was completing a 5-year solo voyage from Vancouver to Peru and back aboard her 47′ steel yacht, Precious Metal.

I discovered she was an Olympic alternate gymnast for Canada in the early 1970’s. We had a rare connection with each other as two women who had spent their girlhoods training to become top athletes, dreaming of perfectly executed tricks and polished performances under pressure.

As we sat on the bow of her boat eating potato chips together (an absolute no-no in our past lives), I casually mentioned that her countryman Toller Cranston had been my idol. What a surprise it was to find out that she grew up in the same town as he did.

“You know, he lives in San Miguel de Allende here in Mexico now,” she suddenly said.

Where? I’d never heard of the place. I made a mental note, but thought nothing of it since it was nowhere near the coast. A year later, however, Mark and I found ourselves exploring Guanajuato, just an hour away.

Pamela Bendall aboard Precious Metal

Former gymnast Pamela Bendall aboard her cruising sailboat Precious Metal

I checked the internet to see if Toller’s address might be somewhere online and discovered he had his house for sale. When we rang the doorbell at his estate’s imposing gate a few days later, a maid gave me a slip of paper to write my name on so she could give it to him before letting me in.

Then, suddenly, there he was at the gate, his hair slightly disheveled and his pants spattered with paint. We exchanged greetings, and he gestured for us to follow him. I asked if he remembered me. He turned back, with a theatrical swoosh, and looked at me pointedly. “I know all about you!” he said.

Mark was totally impressed, but I know drama when I see it, and this was obviously mostly for effect — and the effect was awesome.

Toller Cranston's House Outside-2

Wonderful outdoor seating by the garden.

We followed him through a lush garden that was utterly overgrown and stuffed to the gills with outdoor art pieces. Once inside his home, we discovered we had arrived right in time for a big Sunday brunch he was hosting, and his guests began arriving. He invited us to stay and have brunch too, and in no time a large circular table was packed with about 10 guests.

We found ourselves in impressive company, including Nat King Cole’s daughter and the parents of a halfpipe snowboarding Olympian. Mark and I were speechless listening to a fast repartee between everyone about art, art collections, art collectors, art history, and other highbrow things we know little about.

Paintings everywhere

There were paintings and artwork everywhere.

Suddenly, Toller announced to the table in a loud voice, “You know, Emily and I have a past…”

I froze as everyone turned to look at me.

“A skating past,” he went on with a sly smile.

I loved his sense of timing and flare — it was impeccable, even here at the breakfast table.

The conversation turned to skating, and more lightning quick conversation sailed over my head as they discussed skating champions of the last two decades that I don’t really know.

I stopped watching TV regularly in 1994, and have managed to catch only a rare glimpse of one skater or another since then, if I happened to be in a place with a TV when a skating event was on.

But when they turned back to discussing the skating greats of the 1970’s, I was right there with them, reminiscing about Janet Lynn‘s charm and John Misha Petkevich‘s soaring jumps.

Eventually, the brunch guests left, but Toller invited us to tour his estate and stick around a while.

He has made his living as an artist since his early teenage years when he attended art school, and every corner of his mansion was crammed with artwork, both his own and others’.

Our conversation turned to skating again, in bits and spurts of questions and answers, and slowly the quest I had been after when I first decided to knock on his door in San Miguel de Allende began to be answered.

Who was this unusual artist? How did he dare to be so free? What made him tick? What did he think about all day? And where had life taken him since he stood on the podium at the Olympics?

Toller Cranston's House Inside-4

Every seat in the house was surrounded by art.

In a few short hours that day and the next, a heavy cloak of sadness slowly wrapped itself around my heart as I listened — between the words — to what it took for this man to change the direction of the institution of men’s figure skating.

Toller came into skating at a time when all the flamboyant beauty of free skating counted for only 40% of the overall score. The other 60% of the score came from circular etchings on the ice called “figures” (and which took 75% of my practice time and every one else’s).

Toller Cranston's House Inside-5

Toller collected the pottery work of local artisans in Mexico

Wild passion and figures don’t mix well. Even worse, figures can’t be seen by anyone but the judges who walk around on them in rubber boots after the skater is done, as they study each tracing and take notes on a clipboard.

Toller developed a reputation for being “bad at figures,” although no one but he and his coach and the judges who saw them will ever know for sure. At the same time, he was up against a rival from England, John Curry, who, like him, sought to do more with free skating than merely jump and spin.

Rivalries drive us all to exceed our highest expectations, and the rivalry between these two men was a thrill to watch. John Curry was the ultimate technician, completing each trick with textbook precision, dead-pan expression, and exquisite grace. Toller Cranston was pure emotion in action, effortlessly grabbing the hearts of those who watched him. With every move in his many performances, he held a gasping audience in the palm of his hand.

Toller Cranston's House Inside-6

Artwork, artwork everywhere!

In the end, John Curry took all the big trophies and Toller was lucky to get third spot on any major podium, something I didn’t remember at all until he shared his memories with me. To my surprise, regret hung heavy in the air around us as he talked about his past.

He recalled with horror how the first figure in the Olympics was a right forward outside rocker, a beautiful figure that involves two very cool twisting turns that tie three circles together. Bad luck struck as he pushed off on the first half circle. His eyes filled with tears and he couldn’t see a thing.

That’s like totaling your car on the first half lap of the Indy 500.

Toller Cranston's House Inside-7

Every wall and surface held artwork

He had other tales of torment at the hands of ruthless, narrow minded judges, some of whom had judged me too. He wore a wry smile as he talked of a former skating star from the 1950’s who had visited him in San Miguel and had become openly emotional as he apologized for zealously and publicly slamming Toller’s skating vision and style when he was at his peak.

But did Toller know how much he was loved by his fans? I wondered.

Our conversation, which was really just stutters of comments thrown to the wind towards each other, turned to his art. We were flying through his mansion on this crazy whirlwind tour as we talked, seeing room after room after room. Huge canvasses and sculptures and unique decorations were everywhere.

Mark and I chat with Toller

Mark and I pause our tour of the art-filled estate to chat with Toller a bit.

We sat down in his living room to talk a little more in depth, and vignettes of his past gradually took shape before us as he talked.

“I paid for all my skating myself with my art.” He suddenly blurted.

My jaw dropped. That is unheard of. Not only is it nearly impossible to make a living from fine art, but Toller had done so as a young art school student, and he had funded an extraordinarily expensive skating career in the process.

What’s even more amazing is that, generally, every elite figure skater is sponsored. Even I had a sponsor, I told him, or I would have had to quit at age 12. His expression was haunted as he said, “No one ever sponsored me. I paid for it all myself.”

My respect for this man shot up a thousandfold.

Crazy art and toy horse in the bedroom

As the hours passed, we resumed wandering through his many bedrooms, through the corners of his home where he liked to read and watch TV, and into his brilliantly lit studio that was lined from floor to ceiling with windows. My emotions became a blur of confusion as I listened to him and took in his life experiences and overlaid them on my own.

“The world only remembers the winners,” he said grimly at one point. “They only remember the names of the champions.”

I was completely taken aback. Didn’t he realize that he had single-handedly changed men’s figure skating forever, regardless of whether his name was etched on an Olympic trophy? Didn’t he know that the people who change the course of history are the ones that are remembered?

Sculpture of a head with wild hair

A sculpture he was working on.

We were walking through his past, and my past with it, and there was so much I wanted to say and to share, but the words just weren’t there, and I’m not sure he would have listened anyway. I was elated to have a chance to be with him at last, but so frustrated for not having more time and more peace.

The household was abuzz all day long. Maids and neighbors wandered in and out at will, art students and art assistants zoomed by us repeatedly, intent on their missions in and around the estate. I marveled that Toller could think straight in all this chaos. Perhaps he thrived on it, but I wasn’t sure.

He was intrigued by our travels and asked us a lot of questions about the places we’d been and where we were going next. At the time, Mark and I were wrapping up our sailing cruise, a nearly four year voyage that had opened our lives up in ways we never dreamed of.

Toller Cranston's House Inside-3

We see room after room of fantasy artwork and even some elaborately decorated eggs.

We were just months from moving off our boat permanently and putting it up for sale. As we filed away precious memories of our voyage, we knew we were embarking on an exhilarating new phase of life as bigger, stronger and more experienced people.

Why had we started traveling full-time six years prior? Toller wanted to know. To change our lives and have an adventure was my quick reply.

“I need to change my life too,” he said wistfully. “I want to have an adventure.” He sounded eager. He talked of wanting to sell his estate and buy land nearby to build a new home.

00 651 Toller Cranston Studio

Works in progress in the studio

Eventually he bade us goodbye from somewhere in the middle of the mansion, and we left his home on our own, wandering through the maze of gardens in a stunned stupor, and making several wrong turns in the process. The encounter stayed with me for weeks as we prepared our boat for its final 1,000 mile journey, the Baja Bash from Puerto Vallarta to San Diego.

I couldn’t help but feel that the cost of being a maverick, of striking out against tradition to do something bigger and better and more exotic than the norm, had been very high for him. Because of the sport’s rules in place at the time, and his fierce determination to pursue his own vision, Toller was never rewarded with the most important gold medals that are the badge of success and acceptance in sport.

Nevermind that many of the moves we see skaters doing today were his inventions. That doesn’t doesn’t put your name on the roster of history’s World Champions.

Doors from the studio into the garden

Glass doors to the garden from the studio

Yet, at the same time, I was bemused that a free spirit who turned his back on convention would have the slightest interest in being rewarded conventionally. Would the accolades of the Establishment, of judges who couldn’t see or accept his brilliance, really have meant something to him? Sadly, the pain of his losses in the highest levels of competition seemed as raw and as fresh to him now, in 2013, as they had been in the mid-1970’s.

It was agonizing to see that a man who had so bravely followed his own heart didn’t find the fulfillment of his vision to be satisfaction enough in itself, without the approval of the very people he scorned. I realized later that I had wanted my hero to have believed in his dream at all costs, no matter what, because heroes are larger than life and they don’t fall prey to the mortal foibles of things like wanting to be accepted and approved.

Glasswork in Toller Cranston's Garden in San Miguel de Allende Mexico

Elaborate glasswork decorated many charming corners of the garden.

Two days ago, we got the news that Toller died unexpectedly of a heart attack, at age 65, in his home in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. I was devastated. Of course, his timing was spot on once again. He died on the day of the men’s competition at the Canadian National Championships, which was also the rest day between two riveting performances by Jason Brown (who seems, for all the world, to be channeling Toller’s essence) at the men’s competition at the US National Championships.

Glass ornaments in an arch over Toller Cranston's garden in Mexico

Glass ornaments form an arch over the garden.

In pondering Toller’s life and death, I kept thinking of Steve Jobs’ quote about how we all have nothing to fear because we are already naked. I looked it up, and found it comes from the commencement speech he gave at Stanford in June, 2005, shortly after he learned he had pancreatic cancer:

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

Paints and paint brushes and decorated eggs

Paints and paint brushes ready for use on an egg decorating project.

I don’t think that when Toller opened his day planner for the week of January 18th, 2015, he skipped down to Saturday, January 24th, and penciled in “Exit This World.” But that is what happened. And I couldn’t help but think:

If you are nurturing a dream — to break whatever bonds hold you, to get a boat and go sailing, or to run off in an RV and explore for a while — go for it. You have nothing to lose, except time. Your dream is yours, and yours alone, no matter who applauds or condemns the idea. Give it wings with your own faith.

Toller Cranston and me - we share a past

We share a past…

After we got the sad news about Toller’s death, we went out to do some errands. As I climbed into the truck and turned on the radio, my thoughts couldn’t leave Toller’s lively breakfast table in his home, his crazy art-filled estate, and his darkness as bits and pieces of the stories from his past escaped his lips, soaked in bitterness.

Suddenly the radio erupted with the bright, energetic sounds of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide Overture, the music I had skated to when Toller had had his greatest influence on me. It was the music that had carried me to Nationals forty years ago.

I sat back in shock. What a coincidence! I rarely hear that music on the radio. As my soul followed the high spirits of the piece, I felt chills running up and down my spine. I was covered in goose bumps. Without warning, tears suddenly began to stream down my face and I dropped my head in my hands.

I didn’t have a coherent thought in my mind, and I was overcome as I cried openly and the tears flowed freely down my cheeks. This music, thoughts of my mentor-in-sprit, Toller, and memories of that visit to his home that I been so fortunate to share with Mark all swirled around me in an overwhelming vortex.

In that moment, I have no doubt that Toller was reaching out to touch me — as he swung by on his way out.


Some clips from YouTube —

“Totally Toller” —

“I Pagliacci” (No one skated to Opera back then… good heavens!) —

Related Posts:

Although I wrote this post in January, 2015, it fits into our June 2013 travels right between our visit to Guanajuato, Mexico, and our stay at Casa Maguey on Mexico’s Costalegre.

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Around the World in an RV

Launching an RV Circumnavigation

June 2015 – One of the best things about our full-time traveling lifestyle is meeting unusual people on the road that we never would have met in our former, conventional lives. The full-time RVing community is primarily American and Canadian retirees who are fulfilling a long held dream of seeing North America at leisure. We’ve met very few full-timers under the age of fifty, and although we’ve read about and heard about families RVing full-time, the first time we met a family living on the road in an RV was this past summer in Idaho when we were visiting Craters of the Moon National Monument.

While scrambling over the otherworldly and exotic rock formations that make up Craters of the Moon, we spotted an unusual RV driving through the park. We weren’t entirely sure it was an RV, because it looked like an armored truck! A few hours later, in the town of Arco, we found ourselves parked near this very unique vehicle. We just had to go over to meet the owners and learn more!

They were a French family on a five year tour of the world by RV. Mom and dad — Silvie and Jean-Herve — had purchased their Unicat RV in France, and they had shipped it to Nova Scotia where they jumped aboard with their 3 year old son, Luka, to begin their circumnavigation by touring Canada and the US. When we met them in Idaho in August, they had been traveling for 18 months.

Jean-Herve said their rough plan was to get down to Mexico for the winter of 2014-15 and spend about 5 months there before traveling southeast through Central America. Once they got to Panama, they planned to put the rig on a ship to cross from Panama to Columbia, and then begin two years or so of traveling around South America. After that they would board a ship once again to cross the Pacific from Chile to Russia, and from there they would travel through Central Asia to Europe, taking a year or two to get back to France.

Around the world in a Unicat RV

Jean-Herve, Silvie and Luka are touring the world in their Unicat RV

I was blown away! What a fabulous adventure. Jean-Herve is 49 and Silvie is 45, and they are no strangers to exotic travel in foreign lands. Their rig is rugged enough to handle whatever bad roads they might encounter, and they speak not only French but English and some Spanish, which will help them immensely in many of the countries they will be visiting.

They keep a blog — in French, of course! If you don’t read French, you can enjoy their wonderful photos and run their blog posts through Google Translate to get a rough translation into English.

Traveling the World by RV

These French voyagers weren’t the only World Cruising RVers we met in our travels this past summer. In Kanab, Utah, while dumping our tanks at an RV dump station, we met Heinz & Ursula, a German couple who had spent the last 18 months traveling throughout the US in their Mercedes-Benz Silverdream van.

When I idly asked where they had gone RVing before they shipped their van to America, they ran down a list of continents and countries that made my jaw drop. Their little van had taken them on road trips to South America, Europe, North Africa, Mongolia, China and the Middle East. Wow!!

RV around the World

Intrepid travelers Heinz and Ursula have seen most of the world from their RV

While they did most of their RV travels solo, some of these road trips were done on guided RV caravan tours with European tour companies that arranged for German speaking local tour guides (however Ursula said the tour guide in Iran spoke only English, which was a challenge for a few of the folks on the tour!).

The tour to China lasted six months and required each rig on the tour to get a special Chinese license plate. There were 18 other rigs on that tour, hailing from Germany, Austria & Switzerland. Trying to imagine RVing in China, I asked her what it was like. “Fantastic,” she said, “But too many RVs!” No matter…what an incredible expedition!

International RV caravan adventure tours are hardly new. Over the years, Americans have ventured overseas with their rigs too. Back in 1951, Wally Byam, the founder of Airstream, took 50 Airstream owners on a tour of Central America. This adventure was followed by Airstream caravan tours to Mexico in 1952, to Europe in 1956 and a truly wild 9,000 mile south-to-north trek along the length of Africa from Cape Town to Cairo in 1959. In 1963 the newly formed Wally Byam Caravan Club went all the way around the world, and in 1985 eleven rig from the club went on a tour of China.

How awesome is all of that? Happy Travels!!

Related Posts:

New to this site? Visit our Home page to read more about our full-time traveling lifestyle and our Intro for RVers to find out where we keep all the good stuff. If you like what you see, we'd love for you to subscribe to receive our latest posts!


What Kinda RV izZAT??

December 2014 – There are so many very cool RVs on the road, and we just love seeing all the variety. Lately, we’ve been eyeing up a particularly unusual one that has been parked near us. Yesterday, I had a chance to talk to the owner, Stan, and what a great story he had to tell.

Growing up on a farm, Stan dreamed of more distant horizons. At age 35, he left the family farm for a life of adventure. Taking a big manure spreader truck and an old truck camper that had been lying around the back of a barn, he put the two together to create a terrific rolling home. Now 73, he has been living in it on the road ever since — some thirty-eight years!!!

Truck and camper converted into an RV

Now THAT’s a long-term full-time RVer!!

Stan is very handy and has given his home many upgrades over the years. Today it sports 1,200 watts of solar power (holy smokes!) and a whopping 600 gallons of fresh water!! Hookups? Are you kidding? Never!!

Free to roam, Stan has ridden his mountain bike and dirt bike all over some of the most remote dirt roads of the west.

“If you live this way, you’ll live forever,” he told me with a carefree smile.

Yes, indeed!! You don’t have to spend your cherished nest egg on a luxury Class A to have a little fun and find some independence in the full-time RV lifestyle. Just grab an old truck and camper and take off!

We love meeting folks who are living adventurous lifestyles with a twist. You may enjoy these related posts:


Full-time RVer Profile in Escapees!

A Full-time RV Lifestyle Metamorphosis

A Full-time RVers Metamorphosis
Escapees Magazine, Sep/Oct 2014
Article by Emily Fagan

Last spring we met a special couple, Phil and Ann Botnick, who have been living in an RV full-time for twenty-six years. As we got to know them, I was so taken by their story (and their rig — it is amazing!), that I wrote an article about them for Escapees Magazine. It is appearing in the September/October 2014 issue.

Read More…

World Cruising Done Right!

Fixing the boat alternator Mexico cruising blog

Mark fixes our boat in an exotic place

April 2014 – Sailors often say with a sigh that, “Cruising is fixing your boat in exotic places.”  While this sounds funny and always elicits a laugh, it is unfortunately a very true statement.

When you cast off the dock lines to go cruising, you are signing up to spend long hours working on your boat.

Paradise Village Marina Sunset

Paradise Village Marina at sunset — dreamy!

The further afield you go, Continue reading

It’s Not About the Hair!

Getting a haircut in Mexico

Lorena gives me a hairstyle called
“cola del pato” (tail of the duck)

June 16, 2013 – One of our favorite things about traveling is all the little encounters we have that make us stop in our tracks, scratch our heads, and say, “Wow, this is so different than home.”  After living strictly within our own comfort zone for so many years, focused on our workaday lives, we now find ourselves refreshed, over and over, as the folks we meet here in Mexico, so far from our backyard, show us that there are other ways to live.

I’ve been wanting to get a haircut for a while, and as a full-time traveler this is always a great opportunity to have a long conversation with someone from wherever we are visiting.  More important than finding a top quality salon, I’m always hoping to find someone that will tell us a little about the community we’re in or share something about themselves.

Yesterday, as we wandered the quiet, dusty streets of a small Costalegre coastal village between Tenacatita and Barra de Navidad taking photographs, we asked a few people where to get a haircut.  They all said to go to “Lorena” and they gave us directions. In our usual lazy way, we didn’t wind up on her street until dusk.  A group of people sitting on the sidewalk around a folding table with fruit laid out for sale pointed us towards her shop.

Unfortunately, it was now so late in the day that her shop was closed.  We shrugged.  Oh well.  Tomorrow!

“No, we’ll find her for you!”  One of the guys by the fruit stand said to us.  He asked his friends if they knew where she was and then yelled her name a few times.  A few minutes later, she appeared at the far end of the block, hustling towards us and waving.  The fruit guys grinned.

“Come in, come in.”  She said as she opened the door to her shop.  She began clearing some things from around her work area to make a place for me to sit down.  The room was about 9′ x 9′ and stacked with manicure equipment, brushes, combs, a few random cups, a chair and other stuff piled up.

After asking about my hair (I’ve learned my hair style is called “cola del pato” or “tail of the duck”), we began to have a lively conversation in Spanish about life in America and life in Mexico and the close similarities and vast differences between these two worlds.

She had grown up on a ranch far out in the countryside, one of twelve kids — ten girls and two boys — along with lots of horses, cows, burros and fruit trees.  Despite having no electricity, the family found plenty of diversions among themselves, always sitting around in the same configuration at night, mother here, father there, and kids circled around in between.  Outside, there were a bunch of tree stumps, and they would all sit together on the stumps and sing songs under the stars.

Her mother and grandmother had always worn traditional, colorful dresses, long sleeved and well below the knee, and her father was very strict with the kids.  He died when she was a teenager, and when he died her world changed forever.  The family moved to the city and she was shocked by the stress of urban life and the different interests of her peers at school.  She missed the fresh fruits from the garden and fresh meat and milk from the cows.

Lorena's hair salon in Mexico

Lorena shared her life experiences and cultural insights
with us as she gave us haircuts in her shop.

As I listened to her tale, I could just imagine the adjustments she had to make as she moved first to Mexico City then to Ensenada and Tijuana, and eventually to California.

“It was all wonderful.”  She said warmly.  “I learned so much.  About people.  About cultures…  And I learned what I liked.  In California I made a lot of money, I wore fancy clothes and makeup.  I had lots of beautiful shoes.  Now I just wear flip-flops.  I like to live in a small town where life is calm and quiet.”

By now Mark had decided to get a trim too, and her sheers snipped around his ears as she went on.  “America and Mexico are very different,” she said.  “In Mexico, out in the rural countryside, it is a man’s world.  The man is everything.  Girls are told they don’t need an education because their husband will provide.”

And then she said something about women and keeping a rifle in the corner of the house, and she laughed. Oh how I wished I understood better. She was on a roll, and I didn’t want to ask her to repeat. She had said either that women in the country kept a rifle in the corner so they could hold their own with the men, or that women who lived alone kept a rifle for protection. Gosh, I don’t know, and now I so wish I had had her explain further…

“But in America, In my neighborhood in California, I didn’t know my neighbors,” She continued.  “We waved and said “hello” every day but that was all.  We didn’t know each other like we do here. And in the US, when a store is closed, it’s closed!  Neighbors don’t go yelling for a shop owner to come open it up for customers after hours.”

So true.  Here we were in her shop because of the fruit sellers in the street.  Not so at Great Clips and Supercuts back home.  I usually end up reading a few magazine articles while I wait for a stylist to become available.  The stylists at home all commute to work, and who knows where any of them live. Certainly not in the rooms behind Great Clips!

As she finished Mark’s hair, she invited us to go camping in the mountains with her.  “I’ll show you some beautiful places.  We can sleep in tents close to nature.  We’ll make tortillas over a fire and you can meet my horses.” What a great invitation!

As she swept up all our locks on the floor, she said the haircuts were 40 pesos each (about $3.20 USD). For us, the experience was priceless.

See more about Life in Mexico and check out Our Most Recent Posts!!