Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Who We Are 2013

February 28, 2011

Livin’ (and lovin’) the RV lifestyle

Ten years down the road, Sally and Paul Wagner have no regrets about giving away their possessions and living full time in their motorhome.

“It’s 75 (degrees) today,” Sally said Feb. 19 from their campground along Alabama’s Gulf Coast across the lane from their Newmar motorhome. “This is where we come for the winter. It’s our third year down here.”

Both Paul and Sally worked at the Vincent Bach musical instrument factory in Elkhart, Paul for 40 years and Sally for 30. Now they are among the large number of Americans who motor south for the winter and then spread out across the country the rest of the year to enjoy living out of their motorhomes, fifth-wheels and trailers.

“They are all pretty nice people,” is how Jon Walker of the Family Motor Coach Association describes full-time RVers.

Walker is also from Elkhart and serves as the Great Lakes area vice president for the association. He also owns Mail Management in Elkhart. And each year he mixes with hundreds of RVers.

“I have never met a bad motorhomer,” he said, explaining they often go out of the way to help each other and total strangers.

Walker said he and his wife got into the RV lifestyle in a round-about way. He was tailgating with customers at Notre Dame football games using a small trailer owned by one of his employees. Then university officials ruled trailers couldn’t be used, just motorhomes, so he and his brother started renting one for the games.

His brother then purchased a motorhome and Walker and his wife Sondra took a trip in it to Colorado.

“We fell in love with it,” Walker said.

They then began traveling widely in their own motorhome, a Provost bus. But Walker said his wife stops short when talk turns to full-time RVing. Walker laughed when he said she told him, “I couldn’t live in there with you for more than two weeks. I got to have my house.”

But Sally Wagner said she had no problem deciding to sell her house and give their belongings away to her five children.

“We kind of told them ‘here is what we have and you can come get what you want and this is your inheritance and we will be spending the rest,” she said with a laugh.

Hitting the road

It took her and Paul six weeks to get rid of their belongings. They were lucky and sold their house to the first people who looked at it. Then they hit the road.

In their first years on the road they traveled a lot and wintered in Arizona. Now they winter in Alabama on the coast, which they said is closer to their family in Elkhart and much less expensive than staying at the RV parks in Arizona.

They stay very busy socializing, looking at local sights and searching out good restaurants.

“The women get together and play cards,” she said, adding that they also created a sewing club and make purses and other items. “And of course we go to the seafood restaurants down here. If we don’t have anything to do, sometimes we just go out and drive and see some places.”

Expanding understanding

Paul said he and Sally never were able to travel much when they were younger because they were looking after their five children. But in 1974 they began to dabble in the RV lifestyle when they bought a travel trailer. They then moved on to a motorhome, which they liked better because they didn’t have to have a second vehicle involved in a trip.

The couple stays at Elkhart Campground in the summer and Paul works at the campground.

But when they are on the road, the experiences often expand their understanding of other lifestyles and America in general.

“You meet a lot of people on the road with different occupations and different ways of living,” Paul said. “It is interesting to go to hear how some of these people made it.”

Sally and Paul intend to keep their RV lifestyle going.

“I’m 75 years old,” Paul said, “and I hope to do it for another five to 10 years.” z

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