My grandparents bought an Airstream travel trailer in 1956. It would end up having a huge impact on my life. It was actually my grandmother’s idea. She saw one at a gas station one day and had my grandfather turn around and go back. The owner gave them a tour of the trailer and before long they had one parked in their driveway.
Not long after that my dad brought one home. I don’t think my mother was all that thrilled. It wasn’t like getting diamonds or pearls. It actually meant she would be busy every Friday for years loading the trailer for weekend camping and unloading every Sunday evening.
During my dad’s summer vacations we would travel all over the country like a bunch of gypsies. It was long before trailer parks were common or franchised. We would camp while traveling wherever they would let us plug in our electric cord. Gas stations, A&W root beer joints (my personal favorite), city and county parks in small towns across the U.S. and Canada.
In those days you could do things that would now have you arrested and thrown in jail. Each new trailer came with a narrow shovel for digging gopher holes. That was the polite way of describing the septic disposal method. Even in the state parks, digging a gopher hole was standard operating procedure. The septic dumps on trailers at the time were designed to be located on the shoulder side of the road. In rural areas my brother and I would pull the pin and my dad would drive down the shoulder. We made a wide berth to catch up with him. It was no different than the railroad passenger cars dumping on the tracks. Needless to say, people discovered, as RVing became very popular, that the practice was not acceptable and unsanitary and some would say, "The idea just plain stinks!"
We spent many summers exploring National Parks and Monuments. I learned to love nature, camping, hiking, backpacking, fishing and just plain traveling, meeting new people and exploring. I guess you would define it as wanderlust. I have been rambling ever since.
After graduating from high school I lived in my ’64 GMC suburban for several months traveling and backpacking through the Northwestern states and the Provinces of Canada. For graduation people gave me canned goods. I would make Rice Krispy treats in a metal bucket. That was a large part of what I lived on that summer. When I had extra money I would splurge and buy hamburger, cooking it on my engine block driving down the road.
After the Marines and marriage, wanderlust struck again. My wife Gaila and I bought a trailer and worked our way around the country for several years. We would stop and find work whenever we ran out of money, which introduced us to some of the most wonderful and interesting friends we have had throughout our lives—not to mention some of the craziest jobs.
After spending years parking long trailers in short spaces—such as small ferries in Alaska’s Inside Passage—we switched to a motorhome. Gaila loves to drive the motorhome and after spending five months searching for me as I hiked the Continental Divide from Mexico to Jasper, Alberta Canada, she has decided that me walking and her driving is an excellent way to travel. She says that if she sees me once a week—that’s plenty.
Traveling across the continent in a self-contained mobile unit of any kind is an adventure. I guarantee when you return you will have new friends and stories to tell. We have been stuck in spring snowstorms in the middle of New Mexico’s Gila National Forest, near hurricanes along the coast of Texas, broken down along 1,200 miles of the Alaskan Highway and changing flats in 110 degree Arizona heat. But to temper those rough times we have watched majestic sunsets across the plains, sunrises full of life in the Everglades, warm summer nights in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, spectacular fall colors through New England and sunny days along the rocky Oregon coast. We have seen Denali from the backcountry and life from many angles that would never have presented themselves to us had we not been there to seek them out. If you have a sense of adventure, traveling is one of the pure joys of life. Living in an RV allows you to feel right at home on the road. --Keep Smilin', Dick E. Bird