Seeing America from the front seat of a motorhome — and sharing it with the kids on Facebook, — today’s blog-savvy full-time RVers are riding high as the new smartphone Steinbecks.
Jimmy Magahern | Sep 6, 2012, 1:23 p.m.
If you’re looking for a life of adventure, nothing beats meeting your future mate in a passionate motorcycle chase.
That’s how Jack Locke met his wife, Mary. And, for better or worse, the two have been on a wild ride together — and, for a significant stretch, apart — for nearly 50 years.
Today, the two retirees are among the 400,000 Americans, according to the Recreation Vehicles Industry Association, who call themselves full-time RVers, seeing the country from the front seat of a 36-foot Newmar Dutch Star motorhome. And, like almost all seasoned “escapees,” as the community likes to be called, Jack and Mary Locke have more than a few great stories to tell.
“Back in the summer of ’65, I was hanging out with a friend at a miniature golf course in St. Louis,” Jack begins theirs. “And I saw a girl go by on a motorcycle. You didn’t see that back in the ‘60s. So naturally, I took off chasing her on my motorcycle.”
When he finally caught up to her, Locke, still wearing his full-face helmet, initially startled his bride-to-be.
“I think I scared her!” Jack says, while Mary laughs in agreement. “I hollered out, ‘Can I ride you home?’ She let me ride with her a little ways, then waved goodbye.”
Visions of the motorcycle girl stayed with Jack, however. Like a love struck young Richard Dreyfuss in American Graffiti haunted by that momentary glance of Suzanne Somers in a T-Bird, he kept cruising around town hoping to see her again, his eyes peeled for the beautiful biker.
Finally, in a photo in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, under the ad slogan, “You meet the nicest people on a Honda,” he found her.
“Turned out she worked at St. Louis Honda, selling motorcycles,” Jack says. “So I went down there and talked to her.” Mary had never seen the face of her helmeted pursuer, but she recognized the voice. Before long, the two were going out.
“The guys at St. Louis Honda didn’t like me at all,” Jack laughs, although they would all later become lifelong friends. “Because I took their little girl away from them.”
The two young lovers immediately shared a passion for travel and adventure. The son of a bricklayer, Jack grew up in a family that moved so often, he says, they pretty much lived out of a small trailer hitched to the back of a ’51 Plymouth. “I must have went to 12 or 13 different schools by third grade.” Mary, though more sheltered — “My parents didn’t let me out of their sight until after college!” — always shared what she calls “that wanderlust.”
The war in Vietnam would soon call Jack away, but they stayed steadies, and in 1970, they wed. For their first road trip together, Jack — a hippie at heart, who’d regretted missing out on the Summer of Love while he was away in the Marines — suggested a cross-country Easy Rider-style bike trek to the West Coast.