Road Scholars

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.

All Gone to Look for America

If the Lockes ever get around to writing an account of their RV journeys across America, they’ll doubtlessly be able to populate it with a lot of colorful characters.

“We get to meet folks wherever we travel, and we’ve met some very, very interesting people,” says Jack. They’ve met more than their share of extreme green RVers; people determined to live as cheaply and efficiently as possible on the road. “One time this guy pulled up to us at a park and I told him there was only one water spigot on that spot,” Jack says. “He said, ‘That’s OK, we’ve got our own.’ They had a big trailer with about 500 gallons of onboard water, not to mention wind generators and solar panels. They were totally off the grid.”

The couple have met nomadic full-timers who stay at work camps — practitioners call it “workamping” — where RVers labor at the campgrounds or RV resorts in exchange for free camping and utility use, sometimes earning a little a little extra money on top of it. “Some of the workampers are actually financially well-off but just enjoy the work,” Jack says. “But some of them you can tell need every bit they can scrape up.”

They’ve met eccentric millionaires. “One guy pulled up next to our motorhome once in a huge Prevost, which is a unit that can sell for $1.75 million,” Jack says. “He took a look at our unit and said, ‘My wife’s got one of those.’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ And he told us, ‘Well, she travels in hers and I travel in mine, and we meet up once a month or so.’”

But they’ve also seen the other extreme: couples and families hit hard by the recession who’ve gone mobile out of necessity. “We’ve seen a lot of that on the West Coast,” says Jack. “In a lot of the Walmart parking lots. You’ll see little bitty RVs or people pulling little pop-up trailers behind their cars, and you can tell that’s where they’re living.”

Seeing poverty up close has given the Lockes a view of America many never see. “It’s kind of what we all know exists, but it’s overwhelming when you see it up close,” says Jack. Adds Mary: “I keep thinking, what would foreign visitors think of America if they traveled the same thoroughfares we do?”

They try to avoid talking politics with people, but Jack says that’s become increasingly hard to avoid. “There’s just so much division today in the country,” he says. “We’re always amazed by how people will tell you their political views before you even get to know them.”

Nevertheless, the Lockes still love America, and love that they’re getting to see it from the front window of their traveling home.

“It’s amazing how many places you go where people have lived there their whole lives and don’t even know what’s right around them,” says Jack. “We’ve told people about museums five miles away from their houses that they never knew existed.

“There’s just so much to see in America,” he adds, as the couple prepare to pick up stakes and move from their temporary digs near Bull Shoals Lake in Arkansas to go exploring more of the southern Ozark Mountains before eventually heading back out to Arizona.

“You just have to get out there.”

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