Couple’s bucket list includes visiting at least 300 sites around the country, including Alaska, New Mexico
By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
“On the Road Again” isn’t just a Willie Nelson hit. To Patty Pritchard, 59, and her husband, Brian, 58, it’s their dream. The couple put their Sterling home on the market ealier this season and once it’s sold, they plan to go RVing full time with their dog, Ellie Mae. She retired from Upstate Pain Management in the Syracuse area. The RV cost $250,000 used. It’s a 2016 Forest River Charleston 430 RB.
Patty retired from nursing at Upstate Pain Management a few years ago. Once Brian retires from Novelis as a crew coordinator, the camping enthusiasts plan to pull out their Forrest River Charleston RV and not look back — except for visiting their family in New York.
Going full-time RVing means they can begin tackling the 300-plus venues on the travel bucket list in earnest, something that their working life and house maintenance has prevented them from doing.
“Now, we’re in our motor home May 1 to Nov. 1, going all over New York,” Patty said. “We don’t even go in our house.”
She said that some of their trips are planned and some are spontaneous, “Let’s just go.”
They just purchased a friend’s motor home in Arizona in September, relishing the drive back to New York.
“It has all the amenities of a five-star hotel,” Patty said.
It boasts an electric fireplace, king size Sleep Number bed, dishwasher, induction cook top, microwave convection oven, on-demand hot water shower unit, full-sized refrigerator, stacking washer and dryer. At 350 square feet (plus the same in underneath storage), the RV rivals a studio apartment. One whole side of the 44-foot-long RV offers a 38-foot slide out to expand the living space when parked. On the other side, 20 feet slides out.
“You can take a shower going down the road,” Patty said, “but it may not be the smartest idea.”
Their rolling home keeps them quite comfortable as they take extended trips. They hope to visit Four Corners Monument, where one can stand on the adjoining border lines of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona at once. There’s also a balloon festival in New Mexico, plus Alaska, and the eastern coast of Canada.
In addition to appeasing their travel bug, the couple has embraced the minimalist lifestyle.
“You can only have what you take with you,” Patty said. “We like that idea. If you buy a pair of jeans, you have to get rid of a pair of jeans. If you buy a shirt, you have to get rid of a shirt. You don’t go to Costco and get 20 pounds of meat because there’s no place to put it.”
The Pritchards tow their car with them so that when they set up camp, they can more easily drive into town for supplies or take day trips to nearby attractions.
Once they go full time, they plan to stay in New York in the RV for the summer with family and take care of any routine health care appointments then.
They belong to RV organizations for tips, ideas and camaraderie. Through one such group, they have insurance that covers their RV.
Though the Pritchards plan to stay in RV parks for the most part, they also occasionally stay in parking lots for a quick, overnight stay.
“You always need to ask about parking lots because of city ordinances,” Patty said. “They don’t always allow motor homes. A lot of truck stops let you stop for the night.”
They plan to use their children’s mailing addresses and rely upon them to forward their mail to wherever they camp. They have internet hotspots through their phone and some campsites offer WiFi, which they can use to keep in touch, pay bills or stream a movie on a rainy day.
Their combined family includes Patty’s son and daughter and Brian’s son, plus nine grandchildren among them. One of the children lives in Florida and the rest of the children live in New York.
“They think it’s great we’re doing it and they’re very happy,” Patty said.
Like a mash-up of mid-life downsizing and the tiny house movement, the Pritchards’ decision enables them to live simpler, as well as spend more time traveling and exploring nature, both activities the couple enjoys.
Brian has been a seasonal RVer since his early 20s. The couple had known each other since third grade, but reconnected 10 years ago, marrying in 2012. He had a fifth wheel at the time and introduced Patty to RVing.
“Since the first time we went camping, it was impossible to get me back in the house from April to September,” she said. “We close the house down for the summer. We plug in at the house. We eat, cook and live in the driveway.”
Meeting new people is the part they enjoy the best about their travels. Their new friends hail from every walk of life.
“They’re all welcoming and warm,” Patty said. “You could be walking the dog and someone will say, ‘Hi, come on over and sit by the fire.’ Some are passing acquaintances others friends for life.
“You see a lot of veterans. The stories they have to tell! Some will make you smile, warm your heart or just make you cry. It’s an amazing lifestyle — a blessed lifestyle.”