Roger and I are travelers at heart. We met in South Korea where we taught English for a few years, before moving to North Sumatra where we stayed for a couple of years and then Fort Wayne, Indiana. A few years ago we were sent to Sedona, AZ with a ministry we were working for at the time. Our typical attention span for one place lasts about a year before we get restless!
It was about the time we were getting set to pack up and move from Arizona to the UK that Roger’s grandma passed away. She’d been the full-time caregiver for his Grandpa and now he had no one to care for him. The choice was either to put him in a nursing home or have him come and live with us and since his Grandparents had never wanted to go into a facility, we decided to bring him from his home in Illinois to be with us in Arizona. He was 94 at the time and we knew he wouldn’t last the winter if he stayed. Roger had been a caregiver many years ago and worked as an EMT for a short time too, so it made sense.
With Grandpa needing 24/7 care we suddenly found ourselves pretty much housebound or at least restricted to whatever Grandpa could do. For a year we had a hard and beautiful adventure as full-time caregivers, and grandpa thrived. But a year restricted to home got old, for all three of us, and so we began to play with the idea of taking Grandpa on the road to see all of the places he had yet to see in the USA and to visit some of his old hangouts too.
Roger and I had talked about an RV for several years before Grandpa came to live with us, but something had always come up that got in the way of our plans. This time we decided, let’s just do it! It won’t be easy and we are going to have to make some serious adjustments, but why not do it with Grandpa, instead of waiting until he’s not with us anymore. The beauty of taking Grandpa is that it’s not just about us and what we want. We don’t want to be selfish, and this way we are making his life so much more fulfilling too.
How Sweet Mary Bus Got Her Name
Grandpa is a 95 years old WWII Veteran. His life has been a long and fascinating one, from teaching dance classes to working as an executive chef at The Drake Hotel in Chicago. He even auditioned for Jack Ruby(the guy who shot Lee Harvey Oswald) in one of his nightclubs as a singer, but unfortunately, Elvis Presley beat him to the post! The love of Grandpa’s life was (and still is) Mary, his wife, whom he was married to for 67 years and raised 7 children with before she went to Heaven. Mary (Grandma), was renowned as one of the sweetest most God-fearing women on Earth. Our bus is named after Sweet Mary in honor of a woman who influenced so many, by her great love for God and for those around her. We aspire to do the same; to touch the lives of others we meet on our travels with the same great love that Grandma had, and to give Grandpa one of the most epic adventures he’s had in his life.
What We drive While We Travel
Sweet Mary bus is a 2005 Newmar Kountry Star 37ft Class A Diesel. It’s big enough for Grandpa to get around in the wheelchair, and we were able to get a lift installed too. We can drive while Grandpa naps in the chair. We’ve always loved Newmar for the way they are built and their quality.
We Are Very Well Rounded In Work
We’ve done quite a few things for work… Roger has been a police officer, EMT, caregiver, teacher to name a few. I’ve worked in various art-related positions and was also a teacher. When we came to Sedona we worked for a ministry and also had side jobs, AirBnB in our vintage camper, Etsy store, Uber, I published a journal, taught art classes, we even tried dog sitting… all the side hustles!
Currently, we are paid as full-time caregivers for Grandpa, our camper has gone to live near the Grand Canyon in the hopes of generating income, and we still have a couple of the other side hustles too. We will be renting our house soon as well, so that will help a lot.
Something For All Of Us To Enjoy
We stayed at Licon Dairy Farm on the border of Mexico near El Paso with the Harvest Hosts program and LOVED it! We arrived after dark (as we seem to do every single time!) and were a little nervous about it… we had no idea where we were really, we didn’t know what the area was like at all. It had been raining and it was extremely muddy! When we pulled in the hosts told us to park over the back by “Roger”. We exchanged sideways glances, “did they say by Roger??”, but went and parked at the back anyway. They had told us that if we could make it over to the dairy by 5 am we could watch them making the cheese and maybe even try some. Roger can’t resist cheese and so for probably the first time in our marriage (we are night owls!) we got up before sunrise and headed over for the tour while grandpa continued to sleep. It was amazing and we did get cheese! When we got back to the RV it was light outside and we finally got to meet the other Roger… a HUGE camel! When grandpa woke up we took him around the farm to visit all the animals and so that he could meet Roger too. I’ve never seen him so excited and engaged, it really was a sweet time.
Our Advice For RVing
We can give a whole world of advice for handicap travel, or if you’ve thought of being a mobile care home like us. Reach out and we’d be happy to help!
We highly recommend the book Driving Miss Norma, it’s a big inspiration too!
As far as pets go, we have two Dachshunds who can be naughty at times! We make sure to always have them in their crate and strapped in when we travel. We also trained them before we first set off not to leave the RV when the door is open unless they are called. We learned very quickly that you don’t want anyone escaping when you’re trying to set up or leave… or anytime really!
We’ve found some amazing and cheap campgrounds with the Army Corps of Engineers book. We’ve also loved out Harvest Hosts membership. Walmarts have been a lifesaver when there is no other option.
Adjusting To RV The Life
For us, we are still trying to figure out how to meet people on the road. We are very sociable (especially Roger!!) but since one of us has to be with Grandpa at all times, it can make it really hard to get out and make friends. Something else we realized very early on is that it takes us WAY longer to get to our destination that it would in a car! Other than that, I think we’ve adjusted pretty well. We love it!
Where To Next
Our next trip will hopefully be to take Grandpa to see Elvis’ house. He’s been talking about it non stop!
As long as grandpa is with us, able, and enjoying this lifestyle we will continue with the big rig!
After that who knows, maybe a VW camper around Europe!? Follow our adventures on Facebook and Instagram.