The open road has been calling to Greg and Jan Smith for quite some time.
Its siren song started years ago, long before they bought their home in Boring. In some ways, it was why they bought their home knowing that somehow, someday, a For Sale sign would go in their front yard and their house would become the way theyd fund their retirement dream.
Its taken 29 years, but the Smiths are finally about leave behind the world of sticks and bricks, and hit the highway full-time in a recreational vehicle.
We knew this long, long ago, Greg said.
They arent alone. The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association reports that RV ownership is at its all-time high, fueled in part by a healthier economy. In a recent forecast, the association said some 8.5 percent of United States households currently own RVs, and 21 percent of all U.S. households said they intended to buy an RV in the future.
Industry forecasts are rosy, too, with wholesale RV shipments expected to total 395,400 by the end of 2016, an increase of six percent over 2015.
Helping to boost those numbers is an aging population. About 11,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day until 2029, the association notes, and its that age group that continues to purchase RVs: Ownership among those age 55-plus increased from 8.6 percent in 2005 to 9.3 percent in 2011. But younger folks are getting behind the wheel, too. RV owners between 35 and 54 were the biggest increase, rising from 9 percent in 2005 to 11.2 percent in 2011.
For the Smiths, the time was right to make their mobile move.
Originally, theyd planned to wait one more year, stretching it out until summer 2017. But then they experienced a series of personal losses that brought their life into sharp focus. Jans father, who suffered from Parkinsons Disease, died in October. In the past eight months, the couple attended seven other funerals of family friends, and there were others they wanted to attend, but couldnt.
In one week, the couple went to three funerals, Jan recalled.
That was enough, she said. It was horrible.
Suddenly, their 1896 home and 5-acre property felt overwhelming. As they worked in the middle of winter to plant trees and get ready for another year, Greg remembers asking himself if a day was coming when their bodies would simply surrender and say too much.
Before that happened, they wanted to see more of the world. Theyd enjoyed cruising the Smiths have been to Alaska, Australia, Mexico, Hawaii and the Panama Canal and wanted to take that wanderlust on Americas highways and byways. Jan has a particular dream of driving Highway 20, one of the countrys longest roads, east across the Cascades all the way to Boston, Massachusetts.
Theres all of this country out there we havent seen, Jan said. And Im really excited to do it.
Their decision made, they started researching next steps.
Fortunately, theres no shortage of resources for those who have made the decision to sell everything and become professional road ramblers. Books such as Going Gypsy by David and Veronica James, and their blog gypsynester.com, offer a fun and lighthearted look at the RV lifestyle. Its also easy to find an array of practical primers and how-to guides to get started as a RV newbie. The Smiths current favorite blog is technomadia.com, which is devoted to combining technology and travel to build a sustainable lifestyle.
Television has hopped on the RV ride, too, with shows such as Going RV, on the Great American Country cable channel. The program shows RV shoppers trying to decide what kind of RV theyll buy.
The Smiths are still figuring that out for themselves.
Theyd like to find something that works well in colder weather, since they admit to a lingering fondness for chillier temperatures and have no plans to snowbird it in a warmer climate. Before they depart Oregon, Jan would like to catch the Eagle Cap Extreme Dog Sled Race, which is held in northeastern Oregons Wallowa Mountains. The event is a qualifier for the iconic Iditarod Sled Race in Alaska.
Also before they depart, there is the little matter of their house.
Since officially making their decision in March, they have invited their two daughters and other family members to take their pick of what furniture and keepsakes theyd like to have. With that done, they held three garage sales. Then, they donated other items truckloads and truckloads and truckloads to local charities, Greg said. And they still have quite a few things that need to be sorted through or put into storage in Portland.
Its been incredibly emotional, Jan said.
Also emotional is saying goodbye to Sandy, Boring and all the friends and traditions they have made through the years.
Jan opened Sandy Quick Print in 1993, and ran the business one of the first to be open in Sandy on Mondays until selling it in 2001. She also served as marketing and operations director for Sandy Cinema and its sister properties in Independence and Battle Ground for several years. A longtime community volunteer, Jan has been involved with the Sandy Mountain Festival, Sandy Area Chamber of Commerce and Sandy Fire District.
When she realizes a certain event or encounter will be her last one in the area, it sometimes brings a tear to her eye, Jan said.
You get a little weepy about the last time, but then you think, I could be in the Grand Tetons this time next year, she said.
Still, the couple said they have no doubts theyve made the right choice.
The road is calling, after all.
Its scary, its new, its terrifying on occasion, but regretting it? No, Greg said.