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Meet the 100 Year Old RVer

We just met a 100 year old RVer who is still going strong. And he has a lot of wisdom about travel and adventure to share.

He is James Ziegler, and he is – as you read this – 100 years and five weeks old. We caught up with him at his favorite campground in California and so enjoyed our conversation that we made him the Interview of the Week on Episode 422 of the RV Podcast.

You can watch the entire podcast and the interview with Mr. Ziegler on our RV Lifestyle YouTube Channel in the player below.

If you prefer an audio-only version of the podcast, you can catch us on all the major podcast apps or listen now in the player below.

The 100 Year Old RVer – James Ziegler

The 100 year old RVer James Ziegler
The 100 year old RVer James Ziegler in front of his RV

Mr. Ziegler started camping in 1991 and hasn’t stopped except for the times when he traveled internationally.

He has been to 130 countries, been to Antarctica,  Alaska, traveled across the continental US three times, and drove his RV down to the tip of South America.

About 10 years ago he was in China climbing the Great Wall. It was his third time climbing the Great Wall. The first was in 1945 shortly after WWII. 

He’s been to Antarctica. Twice.

Mr. Ziegler camps in a 31-foot 2000 Storm motorhome that he still drives himself, though sometimes his son comes along on the adventures and shares the driving. He has been married twice-widowed once divorced the other time. He has four kids. 

He is a WWII veteran, walks a half a mile every day and for a hobby, makes airplanes out of beer cans.

We caught up with him at the KQ Ranch Resort in Julian, CA 

Here’s an edited version of the interview:

Interview: The 100 Year Old RVer

Mike Wendland:

Well, let’s go out to the beautiful KQ Ranch Resort out in Julian, California, in the mountains east of San Diego and meet for ourselves the 100 year old RVer, Mr. James Ziegler. Mr. Ziegler, thank you for coming on the program today.

James Ziegler:

Quite welcome.

Mike Wendland:

I want to start off a little bit by having everybody understand, how often do you travel? Tell us about your RV experience.

James Ziegler:

Right now I’m traveling alone. I have traveled alone most of the time since I got an RV and that was in 1991. At that time, I sold my house to my kids, or one of my kids, and moved into an RV. Then right away I went on a long trip.

The 100 Year Old RVer is a lifelong traveler

Meet the 100 Year Old RVer 1
Antarctica

Mike Wendland:

You started late in life. You have been all over the world. You’ve been to Antarctica.

James Ziegler:

Yes, once.

Mike Wendland:

Since you started RVing, you have traveled across the continent three times. Is that right?

James Ziegler:

Yes.

Mike Wendland:

So you like to travel.

James Ziegler:

Yeah. I’ve probably been to at least 130 different countries.

Mike Wendland:

My goodness. What caused you, at the age of 70, I guess it would’ve been, to start RVing?

James Ziegler:

My kid had just gotten married and they needed a place to stay, so I let them have my house and I bought a secondhand RV to try it out and I guess it stuck, so I’ve been doing it ever since.

He says he’s not too old to travel

Mike Wendland:

There are people who say you reach an age that you’re too old to travel. Is that true?

James Ziegler:

For me, no, it’s not. Well, actually, it’s getting to be a little different for me to travel now, but it’s a little difficult for me to travel now by myself. So actually, for the last four or five trips I’ve taken, my son has gone with me and that’s worked out very well.

Mike Wendland:

Then you stay at a resort or an RV park like where you are now for a while and then you move on to another one? Now tell us about right now. What are you camping in? What is the RV that you’re in now?

The 100 year old RVer travels in a 22-year-old RV

Meet the 100 Year Old RVer 2

James Ziegler:

Right now I have a motor home, which I purchased new in 2000 even, I’ve been working on, living in that since 2000.

Mike Wendland:

How long have you been at the campground that you’re at now? How long have you been staying there?

James Ziegler:

Well, I can only stay two weeks at a time. Otherwise, the campground would be called a residential campground and it doesn’t have a license for that. So I can stay for two weeks, then I have to leave for a week to go to another campground and stay there a week and then come back to my campground that I’m staying at now, which is called KQ and near Julian, California.

Mike Wendland:

Now do you drive the motor coach or do you have your son come and move it for you?

James Ziegler:

Well, my son lives in Oregon, so he’s not really available to drive it, so I drive it.

How does he do it?

Mike Wendland:

You do. Do people ever say, “How do you do this?” When they find out you are 100 years old?

James Ziegler:

Well, to put it in perspective, I haven’t been 100 for only about four weeks now.

Mike Wendland:

But you’re 100. That’s awesome.

James Ziegler:

100 and four weeks.

Mike Wendland:

100 years and four weeks.

James Ziegler:

It doesn’t feel much different, any different than I was when I was 99.

Mike Wendland:

Yeah. Your health looks good. You look like you’re feeling good.

His advice to other RVers

James Ziegler:

Well, I usually try to walk roughly about a half mile every morning and sometimes I walk it with a cane. Sometimes I walk it without a cane.

Mike Wendland:

What advice would you give folks who say, “I want to go off in an RV,” and maybe they’ve reached an advanced set of age, but what advice would you give? I bet other people have asked you that question about, “How safe is it? When do you know whether it’s okay to do it?”

James Ziegler:

Well, that’s a good question and the way I would answer it to anybody who asked me that question is, “First go to a rental place and rent an RV. Rent one in which at least you’re comfortable just getting in it and then try it for a week or two or three or a month, and find out whether it fits your lifestyle.”

Each RVer has a different lifestyle even though they are all RVing together, in a sense, they’re each living the lifestyle different. I would suggest if they don’t like the first RV they rent, rent another one, of a different size or type or something, and try that for another couple weeks or couple months. “Then when you’re ready to invest in it, then get yourself a good reputable RV dealer and work with them.”

He’s been everywhere

great wall of china
Great Wall of China

Mike Wendland:

I want to talk a little bit about your life and your travels. The notes I have, we talked about Antarctica and you said you’ve been to Antarctica twice.

James Ziegler:

Yes, sir.

Mike Wendland:

Was that for work or for pleasure?

James Ziegler:

For pleasure, yeah. Actually, more than that. Actually, the first time I went down, the ship that I was scheduled to be on ran into a rock and poked a hole in its hull and therefore that had to be put out of commission.

Because of my inconvenience, so to speak, it gave me an incentive to come back a second time. So I went back a second time and enjoyed it all over again.

Mike Wendland:

Wow. And you were in World War II?

James Ziegler:

Yes, sir.

Mike Wendland:

I understand you have visited the Great Wall of China firsthand and then and then since then as well.

James Ziegler:

Actually the first time I visited the Great Wall of China was right after the war was over. War had come to, thank heavens, a successful conclusion because of dropping the atomic bomb.

Let me say right now that the fact that the atomic bomb was actually dropped saved a lot of lives because we were getting prepared on Okinawa, training to hit the homeland of Japan, and that would’ve been a blood bath.

Mike Wendland:

Yes.

James Ziegler:

What happened was Chiang Kai-shek asked the Marine Corps to send a group of men to go to North China to accept the weapons from the Japanese who were there so that the communist group coming from internal China wouldn’t get the weapons, so that was the original reason we went there.

Where’s his favorite place?

Mike Wendland:

Of all of your travels, I’m going to ask you, first of all, in your travels around the world, where’s your favorite place?

James Ziegler:

I suppose where I am now is the favorite place. Not now in the sense of KQ, but where I am when I’m there.

Mike Wendland:

But you enjoy the here and now?

James Ziegler:

I enjoy the here and now. Yes.

What he likes about RV Life

Mike Wendland:

Well, as an RVer, where are your favorite places and what is it that you like about the RV lifestyle?

James Ziegler:

Well, first of all, it’s reasonable. I like being able to pull up your stakes and go to wherever else you want to go. There are several well-known groups of RV parks that have combined and if you’re a member of one of those groups, you can travel almost across the United States from park to park.

There’s normally restrictions in each park as to how long you can stay, but that’s okay because you want to keep moving anyway. You’re quite free to go someplace else and see what it looks like, as a RVer.

Mike Wendland:

Now you have four children, right?

James Ziegler:

Well, I’ve only got three now. One of them has already passed.

Mike Wendland:

And I bet a lot of grandchildren.

James Ziegler:

Yes, quite a few.

Mike Wendland:

And I bet some great-grandchildren.

James Ziegler:

I’ve got some grand great-grandchildren. Yes, sir.

Mike Wendland:

Any great-great grandchildren?

James Ziegler:

I have some great-great-grandchildren. Yeah.

What does his family say?

photo about the joys of family camping
What will our family think when we are 100?

Mike Wendland:

So what does your family think of you still RVing at 100 years old?

James Ziegler:

Some said, “You shouldn’t be doing this” others, “Everything’s okay.” They don’t keep tabs with me on a daily or weekly or hardly even a monthly basis, so I’m really out there by myself.

Mike Wendland:

You look like you’re faring pretty well by yourself out there.

James Ziegler:

Well, I’m doing pretty well, yes. I don’t smoke, I haven’t smoked, and I don’t drink and I’m really, really doing pretty well. Thank you.

Don’t stop just because you’re old

Mike Wendland:

Any other last suggestions to people about enjoying old age and travel?

James Ziegler:

Don’t stop just because you’re getting older.

There’s lots of places to go, lots of places to see, lots of places to experience. Even if you don’t travel outside the United States, for example, go to Alaska. Lot of people go to Alaska on a tour boat from Seattle. That’s not the way to get to Alaska, I think.

I think the way to get to Alaska is with an RV. I’ve gone up twice. You go up one way and come back a different way. I’ve stayed up there both times, all summer. The second time up there I was a host at a state park and that worked out pretty well.

Mike Wendland:

Well, I hope I get a chance to meet you in person at a campground someplace. I would love to hear your stories of travel, the people you’ve met, the places you’ve seen. You are an inspiration to us all and I love your advice. “Don’t stop, just because you’re old.”

James Ziegler:

Don’t stop.

Mike Wendland:

Don’t stop. Thank you so much for making time for us, and happy birthday, 100 years old.

James Ziegler:

Thank you, sir.

That was so inspiring – so where are we off to next?

Let us know in the comments.

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Meet the 100 Year Old RVer 3
Mike and Jennifer Wendland

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2 Responses to “Meet the 100 Year Old RVer”

November 19, 2022at9:26 pm, Amy Delpiere said:

Maybe I will get to see all I want before I’m too old after all. 🙂 That WAS an inspiration. Thanks for doing the interview and sharing with your peeps out here! Thank you Mr. Ziegler.

Reply

November 20, 2022at2:02 pm, Team RV Lifestyle said:

Yes, a big thanks to Mr. Ziegler – he has encouraged many of us! Team RV Lifestyle

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