This week in Episode 266 of the RV Podcast, we’ll meet Len and Sherrie Johnson, a remarkable California couple with quite a story to tell us, a story of a devastating injury from an airplane crash and a determination to embrace the RV Lifestyle afterwards despite the obstacles.

You’ll be inspired by this couple!

But also this week, lots of RV news, RV Tips and an off the beaten path report from the Burketts.

WHAT MIKE AND JENNIFER ARE UP TO THIS WEEK

MIKE
This episode is being released on just before Halloween 2019 and it’s a time that many, or most of the campgrounds in the northern states and provinces have now pretty much shut down for the season. This is also the time for the first wave of the annual snowbird migration, when the frost and early snow flurries up north are sending tens of thousands of RVers flocking to southern states like Florida and Arizona.

JENNIFER
The second wave always happens right after Christmas as snowbird RVers who stayed home with family for the holidays head south to take advantage of those snowbird campground special seasonal rates, typically from Jan 1 through March 31.

MIKE
For those whose remain in the colder states, now is the time to make sure they winterize their RVs, draining out water and running antifreeze through the plumbing system. There are about as many ways to winterize an RV as their RVs but if you’re new to this, or maybe looking for some new ideas, head over to our RV Lifestyle Channel on YouTube, where we have put together a whole playlist of videos related to winterizing.

CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE RV LIFESTYLE WINTERIZING PLAYLIST ON YOUTUBE

While we’re talking about the YouTube Channel, lets remind everyone that the best way to stay up to date on our videos and special YouTube reports is to subscribe. And when you do subscribe, be sure to click the little bell icon you’ll see there on YouTube to be notified as soon as we post new material, which we do all throughout the week.

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE RV LIFESTYLE CHANNEL ON YOUTUBE

JENNIFER
We are coming to you this week from Florida, where we’ll be until about Thanksgving time. Among other things, we’re using this time to travel Florida’s Gulf Coast, from pretty much Naples up through Tallahassee, doing research for one of our 7 Day Adventure Guides. We’re actually planning two of them on Florida – one on the gulf, or west coast; the other on the Atlantic, or east coast. We hope to have those guides ready right after the holidays and they’ll be joining our growing library of RV travel guides.

MIKE
We have five of those 7-Day Adventure Guides already available… for the Michigan Upper Peninsula, for Utah, Colorado, Yellowstone National Park and the Adirondacks. Plus we have a guide on boondocking and how to buy an RV. We hope to get the new Florida guides out right around the first of the new year.

CLICK HERE FOR INFO ON OUR LIBRARY OF RV LIFESTYLE GUIDES

JENNIFER
Besides the research for our Florida RV travel guides, we’ve been traveling around in our RV, visiting small southern towns and digging into the history of how they got their names. We’ll have a video on it in a couple weeks but it was another reminder to me about how much better it is traveling off the interstate on two lane roads. We’ve also forced ourselves to slow down and take our time as we travel through those small towns. They all have a story to tell and there are always fascinating things to see and do.

This part of the podcast is brought to you by Dish Outdoors, which lets RVers pay as they go and watch HD satellite television from wherever they are camped with easy to set up gear made with the RVer in mind. Just go to https://rvlifestyle.com/dish for details on the service and special deal just for listeners of this podcast.

RV LIFESTYLE NEWS OF THE WEEK

MIKE
Fears rise over fate of Missing RVers near Padre Island, TX
As this episode was being reported the RV community was intensely following the disappearance of a New Hampshire couple and the discovery of two bodies near where their truck and travel trailer were known to be camping. The truck and trailer were later spotted being driven across the border to Mexico with someone other than the owners at the wheel.  There have been at least five other disappearance cases in the same general area this fall and police were awaiting a complete forensic examination before releasing the names of the male and female body discovered this weekend buried in a sand dune on the beach.
JENNIFER
Extreme weather hits U.S. last weekend, be safe and be sure you are prepared
Much of the country experienced extreme weather this last weekend, with strong winds, up to 80 or 90 mph in California, further fanning the already raging wildfires and resulting in massive power outages. Meanwhile in the southeast, starting around Mobile, Alabama, on up all the way into Michigan, strong winds and heavy rains brought downed trees and inches of rain through the weekend. We hope, wherever you find yourself, you are safe. And perhaps this is a good time for all of us to make sure we are watching the weather. Here is a report I did on our favorite weather apps for RVers.
MIKE
Woman purposely drives her RV into Las Vegas casino, seriously injuring janitor
A woman was arrested over the weekend after she apparently drove her RV into a casino in Las Vegas, seriously injuring a janitor who was inside. The 50-year-old woman had been kicked out of the Cannery Casino, and was angry about that. She then intentionally drove her RV into the entrance of the casino, according to police, where she hit the 66-year-old janitor, trapping him underneath her vehicle.
JENNIFER
Off-road vehicles will NOT be permitted in Utah’s national parks after all, in reversal of order that was about to take place
The National Parks Service rescinded an order that would have allowed off-road vehicles into national parks in Utah one week before it was to take affect. ORV advocates were disappointed, saying if state laws permit ORV to go anywhere, that should include national parks. But conservation groups and others were thrilled at the reversal, saying that the vehicles already have tens of thousands of miles of dirt and other roads in Utah to ride and permitting them in the state’s national parks would have been impossible to police, opening the parks up to potentially irreversible damage.
MIKE
Monarch butterflies arriving en masse to southern states – keep an eye out while camping
Back in mid-September we shared the annual monarch migration, and how the popular flying creatures were being seen en masse in southern Canada and northern continental United States parks and areas. Now the monarchs are being spotted in large numbers in Georgia, Florida, Texas, Mississippi and other southern locations. If you find yourself camping in these areas this week, see if there are any festivals or special events planned, or check here for the latest on the annual migration.
JENNIFER
Washington releases list of more than 100 parks open for winter camping and activities  
Live on the west coast and interested in doing some winter camping? The state of Washington recently released its list of more than 100 parks that will remain open this winter for camping or outdoor activities. As many long -ime readers know, we are big fans of winter camping. To see a video of a winter camping trip we made last January in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, click here
 This part of the podcast is brought to you by RadPower Bikes, America’s #1 e-bike brand, offering direct to consumer pricing on powerful premium electric bikes. Now with free shipping  

LISTENER QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK

QUESTION: Hello, Mike and Jennifer. This is Mark again from Austin, Texas. You may remember me. I called and left a question a good year or so ago and you guys were very helpful as well as many of your listeners. I wanted to ask a renewed question. We are just about to finally break ground on our RV park east of Austin. We’ve got all of our ducks in a row, but we’re still making some last-minute decisions. So my question is pretty simple. How important is the pedestal? In other words we can spend $1,000 on a pedestal that looks like a little light house that I’m sure you’ve seen. Well we can suck $250 on a more generic one and put that extra money into more trees. So we were curious to know what you and what your listeners thought about how important that pedestal is. Is that something that you deeply appreciate when a park has spent more money on that or is it something that is kind of no big deal to you one way or the other dead. Thank You so much. Love your show have now listen to dozens and dozens and dozens of your episodes. Probably well over a hundred and enjoyed every time. All right. God bless.

ANSWER We’ll ask our listeners to add their comments via. Post to the shownotes or leaving us a voice message but a pedestal is a pedestal. Go with the generic pedestal and invest the extra in landscaping.

QUESTION: Hi, Mike, and Jennifer, this is Suzie calling from the road. My husband and I recently became a full-time RVer. We’ve been listening to and enjoying your podcast four years. In fact, it may have actually helped us decide to hit the road. Our question is about device today. We first heard about them on your podcast now. We’ve tried them and love them. We are very close to place your order with Rad, but we’ve recently seen two examples of signs forbidding e bikes on bike trails now. We’re concerned that will get rid of our standard bikes and find that we’re not going to be able to use re bikes on bike paths. Have you encountered this? Thanks in advance for your podcast and for your response. Have a great day. Bye.

ANSWER: Good question. And yes, we have seen this. Most recently on Mackinac Island during a recent trip there. Technically, eBikes are allowed on the roads wherever regular bicycles are allowed. But individual locations can and do restrict their use from time to time. Here’s a great resource on where you can and can not ride ebikes – https://pinemountainsports.com/e-bike-trails/

Do you have a question you’d like us to answer, or a comment on the things we’re discussing? If so, we invite you to leave us that question or comment on the special voicemail number we have for the podcast – it’s 586-372-6990.  If you are driving and can’t write it down right now, just go to the RV Lifestyle travel blog at rvlifestyle.com and scroll down the page. You’ll see that number prominently posted on the blog.

This part of the RV Podcast is brought to you by Battle Born Batteries, maker of quality, safe and reliable lithium batteries that can be installed in just about every RV. Get in touch with Battle Born to find out what lithium batteries and an upgraded energy management system can add to your RV Lifestyle. Check them out at https://rvlifestyle.com/lithium

RV INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK

Our guests this week are Len and Sherrie Johnson, a remarkable California couple with quite a story to tell us, a story of a devastating injury from an airplane crash and a determination to embrace the RV Lifestyle afterwards despite the obstacles.

We met them recently in Fontana, CA, where we found them shopping for an RV that would handle the special needs that Len has. As we visited with them, we just knew you’d be as inspired by them as we are.

Here’s a link to a video they made following Len’s plane crash 11 years ago Nov 5th – https://youtu.be/D95CBv7ae5Q 

If you’d like to hear this video on our YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel, click below:

And if you prefer to read a transcript of the interview, here it is:

Mike:
Well, Len and Sherrie joined us right now on the podcast, from their home in Buena Vista, California, in Southern California. First of all, thank you guys so much for being a part of the podcast.

Len:
Well, thank you.

Mike:
So-

Sherrie:
Hi, Mike.

Mike:
Hi, Sherrie and Len. So, let’s kind of set the stage a little bit. I mentioned in the intro that we met each other at the California RV Show a little while ago. I was going to do a video, and actually, as I came back and listened to this story and started thinking about it, it’s much more involved than just a video. I want to start with talking about … So many people dream of freedom. They worry about being bored in retirement, or they’ve worked hard all their life, and they’ve looked forward to having some fun out there on the road, and, well, they have so many excuses: not enough money, not enough time, not sure where to go, can’t find the right RV. They’re all excuses.

Len:
Well-

Mike:
I wanted to just talk a little bit about you guys. You are out there doing it right now, in not the most ideal RV. Why don’t you tell us what kind of an RV you have, and why?

Len:
Well, we have a wheelchair van, the same one that we got so that I could travel with Sherrie. It’s a Toyota Sienna, and it’s been raised. The floor has been lowered, and it has a ramp that comes out on the side. I have a large wheelchair. You remember seeing it, Mike, and-

Mike:
And we’ll put a picture in the show notes there for the podcast so everybody can see that. Yeah, it’s a really big wheelchair, as a matter of fact.

Len:
Yes. Well, when we load it in, there’s not a lot of room, but there’s enough because I sleep in the wheelchair when we travel anyway. So, there’s not any real reason why it can’t be in the wheelchair van instead of a hotel room. So, it doesn’t really make much difference to me. Sherrie built her own bed with a couple of sheets of plywood. She made a support for it that fits around, kind of like a Tupperware …

Sherrie:
Sterilite, a three drawer system.

Len:
Right.

Sherrie:
Yeah.

Len:
That’s where we keep our clothes and other odds and ends that we need for the road. Then the bed rests on the rear seat and across that platform structure. Then there’s a slab of foam across that, and Sherrie finds it very comfortable. She doesn’t roll around a lot, so she doesn’t need a very wide bed, and even when it’s in the van, I can still get in and out with my wheelchair without having to take it apart.

Mike:
So, you are using a wheelchair van as an RV, really, and I know you were looking for other RVs. We talked, and we’ll come back to this a little later on, but we talked about how hard it is to find ADA, American with Disabilities Act compliant RVs out there, isn’t it?

Len:
It sure is, especially in the small size that we were looking for. We wanted to be in a van that would offer fuel economy, that was something close to or even exceeding what we get in our Sienna. That’s possible with the Sprinter chassis, and even with a couple of the other chassis with a diesel engine, but-

Mike:
It just needs some work, and nobody is commercially doing this, I don’t think, right now, are they?

Len:
No, no.

Sherrie:
No.

Len:
Not that I know of. A couple of vans have a nice, wide cargo sides, and so you can put in an elevator to pick up the wheelchair and bring it in, but as far as one that’s already built that way, I haven’t seen a small RV that is.

Mike:
Well, it would have been so easy for you guys to say, “Well, we can’t do this. We can’t travel.” What’s the mindset that you had, that said, “Yes, we can. We just have to adjust it to our abilities”? Talk about that. Sherrie, you first, and then you, Len.

Sherrie:
Well, we’ve been pretty housebound for about a decade now. Len’s accident was 11 years ago next month, and … I don’t know. I just got a bee in my bonnet that said, “I don’t think we want to sit here in our La-Z-Boys for the rest of our lives, and it would be really nice to get out and see some of the beautiful country.” We have friends and family strewn all over the country that we would love to touch base with. Some people, you kind of would like to go and see them for a meal and drive on, and others you’d like to spend a couple of weeks with. So, we just were trying to figure out a way that we could do it on our very limited budget [crosstalk 00:05:05].

Mike:
We should probably ask you, have you share with everybody right now, Len, just briefly, what was that accident? We’ll get into that in a moment because that’s really a huge story I want to cover here in a minute, but what was the accident, and what is your physical condition now?

Len:
Well, I was in an airplane crash, a single engine airplane that I built myself, and I broke my neck in the crash and received a spinal cord injury. So, I’m an incomplete quadriplegic. What that means is my spinal cord is intact, but it’s damaged, so some signals don’t go through, and others do.

Mike:
Now, you can stand briefly, as I understand, for a little bit, but that probably will deteriorate with age and time. Is that how I heard you right the other day?

Len:
That’s my understanding, and it seems to be the case. In 10 years … I peaked about two years after the accident, and I’m not quite as strong now as I was then, so I expect that to continue.

Mike:
So, Len, you’re in your wheelchair. You and Sherrie are sitting in your home, and you’re saying, “Wait a minute. Life is getting us by here. We want to go out there. We have a wheelchair van, and we’re going to make it into an RV.” What was your mental turning point to go out and do that? Did you have any doubts about it, or did you just say, “We’re going to go do this”?

Len:
Well, I’d say I had a lot of doubts about it, but Sherrie did a lot of research online, and she came back and told me, “Hey, wait a minute. We can do this,” and she persuaded me, and we are able to do it.

Mike:
Now, I want to get to the story of how you became disabled, and it’s quite a story. You mentioned that you built your own single engine airplane, and it was a rather unique aircraft. Talk us through the feat you did with that airplane, and then and then the accident. How’d it all start?

Len:
Okay. Well, I shopped around, looking for the right kind of airplane, and I settled on an airplane called an Arrow Canard. There’s another airplane like it called a Cozy Mark IV, and those two airplanes, either one would have worked.

Len:
So, I found one online, where another builder had begun the airplane, had gathered the pre-molded parts from a Arrow Canard corporation. He had started building, but he wanted to get rid of the project and start with something else. So, I bought the project from him, and I finished the airplane. It took several years to do.

Sherrie:
He started out in our garage, started working on the wings in our two car garage that we had at the time.

Len:
Yeah, that … It pretty much filled up the garage. Then, when I got to the point where I wanted to put the wings on, it had to go to an airplane hangar on an airport. So, I got a shared hangar situation and did … finished up the building. It’s a very fast airplane. It would go 200 miles an hour, flat out, and had a range of close to a thousand miles.

Mike:
So, you get this thing built after two years, and you decided on a pretty ambitious flight, and a proof of concept, I guess, of that vehicle. What was that? Share that with the audience.

Len:
The small airplanes like this one use an engine technology that goes way back. It goes all the way back to the ’40s. They are air cooled, and they require a low lead fuel. The lead is in there to keep the engine happy. It provides some lubricity, and without it, the engine wears too much. So, I thought, “If we could get away from the low lead fuel and still use the same engine, that would be great.” So, I decided on normal butanol, which is a three carbon alcohol, and butanol is kind of oily, but it still has a flash point that’s relatively low. That means that it will burn in one of these engines once the fuel is up close to 100 degrees.

Mike:
Could we call this a biofuel? Would that be an accurate description for it?

Len:
Yes, of course. It’s made in a process. It isn’t mined or explored for, like oil is. This actually comes from growing plants.

Mike:
All right. So, you have this airplane, and it’s going to fly on a new kind of fuel for it, a kind of a biofuel. What was the goal that you set off, and what did you accomplish with it?

Len:
The goal was to prove that the fuel would work, and that the engine would function normally with the fuel. In order to do that, I set up two fuel caches across the country, one in-

Sherrie:
Amarillo.

Len:
… Amarillo, and the other in Memphis, and I sent 55 gallons of fuel to each location. I carried a little extra fuel in my airplane, and I determined that there had been no one to fly all the way across the country on biofuel yet, so I was the first. So, I set up the flight and modified my engine a little bit. I added a small header tank with gasoline because, when it’s cold out, the normal butanol, which the flash point is up around 100 degrees, doesn’t really burn very well. So, I would squirt … I would inject a little bit of gasoline from the header tank into the gas …

Mike:
That’s-

Len:
… and it would … Sorry?

Mike:
So, you made this trip across country. How long did it take you?

Len:
It took several days. I had to stop off a couple of different locations on my way across. My son-in-law and daughter and grandkids live in Memphis, so I wanted to stop there, and I had a little trouble with the spark plugs in a couple places. I had to stop and work that out, but yeah. It took a few days.

Mike:
But you did it.

Len:
And … I did.

Mike:
Sherrie, you must have been on pins and needles, and yet so very, very proud.

Sherrie:
Oh my goodness, yes. When he landed at Kitty Hawk and met with the First Flight Foundation, I thought that my heart would burst with pride. I was just so proud of him for this accomplishment. They actually did a back page article in the Smithsonian Air and Space Magazine on him, and the First Flight Foundation, when they greeted him at Kitty Hawk, gave him a replica of the Wright Brothers Memorial, so-

Mike:
This is a … So, a roaring success, and now you’re coming back, Len, and this is where the story reaches a climax. Tell us what happened.

Len:
Well, this is where it takes kind of a left turn. I stopped in Memphis again, and then went to Saint Charles, Missouri, which is where I grew up. A couple of my best friends still live there, so I met them, and I have a sister that lives in Defiance, which is close to Saint Charles, and we all visited together. We visited my favorite restaurant for pizza, called Pio’s in Saint Charles. Yep, I think I’ll give them a plug.

Mike:
Might as well, yeah.

Len:
Then, when I took off, I had checked the weather, and I was supposed to be two hours ahead of a storm front that was coming into the Midwest. I wanted to get ahead of it so I could get back down to Texas, where I was supposed to go to a garden party and meet some potential investors. On my way there, when I got close to the Lake of the Ozarks, as often happens in the Midwest, the weather started to come up around me. So, I ran into some moderate to severe clear-air turbulence.

Len:
Now, when a pilot says “severe”, that means you can’t keep the shiny side up. You don’t have any control anymore. The weather pretty much takes over. So, I was at that point where I was between being able to control it and not being able to control it. So, I had to land it. I had to make an emergency landing, and I did that, but the field that I landed on, when I reached it, I didn’t have enough energy to fly around and determine where the runway was, and how I could best land. I just had to take what I could get. It turned out that it was sideways on the airport-

Sherrie:
And the taxiway.

Len:
… and there wasn’t enough room on the taxiway that I was on to stop. So, I was still doing probably an excess of 60 miles an hour when I hit a pole on the other end. Tore one wing off, spun the airplane around. Then I hit another pole, which tore the other wing off and spun it again. I hit a bollard on my front of the airplane, tore the front off, so the entire airplane was gone except for my feet. My feet were the farthest forward, and flipped the airplane upside down. I slid to a stop, maybe …

Sherrie:
25 feet.

Len:
… 25 feet or so from the house that I was trying to avoid.

Mike:
Wow, and-

Len:
My fuel is in the tanks that are right next to the cabin. They’re called strakes. The strakes were broken open, so there was about 27 gallons of aviation fuel on the ground. Some of that, where my windbreaker had been torn open on the shoulder, got splashed on me, so my sleeve was full of aviation fuel. There was a smoking hot engine six and a half feet behind me, but the airplane did not catch fire. I consider that to be a miracle in itself.

Len:
The plane came to rest between the fire department and the police station, so there were people on site within just a few minutes. I was unconscious, and they started to dig me out. I was wrapped up in a bunch of wires, and the were bits and pieces of plane all over the place. So, they started cutting through to me, to get me out of there, and I started coming to. I was coming from a, surprisingly, a very comfortable place. I felt warm and happy and loved. I was good there. I was ready to just let go, but a voice came to me, said, “Not yet.”

Len:
So, I struggled to come to. At first, I heard voices, and it took me awhile to identify them, or even where I was. Then I realized I’d been in a plane crash, and these were my rescuers. So, I started to talk to them, and the first thing I asked them to do was to call Sherrie, and I gave them her phone number.

Sherrie:
Good for him.

Len:
That’s probably what saved me because I always called her right before I took off, to let her know I was about to leave, and make sure everything’s okay, and let her hear my voice. Well, I forgot to do it on this day because I had people in Saint Charles saying goodbye, including a reporter. So, I forgot to call her, and this was the one time I forgot, and it was the time that the plane went down.

Mike:
Wow, that’s an amazing story. I know what followed were a long period of rehab. How long were you in rehab, and what was that like?

Len:
Altogether, it was close to four months in the hospital, and I started out in Springfield.

Sherrie:
[crosstalk 00:18:23].

Len:
They life-flighted me to a trauma center there, and I had to have spinal cord surgery. They used a C4 through C7, and saw the spinal cord injury, and told Sherrie I probably wouldn’t walk again. When I came to, I had spinal shock. That’s something that happens in a spinal cord injury when signals won’t go through that area. So, I was almost completely paralyzed at that point, and very gradually, things started coming back. We call them return. So, within, like I said, about two years, I was as far as I was going to get, and that left me with something called Brown-Sequard, which means I have sensory deprivation on my left side, and a weakness on my right side, but I have just enough left to be able to stand up and walk.

Mike:
Well, I met you just a couple weeks ago, shopping for RVs, and that takes us full circle, back here to what the main topic of this podcast, of course, is, which is freedom and fun, and not letting situations and circumstances hold you back. With that kind of a story where we sense the commitment of both of you, and your perseverance, would you give some advice to people out there, Len and Sherrie, who have always wanted to go out in RV, but they say, “Oh, circumstances aren’t just right”? Talk about your dreams.

Len:
Well, circumstances are never just right, are they, Mike?

Mike:
Never. Never. That’s lesson one, right?

Sherrie:
Yeah.

Len:
Even if you go out and buy an RV, there are going to be problems with your first RV, and your second RV, and your last RV. So, there will always be issues, and there will always be things that could be different or better, but the question is, can you be comfortable? The answer is yes, we can. Can you deal with the adversity? For instance, if it’s cold inside of a wheelchair van, there are heaters that work and can be used inside. Can you carry enough water and food? Clearly, you can. There are coolers that will stay cool for a couple of days at a time. There are many ways that you can overcome adversity.

Mike:
Sherrie, your thoughts?

Sherrie:
Well, your website, along with several others, and your YouTube channel were very instrumental in my getting really enthusiastic about doing this because, like I said, we’ve been sitting around for 10 years, and we need to, just for our mental health’s sake, be out and about a little more. We went up to Los Alamos, California, which is just a little north of Solvang, and heard an old friend of mine from just after high school. I used to sing in a band with him, and he’s still in a band, even though he’s a retired CHP captain, and so … or actually, assistant chief was his last promotion. So, we went up there and spent the night there, and got to see the band, and enjoyed the Los Alamos Day parade the next day, and … before we came home. In November, we have plans to go see some of Len’s friends from high school in a band that they’re in. So, it’s turned out to be a real delight to be able to see some old friends and not have to pay a lot of money for a hotel.

Len:
Oh yeah. That’s one of the advantages of boondocking in a wheelchair van. It doesn’t look like a motorhome, and you don’t need hookups. So, there are lots of places … You should always get permission before you park somewhere because you don’t want a police man waking you up in the middle of the night and telling you to move, but if you have permission, you can park just about anywhere, if the ground’s fairly level.

Mike:
Well, my hope is that we find you guys an RV that … I know that there are upfitters out there, and there’s a pretty big market of people who have various disabilities and would love to RV, if they can find a way out. You’ve given them one way. Just do it with whatever you have, but last thing about perseverance. I remember as we left you in California, you said something, Sherrie, to the effect that you make the best of it, and where there’s a will, there’s a way. You guys-

Sherrie:
Absolutely.

Mike:
You guys really believe that, after all you have been through as you’re out there. Would you tell somebody else who may be thinking, “That dream is beyond me,” that they can do it too?

Sherrie:
Well, it’s very easy to sit back in your chair and think, “This is it. This is what I have for the rest of my life.” I actually had that mindset for a while, but the more I discovered about the RV lifestyle, I really just became very enamored of it. Like Len said, there’s good and bad in everything, and it doesn’t matter if you’re in a sticks-and-bricks home, or whether you’re in an RV. You’re going to have issues that you deal with.

Len:
We should point out that when I was still healthy and still earning, we had a Class A motorhome for several years. We used it quite a bit, but we knew we didn’t want to do that again. For one thing, in our position, having more than one vehicle just isn’t practical, and for another, it’s rather hard to find one of those that is adapted to a wheelchair as well. There just isn’t enough room inside of them for the wheelchair to move around, so you … I would have to walk, and I’d need a special chair with the ability to raise my legs, and just all sorts of things that would interfere with getting it right. We thought, “Well, we don’t really need one of those. We already have what we can use, and it’s very economical, and we can be comfortable in what we have.”

Mike:
Well, I have so enjoyed meeting you two, and I know our RV Podcast audience is very happy to meet you guys, too. The one thing that will make it better for me is when we camp together someplace. Let’s make that happen in the next year- and spend some quality time around the campfire. I thank you so much for spending time with us on the RV Podcast, and sharing your story of finding freedom and fun, no matter what, out there in the RV lifestyle. Thank you, guys.

Len:
Thank you, Mike.

Sherrie:
Thanks, Mike.

The interview of the week is brought to you by SunshinestateRVs.com, where every new  motorhome is delivered to the customer free, anywhere in the country

OFF THE BEATEN PATH REPORT   

By Tom & Patti Burkett

Patti and Tom Burkett

We were standing on the porch of a national park visitor center, staring at a sign hung above the entrance door.  It was a half circle dial with an arrow.  On the left, at what would be the lowest in its range, it read ‘all clear.’  At the midpoint was the word ‘severe,’ and at the top of the scale ‘war zone.’  In big letters across the bottom were the words MOSQUITO METER.  Ranger Eric, watching us chuckle at the meters, said, “It’s no joke.  Lots of folks call us up and ask what the meter says before they come out here.”  The meter can be found in Congaree National Park, one of the lesser known sites in the park system.

Located about fifteen miles southeast of Columbia, South Carolina, it sits at the heart of an international biosphere reserve of the same name.  The entire park is a designated wilderness, more than 25,000 acres of it, and many square miles of surrounding countryside contribute to the complete reserve.  Two newspaper editors, both of whom were sportsmen, began to promote the idea of protecting the area in the early 1960s.  By 1976 it was a national monument, and was designated a national park in 2003. 

When it became a park, it had been a biosphere reserve for more than twenty years.  Both the Congaree River and Cedar Creek run through this lush (and mosquito infested) bottomland forest.  It is the largest tract of virgin bottomland forest left in the USA, and has the largest tract of uncut deciduous temperate forest in the world.  The largest known examples of fifteen tree species can be found on its acres, including a persimmon that tops out over 200 feet, and many oaks that rise more that 130 feet above the wet forest floor.

As you might expect, both the tree cover and the insect food supply make it a haven for birds, and it is internationally known for both variety and population.  There are more than 25 miles of hiking trails, almost entirely flat, more than two miles of boardwalks, and an excellent canoe trail along Cedar Creek.  The entire park is open to canoeing and kayaking, subject to seasonal flooding and other safety concerns. 

Unless you’ve been in a forest like this, it’s hard to convey what it’s like.  The trees tower overhead, their leaves many dozens of feet above your head.  Very little vegetation grows at ground level, so there’s a vast sense of spaciousness interrupted only by the giant trunks rising intO the distance above you.  Birds sing, insects hum, and something is always falling from up there somewhere—acorns, leaves, twigs, you name it.  In the water or on the wet ground you can see snakes, turtles, lizards, frogs, and little fish.  You might easily imagine yourself transported back a thousand years to the time when only Native Americans hunted here.

One of the great treats of visiting here can be seen in May, when the synchronous fireflies come out.  Battle for a spot in the lottery at Great Smoky Mountains if you like, or visit Congaree for a much less crowded experience.  You can walk the boardwalk through the firefly area, at your leisure.  The limited parking does tend to fill up, though, so we’d suggest you come early, take a nap. check out the visitor center, and be in a prime spot when glow time begins.  It’s nature’s world out here, so don’t forget the insect repellent, but don’t miss the chance to stroll through the forest primeval, out here off the beaten path.