The 1969 Dodge Travco That Started it All

Two years ago we started the Baby Boomer Adventures blog based on the purchase of a 1969 Dodge Travco we found on craiglist in Tennessee. It was turquoise blue and white, both classic and a little corny, with a lot of rough edges and even more potential. It was the perfect throwback to the baby boomer generation and the launch pad for new careers as the “voice of the boomer generation”. We had visions of plastering our web address down both sides, loading up the dogs, some video cameras and editing equipment, and traveling the U.S. in our awesome new “Boomer Mobile” chasing baby boomers and their adventures from coast to coast.

It took six months to get the Travco registered after we discovered it had no vehicle identification number, then Michael left for the RV Training Center in Florida for nine weeks. Two weeks after he left, I broke my ankle so severely that I was in bed for two months and have only recently become mobile enough to tackle the interior restoration, and our grand plan to conquer the world in a 1969 Travco was replaced by the inescapable realization that a 27 foot Dodge Travco was never going to accommodate two adults, two cats and three dogs no matter how grand our dreams.

Because Michael has been working almost non stop as a mobile RV technician when he isn’t working as a whitewater raft guide on the French Broad River, it fell to me to begin the restoration myself. I pulled up all the old carpet, cleaned and refinished all the wood work, cut and stained new wood panels and all the baseboard, reupholstered the banquet seats, made new curtains, and with the leftover fabric, made a quilt and matching throw pillows, and replaced all the carpeting. We will be putting the Travco up for sale just as soon as Michael has had the chance to test all the operating systems, including the generator, water pump, heating and air conditioning.

We hope someone out there sees in the “Boomer Mobile” what we did, and they can put it to good use on some awesome camping trips around the U.S. We haven’t given up on the dream of becoming the voice of the boomer generation, but we need to do it in an RV that has room for our menagerie, a Harley Davidson, an editing bay, and a future big enough to accommodate all the living we have left to do.

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The Importance of Adventures Both Big and Small.

I come by my wanderlust naturally.  I remember hearing stories growing up about how my grandfather would come home from work back in the 1950’s and find a note pinned to the front door of the house.  My grandmother would find a house she liked better while she was out running errands, rent it, pack the old house, and move in with the help of my mother and her brothers in the space of just a few hours.   When I was a kid we moved every four or five years like clockwork.  I started fifth grade one year at one school and ended it nine months later at a school across town.  I hated it at the time of course, because I was always the new kid in school, and every time we moved,  I would concoct an elaborate plan to start fresh with a different accent, or a different name so I could at least be the most interesting new kid at school.

Moving frequently however provided me with a burning desire to see something different as often as possible that has stayed with me all my life, and working as an artist for most of the past fifteen years has sated that wanderlust pretty nicely.  Shortly after I began working as a full time artist and was exhibiting art  all over the country, I developed a passion for two lane highways through the middle of nowhere, and would often find myself, on the top of a mountain in the days before GPS and cell phones, wondering if I had enough gas in the car to make it to the next station, because the gypsy in me would suddenly decide on a whim to take the path less traveled from here to there because it looked “shorter”.  I cut across New Mexico from Cuba to Los Alamos once because  it looked like it would save me at least another 100 miles on the road, and while the scenery over that mountain pass was sublime and I saw my first herd of wild elk, I also coasted into the next gas station on fumes.

With the economy still struggling to recover, and little time or money left to travel they way we used to, Michael and I have gotten creative in our approach to our frequent adventures.  We joined a group of about two dozen motorcycle riders on vintage bikes last fall for the first annual Kickstart Classic.  The ride began in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, and wound up in Rome, Georgia at a motorcycle museum/repair shop and grill known as Panhead City.  We were balloon handlers at the Macy’s Day Parade thanks to cheap airfare and a friend who traded us points at a Marriott Hotel for some artwork, and last week, we headed out for Pigeon Forge, Tennessee with the “circus”  (we have three dogs; a bossy 2 year old Shih Tzu we rescued from a snow bank, a 6 month old Pit Bull/Pharaoh Hound mix who’s turned the inside of our truck into a giant chew toy, and an ancient Pharaoh Hound who can’t hear, can’t see and can’t control his bladder) for a relaxing getaway.

We stayed in an inexpensive hotel that allowed dogs, and spent about 15 minutes turning our room into a palace with some things we’d brought from home;  a featherbed, flannel sheets, extra pillows,  candles, wine, with a cheese and crackers plate, and extra towels.  We let the dogs run around in a park across the street from the hotel, then loaded everyone up and went exploring.  We went to Knife City and the Lodge Logic factory store, then gorged ourselves on all you can eat sushi.  We also brought a DVD player and watched a movie called 50/50,  and after sleeping  late the next morning, had breakfast at the Old Mill Restaurant before driving through the Great Smoky Mountains Park back to Cherokee, and Bryson City.  It wasn’t the  most exotic getaway in the world, but we came home feeling rested and ready to tackle the world.  And it didn’t cost a fortune.  Just some planning and ingenuity. A stay at the Hyatt wouldn’t have been much better.

And any adventure, no matter how big or small, is a great adventure to have.  I plan on making them a part of my life until the day I die.

And So It Begins……

When I was twenty years old, and a junior in college at Oregon State University, I thought I knew everything.  My history professor James, who was all of forty at the time, told me over drinks one night, that the assumption was thoroughly appropriate for my age.  “After all”, he said, “the only time in my life that I ever knew anything was when I was twenty.  It was only when I got older than I realized, I didn’t know anything at all”.  I remember feeling rather smug at the time, which really only proved his point, because I felt as if I DID know everything, and with the certainty of someone who is too young to have the sort of life experience to realize just how little I actually knew, about anything, really.   When I was 20 I couldn’t imagine being 52, and now that I am 52 I can’t imagine what was so great about being 20.  Oh sure, I don’t stop traffic anymore the way I used to, and there are parts of my body that have gravitated to new locations, but when the host of THE AMAZING RACE openly marvels that a farm couple in their fifties made it more than halfway through last seasons show without an oxygen tank and a wheelchair, I figured it was time to make a stand in favor of getting older.

EVERYTHING about being older is better than I could have ever imagined it would be.  Because it finally occurred to me….I didn’t have forever to do this anymore.

I didn’t have time to judge people.  I didn’t have time to waste.  I didn’t need to be self conscious about my body anymore.  It was my body and I needed to learn to love it, because I was never going to look like a supermodel. Even though I may never be a gourmet cook or learn how to speak Mandarin Chinese like a native, who cares?  As long as I am willing to try,  then what possible reason do I have NOT to do whatever I damned well please?

I am 52 years old, and my signficant other is 58.  We find ourselves marvelling at the youth culture, if for no other reason than the fact that we find it incredible that ANYONE under the age of forty thinks anyone over the age of forty is boring.  Michael has been a dive master, a jump master, a motivational speaker, an artist, a whitewater raft guide, a welder, a carpenter, a contractor, a rough neck, a bartender, a restaurant manager, a ski instructor, a marathon runner and a commercial photographer.  At 56 he was the Rookie of the Year and at 57, the Raft Guide of the Year, at two different raft companies between 2010 and 2011.

I worked in the film industry for twelve years before becoming a gourd artist, a painter, a handbag designer, and, when the economy went in the toilet, an inbound sales agent, a telemarketing recruiter AND a virtual assistant for a cookbook author.  Against all odds we managed to land a permanent home loan modification from one of the most intractable mortgage companies on the planet, and even though we aren’t where we thought we would be at this point in our lives, we  still spend our weekends roaming the North Carolina countryside on the back of Michael’s 1988 Heritage Softtail when we aren’t rafting the class three and four rapids on the French Broad River.

In the past two years, we’ve sent in audition tapes for the Amazing Race, Survivor, Expedition Impossible and Project Accessory, and even though we still believe reality TV stardom is in the cards for both of us, the idea that, at 52 and 58 we are obsolete members of this society makes us both laugh.  Because if 50 is the new 30, then people, you all need to get the hell out of our way.  Cause we plan on passing all you suckers, straight on by…..