Pearl and Bud Crispell hit the road in their recreational vehicle the day after they retired in 1976. And for decades they traveled the country at will living in their 40-foot motorhome.
But, as is the eventual story of all road warriors, the day came when they hit the proverbial ‘end of the road’. Unable to manage some aspects of their life and care, living on fixed incomes, and not wanting to become a burden to friends and relatives, the Crispells pulled into the country’s only assisted-living RV Park, the Escapees Care Center in Livingston, Texas, according to AOL Real Estate.
At 93 and 90, Pearl, a retired nurse, and Bud, a former IBM engineer, are not without age-related health issues. But her mind is “sharper than my husband wishes it was,” Pearl says. And she has no desire to trade the small confines of their RV for a bigger “land-based residence,” as Escapees call conventional houses. “We didn’t retire to entertain our family,” she says.
Full-time travel in a recreational vehicle has become a popular lifestyle for independent-minded seniors. But age takes its toll, and there comes a time when even the hardiest have to think about parking the RV for good.
Ed and Rae Spake have a similar story to tell. In 1993, they sold their belongings to travel the country, visiting 35 states along the way and living for months in state parks in South Dakota, Utah, and Northern California.
When his vision failed, Ed, 71, was on Route 105 in East Texas, driving a van that pulled a 19-foot recreational vehicle that the couple had lived in for five years.
“I can’t see out of my right eye,” Ed told his wife. And with that, his driving days were over. The following year he was declared legally blind, a victim of age-related macular degeneration.
They moved to Escapees Care to get the health care they need while remaining in their RV, surrounded by kindred spirits.
The nonprofit adult day care and residency program bills itself as a refuge for RVers whose travels are permanently ended because of age or temporarily interrupted because of an illness, according to a feature on Columbia University News 21.
For a monthly fee of $824 per person, or $1,236 a couple, residents get a spot to park their homes-on-wheels; three meals a day, every day; two loads of laundry service a week; light housekeeping of their unit; transportation to medical appointments; and access to registered nurses on call 40 hours a week.
Currently the Care Center’s 35 sites are all occupied, by recreational vehicles ranging from minivans to 40-footers. Each unit has their own fresh water supply and a private septic system. While a few residents are in their 90s, most are in the mid- to late 80s, says Robert Brinton, the facility’s executive director and on-site manager. The center doesn’t have a waiting list or immediate plans to expand. When an opening occurs and there always seems to be someone who wants it, he said.
Brinton himself joined the Escapees RV Club in 2000 precisely because it has the Care Center. The 60,000-member strong club is founded on the “caring and sharing” principle, which appealed to him, Brinton says. Member donations built the Care Center; it has no mortgage and is thus able to keep expenses low.
The Care Center is often called “Kay’s Dream” after Kay Peterson, who founded the Escapees RV Club on July 4, 1978 as a way to unite the R.V. community; she and her husband, Joe, hit the road in their RV back in 1970. Rainbow’s End soon followed, along with similar parks where fellow travelers can establish residency, get mailing addresses and register to vote.
Today there are over 32,000 member-families.
As the years passed, Mrs. Peterson, a former nurse, watched physical ailments drive her peers into undesirable living situations. In 1997, with $170,000 in donations from Escapees Club members, she opened the Care Center. Now, residents’ dues cover about 56 percent of operating costs, while the rest is paid for with Escapees’ donations.
“If your situation changes, there’s nothing you can do about it,” said Mrs. Peterson, who lives in a detached single-family home at Rainbow’s End, her RV parked nearby. “I made up my mind years and years ago that if I ever could, I would start a place where you didn’t have to put a bunch of money down.”
Escapees RV Club
Address: 100 Rainbow Drive, Livingston, TX 77351
Phone: (888) 757-2582 or (936) 327-8873
As you go through life, when you come to a fork in the road, take it.