Retired RV Adventurers: Background information when reading Driving Miss Norma

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Driving Miss Norma

One Family's Journey Saying YES to Living

by Tim Bauerschmidt, Ramie Liddle

Driving Miss Norma by Tim Bauerschmidt, Ramie Liddle X
Driving Miss Norma by Tim Bauerschmidt, Ramie Liddle
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  • First Published:
    May 2017, 256 pages
    May 2018, 256 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rory L. Aronsky
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About this Book

Retired RV Adventurers

This article relates to Driving Miss Norma

Print Review

NormaWhen Norma joined her son Tim Bauerschmidt and his wife Ramie Liddle on the road, Tim was 57 years old. "Ramie and I had been able to retire early because of many years of frugal living, our lack of debt, and forgoing having a family," he writes in his memoir about his mother, Driving Miss Norma. "We always drove older vehicles and almost never splurged while we were on the road."

Bauerschmidt and Liddle had been living the RV lifestyle long before they retired, living wherever Liddle was working, and traveling the rest of the time to different destinations, but most often to Baja California, Mexico in the winter, and the eastern US in the summer. Every set of retirees has a different approach to the RV life, and there is a wealth of stories to be found about how they're spending their days with mile markers whooshing by their windows.

RV retirees cruise on the open road an average of 26 days a year for 4,500 miles, according to Jane Kenny's book, RV Retirement in the 21st Century. Some are fully retired, while others travel for work. Here are a few examples of these adventurers:

An article in the Tampa Bay Times describes the life of 70-year-old James B. Twitchell, formerly a professor of English and Advertising at the University of Florida, who is now retired. He didn't like airplanes, and wanted a method of travel in which he could bring his dog and sleep in his own bed. That bed, it turns out, is in a 26-foot-long RV.

WorkampAnother article, this time in the New York Times, highlights Wendy and Charles Parsels, who retired after careers in the military, seeking two-lane roads; a life seeking out small things in small towns, such as the smallest post office close to Ochopee, Florida. They scaled back their possessions in order to live, but don't miss what they gave up. They say it's brought them closer together.

Denver 7, the local ABC affiliate, posted a story about an increasing number of older Coloradans selling off their homes and traveling by RV around the country in order to work. Chris and LeeAnne Pentico, for example, had medical debt that crippled their finances after Chris became disabled. They live on his Social Security disability, but seek work around the country, such as what Amazon offers in its Camper Force, seasonal work available at shipping centers throughout the United States.

Michael ShoemakerAmazon and other companies participate in something called workamping, and the RVers involved are called work campers. They seek work from campground to campground, and the pay is said to be low, generally from $7.25 to $12 an hour, and most of them don't kick in enough hours to make a livable wage. But their employers pay the campsite fees for them and their RVs. A New York Times article focuses on one such work camper, 69-year-old Michael Shoemaker. When he was at the Red River State Recreation Area in East Grand Forks, Minnesota, he was one of 550 work campers stacking and storing American Crystal Sugar's sugar beet harvest at the border of North Dakota and Minnesota. The article also mentions Vicky Loftis, another example of a work camper. She signed up at one of Amazon's shipping centers in Campbellsville, Kentucky, and was set to earn $10.75 an hour, with time and a half for overtime. Her campsite fees were paid and she was given a completion bonus at the end of the job. There are many other people choosing the same kind of lifestyle.

The reality of the RV life doesn't seem as easy when faced with the logistics of such a big shift in lifestyle. But if the road calls you, and has, perhaps, called to you for years, answer it in the way that feels right for you – whether it's having enough money socked away to cruise the country for however long you want, or working in vastly different places that you would never see from the windows of a corner office.

If you are interested in reading more on this topic, look out for Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder, publishing in September.

Norma and her dog in their RV, courtesy of
Photo of Michael Shoemaker by Jenn Ackerman

Article by Rory L. Aronsky

This "beyond the book article" relates to Driving Miss Norma. It originally ran in June 2017 and has been updated for the May 2018 paperback edition.

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