Thursday, November 11, 2010

Do not go gently ...

If Jerry Avis ever ends up in a retirement home, he’ll be the guy telling the impossible travel stories, the ones that raise eyebrows and make everyone in listening distance think it must be the beginnings of dementia starting to show.
If Jerry has his way, you won’t ever see that picture.
From the day he retired, he’s been on the move — sometimes on a motorcycle in North America, sometimes on that other bike he keeps in Ireland for his European travels, sometimes as a volunteer in Africa and sometimes in his older, well-modified motorhome, the one he was camped in at Rainbow Plantation in Summerdale, Ala.
He calls Nova Scotia home these days, particularly since he came limping back to Canada after a bad motorcycle accident a few years back in Europe. But the crutches are gone now and he’s off on his usual winter jaunt to warmer climes. The motorhome has its solar array and is ready for more remote camping in one desert or another, off with others who like boondocking (camping without pay) on U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands. The deal is you have permission to camp for 14 days, but Jerry points out there’s really nobody who monitors that. It’s the honour system.
Jerry also is an Escapee, belonging to a group of camping enthusiasts who run some of their own parks, thereby keeping the fees low, and get discounts at others. He opts for what they call dry camping, no water, sewer or electrical hookup. That costs him $5 a night at Rainbow Plantation, and to Jerry, that’s important.
He’s quick to point out he is not a wealthy man, not at all, but he is frugal and prudent. He is well versed on how long he can be away from Canada and still maintain Medicare coverage, pointing out that a two-year absence can be managed under special circumstances. He knows Mexico produces generic versions of many prescription drugs at a much lower cost and offers to check that out for us.
He knows a bargain when he sees one, so pays his Escapee membership every year. He also counts many Escapees as friends so is happy to stop off here for a few weeks and catch up with folks.
But he is frustrated with some of his fellow retirees, saying half the people who retired when he did are sitting in front of a television, rarely moving.
At 76, he thinks he’s got more than a few good years, and miles, left in him.
“If you just retire and sit there, don’t do anything,” he says with a smile, “the next thing you know you can’t do anything. It doesn’t do you any good.”
He is frustrated with everyone playing it safe. He tells people to just get up and do it, whether it’s volunteering in a foreign land or selling the house and moving into a motorhome to hit the road. Stop thinking you don’t have enough money to pull it off, and put your energy and brains into budgeting and finding a way to hit the road.
He’s not alone. Helen, who reluctantly calls an apartment in Kitchener, Ont., sort of home, points to the motorhome she and her husband used as a full-time residence for the last 15 years.
“I still call that home,” she says. They reluctantly rented an apartment to be nearer to family, but opted not to buy a condo. That was too permanent.
When you see those big, big rigs on the road, the ones that look like buses with a smaller vehicle in tow behind them, know that for many, many people those rigs are home, the only one they have these days.
Don’t rule out the smaller trailer or motorhome. It could be someone’s retirement villa too.
And check for a small insignia stuck on the rear, the one that marks them as Escapees. They love to welcome someone new to their club.


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  2. Dear Vicki and Ian! You will remember me from the Trellis Cafe in Hubbards NS. I am Jim Nairn, and together with Misha and Sean Avis form Two Many Strings. Well Jerry here in this article is actually Sean's Uncle! What an amazingly small world we live in!

  3. Hey Shadow. We just heard from Jerry. Never made the connection with Avis and N.S. Vicki