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Retired RVers make travel a way of life

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Escapees, a 30-year-old support network for RVers based in Livingston, Texas, operates the country's largest mail-forwarding service, says Nancy Brinton, marketing director. Members call in to get mail forwarded to their next stop. "Our package desk handled over 2 million packages last year," she says.

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Members who use the service also get a permanent address in Livingston, making them legal residents of Texas.

Escapees, which has more than 50 chapters, owns and operates eight RV parks, Brinton says, and has discount relationships with about 1,000 others listed in its annual travel guide.

"We have arrangements with a local pharmacy to ship medications out to members," she says. "We have seminars on the full-time lifestyle -- how to attend to medical needs, how to travel with pets."

Support groups
Escapees is one of several support groups for RVers, Zyetz says. Other large ones are the Family Motor Coach Association, the Good Sam Club and the RVClub. Clubs catering to special-interest groups, from writers to on-the-road quilters, abound.

The number of support Web sites is so great that she suggests that wannabes "just go online and type in 'new RVer.' You'll come up with lots and lots of stuff."

Rallies and seminars also cover the ground for beginners as well as old hands.

Hitting the open road
1. Buying your home on wheels
2. Living expenses
3. Practical matters
4. Support groups
5. Assisted RV living

Gaylord Maxwell, founder and director of the Life on Wheels seminars, held in five locations around the country every year, says 25 percent to 30 percent of attendees don't yet own an RV.

Among the most popular of the 100 or so seminar classes on every aspect of RV living, he says, are those covering basic RV maintenance and safety aspects.

"Nearly every man attends those," Maxwell says, "as well as a lot of the women."

"Often women have to get over the fear of handling some of the mechanical issues," Zyetz says. "But people in the RV community are extremely helpful, and you can ask anybody for assistance."

Assisted RV living
Retired RVers should take to the road "with the full knowledge that the day will come when you won't be able to do it anymore," says Kenny. "If you're a full-timer, you need to set aside a nest egg for making that transition -- buying a home and car, and so on."

For die-hard RVers, Escapees CARE Center, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, has another solution for those at the end of the road.

CARE, which stands for Continued Assistance for Retired Escapees, is an RV park in Livingston, Texas, where ill or disabled Escapee Club members can continue to live in their rigs, says director Robert Brinton.

"Some come for a recovery period after a knee replacement or eye surgery," he says, "and are gone again in a few weeks.

"We have others who -- due to failing sight, health issues or declining mental abilities -- have to hang up their keys. For a fee of $800 a month, they get a full hook-up site, meals, laundry and cleaning service and any assistance they need getting around. We have an adult day care center that's open weekdays."

Active Escapee members volunteer at the CARE Center for stints of a month or two, Brinton says, "so our residents always get a fresh group of RVers to talk to about what was their passion."'s corrections policy -- Posted: Oct. 23, 2007
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