The Geezermobile and me: A widower’s journey getting back on the road

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By Eric Manchester

Mona died somewhere between hoping and planning. For all our 29 years together, road-tripping was a shared delight. First, in our old Triumph TR6 sportscar, then in our succession of minivans to accommodate Mona’s many, complex and worsening health conditions. When it became too painful for Mona to even ride to the grocery store, it seemed that our days being someplace “out there” might be over.

New possibilities emerged in 2016 with our acquiring Geezermobile, a 1998 Triple E Commander motorhome. At 34’ in length, and built for Canadian weather conditions, our Class A rig comprised amenities and comfort enough for us to resume thumbing through our collection of road atlases. We seldom had a destination in mind, but even when we did, our travels resembled itinerant wanderings in search of Mom & Pop diners, good bread, and pie – as far off the main highways as the Geezermobile could handle.

After experimenting with journeys ranging from one week to more than a month, nearby and across the country, it looked like 2019 (finally free of deadlines and schedules) would herald the start of much longer trips around Canada, if not much of North America. But, barely into that year, new and much worse health issues piled onto Mona’s already substantial collection of life-threatening conditions. Emergency repairs were done in April, then again in June; ultimately catastrophic events overtook all hope. Mona died in November 2019 (age 67), having never gotten beyond mapping out our new-found freedom. Mona and I will have one final road trip together when I take her home to Ontario where she’ll be laid to rest beside her late parents.

Now, at age 70 and alone (except for the support of my sparse family and aging Army paratrooper buddies) I’m intending to roll out aboard Geezermobile and put rubber on the map tracings to the places we wanted to explore. Our keen interest was to experience rustic, small places that punctuate vast expanses of scenic wonder (and maybe to document their triumphs and struggles to survive in the midst of what is often alarming rural decline) – not to mention finding those Mom & Pop diners, good bread and pie. Yet to be determined is what combination of full-timing or long-timing my odyssey will be.

Eric Manchester is a freelance writer and photographer based in Victoria, B.C., Canada. He is a retired Canadian Army paratrooper. He has been driving since the age of ten and is obsessed with seeing what’s over the next hill and around the bend after that, exploring off-the-beaten-tracks. If you’d like to virtually keep Eric company while on the road, you can reach him at rv(at)fergchesters.com

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spikek
7 months ago

I lost my spouse at the beginning of this year . I have a travel trailer . I want try to continue camping but I don’t know how to tow it . I never did it . how hard is it try to learn to tow .

Claudio
8 months ago

The geezermobile!
You and i share the sarcasm
You are an optimist
You will make this experience great
Hard but great
We camp in ontario most of the time
Hope to meet you and shake your hand
When my father passed at 53 ,
I was only 6
My mother said that the show must go on
And
I have lived by that rule eversince
Best of luck to you
Drive , cry and keep looking forward…

Geezermobile
8 months ago
Reply to  Claudio

Claudio, my condolence on the early loss of your father. Mine passed at age 57. I’m originally from Ontario – grew up in many places. Saw much of the province from the cab of my father’s truck. I’m already doing the crying – am eager to add the driving. Perhaps we’ll cross paths – my out-dated rig towing the little clown car should be easy to spot amid the modern RVs.

Ray Zimmermann
8 months ago

Eric, I’m so sorry for your loss. I went through much of the same thing. Two years ago I lost my wife of 40 years when she was 69 and I was 72. In one way we were lucky in that we got to experience the freedom that you never quite did, in that we traveled in a motor home for 25 years, quite extensively for the last 12 years after we were retired. I took a while deciding how much I wanted to continue traveling. I still spend time on the road (having good friends to travel with helps.) The only advice I can give you is to leave your options open for a while until you know how you feel. Maybe take it one year at a time, which is what i do.

Geezermobile
8 months ago
Reply to  Ray Zimmermann

Ray, my condolence on your wife’s passing. Thanks for the encouragement. Regarding taking time to figure it out, I’ve been torn between driven to accomplish things (to keep some focus), while often not really caring where things go or when. There seems to have been a rift in the space-time continuum – nearly four months ago Mona died in my arms – it’s all still vivid & raw – sometimes feeling like it was just yesterday while at the same time seems a lifetime ago. My mission for Mona is not yet complete. Once I get her home to be laid to rest, then I can stand down and figure out what’s next for me. Best wishes to you.

D. Guthrie
8 months ago

As a fellow Islander and former full-time RVer for five years, I am interested in your travels. Can’t get the address to work though..?

Geezermobile
8 months ago
Reply to  D. Guthrie

D.G. did you replace the (at) with @ symbol? I have received emails, so I know it is working. Look forward to hearing from you.

Sharon Baron
8 months ago

Sorry for your loss. Don’t stop living and go on with your RVing. I am sure your wife would like to see you do that

Geezermobile
8 months ago
Reply to  Sharon Baron

Sharon, thank-you for the condolence, and your encouragement. Yes, Mona would want me to carry on – our life was based on lurching forward as best we could, no matter what. Mona often said how she didn’t want me to be alone – but – I don’t see how I will have any emotional room for that. Mona was the great love of my life, and I believe that I was hers (at least, that’s how she made me feel right up to the end).

Steve A Mangrum
8 months ago

Having placed my 90-year-old mother-in-law in assisted living yesterday after living with us for 18 years, we hope (never assume) to pull our fifth wheel to distant places we have not experienced. Now 70, I know every day is a gift. Bless you for continuing the journey. Would love to cross paths with you sometime.

Geezermobile
8 months ago

Steve, thanks for the support. Best wishes to you for many happy miles, or at least happy ones regardless of how few they turn out to be. Perhaps we will cross paths (but observing the correct right-of-way protocol). As you can see in the photo used in the article, our out-of-date look shouldn’t be hard to spot in today’s more modern look.

Patti Panuccio
8 months ago

When my husband passed I bought my Matilda and took off with him above the co-pilots seat. I have stopped for a while till I can find a smaller rig and then we will take off again and go to the places we had planned. We had spent 20 years being together 24/7 no reason to stop now.

Geezermobile
8 months ago
Reply to  Patti Panuccio

Patti, I considered keeping Mona with me, as you have with your husband. But, I had promised her that I would get her home to be laid to rest beside her parents. Until that trip can happen, Mona remains in her favourite chair beside mine. Some suggested that I keep some of her ashes with me, but – even though I never want to part with her – felt compelled to keep her intact. My travel mate will be her stuffed lion that was her hospital bed-buddy – the only other stuffed animal I ever had was the bear Mona gave me when we were first dating (middle-aged).

Craig
8 months ago

I’m sorry for your loss while at the same time I applaud your willingness and determination to carry on with what you and your wife had planned. I hope your journey leads to adventure, happiness, and personal fulfillment. Safe travels!

Geezermobile
8 months ago
Reply to  Craig

Craig, thanks for the condolence and good wishes. Presently, I confess to lacking the willingness, but certainly am determined. Despite years and years of Mona’s health issues grinding her down, she always looked ahead and found ways to keep moving forward. I can do no less. Can also reach me at the email shown at the end of the article.

J.P.M.
8 months ago

Sorry for your loss Eric. We’ve been married 44 years, just purchased a Travel Trailer 9/21/19 and have been enjoying the travel. I don’t know how I could carry on without my better half and best friend, but carry on we must. I wish you the best.

Geezermobile
8 months ago
Reply to  J.P.M.

J.P.M. thanks for the condolence. I share your uncertainty about carrying on without your better half. I’m about to discover if I’m up to the challenge, or, after the attempt will want to continue. Much of my enjoyment was in sharing with Mona. Can also reach me at the email shown at the end of the article.

CRAIG SEITZ
8 months ago

God bless you during these sad times. My wife and I also have the same dreams of hitting the road and finding all the hole in the wall places and sharing them with family and friends. Rest assured that Mona is with you every step of the way .

Geezermobile
8 months ago
Reply to  CRAIG SEITZ

Craig, thanks for the support. I hope that you and your wife soon turn your dreams into reality, even if only a little bit. Mona & I had the good fortune to continue beyond where we thought it had to end. Yes, she is with me always – we were also lucky to have had such a profound connection for the too-few years she lived. Can also reach me at the email shown at the end of the article.

STEPHEN P Malochleb
8 months ago

Eric,so sorry for your lost. I experianced your same event but I was lucky enough to have a better outcome. About 17 years ago my wife developed cancer. And being so sick we could not travel by car. A customer of mine offered me her brothers motorhome who had passed away of brain cancer. It needed much work but I made it road worthy. She was able to travel because it had what she needed. (a bed,a bathroom). This gave us some freedom to roam and visit our kids. She was given a time frame, to this day I can not explain why that day did not come. Was it the deal she made with God, or was it her will to survive. Either way I don’t care. She is still with me. I hope you can find some comfort in continuing your travels and making memories knowing that she is still with you in spirit. God bless, and maybe our paths will cross some day. Thanks for sharing your story.

Geezermobile
8 months ago

Stephen, I am very happy for the outcome you and your wife experienced – hopefully, it continues for a long time to come. Thanks for the good wishes. I’m anxious to get out for my 1st solo trip. I want to go, but I don’t want to go without Mona, but I need to go for me & us. Perhaps our paths will cross – hard to miss our old Geezermobile towing a little clown car. Can also reach me at email address shown at end of article.

Bill T
8 months ago

Best of luck in your travels. Time is a precious commodity and worth enjoying every minute. Cheers.

Geezermobile
8 months ago
Reply to  Bill T

Bill, thanks for the good wishes. Yes, time is precious – and fleeting. Can also reach me at the email shown at the end of the article.

Roger Courtney Sr
8 months ago

Eric, I am so sorry for your loss. At 74, I can understand how much that vacancy must feel. Our circle of family and friends seems to get more and more distant as time goes on. I hope, someday, to meet you on the road and share a toast to good times. Travel and photography are common interests for RV’rs it would seem. Cheers, Roger

Geezermobile
8 months ago

Join the discussion…

Geezermobile
8 months ago
Reply to  Geezermobile

Roger, thank-you for your condolence. Yes, our circle has diminished – actually not sure what shape it now is. How it feels is almost indescribable – soul-crushing sorrow and abject loneliness. Perhaps, sometime we will meet for that toast to good times – right now they are all just memories, but I want to believe that some are yet to come. Can also reach me at: rv@fergchesters.com