They were gone a year and a day.
John and Beth Magnin of Punta Gorda Isles toured America in a used recreational vehicle, towing the family car behind them. They went equipped with two GPS programs and Beth’s handy Rand McNally road atlas.
Some things technology simply cannot replace.
Their attitude was to take things as they came. Their goal was to get to know their country.
They made many stops, saw some incredible sights, in their year on the road. They visited 33 states, covered 12,000 miles, and stayed in 83 RV parks. They forked out $4,357 for gasoline, spending an average of $2.90 per gallon.
They caught up with old friends and made some new ones.
They called on family.
“I had a nephew in California I’d never seen before,” Beth said. “We saw Aunt Elsie in Upstate New York.”
It was the first time either had done anything like it.
The whole thing started in 2017 after Beth retired from the Punta Gorda Isles Civic Association, where she’d spent 12 years as executive director. John had already retired from his law practice. The two had been enjoying canal life since 2003.
“It was kind of a joint idea,” John recalled. When Beth was going to retire, I asked her what she wanted to do with all this free time she was going to have, if she wanted to travel. She told me she wanted to see America, she’d never gotten to see America.”
They rejected the idea of traveling by plane and, despite having zero overland experience, started shopping for a recreational vehicle they could call home. They cruised RV shows and dealerships with a basic layout in mind. They did not want to have to lie down on the couch to watch television. Comfort was uppermost on Beth’s mind.
“We’re not big campers,” John said. “We’re not really into roughing it. The slogan for Tiffin is, ‘Roughing it smoothly.’ I like that slogan.”
Eventually, they found a 33-foot, gas-powered 2015 Tiffin with an L-shaped couch, a full-size refrigerator, an electric fireplace and three TVs.
At the same time, they were planning their trip. Going in, they knew one thing: “Our journey was not going to be a tour of national parks, like many RVers take,” John said. “We wanted to visit cities and places where we could meet local people and learn more about the history of our country. We also wanted to reconnect with friends and relatives, some whom we hadn’t seen for over 30 years.”
They left Punta Gorda Isles on Nov. 14, 2017, towing their Honda Accord. Their first stop – it was unofficial – was in North Carolina to spend Thanksgiving with family members. And then the official trip, the journey, began. They went south through Myrtle Beach and Charleston, S.C., Savannah, Ga., then west through Tallahassee.
“We knew the direction we wanted to go. We needed to follow the warmer weather,” Beth laughed.
They planned legs of their trip, breaking them down into four-hour intervals. John was new at driving an RV, so they tried to keep the distances short.
“We decided right away just not to worry about things, just take things as we found them,” John said. “So, if there was a traffic jam in Houston or a downpour in Waco, we made adjustments.”
They visited the people they wanted to see – long-lost friends and newly found relatives. They visited the places they wanted to see – Texas, California, Vegas, Utah, Wyoming, Mount Rushmore, Boston, Niagara Falls, Maine and Hershey, Pa., were among their stops.
The Grand Canyon topped both of their lists of sights to see. “It literally took your breath away,” Beth said. “When you first lay eyes on it, you’re speechless.”
They kept a blog along the way, creating 29 posts. They split the writing chores. John took the photos.
They did not visit the world’s largest ball of string or anything like that, but they made their forays off the beaten track. They went to the Kool-Aid and Dr. Pepper museums. They walked trails of distinction and visited battle fields of historical note.
They swung by Chip and Joanna Gaines’ HGTV shrine in Waco – a bucket list item for Beth. They ate lobster in Maine. They danced at the oldest dance hall in America outside San Antonio. At one point, they pulled into Carhenge.
Their last stop was Arcadia after Beth had got her first look at Disney World.
They got back to PGI on Nov. 15.
Toward the end of the trip, a friend took John aside. “‘I have to give you a lot of credit, John. When you pulled out, I didn’t think you’d ever be able to do it for a year. But you followed through, and you’re coming back without injury or divorce.’”
John and Beth laughed at that one, another story of the road, another memory to be savored now that they were home.