Last week, I teased a story from my recent trip to Ireland, one which shows that, despite the fact that many as they age are a bit timid when it comes to making big lifestyle changes, that isn’t always the case.
When Jane and I coach tour, we like the back bench, the one few prefer, we’ve noted. We figure the view is always the same, albeit, a few seconds after the rest on board and, with the four seats comprising the bench, it gives us room to store our carry-on bags.
However on the second day out of Dublin, another couple gravitated to the back and sat in the previously unoccupied two bench seats. Of course, we were welcoming, and before long, Jane and I both found quite pleasant conversation companions, both on the coach and off.
Rick and Diana have lived for the last couple of decades just a couple hours south of Lima in Milford, just outside of Cincinnati. Married for 21 years, the second for both, they told us that they’d recently bought a brand-new 31-foot recreational trailer that Rick would haul with his Ford F-150 as they chase their seasons in unending fashion.
You see, they’d already sold their house and given away or sold all their furnishings and most of their wardrobes. And, going forward, they’ll go where they please, at times to see their blended family consisting of five grown children and six grandkids scattered both in the United States and in Rick’s native Canada and, at other times, far from their loved ones.
In a sense, they’re running away from home. While that’s usually an occasional urge for those far younger, there are no rules that say seniors can’t do so.
As for the mail, one of those conventional lifestyle banalities, as necessary as it often is annoying, they’ll use a UPS collection center box. While it’s more expensive than the postal service, Rick discovered that UPS will provide an actual address instead of just a PO box number, which can’t be used on driver’s licenses and certain legal documents. Rick can then call and have the mail forwarded to the nearest UPS outlet wherever they happen to be.
The new lifestyle means those envelopes that annoy most homeowners the most — utility bills and especially that ultra-annoying cable bill — have become nothing more than vestiges of a lifestyle left behind.
They have certain destinations in mind, with forays up into Rick’s former Canadian homeland in Saskatchewan and Alberta slotted for summer before heading back across the border before the leaves turn brown to warmer climes down south.
As for how they met, their story kind of reminded me a bit of a land version of a 1980s TV episode of “Love Boat,” where each week love was on the cruise ship’s menu.
In Rick and Diana’s case, the setting was actually a tour coach. You see, while Rick was sitting on that back bench with us seeing Ireland, for almost 35 years, his seat was always the first seat, as a tour coach driver. And, that’s how they met.
Diana, living in the Cincy area and recently widowed, in 1998 was talked into taking a vacation tour by her parents and sister and brother-in-law in an effort to turn a melancholy page in her life. And guess who was commandeering that 60-passenger Accent Lines coach based out of Calgary?
Recalled Diana,“I was instantly attracted to Rick and, actually, kind of threw myself at him.”
As for Rick’s reaction when Diana began bargaining with other passengers to switch seats so she would always wind up in the seat right behind him, placing her squarely in his rearview mirror, he said, “I caught the signals but was a little leery at first because I mistook her being with the guy who turned out to be her brother-in-law!”
Eventually, Rick understood Diana’s status and, by trip’s end and a lot of conversation, they’d exchanged phone numbers and talked almost daily, Diana recalls, around 500-to-800 dollars’ worth of long-distance chatting each month during that time a few years before cheaper cell-phone alternatives would become readily available.
Recalled Diana, “I knew almost from the first moment, I wanted to marry him, so I remember one night talking on the phone telling him that I might be dying soon, so if he had any intentions of marrying me, maybe now would be the time to act.”
Ten months after first storing her bags in that coach’s luggage bin, they were married in Covington, Kentucky. Rick quit his job in Calgary, moved to Milford, became a U.S. citizen and continued his career and got a job driving for Lakefront Lines. That continued a career in better weather that began with his often driving across icy roads and through Canadian blizzards on winter ski trips, sometimes with celebrities such as tennis superstar Martina Navtilova or driving Wayne Gretsky’s Edmonton Oilers and actually developing a friendship with him.
And, as far as Rick’s ability to back his 2019 Heartland 31-foot home on wheels into tight spots and keep it properly aligned between the ditches in his and Diana’s new lifestyle, there are no worries. In those 35 years of driving coaches, Rick told me his odometer rolled over 3 million miles and never has there been so much as a dented fender on any coach he’s piloted.
By our Irish adventure’s end, we’d exchanged numbers and emails. Jane and I will both be checking in on these two 60-plus adventurers as they begin a life without the tethers of home security. As Steppenwolf, one of the musical groups of our 1960s youthful times when we thought little of taking chances, would put it, they’ll be getting their motor running, heading out on the highway, looking for adventure in whatever comes their way.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.