Wheel estate

Debbie Blackburn yearned for an easier way of living after her husband passed away from cancer.

“I realized I wanted things simple,” Blackburn said.

Blackburn and her husband owned an RV they used to take on family trips. Blackburn said she realized a similar set up might just work full-time.

“Some of the happiest times, the most relaxed times we had, were spent traveling in our RV,” Blackburn said. “There are a lot of people that live out of RVs now. It’s just simpler. You have to talk to people who do it to really understand.”

Blackburn and her two dogs have a small yard to run around in and just enough space for the three of them, she said. Her fifth-wheel offers her a separated bedroom and shower, a kitchenette and living room.

“If you’re used to a big house, it may seem cramped,” Blackburn said. “But I like what I have. When I walked into this one I said, ‘It feels like home.’”

Mardee Lake retired in May 2000 after 35 years teaching in Florida. She had moved into an RV just a few months before.

She said there is a lot of adjusting to do.

“You learn to rid yourself of a lot of unnecessary things,” Lake said. “I rely on libraries for books and have to plan more carefully when I need to run errands. You can’t exactly run through a drive-thru in this thing.”

She said retiring in general makes you rethink the way you live. She said luckily she adapted quickly.

Lake now lives out of her RV in Pelham, just miles down the road from her daughter in Helena. Lake made the decision to live in an RV full–time because of family.

“I really needed to have all the amenities of an apartment, but have the ability to move quickly,” Lake said. “I love to be with my family and to be available to them.”

Lake used that ability to travel to California to see her parents for several months and then to Alaska, Texas and Canada.

Teenie Green’s husband traveled constantly for work with BE&K and Southern Company. To keep from spending months apart, the couple purchased their first RV in 1993.

“We had a big old house,” Teenie said. “He wasn’t around to take care of anything outside and I had too much to take care of on the inside.”

The couple first journeyed to New Mexico, then to the North Carolina coast and Georgia. Mike retired a few years ago, making the Greens part of a growing number of retirees downsizing to RVs.

“We call it wheel-estate,” Teenie said. “The compact size is so much better for us. There’s a place for everything, but our rule is if you bring in something new, you have to throw something old out.”

The Greens feel they have everything they need — a king-sized bed, two couches, convection oven and two TVs.

They made the RV home by hanging pictures on the walls with Velcro and displaying Teenie’s music box collection on the tops of the window valences. They also planted a tree outside their spot and have a portable canopy in the backyard.

Decorating isn’t the key to compact living though. Teenie said you really have to like each other and get two TVs so you both can watch what you want.