RVers who live with gusto
Occasionally I meet people who dread retirement, afraid they’ll be bored. If Dale Carnegie were alive today, he might repeat this advice, “Make the most of today. Get interested in something. Shake yourself awake. Develop a hobby. Let the winds of enthusiasm sweep through you. Live today with gusto.”
In my 13 years of RVing, I don’t recall ever meeting a retired RVer who claimed to be bored. On the contrary, they are living each day with gusto. RVers are a creative, active group. In our fourth installment of this annual article on hobbies that people do in their motorhomes, you’ll find 10 more examples of people who let the winds of enthusiasm sweep through them.
When she couldn’t find a book she wanted to read about the areas she visited, Linda Smolarek decided to write one. Well-acquainted with both the great outdoors and writing, Linda had previously penned a monthly nature column for a regional family magazine prior to her retirement. “Two characters started jumping around in my head during a trip to the Adirondacks,” said Smolarek. The characters, Vic and Ellen, came to life in “Adirondack Audacity,” experiencing the same hiking and kayaking adventures that Linda and her husband, Jim, enjoy. The characters and settings in her novel are often inspired by people she meets and places she visits. She uses her vivid imagination and storytelling talent to weave romance, humor, danger and drama into the plot.
Often while Jim drives their RV to their next destination, Linda writes chapters for the sequels. In the evening when they are relaxing around the campfire, she reads her pages to Jim for his feedback. “Adirondack Audacity” and “Audacity on the Water,” the first two books in her “Audacity” series, are available on www.amazon.com.
2. Making Music
Music has been a part of Jim Smolarek’s life for as long as he can remember. Raised in a family with an accordion-playing father whose talent was highly regarded in their Polish community, his father taught Jim to play when he was 6 years old. Jim met his wife, Linda, when they were in the eighth grade, and they’ve been together ever since.
When they travel in their 24-foot Class C motorhome, Jim always takes along three musical instruments: an accordion, a guitar and a harmonica. He leaves his favorite instrument — a piano — at home. In the summer of 2014, Jim played the accordion and sang at their daughter’s wedding on a beach in California, and at a Polish polka party in Utah. Earlier in the year, Jim was the hit of a talent show in Florida and played a “salsa-ized” version of “I Exalt Thee” on the beach at a sunrise Easter service.
Dale and Gayle Schendzielos enjoy playing bridge, whether it’s a friendly game in their RV or as part of a tournament sponsored by the American Contract Bridge League. They hone their skills by playing several casual games a week. Five or six times a year they travel to tournaments. Dale and Gayle are tough competitors, as evidenced by the silver medal they won in the 2014 Senior Olympic Festival in Tucson, Arizona, and the 500 life master points they’ve earned in tournaments across the U.S. They love the game, in spite of the gentle teasing they get from their kids, who insist life master points are more useless than S&H Green Stamps since they can’t be handed down in a will.
4. Playing With Clay
When Tom Emineth was 28 years old, he took a ceramics class. He liked it, but life got in the way of pursuing his newfound interest. Decades later in 2009, he took another class. This time he stayed with it. He’s made close to 200 pieces since then. Making ceramic objects is a lengthy process: pour the slip (clay in liquid form) into a mold; let it sit until the slip adheres to the edge of the mold; dump out the excess; let the greenware (clay that has been shaped but not fired) dry; take it out of the mold and let it dry more; clean up the edges; fire it in a kiln; paint it and fire again. His hobby isn’t entirely portable since he must have access to a kiln for bisque firing, but he often sets up shop on the tailgate of his truck for the other steps. When I met Emineth, he was trimming excess clay from greenware for a Christmas decoration, and then took it to the RV resort’s kiln.
When he travels to and from his home in Montana, he brings along any bisque that has already been fired (greenware is too fragile), and an assortment of tools and materials: cleaning tools, sanding blocks, slip, molds, paints, brushes and sponges. Tom’s wife, Dee, is pleased with his hobby since she gets to decorate with the functional ceramic pieces.
In the late 1980s, Carol Hendrickson learned oil painting. Over the years, she took many art classes, and discovered colored-pencil art nine years ago. While oil painting is still her favorite, colored pencils are more portable and practical for travel. The clipboard, paper and colored pencils can be stowed away in a small space. She’s even taken these materials on a mission trip to the Ukraine. Carol found it satisfying to teach the joy of drawing to orphans and street children who were jobless and destitute. Last year she used a drawing of daylilies on her Christmas cards in honor of the abundance of these flowers that grew on her grandfather’s homestead. The daylily bulbs were recently divided among the 22 cousins. A snowbird from Minnesota, Hendrickson teaches classes in the winter months at an RV resort in Arizona. One of the techniques she teaches is burnishing, which gives the art a rich, glazed look by layering multiple colors and then applying pressure to blend the pencil waxes together.
6. Carving Cypress Knees
Five years ago, Janice Hyder was inspired by a fellow RVer who was carving figures from cypress knees, which grow up from roots of bald cypress trees in the swamps and bayous of the southeastern U.S. Janice bought a book, “Carving Cypress Knees: Creating Whimsical Characters from One of Nature’s Most Unique Woods,” by Carole Jean Boyd and Jack A. Williams, and taught herself to make wood spirits. She buys the raw materials in Louisiana, strips off the outer layer of bark, then boils them to remove the rest of the bark. Janice’s creations also include Old-World Santas, Halloween pumpkins and ghosts. It’s a hobby that’s well-suited to RVing, since the knives and paints needed are reasonably compact. Janice enjoys giving her creations as gifts.
Gil Chasse and his wife, Stella Lamarche, have been full-timers since they sold their cosmetics business in 2003. Even though they gave up their big kitchen, they didn’t give up their passion for entertaining. Both of them love to cook. Gil learned from his mom and still uses many of her French-Canadian recipes. He admits to being a purist about his ingredients. He ages his Parmesan cheese in a brown paper bag in the refrigerator, buys tomatoes a week before he intends to use them to allow them time to ripen and always travels with his favorite brand of first-press, unfiltered Italian olive oil. It’s no wonder that Friday night is pasta night in their coach. Gil calls himself an “Old-World eater,” pairing food and wine, enjoying conversations around the table and experiencing the pleasure of sharing a meal.
8. Paverpol Sculpting
Using a textile hardener called Paverpol, fabrics and jewelry found in thrift stores, rocks, wire and other items, Tina Solomon creates whimsical garden art. According to www.paverpolusa.com, Paverpol “was created by a group of Dutch artists in the early 1990s as a user- and environmentally friendly alternative to resin.” Paverpol can be used to create tabletop to lifesize weatherproof sculptures. Since learning the technique in 2013, Tina has created nine fabric sculptures and taught four classes. She has given away most of the sculptures as gifts, although a few of them, including an old-fashioned golfer, are in the yard of her California home. Paverpol is easy to do in her motorhome since the materials are compact. Paverpol is water-soluble, nontoxic and odor-free. Tina gets inspiration for her sculptures from “How to Paverpol,” a book by Jossy De Roode, filled with 30 projects and hundreds of photos. Tina and her husband, Dan, enjoy browsing thrift shops for interesting items that can be used in a sculpture, and hunting for rocks to be used as the base.
After seeing solar garden lights in art shows and other people’s yards, Don Bangs decided to make them. In just a few short years, he’s perfected his designs. He searches garage sales and thrift stores for colorful glass dishes and vases in various shapes and sizes. He drills a hole in the glass with a diamond-core bit. The floral-inspired designs are assembled with nylon washers in between each piece of glass and held together with a screw. The post is made from ½-inch electrical conduit, flattened at one end. A hole is drilled in the flattened end to allow the flower, with a solar light in the center, to be attached to the post with a screw and nut.
The post slides over rebar set in the ground for installation. Materials in each piece cost a few dollars, and he sells them for $25. In the past he traveled with a small tabletop drill press. More recently, he decided to drill the holes at home and do the assembly on the road. Don had 10 of these lights in front of his motorhome. They were pretty in daylight, and absolutely magical at night.
10. Recycling Tin Cans into Art
Even in the Arizona desert, the flowers in Marlene Brown’s yard (actually a patch of gravel in the RV resort) are in full bloom. She creates flowers from tin cans that she collects from recycling bins. Her tools include garden shears, heavy-duty scissors, crimpers, acrylic paint, glass beads and E6000 glue. Each flower is made of six or seven cans of various sizes. She cuts and shapes each petal, then paints them. The colorful blooms are attached to garden stakes. Since her retirement in 2010, she’s devoted much of her free time to artistic endeavors. Friends and neighbors have persuaded her to teach a tin-can-art class.