- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 6, 2002

Chuck Kozell makes his home on the road. He has been "full-timing" in a recreational vehicle for about the past five years. In 1997, he decided to live in a motor home and sold his house in Mentor, Ohio.
Last month, Mr. Kozell came through Chantilly for the 16th annual Washington Camping-RV Expo at the Capital Expo Center.
"I consider myself like everyone else," the 58-year-old says. "The only difference is, my house and garage move. I'm in a different neighborhood every week. Wherever I am, I'm at home."
Sometimes motor-home enthusiasts become "full-timers." They trade their conventional ways for a life on wheels. Often they sell their established houses as they prepare for long-term life on the open highway in their recreational vehicles.
Full-timing is a growing passion. Nancy White, public relations manager at the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association in Reston, says about 1 million people are embarking on the adventure. She says about 9.3 million households own recreational vehicles of some sort, either a motorized or a towable version, and 35-year-olds to 54-year-olds own more recreational vehicles than any other group.
"A lot of full-timers live at two or three places throughout the year," she says. "Since they have everything with them, they can pick up and go whenever they wish. It offers flexibility and convenience. You have the comfort of your own home with you."
Mr. Kozell sold his house because he was constantly away from home for work. He is an independent salesperson, selling subscriptions for magazines such as Motor Home, Camping Life and Trailer Life at recreational vehicle, boat and motorcycle shows across the country. Although he has a retirement fund, he hasn't had to spend it on traveling because he makes enough money through commissions to pay his way from town to town. He files his taxes with his PO box address in Cleveland, Ohio. He started this line of work in 1995 after his wife died.
"If I did these shows by flying, all I'd see was the inside of a hotel room and inside of a plane," he says. "This way, I see what the United States is from all points of view and I don't pack and unpack constantly or eat at restaurants."
Mr. Kozell says he travels about 32,000 miles a year, spending about $6,000 a year on gas. His 2000 Holiday Rambler gets about seven miles to a gallon. The vehicle is 81/2 feet wide and 35 feet long and cost him about $75,000.
He says his motor home is equipped with all the conveniences of a normal house. It contains two air conditioners, a furnace, two televisions, a surround-sound system, a couch, a dining table with four chairs, a washer, a dryer and carpeting. A 70-gallon tank provides water, while 12-volt batteries generate electricity. Many motor homes contain satellite dishes, global positioning systems, hot tubs and rooms that expand with the push of a button.
"It's the same as a home, but on a small scale," he says. "You only use so much of the house anyway. This works out pretty good."
The amount of money spent repairing the motor home changes from year to year, Mr. Kozell says. He specifically saves funds for a new set of tires each year, routine maintenance and new brakes every couple of years. He also anticipates unforeseen mishaps such as flat tires.
"Weird, peculiar things happen, like a blown head gasket or a piece of truck tire that you hit in the middle of the night that takes out your exhaust system," he says. "It's the same thing as owning a home. You don't expect the furnace to go out, but it does. Depending on the age of the coach, there are people who go up to three or four years and never pay for anything but fuel. Others have the misfortune of many repairs."
Despite any malfunctions, Mr. Kozell visits many corners of the United States. Last year, he traveled from Syracuse, N.Y., to Blythe, Calif., and from Portland, Ore., to Key West, Fla., with many stops in between. He stays at various campgrounds, state parks and recreational-vehicle parks along the way, making sure to drain his waste tank only at appropriate dump stations. Mr. Kozell says its costs him $10 to $35 a night to stay in a campground, and his monthly cost for overnight stays ranges from about $210 to $450.
"My course looks like a giant jigsaw puzzle when you follow my route by the end of the year," he says. "I'm like the ball in the pinball machine. I go from the upper left to the lower right to the upper right to the lower left, all over the country. It's a gorgeous place, even the deserts of southwestern Arizona or the vacant, high plains of Wyoming or the forests of Minnesota."
Of the many places Mr. Kozell has journeyed, he says he enjoys the Hill Country of Texas the most. Although he can't imagine buying a brick-and-mortar house in the near future, he could see himself one day settling down in the area. He spends most of November and December about 65 miles northwest of San Antonio. He relaxes during that time because the shows he attends stop running during the holidays.
"I may have to find a real job so I can take a vacation," he says. "Some people might say you could see this job as a constant vacation. I spend winters where it's warm."
One of the best parts of his lifestyle is meeting interesting people, Mr. Kozell says. Although he travels alone, he has made friends in many states. He admits it's hard to invest time in relationships while moving around so much. A mail-forwarding service sends him his mail when he requests it.
"When my wife was still alive, we went to the same restaurants a couple times a week," he says. "We had a circle of friends. The relationships aren't quite the same. You basically do the same things you normally would, but at different places with different people. I feel like a bit of a gypsy, but I meet a lot of nice people from all parts of the country. I have friends right here in the Washington, D.C., area. I make phone calls when I'm passing through."
Because Mr. Kozell doesn't have a land line in his recreational vehicle, he owns a cell phone to keep in touch with people and to use in case of emergency. He makes a point of constantly being aware of his surroundings for safety purposes. He
warns that traveling in a recreational vehicle is not for everyone.
"For the most part, if you have a problem, people try to help you," he says. "It helps if you're a bit adventurous and mechanically inclined. You're not always in the best location when something breaks down. If you can do it yourself, it's to your advantage."

Bernice Beard of Westminster, Md., author of "301 Ways to Make RV Travel Safer, Easier and More Fun," offers tips to full-timers and occasional travelers alike. She tells people to gather maps, tour books and campground directories to plot their course while traveling. She has journeyed from time to time since 1987 in a motor home with her husband, Paul.
"Some RVers stop over at parking lots such as those of Wal-Mart," she says. "They ask inside the store if they may park overnight. If they stay there, they usually buy something in the store. It's a good idea to see if there is security and to park in a lighted area with another RVer. Paul and I usually head for a campground. There are more than 16,000 public and private ones in the U.S."
Ms. Beard also suggests that drivers of recreational vehicles yield to other traffic on two-lane highways.
"If traffic is backed up behind you, you should pull over at a safe place and let the traffic pass," she says. "It's also helpful to keep your headlights on all the time. If you are traveling at night and a truck passes you, it's a courtesy to signal them by blinking your headlights when they have safely pulled into your lane of traffic."
Ms. Beard says people traveling in recreational vehicles are trying to fulfill their aspirations of being on the road, especially full-timers who are trying to leave their cares behind them.
"They may be tired of the stress of their workplace," she says. "Many people dream of being on the road when they retire."


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