|Written by Mark Lineberger|
|Saturday, 24 December 2011 00:00|
When Al and Alice Wilmsmeyer bring visitors into their sitting room, their company is welcome to pull up a chair by the fireplace, stretch their feet and set a spell.
If visitors asked, either Al or Alice would more than likely get them a drink from the kitchen area before returning to talk about recent adventures.
Wilbur, the Shih Tzu, may try to jump up on visitors, but he’s just being a friendly and very enthusiastic host.
The difference between this scene and any other meet and greet in living rooms across America is that the Wilmsmeyers’ home is on wheels.
Of course, they have a permanent residence back east in Findlay, Ohio, but for the next several months, Camp Verde is their home.
More specifically, their temporary home is a massive 40-foot Travel Supreme motor home parked at an RV park just along I-17.
It’s a pretty sweet deal the couple has arranged.
The Wilmsmeyers are participants in a “workamper” program. No it’s not some odd German thing, it’s a way the Wilmsmeyers get to stay at the park at no monetary charge. In exchange, both Al and Alice simply work two six-hour shifts apiece each week around the park.
Alice works the desk, helping with things like registering new guests, while Al keeps busy performing maintenance tasks and preparing lots for new arrivals.
Enough people in the park participate to keep the place staffed throughout the week.
It’s a great deal, Alice said, who’s seen other private workamper arrangements where the campers have to work many more hours to earn their keep.
“If I’m going to do that,” Alice said, “I might as well get a full-time job.”
The Wilmseyers have been taking to the road over the winters since 2006, when they finally purchased the giant vehicle.
“It doesn’t take a special license to drive,” Al said. “California does require one, though.”
The motor home had been a dream of the couple for years before they retired.
“We started taking a little out of each paycheck each week,” Al said. “We already loved camping anyway.”
Before retirement, Al worked as a police officer in Findlay while Alice worked in the court system.
“He’d pick ’em up and I’d put ’em away,” Alice laughed.
Even though they finally purchased the Travel Supreme right when gas started to skyrocket upwards of $4 in some places, the couple hasn’t looked back.
“We’ve really enjoyed it. It’s uplifting, really,” Alice said. “We’ve met some really wonderful people.”
They meet so many people and have enjoyed so many new places, Alice said, that it’s often hard to say goodbye. Still, there’s the promise of new people and places just down the great American highway.
It’s a situation that leaves the Wilmsmeyers with no shortage of jealous friends back home for the winter in Ohio.
“They say, ‘Must be nice,’” Alice said. “We get that a lot.”
When they aren’t workamping, the Wilmsmeyers sometimes take on the role of camp hosts at sites around different parts of the country.
Like their current arrangement, they get to stay for free in exchange for taking care of things at the campground.
In addition to making sure that the rules and regulations are being adhered to, they have to learn about the surrounding area in order to act as a sort of human 411 for other campers, with information about everything from the best spots to hike to the location of the nearest Wal-Mart.
“That’s a frequently asked question,” Alice said.
It’s a responsibility that’s opened up new experiences, Al said, including once when he had to serve as a tour guide for school groups at a fish hatchery.
Recently, the couple was camping out in Florida and decided that Arizona was going to be their next destination.
“We’ve always wanted to come to Arizona,” Alice said. “It’s a bit colder than we expected.”
Three-day overcast and stormy skies aside, once the sun returned the couple planned to take their time and enjoy all the area has to offer.
They’ve already seen some of the spectacular red rock scenery, and were hoping to explore the area around Bell Rock soon.
They’ll be based out of Camp Verde in their home on wheels until March, then it’s back to Ohio.
And as for Wilbur, “He just loves life on the road,” Alice said.
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