Julianne G. Crane exploring U.S. in RV

Self-sufficient by carrying water, batteries and propane, RVers are able to dry camp, also known as boondock, for free on much of the Bureau of Land Management land in the Southwest. Here, on a section called Big River near Parker, Ariz., Julianne G. Crane and Jimmy Smith camped for several days in their Lance Lite Camper with other friends from Spokane in their Airstream travel trailer.

Where on the road is Julianne G. Crane? Outside Yuma in her RV of course, writing about her road trips exploring the United States and Canada.

Last week the former Spokesman-Review columnist was enjoying the Arizona sun, before she snakes west to San Diego and then north to Spokane just leisurely enough to miss our cold, snowy season.

Many readers will remember Crane from her popular weekly Wheel Life column and blog that ran from 2000 through 2007. The baby boomer still covers the RV lifestyle, publishes RVWheelLife.com and writes for other RV publications including telling people’s stories as the RV lifestyle specialist for MotorMatters.biz.

“I love my life, it’s wonderful. Wonderful,” Crane said in a phone interview from Yuma. “Just about every day I write or talk to people about the RV lifestyle.”

Crane in RV lingo is known as an “extended timer,” spending at least six to nine months of the year on the road with trips that range from 100 miles out of Spokane to two full trips circling the United States. She estimates driving between 100,000 and 250,000 miles since leaving the newspaper and has transitioned through three truck campers and one fifth-wheel.

“RVing is one of the things the middle class can still do,” she said, adding that people can get into a camper or trailer for $5,000 up to the average price between $30,000 to $75,000. Of course there are the elites with vehicles near $1 million.

“It has a huge following,” she said. “All walks of life, all economic backgrounds, all ethnic backgrounds.”

Crane has traveled and written for five years with her “sweetheart and life partner” Jimmy Smith, who keeps his own blog, “Another View.”

Introduced by friends in Spokane, Smith and Crane became near instant travel companions. Smith was buying a truck camper and planned to “just be homeless” for a while after retiring. A friend laughed and suggested he talk with Crane because “she writes about people like you.”

A meeting over beers turned into a three-month-relationship test to Texas and the Southwest in the truck camper.

“It’s like having a relationship in a hallway with a bathroom on one side,” Crane said.

The tight quarters work. “We’re both talkers and thinkers,” she said. “We don’t tire of each other.”

The couple travel with their bicycles and an 18-foot Kevlar canoe and enjoy U.S. Corps of Engineers parks that are on water bodies and state parks that include small lakes.

Crane said the RV world is pretty traditional, with married couples traveling together. Yet the baby boomers are adding diversity with unmarried couples roaming the roads. There are even many RVers who travel solo, some who meet up with other single travelers through the Wandering Individuals Network that has circuits, caravans and gatherings all over the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

One of the largest gatherings for singles and for all RVers is happening now in Quartzsite, Ariz., a former gold mining town in the Mohave Desert.

Crane reports in her RVWheelLife.com blog that in the winter the town “swells temporarily to the third largest city in Arizona when tens of thousands of RVers roll” in and the area becomes the unofficial RV snowbird capital of the Southwest or the largest gathering of RVers on Earth. There is a huge RV show in addition to a gem show and large arts and crafts fair and swap meets. Most of the RVers boondock camp, which is dry camping where people live off what they carry with them.

“It’s like the boomers’ Burning Man,” Crane joked about the artsy annual gathering dedicated to radical self-expression attended by many 20-somethings and San Francisco Bay-area hipsters in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. One of the main goals of Burning Man is self-reliance.

The Wandering Individuals Network’s website, rvsingles.org, lists several summer circuit events in Washington, including stays near Mount St. Helens National Park, Gig Harbor and Sequim to explore the Olympic National Park.

Crane and Smith avoid most of the large gatherings, opting instead for peaceful beauty with water and good hiking trails. Yet they have spent two stints volunteering for Habitat for Humanity’s RV Care-A-Vanner program where they traveled to a construction site and helped build homes in locations like Sebring, Fla.

“We enjoy doing physical things while we are still able to do it,” she said. “Jimmy fishes and shoots pool and I write.”

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