The park ‘n play


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They got hitched, and so did their trailer

By Becca Tucker

Less than a month after their summer solstice wedding, Megan and Ricky McAndress took off on what might be considered an extended honeymoon. They drove away from their house, with their two dogs and what was left of their belongings packed into Ricky’s pickup and the vintage 24-foot Airstream they towed behind it. This was their house now.

They’d wrapped things up at their jobs – Ricky worked with an autistic young man, Megan waited tables – and now they were free. Freer than they’d ever been.

In distance, the first leg of their journey was just 14 miles, to a farm in Campbell Hall owned by their friends. They would help out here in exchange for a place to park, before hitting the road in August to arrive in Tennessee in time to catch the total solar eclipse. But psychologically, it was a monumental moment.

“I haven’t not had a job since I was 15,” Ricky had said, a bit dazed, the afternoon after his last day at work. “I feel my mind starting to turn, like an iceberg.”

Millennials like Ricky, 34, and Megan, 28, are hitting the road in such numbers that the RV industry just had its best year in four decades. Airstreams are particularly attractive because they’ve got a cult following and tend to hold their value; if you put work into them you might even be able to sell them for more than you paid.

What’s driving so many people out of their houses and onto the road?

There are all sorts of reasons – the ability to work remotely, the low price of gas – but a big one is the cost of living.

“We thought about buying our house,” said Megan, of the place they’d been renting on a picture-perfect street in Warwick. That idea was a wake-up call. Ricky and Megan are free thinkers who were part of the core that launched the art space Milkweed, in Sugar Loaf, which shopkeepers say has reinvigorated the artisan village. Ricky’s from California; Megan’s from Tennessee, and they’ve got friends all over. They like Warwick, and they think they might land here again. But they are in no rush.

“I almost feel like there’s a blindfold, as far is what it really is to own a home now. We have student loans and we feel that number, and now we’re looking at another number?” said Ricky.

Megan, particularly, has a lot of living to do. She moved home after her freshman year to take care of her mother, who had developed Alzheimer’s, and filled that caretaking role for years after she graduated.

“I felt like I missed the opportunity to start a career because I had to take care of my mom,” she said. For a time she felt melancholy seeing her friends launching their careers, but somewhere along the line she realized that those were other people’s expectations. “I felt like that was what I was supposed to do,” she said, “but I can get by doing what I want to do, and what I want to do is travel, explore and connect with people.” The years Megan has spent working in upscale restaurants – in Warwick, Austin, Chattanooga – are going to make it easy for her to get a well-paying job wherever they happen to land.

“We about burned our diplomas the other day,” Ricky added. As they were purging their belongings, they got to thinking “how useless they are. But I was like, let’s save them with the rest of our posters.”

A couple weeks before they hit the road for real, we wanted to know whether they were antsy to be off. “I am just soaking it in, we are in no rush,” said Ricky. “We are working for our spot here; it’s honest labor and I feel really good about that. No antsy-ness about anything anymore.”

I can hear you thinking, yeah, that sounds intriguing, but you could never do it with kids.

Meet the Longanos, another Warwick family that just purged their belonging and hopped into a 50-foot Airstream with three kids, two cats and a dog (and a guitar, ukulele, harmonica and violin). They’d been living in a 1,500-square-foot house in the village, and they wanted more land. They saw themselves having chickens and a composting toilet, and generally practicing a more self-reliant lifestyle. But although they were doing better and better financially, they weren’t sure they’d ever be able to afford that kind of acreage in the Warwick area. Where to, then?

“You don’t make a big move like that quickly, and settle down,” said Aislinn, 36. “You want to really invest your time, pick a place you want to live.”

Plus they were overdue for an adventure. Aislinn and her husband Chris Longano, 33, grew up on the same street in Otisville, NY, and had always envisioned moving west — until they got pregnant about a month after they got married. Three years later they got pregnant again, with twins.

“We had to react instead of make plans,” she said. “That’s basically been what the last eight years have been. We kind of reached a point last summer, we’re in a spot where we don’t need help, we’re financially more comfortable, and we can try to plan this one more time. In a few years the kids will be so ingrained in the community and their friendships. This is the last time we can try.”

They fitted their pre-owned Airstream with bunkbeds and shoved off a couple weeks before Megan and Ricky, towing the family Subaru behind them.

We caught up with them during week one, as they were headed to the geology museum at the University of Wisconsin. Chris was on vacation from his job as a data analyst for an insurance company, but would soon start working remotely.

“We’re still feeling out whether this will become more permanent,” Aislinn said. But “for the moment we’re enjoying it on the road. I was actually kind of surprised to find that our camper does feel like a home.”

Reassured, they had decided to take their time and see some sights in the Midwest before they got too far west. And when the time comes to look for land, “we don’t really care if there’s a house on that land,” Aislinn said.

What do they miss most about home so far? “The creature comforts of knowing your farmer, letting the animals outside,” said Chris. “It’s been stressful to make sure the cats stay in the thing. Some of these places we only stay at a night so we can’t trust they’ll come back.” Getting new books has been tough, especially for Malin, 7, who’s a bookworm. Books are bulky, so they didn’t bring many, and they already miss the library.

And nobody loves eight hour drives. Between sitting still and highway dining, the grown-ups have to beware of the hazard Aislinn calls “road tummy.”

“We’re figuring out we’re going to have to shorten up our day to day driving to four hours tops,” said Chris, “and have some outdoor learning with our kids.”

When it comes to road-schooling the kids, “it’s a bit of an improvisation,” said Aislinn. “We’re trying to remember that it’s all going to be educational, going to museums like we are today.” Since we spoke they’ve snapped family photos at the Omaha Zoo, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, and the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. And at the end of a long day, said Aislinn, “the kids say ‘I want to go home,’ and they mean the camper.”









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