After retirement, one couple traded their house for a home on wheels
By Kristen Miller
“I love it,” said Barb Quast of living in her fifth-wheel camper at Cokato Lake Campground and RV Resort.
Quast, a retired cook manager at Dassel-Cokato Middle School, admits she was apprehensive at first when her husband, Jerry, brought up the idea of selling everything, including their Silver Lake home, for an RV and living on the road.
“My husband had always wanted to do this . . . I didn’t get on board right away,” she said.
After all, it would be quite a bit of downsizing to consolidate one’s belongings from a 1,500-square-foot house to a 500-square-foot camper.
“I was very much apprehensive,” Quast said, who also questioned where they would stay when they were out on the road.
Her husband began researching the subject and told her they could just try it. “The worst thing that could happen is we’d hate it and have to sell it,” she commented.
Barb and her husband closed on the sale of their house May 30, 2013, right before they both retired from their full-time jobs and traded their old lifestyle to be full-time RVers.
After a year of living on the road, Quast said she will never buy another house, adding that she no longer wants the responsibility of owning a home. Full-time RVers call them “sticks and stones,” she noted.
Now, Quast said, “We just take our house with us.”
Last summer, the Quasts stayed at the campground in Hutchinson along the river. This year, they came to Cokato Lake Campground.
Last winter, they drove their fifth-wheel out to Virginia Beach to spend time with their son, and then they headed to Dallas, TX, followed by Corpus Christi, and Padre Island for the winter.
This year, they plan on leaving the campground in mid-October and spending some time in the Twin Cities with their daughter, before driving down to Branson, MO for awhile, and then back down to Texas for the winter.
“It’s a very free lifestyle,” she commented.
Quast stays connected to other “full-timers” through social media, and also gets advice and reviews of campgrounds also from there.
“There are so many of us out there,” she said of the full-timers.
According to a Forbes article, “Testing retirement by touring the country in an RV,” there aren’t any real statistics determining how many Americans are living in their RV, but it did state that the number of RV-owning households is growing. This was indicated in a survey conducted by the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association.
The survey showed that approximately 8.9 million US households or 8.5 percent currently own some form of RV. This number increased 7.9 percent from 2005.
Making the adjustment
Initially, it was really hard for Quast to decide what to keep and what to give away as they downsized from their house to an RV.
Many of the items, such as furniture, they sold.
“I spent many hours crying, trying to figure out what to part with,” she said.
There were things like her family heirlooms and Norman Rockwell plate collection that she couldn’t part with, and therefore, passed them on to family members.
Barb did, however, keep her scrapbooks and pictures.
At one point, Quast brought her sewing machine to an auction site, and ended up regretting it. She later went back to get it.
Similarly, she sold her electric keyboard to a consignment store, which she later regretted. She went back the next day and bought it back, without the sales clerk even knowing she was the previous owner.
Of all the things she misses from her house the most, Quast said, would be her washer, dryer, and dishwasher.
The two things she can’t live without are her Keurig coffee machine and her NuWave Oven.
She also misses the space of her old home, particularly when they have company staying. “It gets a little crowded, but we make do,” Quast commented.
Their daughter, who lives in Maple Grove, also was sad to see them leave for the road life.
Quast notes her brother was also very apprehensive.
“It’s so far removed from the way we were brought up,” she said, adding that the couple didn’t know anyone who had done this before.
“I always look at life as ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’ and it didn’t seem that bad,” she said.
Living the life of a full-timer
Camping wasn’t something that was foreign to the Quasts. They had camped when their two grown children were younger. They started out in a tent, and upgraded to a motor home and now, a fifth-wheel.
Though they no longer have a permanent address, the Quasts maintain a post office box in Silver Lake. Whenever they need a physical address, for example when ordering and shipping items, they use the campground where they are staying at the time.
The Quasts have really enjoyed staying at Cokato Lake Campground this summer. The managers, Robin and Don Begarowicz, are very friendly and the grounds are well-maintained, Quast commented. There is also a lot the park offers, including a beach, heated in-ground swimming pool, mini-golf, game room, fishing pier and cleaning house, and social hall for Sunday worship and dances.
Living in RV parks is also much cheaper than living in a house, and without all the responsibilities, Quast said.
They pay $330 a month for their campsite, which includes water and sewer hook-ups. Electricity is extra, but runs about $50 a month. They also pay to have a satellite dish.
Quast absolutely recommends others consider the idea of living the RV life.
She suggests, for those apprehensive of diving right in, that they keep their house and try it for a year.
She also relies on social media for recommendations and reviews of campgrounds, since there is a whole community of full-timers, Quast noted.
As far as safety in the campground, “I feel safe,” she said, adding, “We’re locked up tight.”
Though she said campground reviews help in finding safe and clean places to stay, Quast said, one still needs to use common sense and trust their gut feeling when pulling into an unfamiliar campground.
Also, she suggests getting to know the campers staying there.
“I haven’t many met [any campers] I didn’t like,” she said.
That also makes it harder to leave a site. “There are a lot of hugs,” she said.
Because so many of the campers she meets are full-timers like themselves, she is planning on having business cards printed as a way to keep connected with campers they meet along the way.
Quast says being a full-timer m is fun, and she figures, “You are only allowed so many days on this earth, and you might as well do it.”
Little houses in the woods
Walking around Cokato Lake Campground and RV Resort, one will find a community of little houses in the woods. From the RVs with attachable decks to manufactured homes, complete with landscaping, it’s almost difficult to distinguish which are permanent residences and which are temporary camping sites.
Cokato Lake Campground and RV Resort has 222 lots located off Wright County Road 4, north of Cokato. There are 175 privately owned lots, and 40 lots that are rented either seasonally, monthly, or by the weekend.
There are 68 acres of land spanning both sides of County Road 4, and the main mode of transportation is by electric golf cart, which manager Robin Begarowicz said is almost a must.
All the lots are for sale, though a percentage of the grounds must be kept open to renting in order to keep the campground status, explained Begarowicz.
The majority of the lot owners live in Minnesota, and come to their site on the weekends.
There are roughly 12-15 lot owners who are snowbirds that coming for the summer and going to warmer states in the winter.
Lots range in size and shape from 2,200 square feet to 14,000 square feet and sell for $20,000 to $40,000, according to Begarowicz.
Why buy a lot? Begarowicz said many of the site owners have family in the area, and it provides a place for them to stay during the summer months, but they can spend the winter in a warmer climate.
One lot owner has been staying at the campground every summer for 57 years, and then winters in Arizona, Begarowicz said.
It’s a good option for retired people, she said. Campers don’t have to pay property taxes, and overall expenses are much less.