Retirement on the Road

by Dominic Farrenkopf

“Afoot and light-hearted, I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me,
leading wherever I choose.”

So begins Walt Whitman’s timeless poem, “Song of the Open Road,” which speaks to the heart of those fearless nomads who live the RV lifestyle.

Sally and Gerry Hazuka, who met in Montana and now live in Marianna, Florida, retired at the age of 62 and immediately started their new life on the open road.

Gerry explained how he met Sally. “I was living in Florida and came to Montana on vacation,” he said. “At the time, I was a sailboat man. Sally owned a country store in Marion, Montana, just west of Kalispell. We fell in love and married. We moved back to Florida, and after our official retirement we downsized, bought an RV and started a new chapter of our lives.”

Sally Hazuka, originally from Darby, always wanted to be a gypsy. “From the time I was a little girl I wanted nothing more than to be a wandering gypsy, but mom would never let me.”

Gerry interjected, “I wanted to be a hobo as a boy, but society wouldn’t let me.”

“Now he’s a hobo and I’m a gypsy, and we are living and loving our life on the road,” Sally said.

Dustin Bretz, of Bretz RV and Marine in Billings, spoke about the free spirits who retire and devote their lives to the open road. “Those seeking fun, freedom, adventure and flexibility, easily embrace the RV lifestyle,” he said. “Many have been doing it their whole lives, just possibly changing what type of RV they use after retirement. Some folks have dreamt about it for years and get started right before or after retirement. Others had never planned or thought about the lifestyle, but they see their friends or family enjoying it so much that they jump in, too.”

Today’s technology allows RV’ers to stay connected with everyone still rooted to firm ground.

“It’s easy to keep in touch with our friends and family,” Gerry Hazuka said. “We have a cell phone that has the same number wherever we go. Our mail goes to a company that handles and forwards it to wherever we are. We’re also equipped with satellite TV and have the same channels everywhere we go, so we’re up to date on the news, sports and our shows.”

Bretz said motorhomes now come with high-tech chassis, and towables are more aerodynamic and lightweight. Controls are automated and can sync with your IPhone or Android tablets to control lights,
awnings, slide-outs and automatic leveling systems, he said. Nowadays, satellite TV and broadband
internet are virtually everywhere.

When the Hazukas took to the open road, the most difficult part for them was downsizing their material goods.

“That was the hardest part for Gerry and I, but we are over that now,” Sally said. “That is the only loss we felt. We have gained so much more, though. The knowledge of this country, its landmarks, history, parks and scenery have given us more pleasure than we could have ever imagined.”

Gerry added, “We purchased an RV that was big enough to serve as our home. Now we have the pleasure of travel with all of the conveniences of home right here with us.”

Staying active is easy for the Hazukas. They find volunteer opportunities with Habitat for Humanity and the Retired Senior Volunteer Program.

A little research at the local information center produces pamphlets and brochures with all of the
sights and sounds of the given area. Depending on what the area has to offer helps the Hazukas
determine their length of stay. Over the years they have even managed campgrounds for a few months
at a time. They played host to all of the other travelers, and even made a little money doing it.

For the Hazukas, it is the other people living the RV lifestyle right along with them that gives them the most pleasure.

“The people we meet on the road are so remarkable and friendly,” Sally said. “Gerry and I still keep in
touch with people we met 25 years ago. We all have one destination in mind and that’s travel. All of
the states we go to have their own special beauty, but none rival the beauty of the people we meet
everywhere we go. Gerry and I have been living the RV Lifestyle now for 27 years.”

“All but the one year we lived in an apartment,” Gerry said.

“Yes, that’s right,” Sally said. “But after that it was time to get on the road again.”