Those who know him describe Chuck Wilcox as friendly, high energy and always busy. So it is initially a bit of a shock to see him kicked back, the picture of tranquility, reveling in doing absolutely nothing. But that, says Chuck, is one of his favorite things about his full-time RV lifestyle. “I just relax on my land, walk the dog, putter around in the garden. No stress!”
“Stress-free” did not always describe Chuck’s life. A born salesman, he spent years promoting sales training to other salesmen. His pace was quick; there was always something more to be done, and most of his traveling was work-related. Chuck took great pride in his work, and would often proclaim, “I sell the best sales training around … and I sell a LOT of it!”
Hooked up and heading out
In 2004, toward the end of his 25 years in the sales training business, Chuck decided to visit Lazydays RV in Seffner, Florida. Each of his three daughters already owned RVs, so he arrived somewhat familiar but fantastically curious about the RV lifestyle. He left that day with his first RV, a 28-foot, single-slide fifth wheel. He also departed with a new direction in life. “During my tour of Lazydays, I was so impressed by the facility that I asked how I could get a job there.”
That was the beginning of Chuck’s RV sales career. From 2004 to 2009, he introduced the dream of the RV lifestyle to countless others. “Working with customers and helping them make RVing decisions gave me great insight into the lifestyle,” said Chuck, who was most intrigued by full-timers and work campers. “I’m a bit of a gypsy at heart, and the full-time lifestyle always seemed like heaven to me.”
In preparation for his own eventual full time adventure, Chuck upgraded his RV. “That first coach served to show me exactly what I wanted in a fifth wheel.” In 2006, informed by experience, Chuck bought his current fifth wheel, a 32-foot Keystone Challenger. But it would be three more years before Chuck could make his full-time dream come true.
EASING INTO FULL-TIME
Today, Chuck describes his address as “wherever the fifth wheel is parked,” but life was not always this free. That came gradually.
Chuck parks his RV every summer near the grandkids in Michigan
While Chuck owned a home in Florida, when the time came to start RVing long-term, he returned to his roots. “I’m from southern Michigan, and that’s where my daughters and grandchildren live, so I bought some property up there to be near my kids.” The Wilcox family retreat is “wooded acreage out in the country, surrounded by farmland.” Chuck planted a garden and installed hookups so his daughters could set up their RVs. And so it came to be that Chuck, the kinetic salesman, readily embraced the slower country pace he remembered from his youth. “I was a farm kid, and I never got over the need to smell fresh cut alfalfa or a field full of cows. It is incredibly peaceful to park under the trees, open the windows and breathe in all the country smells.”
Chuck began spending summers on his land in Michigan, reveling in the peace and recapturing the pleasures of his childhood. Then, each winter, he returned to his home in the suburbs southeast of Tampa. Every year, the call of his farm grew louder; and his desire to continue living the “typical” suburban life faded.
He relished the summers, expanding the garden and continuing to improve the land. Today, in addition to RV hookups for the girls, the property has a pole barn with hookups for Chuck’s fiver, and the garden is larger than ever. Last year Chuck and his girls canned 50 quarts of tomatoes. “And I believe I raise the most flavorful sweetcorn known to man.”
The completed pole barn
But, even with the peace and quiet of his Michigan farm, Chuck is not one to let grass grow under his feet. These days, winter does not mean hitching up and heading back home to Florida. “After years of traveling back and forth, up and down I-75, I’m officially a full-timer.”
Does he ever miss the ’burbs and home ownership? “No. To me, not having a house is a truly liberating experience. No garbage disposal to repair, no painting to do. With the RV, I can just hook up and go wherever I want, whenever I want, and stay as long as I want. No taxes, no stress and no address. What could be more invigorating?”
A FULL-TIMER’S TO-DO LIST
Chuck now spends August through April exploring an ever-growing list of destinations; places he has always wanted to visit, and others that have more recently captured his interest. Chuck’s travel partner for these adventures is Buddy, a Jack Russell terrier he rescued from the Hillsborough County Animal Services. The duo’s travel plans include tours of the National Parks, National Forests and historical sites. “I am a huge history buff. I enjoy reading about historical sites or happenings, then visiting the location. For example, reading Undaunted Courage inspired me to visit the Lewis and Clark trail through the Bitterroot Mountains, and the area where they were befriended by the Nez Perce,” explained Chuck.
Some of the 2011 harvest
He has already spent a winter as a camp host in Big Cypress National Preserve in south Florida. A planned trip out to Saguaro National Park in Tucson for the winter of 2011-12 took a slight detour when Chuck learned that Lazydays had opened a dealership in Tucson. “I put in a call to Bob Grady and Steve Roddy, telling them I might be interested in a seasonal position. So, I’m having fun this winter working with the Lazydays family again as a walk-through instructor.”
After his four-month stint with Lazydays in Tucson, Chuck plans to head back to his Midwest farm. In addition to the familiar routine of planting, harvesting and relaxing, he intends to make some modifications to his truck in preparation for his autumn trip across the Rockies — he’s looking to increase his horsepower and decrease his exhaust gas temperature (EGT). Chuck plans to begin his trip in August, traveling the northern route west through the Dakotas, Montana, Idaho and Washington. Then he’ll head south through Oregon and California. “I may stop for the winter in San Diego, or I may go back to Tucson. I haven’t decided.”
Endless options. Just one more benefit of the RV dream Chuck used to introduce to others, and now gets to enjoy every day.
CHUCK’S FULL-TIMER ADVICE
- Don’t wait. Start your research right now. There’s no better place than Lazydays and betterRVing magazine.
- Start dreaming of the places you want to go, and shop for RVs with that in mind.
- Be certain that the model you are buying is the one that will best fit your anticipated lifestyle.
- Take your time shopping before buying your RV. It’s possible that your first RV will only serve to teach you what it is you really want and need in your next one.
- Since I have a fifth wheel, I always caution shoppers to be sure they understand tow ratings and to choose a good diesel truck that is more than capable.
I also recommend a truck with a long bed, which will give you plenty of room for a toolbox and to carry a generator. In addition, a long bed truck will allow you to use a standard, non-sliding hitch.