Photos by Pat & Cindy Bonish
Pat & Cindy in front of McWay Waterfall
When folks sit around the campfire swapping stories, many discover that their RV journeys share surprisingly similar beginnings. In this tale, a young couple with a successful business that had become their life is suddenly reminded that the success they are enjoying is not how they would define the word. Most people would stop and reevaluate; maybe take a cruise and let their attitude change with the latitude. But Pat and Cindy aren’t “most people”…
Pat and Cindy Bonish sold everything and moved into a travel trailer. Their friends said they were nuts; but for Pat and Cindy, everything was, once again, going according to plan.
Pat explained: “I always knew I wanted to travel. When I met Cindy, I told her that I never wanted to be in one place longer than five years.” Instead of chasing her away, Pat’s wanderlust helped turned friendship into love. “The more I talked about it, the more Cindy wanted to go with me.”
But the lady had one condition. Their flight of fancy would have to wait until Cindy’s daughter was grown and living on her own. Pat agreed. Then he checked the calendar and wrote down a goal: Ten years from today we will be traveling.
The couple moved from South Florida to Pat’s hometown in Michigan, bought a restaurant and, as they built their business, continued to plan the untethered chapter of their lives.
“We did a lot of research to find out what would be best for us,” recalled Cindy. “When we lived down in West Palm we used to do weekend tent-camping trips, or we would go down to the Keys for four or five days.” She pauses, then relates their last tent adventure — three days of sitting in a soggy tent, making finger puppets on the wall and watching the rain come down. “We got over tent camping pretty quick after that.” They began exploring other options, and even considered purchasing a sailboat.
But ten years is ten years.
“The restaurant was doing really well,” Cindy related. “We began accumulating a lot of stuff. After a while, I looked around and started thinking we could use a bigger house.”
While Cindy eyed new homes, Pat’s ambitions included a satellite location for their restaurant. Both Pat and Cindy dug in, convinced their respective ideas were the way to go. Back and forth they went. Would it be a bigger house or a second restaurant? Then, suddenly, a silent and mutual epiphany: Why are we fighting about this?
Pat Cindy & Luca Bonish on Low Key's dock
“Our motto had always been, ‘The best things in life aren’t things.’ Yet there we sat, arguing about things.” Pat retrieved the journal he had written in every day for nearly ten years. He thumbed through the pages and looked over at Cindy: “February is our ten-year date.” It was November. Pat and Cindy were on the clock. Would they scrap the ten-year plan or sell the business, sell their homes and hit the road?
They began to go through their stuff, deciding what to get rid of first. Three hours later, there was only one box in the “goodbye” pile. Then they got serious. “I told her to go through my stuff, and I volunteered to go through hers,” explained Pat.
“And we weren’t allowed to look,” Cindy added. “It was really hard.”
“Brutal,” Pat agreed. “But once we got rid of all of it, we felt great.”
By February, they were ready to hit the road. “We sold our home, but had a rental property that we decided to hang on to just in case we got out on the road and, for some reason, decided we hated it.” But, less than a year later, they were ready to part with that property as well. It sold quickly, and then it was just Pat and Cindy in their F250 pickup, towing a custom travel trailer with the name of their Web site — EveryMilesAMemory.com — emblazoned across the front.
“We loved being outdoors; we loved each other’s company, and we loved to find new towns to explore. In fact, we made it a requirement to only travel on two-lane roads. That’s where you really see what’s out there,” noted Pat. They started in Michigan, going to every park, hiking or biking every trail, kayaking in nearly every river. Then around the country, back roads and off-road, saving money by boondocking and supplementing their savings with photography and occasional work camping.
“We adapted to the camper quickly. It definitely helped that we had it custom built; lifted with independent axles and everything tucked up underneath, so it could go all the places we wanted to camp. We had the ceiling reinforced for our solar panels, and we had the interior set up to our specifications.”
Three more years would pass before the Bonishes discovered an opportunity so tempting they parked the camper — possibly for good. “We had visited Cedar Key multiple times. We loved the small town. No traffic lights. Nothing commercial. A place to reinvent yourself.”
Low-Key Hideaway from the Air - Cedar Key Florida - Photo by Pat Bonish
Low-Key Hideaway is a classic Florida motel with a few RV sites, an open tiki bar and a fishing dock pointed toward incredible sunsets. When the opportunity came to purchase their new favorite hangout, the Bonishes did not hesitate. “We have been in the service industry most of our adult lives,” Cindy explained. “And we RVed full time for years, so we know exactly how to treat our guests.”
Pat elaborated, “When people stay here, they are staying at our home. You don’t have to run something like this so corporate and rigid. That way your guests are more relaxed and everyone has a better time.”
In addition to the generous attitude that has guests raving on review sites, Pat and Cindy keep several items handy that they know, sooner or later, an RVer will need. “We keep hoses, washers, things like that on hand,” Pat explained. “And I have been known to help people back their rig in a time or three. That’s something we saw a lot on the road; RVers who get really nervous about backing their rig into a site.”
When I suggested he send those folks down to talk to Barney at the Lazydays Driver Confidence Course (http://lazydays.com/explore-lazydays/education-training.html), Pat quickly agreed. “You need someone to show you the ropes, how to safely operate the RV. Everybody should take a course like that.”
Alaska to Margaritaville RVers love to leave momentos at Low Key Hideaway
Then Pat steered the conversation back to travel, vacations and the elephant in the tiki bar — travel stress. “We all talk about our dreams, but too many people leave them undiscovered, left behind, exchanged for the stress and drudgeries of what they consider ‘everyday life.’ When they do get away, most people only take a week — or less — and then they bring their work with them.”
In the background, the reigning king of the low-key lifestyle, Jimmy Buffett, was serenading us through the bar’s speakers. Pat’s comments reminded me of a line from his tune “Cowboy in the Jungle”; something about trying to “cram lost years into five or six days.”
Pat continued, “We know about job stress, and we know what it’s like to be truly relaxed and without a care. No matter how long you stay here with us, we want you to feel that way. Totally free and completely relaxed.”
It’s hard to argue with a man who’s popping the cap on your beer while dolphins splash in the shallows and another spectacular sunset paints the evening sky. Sitting there feeling the warm gulf breeze and listening to the easy banter around the bar, it was hard not to envy Pat and Cindy the hideaway they found at the end of their road. It got me wondering where I might find my own.
Sunset on Cedar Key
Photo by Adam Porter
Will you one day discover the place where, to paraphrase Fred Neil, “the weather suits your clothes”? You can only find the answer after you hit the road. Go some places. See some things. If you’re lucky, you will find your own little hideaway. Your particular harbor may not sing to you in the same key, but you will recognize the song.
A tune you can only hear over the horizon.
Catch up with Pat and Cindy Bonish at www.everymilesamemory.com or visit them at www.lowkeyhideaway.com.
Pat & Cindy’s Full-Timer Tips
- Before you hit the road, practice being together ALL the time. We had worked together for years, so it was less of an adjustment. And decide on a magic word that immediately tells your spouse you need some “alone time.”
- Start with baby steps, shorter trips. Get to know your RV and delegate responsibility.
- Listen to veteran RVers. They are an incredible resource; so don’t be afraid to ask questions.
- Pace yourself. Our first year we tried to do everything at every stop. That gets exhausting and expensive.
- We made sure we were both first-responder certified, just in case.
- Study ways to conserve water and power. We looked at boating and yachting guides as well as RV magazines and Web sites. When we started out, we went through water like, well, water. By year three, we could go 12 days without having to refill the tank.
- Use solar panels, they are definitely worth it. Our last year on the road we went 200 days without plugging in.
- If you’re towing, use the engine break religiously.
- Stock your wardrobe with clothing fabrics that breathe, dry quick and are relatively wrinkle-free. This is especially important when boondocking. Wet jeans stay wet forever.
A Snapshot of the Life at Low-Key Hideaway
Welcome to the Institute of Low-Key Living
In addition to five kitchenette-equipped motel rooms, Low-Key Hideaway currently offers four waterfront RV sites, with plans to add more. All are back-in and come with full hookups — water, electric and sewer — as well as cable and reliable Wi-Fi. But, of course, that’s not what people take pictures of. The view from the dock and the tiki bar at sunset are legendary, and the relaxed atmosphere is genuine and unrehearsed.
To visit Pat and Cindy at Low-Key Hideaway, point your RV to 12050 State Road 24,
Cedar Key, Fla.
32625. GPS: 29.152614, -83.031062. For reservations or more information, visit www.lowkeyhideaway.com or call 352.543.0700.