Home Sweet (Rolling) Home

By+Kathe Brunton

Friends gave them three weeks. Three weeks tops, then they’d either have strangled each other or abandoned the trip.


Joe and Joyce Kulesia laughed about it then and they laugh about it now. Of course, Joyce admits, “It went better than I thought. I thought we’d kill each other.”

From mid-September through mid-December 2008, Joe and Joyce took a three-month excursion across the country in their motorhome. The retired couple, who owned Kulesia’s restaurant in Vandalia, Mich., has been RV’ing for the past five years. Previous trips, however, were of much shorter duration. With this one, they put 8,000 miles on their 40-foot, 36,000-pound Beaver diesel pusher, which has a 110-gallon fuel tank and gets seven miles to the gallon. They also tow an SUV.
For their 12-week journey, the Kulesias traveled north to Minnesota, westward through North Dakota and Montana, across Idaho and into Washington. After a side jaunt to Vancouver, British Columbia, they continued south through Oregon and California. A left turn took them through Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, and from the Lone Star state, they headed home to Michigan.

But what’s it really like to live in a rolling house?

“It’s just like home,” Joyce says. “We bring all the jewelry and books.”
“And her 20 big red hats!” Joe adds, shaking his head.

Joyce pshaws him, but it’s true that she has learned how to use every square inch of space. The motorhome’s interior features a bedroom with closets, a small bathroom with a shower, a galley kitchen and a living area. Slide-outs on either side greatly expand the living area when the motorhome is parked.

The worst part about a home on wheels, Joyce says, is having to go to Laundromats. The motorhome has a small washer-dryer combo, but it’s much easier to get all the laundry done when you can have three or four loads running at the same time. Still, “We have every convenience,” Joyce says. And then there’s the view.

Purple mountains, deep blue lakes, bright sparkling city lights, tranquil wheat fields. Barns and bridges…casinos and coffee houses…skyscrapers and silos.

“There’s so much to see,” Joe says. “You’re not seeing the country when you fly. We can stop and just pull over and stay awhile when we see something we like. There’s so much freedom when you travel this way.”
He adds, “If you have reservations at a hotel and the weather is bad, you’re stuck. Everyone has a 24-hour day.  With a motorhome, you don’t waste any of those 24 looking for a motel or a restaurant. Everything is right here.”

Some years back, Joe and Joyce were headed to Florida. As they kept tabs on the weather in the Sunshine state, they realized the outlook wasn’t good. No problem. They veered right and headed to
Texas instead.

One of the best things about their type of travel is meeting people along the road. “The people at RV parks especially are very friendly,”  Joe says.  “You no more than get pulled in and people come up and say, hi, where are you from, where are you headed. They give you tips about RV’ing and sights to see. Instant friends. It’s not like that at a motel.”
When meeting new people, Joe likes to guess occupations before the person has a chance to tell him. Of course, he has a secret. “About half the people you meet are either retired military or schoolteachers,”
he admits.

Traveling with the Kulesias is their canine companion—15-pound BeBe, a Cairn terrier.

“She did pretty good on this trip,”  Joyce says.  “She’s not as good a traveler as she used to be, but we can still leave her in the motorhome and be gone all day.”

Joyce laughs when she recalls,  “Our friends call the motorhome an expensive doghouse.”  But in fact, the dog is part of the reason they go RV’ing.  “We were looking for a winter home a few years ago, but you can’t rent a nice place that takes dogs.”

The Kulesias did some RV’ing in the 1970s, then took a 20-year hiatus until retirement came. They keep photo albums of all their trips, each of which seems to have its own memorable story. There was the time on the East Coast when torrential rains made the motorhome a virtual island. Then there was the sound of gunshot in Texas that quickly drew them to the window where they saw a man dragging something large. “We got out of there the next day,”  Joyce says.

And once, as Joyce drove down the interstate, she glanced in the right rearview mirror and could see only…motorhome. Apparently, they had forgotten to retract the slide-out and Joe was sitting there on the couch, as calm as you please.  “We quickly pulled to the side of the road and put the slide-out back in,”  Joe recalls. They laugh about it now.
Even with the friends, the follies and the fun of the road, Joyce says, “I couldn’t be a full-timer. I need more space.” Too, she adds, she and Joe are used to separate lifestyles. He ran the restaurant for 40 years while she operated an antiques business.

One of the secrets to a happy home on wheels for independent couples like the Kulesias is the GPS unit. “It’s one of the best inventions ever,” Joyce says. “It saves marriages.” Joe also jokes that Joyce has programmed the GPS to point out every casino in
the country.

Often, the GPS helps them find Wal-Marts and Cracker Barrels, which allow RVers to spend nights in their parking lots. Other times, they’ll sit a spell for a week or so at on one of the hundreds of RV parks dotting
the country.

“The parks are like resorts,” Joyce says. “They have pools, Jacuzzis, activities like water aerobics, euchre, barbeques and ice cream socials. Some have golf courses and dance lessons. There’s always so much to do and plenty of people to do things with.”

The Kulesias also like to bring home mementos from their travels, such as the small jade replica of a 200-year-old cypress tree they saw in California. But Joyce admits, “I had to disappoint my daughter because I couldn’t bring something home from Rodeo Drive. Just the purses are $2,000!”

Neither Joe nor Joyce have much wanted to see Europe. “Even with all the traveling we’ve done, there’s still so much of the U.S. to see,” Joe says. And with many miles yet before them, Joe and Joyce will keep seeing more—all from the comfort of “home.”