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Pat and Craig Bair took a train trip in the mountains of Colorado to celebrate their anniversary. 

18,000 Miles and Counting: Randleman native, Husband, Journey Across America in RV

Pat and Craig Bair call this stage of their lives “our journey.”


Since selling their home in Florida and taking to the byways of America in February 2021, they have logged more than 18,000 miles in a recreational vehicle — and that’s not counting miles traveled in the Ford F-350 diesel dually once they get to a destination, unhitch the truck and check out the nearby attractions.


Their adventures could fill a book.


Among the highlights:


- Hiking in the most scenic places imaginable, across mountains and deserts.

- Riding through the Rocky Mountains on the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Train for their 37th anniversary.

- Taking a hot air balloon along the national park in Moab, Utah.

- Kayaking in a flooded mine in Kentucky.


What a journey it has been.


“We’ve got stickers on the door,” says Craig, referring to a map of the United States at the RV's entrance. “As we hit a new state, we have little stickers that Pat has under the bed. On goes the new sticker.”


So far, there’s 26 stickers on the map.


And they have plans to explore more states, including Alaska, via a caravan through Canada, next year.


Local ties

In early August, they stopped in Asheboro to visit friends and stayed at Zooland Family Campground.


Pat, who is 64, has many ties to this area. A 1976 graduate of Randleman High School, she grew up on Hub Morris Road. Her parents are the late Margaret and Marshall Williams, former CEO of BB Walker & Co.


Pat attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she received a bachelor’s in Biology (1980) and a master’s in Occupational Therapy (1982).


After graduation, she moved to Florida. In December 2020, she retired from Orlando Health Institute of Rehabilitation where she was a Certified Hand Therapist.


Craig, 68, a Florida native and graduate of the University of Florida, retired as marketing director from Florida Hospital New Smyrna.


They lived in Sanford, a city in central Florida, for 20 years.

Why RV-ing?

“We knew we wanted to travel some,” Pat says, in explaining the evolution of their decision.


“He has no interest in going out of the country. His idea would have been a sailboat to sail the world, but I get seasick. And I’m scared of storms. So we started talking about getting an RV, not thinking full time at first. We both had been looking at them off and on for several years. …


“We both wanted to downsize the house, but we didn't know where we wanted to go next. So one day … he was the first one to say it out loud, ‘What about full time?’ I think he thought I’d say, ‘No way, I’m not doing that.’ … Gradually, it went from ‘Maybe’ to ‘We’re doing it.’ ”


They put their house on the market.


For Craig, an avid outdoorsman, the hardest part was selling or storing his hunting and fishing gear, buggies and such.


“I was the guy who was going to die with the most toys,” he jokes.


For Pat, it was leaving her grandparents’ antiques — a son “took a lot so I get to see them”; an expensive pedal harp; and on a sentimental note, the clarinet she played in the RHS band.


“I wanted it to go to a young person who really wanted one and I ended up with the perfect person who was working trying to save money for one,” she said.


After researching RVs, they purchased a 2021 Grand Design Solitude 2021 Fifth Wheel, which Craig “customized considerably,” so they can stay off the grid for remote camping.


Most of the time, however, they camp at state or national parks; Army Corps of Engineers sites; and private campgrounds, which offer hook-ups.



They learned quickly to plan their routes and where they wanted to stay.


“Getting into parks has been — is — a real challenge,” Craig says. “Because of COVID, everybody quit flying and cruising and everybody started RV-ing. So when we first started out, it was extremely difficult to find reservations.”


“That first year, the swimming pools and recreation buildings were often closed. This year, the campgrounds are a little less crowded and most campgrounds have activities again,” Pat says.


“But even today we still have to call way in advance,” Craig adds. “Right now we are planning for our Alaska trip a year away.”


They also have to research bridges, low-hanging trees — and tunnels — along the routes to ensure they can clear the 13-foot, 4-inch-tall rig. Pat handles most of the planning, through RV Trip Wizard, Facebook, books and websites.


But there are always challenges.


At the Colorado National Monument site, accessible by a winding road, thousand-foot drops and a tunnel, Pat was advised they could navigate the tunnel if Craig drove down the middle of the road.


“What they didn’t tell me was, it was not a straight tunnel,” she said. “We couldn’t see anyone coming!”


Fortunately, they met no other vehicles.


Unfortunately, when they arrived at the campsite, it could not accommodate the 35-foot RV. Back through the tunnel they went to find another site. Later, they returned in the truck. The scenery, Pat says, was “beautiful.”


Maine it is

“Beautiful” is a word the Bairs use frequently to describe the places they have visited, from the Appalachians and Rockies, to the sandstone and limestone deserts of the West, to the lakes of New England.


They have traveled through Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, Maine, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.


When asked which state was the most breathtaking, they didn’t hesitate.


Maine was the unanimous choice, followed by northern Michigan “a close second.”


In many of the states, they often camp or reconnect with family or friends.


Pat and Craig met her brother, Greg, in Maine after he completed hiking the Appalachian Trail. They celebrated with a lobster picnic.


They went RV-ing with Craig’s brother, Stan, and his wife in Arizona. At the Grand Canyon, a herd of elk “grazed through the campground. … My brother and I were out working on the rigs. My brother was washing the windshield on his,” recalls Craig, and one elk was so fascinated by the water hose he walked”as close as we are from you.”


Seeing the variety of wildlife, including antelope, turkeys and bighorn sheep, has been fun — although Pat could do without the copperheads and rattlesnakes while hiking.


They have hiked many trails, but the one “I was kind of proud of myself for doing,” says Pat, was the Petroglyph Point Trail. Particularly strenuous, it involved steep drops, rock formations that Craig could barely squeeze through and climbing using the footholds left by Native Americans, but well worth the huffing and puffing when they came to a large rock panel filled with petroglyphs, images carved into the rocks by the Anasazi.


“They don’t fully understand what the images represent,” Craig says. “They’ve never been able to fully decipher them.”


The highs

Here are a few:


    They rode to the top of Pikes Peak on the cog railway. It was 10 degrees with a wind chill to minus 10. “That’s the coldest I’ve ever been,” Pat says. “Probably the only time in my life I’ll be over 14,000 feet.”
    An accomplished musician, Pat was thrilled to have a custom-designed mountain dulcimer built — of Peruvian walnut and poplar from a 200-year-old historical building in New Harmony, Indiana. Within a week, Skyy, their lilac point Siamese, broke the head stock. Lauding “the best customer service,” Pat shipped the dulcimer back to Indiana where it was fully restored.
    Acting on a cousin’s genealogical research, Craig found the grave site of his “nine times grandfather removed” Gov. William Bradford in Plymouth, Mass. “We went down to the waterfront to see a replica of the Mayflower and his statue was on the waterfront.”


The ‘scariest’

Craig was driving from Utah into Colorado on “a two-lane road. We hadn’t seen a car for probably an hour. Out in the middle of nowhere, we came across this rise, and there was another car. He drifted over into our lane. It looked like he was messing with his phone … I was flashing my lights. … I drifted over as far on the edge of the road as I could get … there was no shoulder, just a drop off. If we had gone any further over, we would have rolled.”


The other driver sideswiped the side of the trailer and drove on without stopping.


Pat and Craig were OK.


The trailer’s damage was “mostly cosmetic,” which Craig buffed out.


‘Our final spot’

The rising cost of gas has had a definite impact.


“We were originally planning to go to West Virginia and Pennsylvania before coming back to the Southeast,” says Pat, until gas reached $6 a gallon. “Instead, we shortened our time in Virginia, staying in one spot, and then came back to North Carolina and stayed in one place for three weeks.


“We are keeping our fingers crossed that diesel doesn’t go back up.”


As the summer winds down, Pat and Craig are headed to Florida for the winter.


Then it will be back on the road, part of a “five-year plan” to experience as many states as possible before settling down.


They know exactly what kind of dwelling they want — a “barn-dominium,” a metal fabricated house with a large storage area for the RV.


They just don’t know where — yet.


They will keep traveling, he says, “to see if there is a place that lights us on fire,” a place with mountains for Pat and water for Craig — and not too much snow, a place that they will look at each other and say:


“This is going to be our final spot.”

    Annette Jordan is a writer for The Randolph Hub. Contact her at ajordan5588@gmail.com.