When Gary Borton retired from Federal Mogul several years ago, he and his wife, Connie, made up their minds to see the country via the open road. They would buy a fifth-wheel and visit all the places they had dreamed of. Like so many retirees, the Bortons, from Greenville, planned to follow the sun wherever it led them.
Then problems with Gary’s vision put their plans on hold. He could no longer drive a car, much less a “big rig.” This setback was short-lived, however; Connie’s determination and dedication to her husband moved things forward.
“What really motivated me was that this was something Gary had wanted to do so much,” Connie said. “This was too big on his wish list to just give up on.”
Though she had never piloted anything larger than a Book-mobile — while working as a mobile librarian — Connie decided to try her hand at pulling a fifth-wheel camper. As luck would have it, a family friend owned one and was willing to teach Connie to requisite skills.
Even with the practice, the Bortons first cross country drive in the spring of 2004 was an edgy experience.
“That first long trip to California I was scared every day,” Connie said. “I would just get up in the morning and say to Gary, ‘OK, you can just park that thing and have a friend fly out and get it.’ The mountains were terrifying for me. It was white knuckle all the way.”
If the California trip was a trial by fire, it is one Connie came through with flying colors. These days, after years of experience, handling the fifth-wheel is second nature, though she still does her best to avoid mountainous terrain.
For a few years, Connie and Gary traveled as they had planned; Maryland followed California, then Florida. Then some friends who wintered in Arizona convinced the couple to give that state a try.
It was love at first sight.
It didn’t take long after they rolled into the Gold Canyon resort community near Phoenix for the the Bortons to start making new friends.
“The first time we went there we stayed eight weeks,” Gary said. “You get to know the people. You make friends and after that you tend to want to go back and see them.”
Connie agreed with Gary’s positive assessment of Gold Canyon and the residents there. In short order, bonds formed; bonds that continue through the present.
“I thought when we purchased the fifth-wheel that we would go to a different place each winter,” Connie said. “But what we found is we like this park and we quickly became part of the community there. We like the people, the mountains, the desert. Now I can’t really think about not getting back to the friends we have made there. It’s like a family reunion when we pull in.”
Family is another reason the Bortons return to Arizona each winter. Their daughter’s family lives in California, a six-hour drive from Gold Canyon. While staying there, they manage to fit in at least two visits each season.
This year, the couple also intend to visit another daughter, who lives in Seattle.
“Our plan is to drop the trailer in Nebraska and take a truck up to Seattle,” Connie said. “I’m not brave enough to do the mountains between Washington, D.C., and Seattle.”
Along the way, Connie and Gary make time to visit museums, restaurants and pretty much anything else that catches their interest.
“It’s a 2,200-mile ride and we can do it in four or five driving days,” Connie said. “But we go different places and take different routes each time in order to see a little something new. We make sure and stop at museums we haven’t seen before. There’s a lot of neat land between here and there.”
Accompanied by their golden retriever Baxter, the Bortons intend to keep up their annual schedule as long as possible. After that? Well, life is an open road
TIPS ON TRAVELING WITH PETS
RV traveler Connie Borton of Greenville offers these tips for traveling with a pet:
• Visit a vet’s office before leaving to make sure all shots are up to date.
• Take a health certificate to show your pet is current on all vaccinations; some parks require this.
• Remember to take along any meds your pet may need.
• If your pet requires a specific brand of food, it’s a good idea to bring enough to last the duration of the trip.
• Purchase a special, spill-proof water dish for bumpy roads.
• Exercise your pet regularly during fuel stops.
• If your pet gets carsick, get some medicine for this before you’re on the road.
• Consider taking plenty of bottled water; your pet may become ill from drinking water from unreliable sources.
Revved Up is a feature section in The Daily News and Carson City Gazette, focusing on topics that include anything with gears and tires.