With a Ph.D. in geosciences, he’s traveled to some pretty spectacular places for work. But John, naturally a curious person, regretted not having the time or ability to stop and explore. Now semi-retired, and with his son off to college in California and his daughter considering a college in Savannah, the Texan decided that’s going to change.
His first step? Getting a Rangeline.
"I spent a lot of time rushing from place to place for work,” John says. “Often, it's driving by all kinds of things and thinking, Oh, it'd be nice to be able to stop there and spend some time, but never really having the time to do that.
“And I've got two kids — one who just started college this fall, and another one is starting college next year. Another part of the motivation is having the time to spend with them, getting them situated and set up, and recognizing that the time I have left with them is very limited, so to speak. Getting a camper van gives me the opportunity to sort of kill two birds with one stone: Spend some time getting out with them, taking them out to college, and then also having the time to stop and see the things I think are interesting.”
Rangeline is a Camper Van that Serves a Variety of Needs
Of course, as a scientist, John put a fair amount of research into his decision. Paramount was the size of the Rangeline. As anyone who’s ever participated in a college move-in day can attest, maneuverability is an asset.
“I spent a lot of time looking at different options, different models and thinking about what was really going to work and what I specifically needed. And there were some practical constraints on that. I really did want to get something van-sized because I plan to be in a mix of both urban and remote environments, and in the urban environment, trying to maneuver something larger is no good.”
At the same time, John didn’t want something too small. College kids have stuff, of course. And when his wife and daughter flew to California to meet up with John and his son, having four seats was an asset.
Like many Rangeline owners, John also appreciated the clean lines and minimalist aesthetic, coupled with upscale finishes and a real bathroom, which are harder to find in a camper van market saturated with cassette toilets. The mix of features suited both his “dad needs” and his “explorer needs."
“The Airstream really hit the sweet spot for me in terms of the design and the functionality that I was looking for,” John says. “And the layout — having the four seats, having a bed that really could fit two people and, and of course, the cargo space.”
Putting His Rangeline Through its Paces
He’s had the chance to put his RV choice to the test already with several trips. John took his daughter to a summer camp at the college in Georgia where she wants to attend and was grateful for the air conditioning. Conversely, when he took his son west through arid desert and high-altitude climates, he appreciated the heating system at night. His kids appreciated the absence of dirt, noise, and bugs.
“My wife and I are both geologists,” John says. “We're okay with camping. The kids … we've taken them camping. They're not as okay with camping. But you know, when you're in something like the van, it doesn't feel like you're out camping, unless you choose to be outside.”
Though they didn’t have a lot of extra time to wander and explore on their trip to California, John and his son found themselves taking some unintended detours. Death Valley was a part of their route until this summer’s epic flooding closed things down.
“One of the things I really like about the Rangeline is the flexibility,” John says. “Because you can just find a boondock spot and spend the night — it's not a big deal. If you need to spend the night in a parking lot, it's not a big deal. But you can take advantage of a full hookup RV site and that's also not a big deal.”
Flexibility for a Variety of Travel Experiences
That flexibility will prove valuable for John’s future plans and dreams. He is a researcher, a scientist, and an all-around curious person, after all.
John is a ham radio enthusiast — he’s even talked to astronauts on the International Space Station. He hopes to serve the members of his fellow amateur radio operator community by setting up in some of the more remote grids in the mountain west to help others achieve the VHF/UHF Century Club Award.
The stars compel him in other ways. John loves the dark skies out west and has built an all-sky camera that can record the night sky from the roof of his Rangeline while he sleeps.
He also loves finding quirky and interesting stops listed in the Atlas Obscura app and touring unusual sites (think sewage treatment facilities) as part of an international organization called the Infrastructure Club.
And in the manner of Airstream founder Wally Byam, John is even considering shipping his Airstream to Europe for an upcoming technology/camping event called Electromagnetic Field (or “Burning Nerd,” John says) then staying on for several months and driving around the continent to see what he can see there.
Once he comes up with a proper name for his Rangeline, John is planning to share online his discoveries, his observations and his joy in the serendipity and wonder of it all.
“I like sharing the experiences with people who may not be able to have those experiences themselves. It's not about bragging; it's about showing people what that environment is really like and maybe inspiring them to be courageous enough to do those things themselves or take that plunge and do things,” John says.
“How do you put that lightning in a bottle? How do you capture those moments and share them with people? It's not the super contrived photography stuff that people do where they spend hours or days setting up for the perfect shot. It's much more serendipitous for me. It's much more like, This was a cool moment. I want to share with you.”
With his keen powers of observation, his knowledge of the outdoors and how things work, and his broad interests, John will no doubt be a good guide for followers of his Rangeline expeditions. We can expect no end to curiosity, insights, and thought-provoking experiences.
“It's a little bit like research, right?” John says. “When you do good research, it actually prompts more questions than it answers.”
And he’s no longer just driving by.