Roughing it smoothly: Mickey and Linda Haddock have visited 46 US parks, 50 states

By Chelsea Retherford | Living 50 Plus

When Mickey and Linda Haddock purchased their first Class A motorhome, the Florence couple had already done an extensive amount of traveling around the country — mostly from their van and mostly with their pets, Lola and Loulou, a tortoiseshell cat and a Pomeranian.

Months following Mickey’s retirement from city government in 2016, he said a pair of friends, Kenny and Nancy Griffin, had put a bug in his ear about traveling in a recreational vehicle.

“We finally just said, O.K, we’re going to do it,” Mickey said. “And truly, Linda wanted to do it because of the animals. We don’t have to look ahead and find a pet-friendly hotel, and you know, it’s a whole lot easier to travel with pets in the RV.”

The Haddocks first RV was a 27-foot, 1997 Holiday Rambler. Mickey said they paid $10,000 for a basic unit to get their feet wet.

“We drove it to Key West, Florida, and we really enjoyed our trip,” he said. “So, maybe a year later, we bought another one, and it had a slide out. It was a 2004 model, I believe. So, we traded up a little bit, and then about a year later, we traded for another one that had three slide outs, and it was a 2008. A little bit newer.”

This June, they’re traveling westward to Utah in a 37-foot, 2017 Winnebago Adventurer with a full-size shower and half-bath.

“Now, I don’t even like staying in a hotel,” Linda said with a laugh. “We’re getting a little spoiled.”

The couple said their latest model features a sleep-number bed, three televisions and a refrigerator larger than the one they have in their home. Both agreed they feel this is their last trade until they decide to park for good.

The Haddocks guessed they stay in their RV about five months out of the year, often spending the winter at a campground they frequent in Summerfield, Florida, about 65 miles northeast of Orlando.

They said the annual trip allows them to stay close to their longtime friends and fellow RVers, the Griffins, who were formerly from Florence but now reside in The Villages retirement community south of Summerfield.

“I guess you could say we’ve become snowbirds,” Mickey said.

He and Linda normally stay through February, but this year they extended their trip through March.

“We’re not full-timers,” added Mickey, who continues to work as a replay official with the Southeastern Football Conference.

“Normally, we’ll take at least one two-week trip during football season. Like last year, I had a game in Kentucky and the next Saturday, I had a game in Tennessee,” he said.

“You can go wherever you want to, and wherever you decide to stop, that’s where you roll to, and you stop.

“The good thing about being retired, if we decide to take off and go somewhere, we don’t really have any plans. If we decide we want to stay three days in a place where we thought we might just stay a day, that’s O.K. too. We really don’t have an agenda.”

While the RV gives them more freedom and flexibility, Mickey said they still have to make reservations at most campgrounds because RVs have become such a popular way to travel.

“What we really like to do when we go to Florida for a few months, we stay in the same campground and then take day trips,” Mickey said. “We’ll just go out in the car and come back in the afternoon. We were about an hour and a half away from Orlando, and we drove over and had lunch with some friends. One day, I drove to Daytona to watch UNA play some basketball. You just kind of base yourself and travel.”

The couple said they’ve visited all 50 states at least once, but they’re on their way to completing the U.S. map twice.

Mickey said they’re planning a road trip up the East Coast next year.

“We lack five or six states up the East Coast — Maine, Vermont, Connecticut — being to every state twice,” he said. “We’ve been very fortunate. We did a good bit of traveling in a van back before we started RVing when I was still working.”

This summer, the couple will travel back to one of Linda’s favorite destinations, Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah.

“It’s gorgeous,” she said, adding that she and Mickey now have a bucket list of visiting all 63 U.S. national parks.

Off to a great start, the Haddocks have 46 parks under their belt already.

“I just love the beauty of the different parks that we go to,” Linda said. “Utah is one of my favorite states. All five of their national parks are worth going to see. I just love nature and the beauty of it.”

With so much to see in their home country, Mickey said he has no desire to travel outside the U.S., though the couple has already been to Mexico, Canada, and to the Caribbean island Antigua.

Mickey said he’s also grateful to have a favorite camping destination back home at McFarland Park.

“We travel all over, and we’ve got one of the prettiest places here in our back yard,” he said. “We love staying down there and camping on the river. We are excited to hear that the city has plans for 60 more spots. Our friends, Kenny and Nancy, come up from Florida and love to stay here. It’s a beautiful park.”

Besides their shared experiences, Mickey and Linda said they also love getting to meet fellow RVers all over the country on their travels.

“You know, it’s the perfect way to start a conversation because you all have something in common,” Mickey said. “I think that’s the biggest thing we’ve enjoyed is meeting new people and hearing their stories of how they got in it. We’ve met some awfully nice folks.”