Steve Schlake is hanging up the keys to his 29-foot Class C motorhome with two slides and a “For Sale” sign in the window. After 19 years of full-time RVing, he is now parked in Idaho’s panhandle, closer to his four younger brothers than for any length of time during his adult years, and settling comfortably into the 1,400-square-foot house that was built last year.
He has RV’d or otherwise traveled every state except Alaska. He told me, “I have experienced the diversity of our beautiful country with its deserts, forests, mountains, prairies, lakes, and streams. I’ve met people from all walks of life and nationalities, and appreciated the camaraderie of the RVing community with its similarity to the military. My parents dreamed of traveling when they retired at 65, but health issues foreshortened their journey. I was determined to experience their retirement dreams. And experience them I did.”
Iowa born, Steve spent his early years on a farm. His family later moved to Minnesota, where they tent camped along lakes and streams. While he was in high school, his family upgraded to its first RV, a homemade tent trailer that took them to Washington, D.C. I interviewed Steve by email, and he wrote, “On graduation day I threw my hat in the air; we got into two cars with two trailers and moved to Phoenix, Arizona. While working in the computer industry, I vacationed in the mountains with a tent or a pickup camper shell. After retiring, it seemed a natural progression into a full-fledged RV.”
He continued life by degrees—associate degree in applied science, one bachelor’s degree in industrial technology and another in computer science, and a master’s in business administration. He persisted in the learning process while spending 24 years as an enlisted man in the Navy and later as an officer. He deployed twice to Vietnam. He attended Officer Candidate School and was commissioned as a Navy officer. His penchant for education led him to learn a new computer program before almost anyone knew anything about PCs. He used the program to track all the jobs needed to overhaul his ship, operating with a dial-up connection in a small shack next to the ship’s dry dock. After active duty, Steve continued his Navy career as a reservist, retiring as a captain.
Steve is most proud of working with the United States Naval Sea Cadet Corps, a federally charted youth group for high school boys and girls. Eventually he became regional director for Arizona and southern Nevada, transitioning into an advisory role.
He taught computer languages at the local community college and while in the Navy reserve began a parallel career with an international electronics company developing engineering software. The design, development, and implementation of software saved the company millions of dollars. The software was owned and patented by the company, but, at the very least, it gave Steve and four colleagues bragging rights.
Going on the Road
Retiring from the computer industry and the Navy at 47, Steve sold his home and became a life member of both Escapees and Good Sam. “I often stayed in Escapee parks to take advantage of member discounts and while in Branson, Missouri, a few years ago, I had the pleasure of attending a four-day reunion with shipmates of the USS Fox, a time I shall never forget.”
In the RVing world, Steve taught classes and deserves accolades for his willingness to help fellow RVers. He has often camped at North Ranch and if I emailed him that I was having a computer problem, he responded immediately. He had only to walk in the door and the computer jumped to solve its problem. Fantastic!…but then he laughed…hmmm!
His most challenging computer experience was with a French laptop. “The owner spoke French and broken English. Now, I don’t speak Quebec…I don’t even speak Paris. We sat with my computer next to his. I had the same software and we scrolled through the windows and menus together. What he saw in French, I duplicated in English. We shortly had the problem solved…and a very happy French camper.”
Steve is mostly unflappable but…“It made the national news when the Cedar River and its Iowa tributaries, overflowed bridges or washed out entirely. I was in a county RV park a fair distance from the stream. Before I went to bed, I brought in the slides. By three a.m., the camp host came knocking. The rising stream sounded like a freight train. I quickly unplugged, moved the motorhome, and helped others get out. By sunrise, the electric box post, almost as tall as I, was nearly under water. The stream had risen 20 to 25 feet, but everyone was safe and sound.”
For as long as I have known Steve, he has researched, photographed, and eventually digitized, his family history. This took him through Midwest churches, cemeteries, genealogy libraries, courthouses, and even a barbershop. “Two Iowa ancestors served in the Civil War and are buried in national cemeteries, one at Little Rock, Arkansas, the other in Vicksburg, Mississippi. I not only relearned things I heard as a youngster but discovered new stories, and corrected others. Personal health, plus care giving and family estate managing, have filled my time, but now I am ready to publish.”
Steve’s musical interests began with fifth-grade violin, but he switched to string bass in high school. His high school stage band was so good that during his senior year, the band opened for the Miss Minnesota Pageant. He also played with a jazz quintet and loves jazz today, as well as classical, and easy listening. With his other interest, photography, he captures forever whatever wanders through his personal wildlife sanctuary.
Steve was a member of the Escapees lease program, ERPU. “The lot and shed were my home base with a five-year lease at Dream Catcher Park in Deming, New Mexico, where I wintered. After the lease ran out, it was in the back of my mind to hang up the keys. I was tiring of full-time RVing.”
Now settling onto his 10 acres of wooded mountaintop, Steve intends to build a woodworking shop for projects around his new home. Asked if he would continue traveling, he said, “I plan to take short trips from time-to-time, maybe to the coast, but more likely to local lakes and streams to go fishing, like I did as a kid.”
I asked what his future held. “Sitting back, relaxing, watching the deer graze, listening to the wind rustle the pine needles, and taking time to smell the roses. As I look back on my life, there were a few bumps along the way, but all-in-all, it was one hell of a ride.”
Amen and God Bless.
Sharlene Minshall’s e-book novel, Winter in the Wilderness, is available at most Internet book sites. The print edition is available at Amazon.com or you can order an autographed copy from the author at Box 1040, Congress, AZ 85332 for $7.95, plus $3.50 for postage and handling. The fourth edition of RVing Alaska and Canada is available through Amazon.com. Follow her blog, “The Silver Gypsy” at rvlife.com.