As more than 1200 motorhomes and campervans rolled into Mudgee, Australia, this week, Jim Byrnes, 104, was glad to be off the road.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the recreational vehicles driven by the generation of retirees known as the gray nomads were in town for the Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia’s annual rally.
Until recently Byrnes was the oldest driver in group. After his birthday last month he decided it was time to turn off the ignition and surrender his driver’s license to the Roads and Traffic Authority.
“The traffic was getting thicker and faster, but I was getting slower,” he said.
From petite Winnebagos to lumbering converted school buses with satellite television and self-composting toilets, the motorhomes have been arriving all week, setting up camp northeast of the town center.
The week-long rally of seminars and activities lets members catch up and share road stories.
The club’s rally coordinator, Karen Griffin, who has traveled with her husband and 14-year-old daughter since 1996, said the club had grown from about 1000 members to more than 40,000 in the past 20 years. “About 80% of members are retirees; most are over 65,” Griffin said.
Peg and Ray Lawson, both 82, bought their motorhome, christened PegRay, in 1988 and have been on the road ever since.
They return home to Wynnum, near Brisbane, every Christmas but still sleep in the van in their son’s backyard.
Lawson said the couple were not planning on settling down anytime soon and loved the camaraderie of traveling.
“We have friends around the country; we are always laughing,” Lawson said. “This is what keeps us alive.”