- Written by Todd Moning
Some people mean business and some people mean fun. FMCA members Ben and Laura Soussan of Hampton, N.H., adhere to the latter.
They like to have fun, and they had plenty of it on their first motorhome trip.
“It was a life-altering experience,” Laura said. “Each day, we saw and learned new things and became more well-rounded. We’ve been to places where we’ve expected nothing and when we got there, said “‘Wow, I would have never imagined this!’”
Their families and friends never would have imagined the two-career couple would buy a 40-foot motorhome, sell their successful computer businesses (each owned one) and take time off to see America by motorhome.
“We’ve worked hard at our jobs,” Laura said. “It was just time to take a deep breath, enjoy each other’s company and go explore the country.”
Ben, 43, and Laura, 46, realized they could have waited until they retired. “A friend of ours died and that had an impact on us,” Ben said. “We thought, do we want to work the rest of our lives and kill ourselves or have some fun.”
The Soussans have two kids: AJ, age 23, and Janelle, 21. AJ lives in New Hampshire and Janelle attends college in Boston.
“They thought we were out of our minds,” Laura said. “One day AJ came over and sat me down and said, ‘Mom, you always know how you talk about being responsible. With this trip thing, are you sure you're being responsible?' ”
On Thanksgiving Day, 2004, Ben and Laura said good-bye to family and friends and set out on their maiden voyage in their 2005 Beaver Monterey.
Despite having no experience with RVs prior to this trip, “Motorhoming was easier than we expected,” Ben said. “We were stressed at first, but a few weeks into it we kind of looked at each other and said, ‘This is going to be fun.”
“I didn’t know a black tank from a gray tank when we started,” Ben said. “But in about two weeks we were old pros.”
They didn’t chart out a stringent itinerary. “We planned to go around the country, clockwise,” Laura said. “On our map, we put sticky arrows on all the places of interest in a state and just connected the dots.”
They rang in the New Year in Key West, Fla., reveled with the Mardi Gras crowd in New Orleans. They visited big-name attractions such as Grand Canyon and Grand Teton national parks but also developed an appreciation for sites off-the-beaten path.
Before they became “old pros” at motorhoming, the Soussans would fly to motorcycle rallies and have their Harley-Davidsons shipped to the local Harley outfit. At a rally in South Dakota, a motorhome equipped with a rear mini garage caught their eye.
The idea of motorhome travel truly began to fester when they drove Laura’s uncle George to an RV dealership in New Hampshire, where he was buying a motorhome. While there, Ben and Laura went inside a motorhome for the first time, and they were hooked.
The search was on — for a motorhome that could accommodate their Harleys and provide comforts for extended traveling.
Ben and Laura liked the idea of having a garage to store the motorcycles but soon realized it would mean sacrificing some interior amenities.
Eventually, an entirely different feature swayed them toward a Beaver Monterey at Lazydays in Seffner, Fla.
“I like to breathe fresh air when I’m sleeping,” Laura explained. “The singular reason we went with the Beaver over another brand was because the other one didn’t’ have windows on either side of the bed. And we loved the Beaver woodwork.”
Ben liked the pristine interior. “I love electronics but I don’t like to see the equipment. Everything in our coach is hidden. When living in a small space and you’re used to a home, there’s an adjustment. It helps if the coach is organized, clean, and uncluttered. You just feel better.”
Ben and Laura had anticipated adjusting to living in smaller quarters during their travel. “We felt we were going to bicker but we were having so much fun it never happened,” Ben said. “The trip reminded us of why we got married in first place. We’ve been married 15 years but we were like newlyweds in our RV.”
They shared the driving duties equally. “Counting the trailer for the motorcycles, we were 56 feet long and had no problems driving,” Laura said, adding that test driving the coach in tight-knit neighborhoods near the dealership helped immensely.
“That initial period where you purchase a coach and are there in service gives you time to ask the dealer any questions,” Ben said. "The people at Lazydays were a huge help to us in raising the comfort factor of the new coach experience."
The Soussans didn’t worry about fuel costs along the way. “When you get a point where you really want to do something — and we really wanted to see the country — you’re going to do it whether the price is one dollar or five dollars a gallon,” Ben said.
Grand Teton, Dry Tortugas, Everglades and Bryce Canyon national parks were among their favorite sites.
On their trucker’s atlas they found Coral Castle in Homestead, Fla., and it proved to be one of Laura’s favorite spots. Using only homemade tools, one man single-handedly carved and sculpted more than 1,100 tons of coral rock as a monument to his lost love.
On a back road to Death Valley National Park, they made a spontaneous visit to an outdoor sculpture garden made of glass bottles on welded steel frames.
At various stops between Aspen and Vail, Colo., they kept hearing people say go to Telluride. “In a split second we turned around and they were right — Telluride was wonderful,” Laura said. “They have a huge gondola tram that runs until midnight. It goes over the hills and you can see the town fading in the distance.” The free, 13-minute ride links Telluride to the nouveau Mountain Village.
At all the different towns and attractions, one thing remained constant, Ben said. “I grew up in Boston, where people can be cynical and not too open to meeting new people. But wherever we went in our motorhome, people reached out to us, inviting us into their homes, even offering the use of their car.”
The Soussans’ first motorhome trip has left them wanting more.
“We really didn’t know what to expect the first time,” Ben said. “We said we were just going to do it and experience things and if we ran into problems we’d get out of it. Once we realized, hey this is awesome, we lost all the worries and had a ball.”
Ben and Laura, whose first grandchild, Westley, was born Oct. 6, have no plans to return to 40-hour-a-week jobs.
Laura dabbles in stock trading and Ben markets a device called Gas Jockey (www.gasjockey.com) — patent pending.
They’re also an authorized dealer for Moto-Sat, a provider of mobile Internet and satellite TV products. “It’s great because it enables us to have a mobile business,” Ben said.
It’s clear they want flexibility for more motorhome trips. “We want to do more traveling in the Mountain time zone,” Laura said. “The people out there are friendly and they all welcome RVs.”
Alaska is high on their list of destinations, as is Edmonton, Alberta’s capital city, where they have friends. They’d also like to travel on the Trans-Canada Highway. With a length of 4,860 miles, it’s the world's longest national highway.
“When we said we were going to do this, people made fun of us, saying we weren’t old enough,” Ben said. ”My opinion is that motorhome owners need to tell the younger people that this is a great way to travel. I don’t think a lot of people know about this.
“Even if you have to work at your job and can only go out a few weekends, it’s still worth it. A lot of people say they would never spend that kind of money on a motorome. Well, we consider this [Beaver Patriot] our vacation home. If we get bored, we just move along.”
Note: During the trip, the Soussans had an opportunity to sell the Beaver Monterey and upgrade to a 42-foot Beaver Patriot with four slideouts.