RVs in their driveways, wanderlust in their hearts

Evelyn Wilber leans across the picnic table and opens the travel magazine she's been reading to a full-color spread of the Maine coast. ''Don't you look at pictures like that and just drool? Don't you wish you could just get up and go!''

Although there's a hint of wistfulness in Mrs. Wilber's voice, it doesn't take more than a glance at her 18-foot van parked nearby to know that before the year is out she'll be dipping lobster claws in drawn butter as she watches the moon rise over Casco Bay.

For the past seven years Mrs. Wilber has been a member of Loners on Wheels, a national club for single people who have recreational vehicles (RVs) in their driveways and wanderlust in their hearts. Once a month she backs her rig out of her Kingston, N.Y., yard and takes off for a weekend campout with other members of the Yankee LoWs chapter.

While she waits for friends from Massachusetts and Connecticut to pull into Indian Ranch campground here, she's been fixing a meat loaf for the traditional Saturday night potluck supper and riding her bicycle around the pine grove sites to check out the license plates on other motor homes and vans.

''It was pretty quiet last night and I ended up reading a book in my van,'' Mrs. Wilber says, ''but tonight when everyone arrives it'll be nice to have some other people to talk to. Most of the people in parks like this are married couples or families, and they're a little slow about asking a single woman to join them.''

Friends to talk with, to share pictures of grandchildren with, to go sightseeing with - that's the sort of good company Loners on Wheels share. The majority of the organization's 3,000 members from 50 states and four Canadian provinces are divorced or widowed women who've discovered an alternative life style for the older single person on the go. They travel the roads in motor homes and vans, in station wagons and converted bread trucks, in school buses and Volkswagens with tents strapped to the luggage roof.

A monthly newsletter keeps members informed of forthcoming caravans and campouts and also provides practical tips on tires and camping equipment from the ''Shade Tree Mechanic.'' Comments from members of such diverse chapters as the Arizona PuebLoWs and Idaho SpudLoWs often add a pithy note to the running commentary: ''I would like to mention that I sent for the $3 directory from Carlsbad, and it is the poorest excuse for a directory I have ever seen!''

LoW members are quick to point out that theirs is not a lonely-hearts club, not a marriage bureau, not a dating agency. In fact, they say, a man and woman seen sharing a rig are immediately dropped from membership.

Although she's always enjoyed being outdoors, Mrs. Wilber says that before joining LoWs, she had never done any camping. ''The thought of snakes and of cold, damp, rainy weather didn't send me,'' she recalls. ''But when I realized I had 107,000 miles on my old station wagon, and that a van wouldn't cost a whole lot more to own or operate, camping began to appeal to me.''

Now, like several other LoWs she knows, Mrs. Wilber plans to become a full-time ''snowbird'' when she retires in a few more years. ''I think I'd like a base somewhere, a room where I could store personal things, but otherwise I want to be on the road,'' she says. ''I'll just go home to spend the holidays with my children and grandchildren.''

Some Yankee LoW members like Elizabeth Bell, who retired from teaching four years ago, look forward to spending the holidays together. Next year Miss Bell will be on the road for 10 months, stopping first on her cross-continent drive to see the Olympics, where she'll dock her 18-foot motor home in the driveway of a Los Angeles LoW. Then it's on to the ''Slabs,'' a former military installation in southern California, where she'll spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with an estimated 150 LoW friends.

''I've belonged to other trailer clubs in the past,'' Miss Bell notes, ''but this is the first I've really felt comfortable with. This is the only group for single people, and because we all share the same life style, we really have a lot to talk about when we do get together. Pulling into a New York rally and seeing someone you met at a campout in Florida is like finding a long-lost relative!''

For more information, contact Loners on Wheels Inc., LoWzark, Route 2, Box 85 , Ellsinore, Mo. 63937.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.