Case 1: Rhythms of the Road Chapter 4: The Swap

Chapter 4: The Swap

Early the next morning, Bob was outside enjoying his first cup of coffee.  He was stirred from his reverie when Jack Erskine walked up and took the other lounge chair.

“Coffee, Colonel?”

“Yes, thank you, Phitz.”

“I cannot tell you how much I appreciate you guys stopping by yesterday afternoon.  I appreciate Mr. Wilson’s comments, but I was just doing my part. It seemed the least I could do in light of all those men and women who were putting their lives on the line every day.”

“Well, everyone had to do their part and I’m certainly glad you found your niche.  It was a great help.”

“Thanks again. Elaine and I have really enjoyed the motor home.”

“Speaking of your RV,” said Erskine.  “That’s why I’m bothering you at this early hour.  I’ve been asked to serve as Chairman of the Phantom Phlyers bunch for another term and the guys were talking late into the night.  We were inspired by your Road Trip to visit some of the Bases.  We came to the conclusion that there are many stories of Phantom pilots and crew worth preserving.  We fear that all memories of Vietnam are fading from the national consciousness.  There was much animosity when many of us returned home and we believe people don’t appreciate the sacrifices that were made.  So, the group asked me to initiate a program to capture and document as many personal stories as possible while many of us are still alive.  DOD offered to establish some sort of web-site where individuals from every Service Branch can record their stories. They will also work to incorporate these stories into the larger Vietnam Memorial setting.  It will serve as a central repository, but we fear many may not use it.  I stole an idea from your Playbook and offered to travel around and visit as many Bases and VA locations as possible to personally interview veterans.”

“That sounds like a great idea, Colonel.  Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Now that you mention it, Phitz, I want to make you an offer you can’t or shouldn’t refuse.  I propose a swap, your RV Motor home for my garden home here in Tucson.  That way, you and Elaine could settle down and I could drive the RV around and fulfill what I see as my most important mission. I mean, it’s already painted the appropriate colors and the Spook decal is unmistakable.”

“Wow, Colonel.  I don’t know.  As it happens, Elaine and I have been talking about settling in one place and getting involved in the community.  But this is kinda sudden.  You know I’ll have to discuss this with her.  You better tell me more about this garden home of yours.”

“Sure.  It’s in one of those Active Adult Communities. You know, folks 55 and older, so no little kids running around.  I’ve met a majority of the current Residents and all seem pretty nice; some veterans, a few Snow Birds, mostly professional people, mainly retired or working part-time or doing volunteer work. There are all the standard amenities for this type of community; club house, pool, golf course, tennis courts, you name it.   My unit is two bedrooms and a separate casita, about 1,800 square feet total; just the right size.”

“You really think it would be an even swap?  My Boeing pension and our life savings couldn’t afford taking on a huge mortgage.  Are there some sort of Association or Home Owner fees?”

“Look, Phitz, I feel strongly about this new Mission and I will make it work for you financially, assuming the basic idea appeals to you and Elaine.”

“OK, I’ll talk it over with Elaine today and get back to you.  By the way, does this community have a name?”

“Sure.  It’s called Copper Legacy Estates in honor of the significant role copper mining played in Arizona’s colorful history.  And, it’s really not that far from here. I’d be happy to show you both around.  I’ll get out of your hair and give you guys time to talk this over.  Just send me a text message when you’re ready to talk and I’ll come over.  And, thanks for the coffee.”


Bob relit the camp stove and prepared to boil water to make some more coffee.  Elaine stepped out of the RV and stood next to him.  “Let’s do it, Bob.”

’What? Were you listening?  The bedroom window was right above where Erskine and I were talking and I presume you overheard his proposal.”

“Well, I couldn’t help it.  I was awake and heard Erskine when he first came up.”

“Really? Do you think it’s the right thing for us to do?”

“We probably would have stayed at La Vida Aureo in Albuquerque, but the financial aspects just weren’t right.  I think we should pursue this.  Let’s see what Erskine proposes as the conditions of this so-called swap and we should accept his invitation to go look at his garden home.  I don’t think I’m overreacting to the harrowing experience we had driving here, but it may be time to get off the road and settle.”

“I’ve often thought about other things I’d like to do while I’m still able, maybe a part-time job, or some meaningful volunteer work, you know.  Tucson sounds like it could be the opportunity we’ve been looking for. And, the weather is much better than St. Louis!”

“OK, call Erskine and let’s see what he has to offer.”

“Can we have breakfast first?”


Things moved quickly over the next three days.  Bob and Elaine were suitably impressed with Erskine’s garden home and the total environment of Copper Legacy Estates. As they walked around, they met several Residents who were friendly and spoke highly of the community.  The financial arrangement Erskine proposed was also quite generous.  There was a difference of about $50,000 between the value of the RV and the garden home and Erskine offered to accept a promissory note with reasonable terms.  When Elaine gave Erskine an extended tour of the RV, he was excited and eager to finalize the arrangements.

The three of them met at Erskine’s lawyer’s office to sign the appropriate documents and the respective Titles were recorded with Pima County the next day.

That evening, Erskine and the other three members of the Phantom Phlyers Steering Committee showed up at the Fitzsimmons’ RV Site to celebrate.  Bill Douglas spoke for the group.  “Thank you again, Phitz, for making this possible.  We’ve talked about a Mission like this for some time and we knew time was running out.  I know Erskine will keep you informed of his progress and his travels. He may even draft you into service to help him with his writing and documentation.”

“It all has happened so quickly, but I am confident we’re doing the right thing.”

“I agree with Bob and it was certainly a pleasure meeting all of you gentlemen.  I guess in the morning, we’ll drive over to Copper Empire Estates and begin our new lives.  I am excited about everything and all the adventures the future holds for Bob and me.”


Early the next morning, Bob Fitzsimmons gave the keys to the RV to Jack Erskine and showed him where he kept the Operating Manuals and service records.  It only took a few minutes to explain the various utility and safety systems and Erskine quickly grasped things.  “Certainly not as complicated as a Phantom, is it?”

Bob and Elaine got into their Kia Soul and drove out of Catalina State Park.  It was a short drive to Copper Legacy Estates and they were eager to start their new lives. “I don’t know exactly what lies ahead, Elaine, but I’m sure it won’t be as exciting or terrifying as dealing with the Dangerous Dodge Duo.”

“I’m sure you’re right.”

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