Edward “Bud” Ingraham was serving as a U.S. Army intelligence officer stationed in Nuremberg, Germany when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. During the time he and his wife Bethany spent in Europe, they developed a taste for travel. But in 1992, at the age of 32, doctors diagnosed Bud with myotonic dystrophy and the army discharged him.
The couple settled in Hebron, Kentucky, about 30 miles west of Cincinnati. Bud went back to school and earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science and then took a job as a systems analyst for a bank as the couple raised their two children. He would be exhausted when he arrived home from work and often fell asleep in his chair after dinner, but he managed to get through the day and his disease remained largely in check.
But after a serious bout of food poisoning in 2006 that landed him in an intensive care unit for two days, things changed. He began a noticeable decline. Bethany remembers a family trip to San Francisco where Bud struggled with pain in his legs and throughout his body. The couple had long planned to travel extensively once the kids were grown and out of the house, but Bethany realized that this would probably be the last “crazy trip” they would take. By 2009, Bud would be on disability and Bethany, a clinical research nurse, would be the breadwinner.
A New Way to Travel
It was when Bethany was helping move her youngest son to Arizona three years ago that she had an idea. As she traveled across the country she noticed several RVs on the road. If she could somehow manage to drive one of those hulking vehicles, perhaps she and Bud could travel as they had planned.
When she returned home she visited a local RV dealership and took a test drive to see if she could handle one of the vehicles. Bud’s vision has weakened to the point where he was no longer able to drive, so she would have to be the one behind the wheel. “It was a little scary,” she said. “It’s a big piece of equipment.”
Nevertheless, she’s learned to relax in the driver’s seat and the couple has since traded up from their first RV, a 28-footer, to a 32-foot RV with all the comforts of home. It’s got a king size bed, bathroom with a shower, couch, reclining chair, table that seats four, and three television sets. When the couple travels, she tows her small SUV for local trips. A newly added lift system makes it easier for Bud to get in and out with his wheelchair.
Bethany didn’t offer a price tag for the RV but laughs that it cost more than their first house. The RV website lists the Ingraham’s RV model at a base price of $128,200.
In two years of RV ownership, the couple has traveled about 20,000 miles. While they’ve taken longer trips, such as one to Orlando, Florida at Christmastime to visit Bud’s brother, they try to take shorter, weekend trips because Bethany still works and has limited vacation time. From April through November, she said, they try to take at least one trip a month. “Our philosophy is that if we own this, we’ve got to go,” Bethany said.
Ready to Roam
As loyal baseball fans—Bethany roots for the Cincinnati Reds and Bud cheers for the Boston Red Sox—they like to make their way to ballparks around the country. In addition to seeing the Indians in Cleveland and the Reds in Cincinnati, they’ve been to Fenway Park in Boston, Miller Park in Milwaukee where the Brewers play, and Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh to see the Pirates.
They’re now planning a trip to see the Detroit Tigers and will head up to Canada to watch the Toronto Blue Jays. In his younger day, Bud played hockey. While in Toronto, they will also make a stop at the Hockey Hall of Fame, as well as tour the Canadian countryside.
For weekend trips, they like to travel the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and visit distilleries in the region. Bethany admits that because of his condition, Bud shouldn’t drink, but he does like to sample the bourbon on these trips.
The RV has allowed the couple to fulfill their dreams of travel. It gets Bud out of the house, has picked up his spirits, and been liberating for the two of them. And it will allow them to visit their sons in Arizona and Alabama.
Though Bethany hopes to travel more when she retires, she sometimes has to drive long distances as part of her job. When she passes RVs on the road, she looks at them longingly.
“I love it. I absolutely love it,” she says. “I drive to Louisville for work sometimes and I see the RVs on the road, and I am jealous because I cannot get in my RV and go. When I retire, they may never see me at home again because I’ll be traveling all the time.”