It’s quite difficult to put into words how much we adore the Ayers. This couple, whose love story should be written into a movie as the ultimate meet-cute, have life dialed in. Both former airline pilots with a lust for adventure, they found their way to each other later in life and have been traveling the world in two (yes two!) RVs since 2016.
From California to Florida, across Canada and throughout Europe, Sally and Paul are enjoying retirement on a level most of us have only dreamed of. Did we mention they live on their sailboat when they’re not RVing all over the world? Coolest, couple, ever. To learn about this inspiring duo’s beautiful life, their RV adventures, how they adapted after Covid re-routed a 2020 European adventure, where they plan to head this fall (yes, Oz is on that list), their tips for newbie RVers and so much more, enjoy the interview below.
La Mesa RV: Tell us about yourselves! What did you do for a living before you retired? How did you two meet?
Sally Ayer: My husband and I are both retired captains from American Airlines. Paul flew for 34 years and seven airlines prior to retiring. I flew for 27 years and three airlines.
Paul worked in sales for Carnation & Sunshine Biscuit prior to flying. I taught elementary school and was a flight attendant for Air Cal. Unbeknownst to us at the time, we both learned to fly in 1978 and then flew cargo prior to being hired at Air Cal, a small Southern California Airline. Paul started in 1980 and I began in 1984. Then American Airlines bought Air Cal in 1986. Paul loves to tell the story of our meeting so I’ll let him share.
Paul Ayer: We met in 1985 at Air Cal when Sally was my co-pilot on a three-day trip. We didn’t see each other again until 2013. Both widowed, I reached out to a mutual friend to contact Sally. On our first date, I took her sailing on my sailboat. We dated for one year and were married exactly one year later in 2014. Right after our wedding, we sailed away and honeymooned on that very same sailboat. Four years later we moved on to the sailboat!
LMRV: Where are you up to currently?
SA: We are missing our Europe van! We purchased a Tellaro in August 2020, and have traveled 9,000 miles so far through California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Texas, and Louisiana. It’s currently stored in New Orleans for a month while we take care of business and enjoy staying on our live-aboard sailboat in California. We will be returning to the road shortly to travel along the Gulf Coast, East Coast, Southern Canada, and back down the West Coast. We hope to return to our Europe van in the fall.
LMRV: What made you decide to turn to the RV lifestyle? How long have you been RVing?
SA: We fell in love with van life as it suited our pilot hearts for traveling! When we bought Flybye in 2016, we were just going to travel through California but that trip quickly turned into traveling the U.S. and Canada. We shipped Flybye to Europe in 2018, leased our house and moved onto our Sailboat. Covid-19 shut down our European adventure in 2020 and we decided that traveling in Flyaway throughout the U.S. was the perfect complement to living on our sailboat in California.
LMRV: Which RVs have you owned? Tell us about how each served the purpose for that stage of your lives.
SA: We have owned the Plateau sprinter van by Pleasure Way and a Tellaro Dodge Ram by Thor. We’re retired and want to travel, so the Plateau was perfect for us to roam the States, Canada, and Europe from 2016 to 2019. Our Tellaro was a Godsend in 2020, as it has allowed us to safely travel during the Pandemic. We plan on continuing to travel in both vans until we’ve seen the world!
LMRV: What are the best trips you’ve taken in each?
SA: We love the ocean so our favorite trips are along the coastlines. One of our favorite routes in Flybye was an extensive trip. We traveled from Dana Point, CA on Route 66 to Lawton, OK. We then went down to Port Arthur, along the Gulf of Mexico, and down to Key West. From Key West, we drove up the East Coast and continued through all nine Canadian Provinces, then back down the West Coast and finished at our starting point in California.
Another stand-out trip was from Dover, England to Calais, France, and then along the coast of Spain up to Granada, Córdoba and Sevilla, Morrocco, Portugal, Andorra, then back to Barcelona.
In Flyaway, we have really enjoyed traveling through the California desert, southern Arizona, New Mexico, and all along the Texas Gulf.
LMRV: Can you tell us a little about your experience buying from La Mesa RV, twice?
SA: We bought Flybye at La Mesa RV in Davis, CA in 2016. It needed some work, which LMRV gladly completed!
We then bought Flyaway at La Mesa RV in San Diego, CA in 2020 and were treated with excellent care as well, which included easy follow-up on some warranty items. We continue to be pleased with all aspects of La Mesa RV!
LMRV: I see that you shipped your Sprinter van to Europe and that because of Covid-19, you’re currently traveling the states. Could you tell us more about your original plan, how it changed and what you’re up to now?
SA: We loved RVing so much that we leased our house, moved on to our sailboat and shipped our RV from Baltimore, Maryland to Southampton, England in 2018. Our plan was to travel by van through all of Europe. We had traveled six European countries before Covid hit. We then decided to store our RV in Barcelona, not knowing when Europe would open to Americans again.
We came back to the states and purchased our Thor Tellaro in August 2020 from La Mesa RV, and have enjoyed traveling 9,000 miles so far. We are really appreciating traveling slowly this second time around the U.S.
We stored our RV in New Orleans last month while we take care of some business and enjoy living on our sailboat in California. We’ll be flying back to New Orleans shortly to continue RVing thru the U.S. & Canada. We hope to return to Europe in the fall of 2021 and continue our trip. Our plan is to RV all of Europe, then Australia and New Zealand. We are also planning to sail the Mediterranean. Our liveaboard sailboat will continue to serve as a home base. We’re hooked on van life and sailboat life and have no plans to ever leave them!
LMRV: What are your 5-10 tips and tricks for newbie RVers of any age?
1. Be flexible.
2. Keep it simple.
3. Plan ahead.
4. Expect problems.
5. Be prepared. Always check the weather, roads, etc.
6. Have backup plans.
7. Don’t rush.
8. Know your RV’s limits and your own limits.
9. Utilize Apps. When RVing in the US, we like Google Maps & Weather, Gas Buddy & Roadtrippers, Allstays, and Oh, Ranger.
10. Make it fun! When things go sideways (and they will) we always say “ well, we wanted an adventure” and that gets us through! But these 10 things will help to avoid too much sideways.
LMRV: Where is one or a few (because it’s so hard to pick just one) of your favorite places you’ve RVed to date?
SA: While we love the U.S. and Canada, our favorite places to RV are in Europe. We fell in love with Sintra, Portugal. This delightful coastline village of cobblestone streets and narrow staircases is located below the magical 1838 Palace of Pena & Castle of The Moors. You can take a Tuk Tuk as we did or hike the one and a half mile trail through the exotic parks and gardens planted by King Ferdinand ll. The views are simply exquisite from the village or up above. Sintra is a UNESCO Cultural Landscape World Heritage Site. For us, it will always be an unforgettable memory of pure magic and a place we want to return to again and again.
LMRV: What is your favorite aspect of RVing?
SA: We actually love everything about RVing. Our favorite aspect is traveling the beautiful world together in our own cozy home with everything we could need or want. RVing has many similarities to our flying careers. We get up every day and get to go to new places, see new things, and meet new people.
LMRV: Anything we missed? Please feel free to share at this time.
SA: Thank you so much to LMRV for our wonderful vans that are taking us all over the world safely and comfortably! And thank you for the opportunity to share our story. Happy trails everyone!
Looking for more inspiring RVers? Check out our Explorer Spotlight series by clicking here. If you’re an avid RVer, we’d love to hear from you. Leave us a comment in the section below for a chance to have your RV story featured on our blog and Instagram.