For Wayne and Tru Chase, home truly is where the heart is.
The couple will celebrate 42 years of marriage in October and have literally been all over the country together. Their latest stop is the Roughrider Campground west of Minot, where the Chases have parked their welled-traveled fifth-wheel and are also camp hosts.
The relationship started back in their home state of Iowa, where Tru was waitressing in a truck stop the night they met.
Dan Feldner/MDN • Tru and Wayne Chase stand by the fifth-wheel they have taken all over the country. A map behind the couple shows the states they have visited, most of which are located in the western half of the United States because of th
They both also happened to work at GTE, and after many decades and several promotions that landed them in the telephone company's Irving, Texas headquarters, Wayne and Tru were ready to move on with the next phase of their life together and get back to their country roots.
"For one thing we wanted to get out of the Dallas/Ft. Worth area because we wanted to get back to the country instead of being in the big city," Tru said.
After selling their home, the couple rented another one in the suburbs for a year and a half while looking for the perfect spot for their retirement years.
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"I don't know how many thousands of miles we put on our vehicle trying to find the right place out in the country," Wayne said. "We finally found it, and just fell in love with it."
What they found was a log home nestled on 35 acres of timberland in northeast Texas with two ponds, barns, sheds and plenty of trees.
"It was 13 miles to the nearest downtown, which was the little town of Mount Vernon," Wayne said. "And that really didn't have a whole lot going for it."
One of Tru's dreams while at GTE was to own her own antique or vintage store, and she got her wish in the form of a mall where she had some booth space along with many other dealers.
"I worked there twice a week. In fact, we ended up both working in this store twice a week," Tru said. "And then I started keeping track of all the sales and that in there."
"We set up a computer program to track everybody's (sales) because there were 30 people that had booths in there, give or take," Wayne said. "And it was kind of hard to keep track of."
"They were doing it all in a book," Tru said.
"Oh, it was ridiculous," Wayne added. "We put it all on a spreadsheet and set it up."
The Chases got to know the owners of the mall, and after a bad automobile accident kept the owners from working for close to a year, Wayne and Tru took over the day-to-day operations for them during that time.
Tru also became involved with the local downtown business association, as well as the Chamber. She even did the Chamber's books for a time and ran its office.
When the subject of how they came to trade their 35 acres of quiet country living in for a life on the road, Tru laughs as Wayne explains it was her fault, not his.
"She heard me complain about getting tired of all the work outside. There was 35 acres, but four of it we had to maintain. The rest of it was timber," Wayne said. "I was sitting at my desk on the Internet one day and she walks in and said why don't we just sell everything, buy an RV and hit the road?"
Wayne didn't say anything, but picked up the phone and the next day a Realtor was at the house. It was a week before Thanksgiving in 2005, and Wayne figured they might have a chance of selling by the spring of 2006.
"He left with the paperwork and that night he called me and said there will be another Realtor coming out the next morning with some people from Schaumburg, Illinois wanting to move out here because they have kids in the area," Wayne said.
About four hours after the couple arrived the next morning, Wayne had a verbal agreement with them to sell the house. Tru was in town, and hadn't even met them when the deal was made.
"She called later that afternoon and said what's going on, and I said I sold the place," Wayne said with a laugh. "She didn't believe me."
The couple didn't want to close until February because they were still busy selling their old home in Illinois. The Chases were thankful for this because they didn't yet have an RV or a truck to pull it, and still had an entire home's worth of items to sell.
Once the home was taken care of and they got an RV and a semi to pull it, the Chases were in business. To help save on expenses and generate some additional income, they became involved with a work camping website that helped match them with sites that needed camp hosts. They got a place to park their RV and the campsite got workers to help with day-to-day operations.
In the years since they started this little adventure, the couple has been to much of the Western and Midwest Unites States in between work camping stops. They started out in Canton, Texas, then went to Branson, Mo., which Wayne called a hoot. From there went south again to Burnet, Texas.
They were then contacted about coming to the Roughrider Campground by owner Lonnie Ballweg for the 2010 season. At the time they were still in Texas, and were a little hesitant to come because the drive would be 1,500 miles.
However, Tru's mother is from Glen Ullin and they were having a family reunion that summer in Mandan. The opportunity to see her family was too much to pass up.
"Wherever else we would have been working in this country, we wouldn't have got to go. So we told Lonnie there would be one condition for us to come up," Wayne said. "We would have those three days off to go down to her family reunion, and he said it was not a problem. And in fact he even let us take one of their cars instead of driving my big semi down there."
That summer it was just Wayne, Tru, Lonnie Ballweg and his wife Danielle who ran the campground. While business was good, there were several other campgrounds in the area so Roughrider Campground was never bursting at the seams. The Souris River flood of 2011, however, changed that, and made their second season in Minot pretty short lived. They came back again in 2012, and found no shortage of work as many other neighboring campgrounds were forced out of business.
"He has just been swamped here," Wayne said. "I mean they are just full every night."
There is another host couple in addition to the Chases to help out, and Wayne has been able to put some of his past work experience to good use. Along with his time as a reserve police officer and drive-in theater manager, Wayne also co-owned a locksmith business. This came in handy during the campground's flood recovery when all the locks had to be replaced.
"I've still got some of my lock equipment. In fact I've rekeyed all the locks here. (Lonnie) had to buy all-new locks for all the doors and we got down to one key," Wayne said. "When we came in here we had a wad of keys that was a mile around because every door had its own key. And now we're down to one key pretty much fits everything."
While they have enjoyed their life on the road, that will be coming to an end in the near future. The Chases are leaving Minot in October to make the journey back to Texas, where Tru wants to settle down in a home again to be closer to family now that grandkids are part of the equation. Along the way they will spend a few weeks in Grinnell, Iowa, to visit Tru's sister.
"I told Lonnie I'd still come back up here, but she won't. He said well if I get in trouble can I fly you up for a week?" Wayne said with a laugh. "I said yes."
"Now that we've got three little grandkids, I want the opportunity to spend time with them and impart our wisdom to them," True said with a laugh.
"Not that they'll listen," Wayne added.
Wayne and Tru have enjoyed spending their last few summers in Minot, and will be taking many fond memories with them back to Texas.
"I really like it here - in the summer. I wouldn't want to be in the winter," Wayne said. "Iowa's got bad winters, but this is ridiculous up here."
"But you couldn't ask for better weather here in the summer," Tru said.
"And for such a small community, Minot's really got a lot of stuff going for it," she added.