Throw a dart at a map of America. Somewhere, Bob Griffitts (’72) is driving down the highway in his red Chevy, pulling a camper behind him. His dog, Lucky, is sitting in the seat beside him.
Many Baylor alumni have met Bob over the years, and most of those people have stories to tell about him. While a student in the early 70s, Bob played on a few legendary basketball teams and was also known as a prankster on and off campus. Since graduating, Bob has lived an eclectic life with its share of ups and downs.
Unfortunately, the previous decade was mostly downs.
“I went through a divorce and lost everything like ten years ago,” Bob said. “I had a heart attack. It was a stress heart attack. I got my house foreclosed. I lost every bit of money I had. And I went through a depression for a year. Clinical depression. And then I came out of that luckily and I realized, wow, I don’t have to answer to anybody. I don’t have to do anything.”
He started thinking of how to start over. More importantly, he began reﬂecting on what he truly wanted in life. His slate was completely clean. He had nothing tying him down. No commitments. No payments. So he set out for a life on the road, living out of a tiny camper with minimal comforts. He took his dog, Lucky, along for the ride. He found a few websites that helped him plug in to short-term work opportunities at state and national parks. He started from Waco and has been to Minnesota, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Virginia, New Jersey, Florida, Georgia, and New Mexico.
“When I first decided to do this, people said, ‘Aren’t you going to be lonely?’ I said, ‘Look, for 30 years I’ve been a member of this support group that’s all over the United States.’ And I said, ‘I will have friends everywhere I go.’” Support groups have been an important part of Bob’s life for over thirty years. Now, he counts it a great privilege to help others on their road to recovery.
He considers himself a mentor figure to others who may be just now picking up the pieces.
So as he goes from place to place, he is also able to stop in to groups and connect with others who may need someone to talk to. Everywhere he goes, he tries to build relationships with the people he meets, whether in a recovery meeting or under the stars in a campground.
At the different parks, Bob has noticed a few surprising trends. There’s an entire subculture of people who wander the states going from park to park, just like him. They’ll work for a few weeks, and move on to the next gig. Jobs are posted online, and most of them are first come first serve. Often, the parks require a 20 hour work week, and their payment structures vary. “There’s a lot of Millennials out there,” Bob said. “They are buying trailers, RV’s because they don’t know where they’re going to end up working. So you run into a lot of right out of college people, a lot of older retired people, and a lot of teachers do it in the summer.”
Not every work opportunity turns out exactly as expected. Recently on a job north of Albuquerque, Bob found out that he would be serving as the night watchman for a medicinal marijuana farm between two Indian reservations. He had heard stories about cartels making inroads through the area, but didn’t think it would impact him. He worked for around two weeks, and then one morning someone fired a gun at him as a warning shot. He considered that the end of his commitment, packed his truck, and hit the pavement.
On the road, Bob does his best to stay up to date with everything going on at Baylor, especially the basketball team. “Baylor was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Bob said. When he comes into town, he gathers with a group of former athletes at George’s to catch up and share his adventures from the road. “I’ve stayed in a million-dollar mansion, and I’ve stayed in Walmart parking lots,” Bob said. “I never know. I never know, you know? I’ve decided I’m just going to do this until I get tired of it, and I don’t see me getting tired of it any time soon. It’s total freedom.”
Bob is currently working in Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. To reach out to him, you can email at firstname.lastname@example.org.