Cambrian: Opinion

John Brannon: Hi-ho the derry-o, a ’wandering we shall go

Mary Sullivan and Jerry Shea and, in basket, Chanti, prepare to take their pods out into the universe.
Mary Sullivan and Jerry Shea and, in basket, Chanti, prepare to take their pods out into the universe. COURTESY PHOTO

Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe.

— Anatole France

All things change over time. Today’s offering is the story of two hard-working individuals who have worked in various kinds of businesses and could almost be called “perpetual motion-machines.”

Mary Sullivan had been a registered nurse for 16 years and a lawyer for 30 years. After his time in the Navy, Jerry Shea, Mary’s husband, worked at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica for 17 years. Utilizing his experience as a photographer, he became a biomedical photographer in the vascular department at the hospital. In time he owned his own film production company.

The couple left Playa del Rey, moved to Cambria in 1999 and entered the real estate business. They owned a coffee shop in the West Village for a time: when the shop was sold later, they looked at each other and pondered — what now?

They decided to travel for the rest of their lives — or at least to review their situation every five years. They bought a huge motor home in 2006 and have now put their house up for sale. The motor home is over 400 square feet square: 12 feet wide and 40 feet long. This is quite a decision for a couple in their late 60s.

Their first journey was to Boston and the East coast in 2007. With the recent increase in earthquakes, Jerry has come up with an explanation for the tremors. “I think the world is growing smaller — shrinking. For instance, on our way to Alaska in 2009, we stopped in Banff, Canada, to look around. When we returned to the motor home we found a note on our windshield from fellow Cambrian Dr. Steve Brody. We didn’t connect with him, but it was a remarkable surprise.

“Continuing on to Fairbanks, Alaska, a fellow on a bicycle noticed a label on a bottle of drinking water attached to my bike. ‘I see that you have been to the Cambria Bicycle Outfitters in Cambria, California. I was there a few weeks ago.’ It was Matthew Blake, the young Englishman who is riding his bike around the world. You wrote about last July, John.” Smaller, I guess!

Jerry and Mary will be purchasing a parking space and a casita (small cottage) at the new Paso Robles Motor Coach Resort; it will be a home base for the couple, as required by law. During inclement weather, they will spend time at the resort and be with their children during the holidays.

For their trip to Alaska, Jerry and Mary created a website to keep in touch with friends and provide information for interested people. They experienced about 7,000 hits from people all over the world, including the Middle East, Germany, Switzerland and many other locales. The site is

Even though the huge coach gets only 7 or 8 miles per gallon, “We aren’t driving all the time; we plan to stay at locations along any route we take for weeks or months at a time. If we need to rent a car, Enterprise Rentals has weekend specials for $9 a day — that’s a lot better than hauling a car behind the coach.”

Jerry and Mary met their deadline for departing by Tuesday, April 20. They faced chores almost beyond comprehension. The home needed to be in condition for potential buyers; rather than put years of gifts in a garage sale, they were returned to those who provided them originally. Deciding what to keep and what to throw away was a monumental task. Some items will be used at their casita in Paso Robles.

In concluding our interview a few days before, Jerry shared his secret to happiness: “Communication … if they can’t be straight with each other, two people in a motor coach might kill each other.”

E-mail John Brannon at