Tomeka and Roberson Brown have lived for the past month in their 45-foot Provost Liberty Coach motor home, which they’ve parked at the Chehaw Park campground in Albany. Both worked at Albany State University before retiring to the road. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)
ALBANY — That Roberson Brown is living his dream is a given.
But the former city of Miami police officer and Albany State University police chief is quick to point out that his Jack Kerouac “On the Road” idyll is not the product of happenstance. Brown and Tomeka, his “God-sent, most beautiful woman in the world” wife of three years, are living out their fantasy life because they prepared for it.
“We’re living proof that there’s life after work,” Brown said as he and Tomeka welcomed a guest to their 45-foot Provost Liberty Coach, settled in for the past month or so at Albany’s Chehaw Park. “No one plans to fail in this life, but a lot of people fail to plan.
“This is something I’ve been working to make happen for years. It started more than 20 years ago when I owned a car-cleaning business in Miami. One day this guy brought his motor home in to be washed, and I was fascinated. I started learning everything I could about them, from how they were built to the best models on the market. Owning one became part of my master plan.”
Brown bought his Provost Liberty Coach (cost brand new: $2.8 million) in 2009 after finding it online. He made a trip to Buffalo, N.Y., in hopes that this would be the answer to his dreams after similar unsuccessful trips to check out motor homes in Texas, California and Tampa in the Sunshine State.
“When I got there, it was covered in dust and dirt and my first reaction was that I’d wasted another trip,” Brown said. “But when I stepped inside, I fell in love. It was immaculate, beautiful. And it turned out the outside was in just as good a shape. It just needed washing.
“A week later I bought a one-way ticket to Buffalo and drove it back to Albany.”
But Brown’s master plan had one vital missing piece.
“My friends and family knew that when I retired, I wanted to take my motor home and travel extensively,” the former lawman said. “But they kept asking me, ‘Are you going to go by yourself?’ I told them God would send me someone to share my dream with.”
It turns out Tomeka, whom met Brown while she was working as an administrative assistant to ASU’s vice president for student affairs, was that missing piece.
“I was a military brat, so we traveled all over the place when I was young,” Tomeka Brown said. “When we came to Albany, my father was disabled, so we settled here. When I had my two sons, my schedule didn’t really allow for a whole lot of travel. I’d dreamed of one day traveling extensively, but I put that dream on hold. I figured maybe when I got older, when the kids were grown, I’d get a chance to live my dream then.”
But fate put the Browns together. They built a home in North Carolina and enrolled Tomeka’s sons in a year-round school that had three-week breaks every eight weeks.
“We took the boys (Robert, now 14, and Brandon, 11) with us on trips to Atlantic City, New York, Miami, Pigeon Forge, Washington. They were very educational trips,” Tomeka said. “When Robie and I started talking about taking some longer trips, the boys’ father said they could stay with him while we were traveling. We just reversed things.”
The Browns came back to Albany a little over a month ago, settling in at Chehaw so that Robie could be in town for the birth of his first grandchild. His son Rodney Brown, an officer with the Albany Police Department, is expecting his first child any day now. Their return came on the heels of a two-month-plus cross-country trip.
“We spent time in Memphis, in New Mexico, Las Vegas, in L.A., where my younger son Trevor lives,” Brown said. “We saw the Grand Canyon, the Hoover Dam … just about anything that got our attention. We knew we wouldn’t be able to make this kind of trip in three weeks, so we waited until Robert and Brandon were with their dad to plan it.”
The Browns take a visitor on a tour of their Liberty Coach, which has every necessity and luxury imaginable: a washer/dryer combo, satellite TV, microwave over, surround-sound stereo system, telephone and computer service, an outside barbecue, a shower and bath, a king-size master bed, self-contained water storage, a double-refrigerator, inside garbage disposal.
“There are central and over-road heating and air conditioning units,” Brown says. “They can run continuously for a month and a half before I have to fill up again. With a 350-gallon tank, it costs about $1,200 to fill up with diesel fuel, but I can drive more than 3,000 miles on a tank.”
At a young 60 — “I’m the new 40” — and 39, respectively, Roberson and Tomeka Brown say they can’t imagine tiring of the adventurous lifestyle they’ve chosen, which includes a planned three-month trip to Italy in February.
“That’s one of the beautiful things about RV living: There’s no age limit,” Brown said. “Our plan is to sell the house we built in North Carolina and the rental property I own here and in Miami. We want to liquidate our assets and just live out our dream. Maybe when we get older we’ll settle down, but I can see us doing this full-time for the next 20 years.”
Adds Tomeka: “I love the freedom that this lifestyle gives us. We’re having a ball … and we’re just getting started.”
As the Browns show off their motor home, they regale their visitor with tales from the road: a stay on a 300,000-acre ranch in Wyoming that included a luxurious natural hot spring (“The first black people who’d ever been on that land.”) … “walking out with enough money for a fill-up” from a Vegas casino … taking the kids to historic sites in the nation’s capital.
It soon becomes apparent they’re one of the rare couples that has taken life by the horns and tamed it.
“When we’re traveling, I’ll check out the crime statistics in the places we’re going,” Roberson Brown says. “When you’ve been in law enforcement for 31 years, it stays with you. I have a concealed firearm permit as a last resort, and Tomeka has learned to shoot.
“We keep up with things by reading The Albany Herald and The Miami Herald online every day, and we’ll check out local TV broadcasts online. Other than that, we just do the things that we want to do. There’s a lot of world out there to be seen, a whole lot left to do.”
As the visitor prepares to leave, he can’t help but notice a tag that Brown displays on the outside of his Liberty Coach when he’s feeling like making a statement. The tag says: “No Worry, No Hurry, No Phone, No Boss … Retired.”