On the road of life, this pandemic-era Lebanon High grad is driving an RV

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    Trevor Geno, a 2020 Lebanon High School graduate, is parked with his 1987 Gulf Stream Classic at the West Lebanon, N.H., Walmart on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021, while visiting friends and family before a trip to Minnesota. Geno found the RV through a Facebook Marketplace ad. "It said FREE, in all caps," he said, and he has made it a project to renovate the RV while making money driving for DoorDash. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — James M. Patterson

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    Trevor Geno, a 2020 Lebanon High School graduate, had enrolled at Vermont Technical College to study mechanical engineering, but the pandemic forced classes online and he found he was not getting the hands-on experience he hoped for. He left college and moved to Massachusetts, where he became a mechanic at a Hyundai dealership. "When VTC fell through, I was looking for a different kind of life," he said while parked at the West Lebanon, N.H., Walmart on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021. After a week of visiting family and friends, he will travel to Minnesota to work on an alpaca farm through the winter and continue to renovate his RV. "Opportunities have just been landing in my lap, and I just take them." (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — James M. Patterson

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    "Everything I own is in this vehicle," said Trevor Geno, a 2020 Lebanon High School graduate, of his RV in West Lebanon, N.H., on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021. "I can sustain my whole lifestyle for what other people spend on rent per month." (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/8/2021 10:44:37 PM
Modified: 10/8/2021 10:46:12 PM

WEST LEBANON — When Trevor Geno pulled his 38-foot RV into the parking lot of the West Lebanon Walmart late Friday night eight days ago, he was coming home.

He was also, at the same time, already inside his home.

Geno, who grew up in Lebanon, has been living the past year in the 1986 Gulf Steam Classic, behind which he tows his car and motorcycle and parks overnight at Walmarts around New England. The 2020 Lebanon High School graduate was back in the Upper Valley last week to visit his mother, sister and grandparents before driving the RV out to Minnesota, where he plans to spend the winter near his father.

“Apartments are not really affordable,” said Geno, who was earning $15.50 an hour at a Hyundai dealership in northeastern Massachusetts when he saw on Facebook last fall a post by the widow of the RV’s owner, who had died from COVID-19, offering the vehicle free to anyone who would take it away from her yard in Lynn, Mass.

Although the RV hadn’t been driven in years — it had only about 32,000 miles on it — Geno said all it required to get rolling was a new battery and “some gas down the carburetor” before it “fired right up.”

Since then, Geno says, he has put about $1,500 into fixing the RV and getting it operational — including a set of eight new tires, a distributor, brakes, PCV valve and hitches to tow his car and motorcycle — but he considers that a bargain given the RV is doubling as his home.

“I got lucky,” he said.

Except, perhaps, when it comes to filling up at the 60-gallon tank up at the pump.

Powered by the same Chevrolet V-8 engine that was used in the old El Camino and Silverado, the RV, when towing the car and motorcycle, averages 4 miles per gallon, Geno said.

Still, even with regular gas now averaging $3.26 per gallon nationwide and expected to rise, Geno said it’s more affordable than renting an apartment on his own.

“I can live rather comfortably in this on what most people spend just in rent for a month,” he explained.

Geno, 19, sees his itinerancy as responding to a new reality about work, money and opportunity shaped by technology and a 20-month pandemic that has made the post-high school world radically different for millennials like himself taking their first steps into independence away from home.

“You don’t see many teenagers moving into an RV. I’m a bit of an outlier,” Geno said last week on a warm afternoon from inside the cabin of the 35-year old, weatherbeaten RV he shares with several guitars he owns and a chest full of tools from his work as an auto mechanic.

A self-taught musician with a mellifluous singing voice, Geno is partial to covering Johnny Cash, Alan Jackson and Lynyrd Skynyrd songs in addition to writing his own and has performed at open mics at The Public House in Quechee and Big Fatties and First Fridays in White River Junction and Colatina Exit in Bradford, Vt.

Dubbed “the mobile palace” by family members, the RV, despite its length and three axles, resembles more a creaky fixer-upper house than the luxury motor homes seen on the highway and at trailer parks. With a makeshift cabin door bought from Lowe’s and the engine oil cooler and battery secured by a cord and strap, the vehicle is perhaps not ready for a grand tour.

But Geno, who this year earned his certification as a Hyundai service tech, is confident he will be able to restore the RV to showcase condition.

“I’ve always been good with mechanical things,” he said.

Geno said his post-high school career originally appeared headed in a conventional direction.

Inspired by the study-work internship programs he did at Hypertherm and Fujifilm, Geno last year enrolled at Vermont Technical College in Randolph to study mechanical engineering. But he withdrew before the semester was over because he felt remote learning wasn’t working for him.

“I’m a hands-on learner,” he explained.

During high school, Geno worked at Jiffy Lube in West Lebanon. He was able to leverage that job into another at a Wilmington, Mass., Hyundai dealership, which paid for his training to become a certified tech. While working at the dealership he rotated the RV among Walmart parking lots, which has had a long-standing policy of welcoming RVs and not charging campers, although length of stay is set by individual stores.

The Hyundai certification means that Geno can get a job at any Hyundai dealership in the country. Yet Geno said he is happy for the time being earning any money he requires — which he pegs at “easily” below $1,200 a month for gas, insurance, phone and food — by signing onto DoorDash and making deliveries, where the car he tows comes in handy. Last week during one shift he cleared $53 per hour.

If it hadn’t been for the pandemic, Geno acknowledges his life might be more conventional now.

“COVID drastically changed my life,” he said. “If COVID never happened I would have stayed at VTC. I would have been able to live on campus and work at Jiffy Lube. If I had that support structure around me, then I definitely could have gone and got that degree.”

At the same time, Geno expresses gratification at the turn his life has taken.

“I own everything you see here outright and I have no debt,” he said while sitting inside the RV. “And I have a lot to show what I’m doing. It ain’t much. You see the RV from a distance and say, ‘OK, what meth addict lives in that?’ But I’m proud of it. It’s mine. I worked hard for this.”

When he gets to Minnesota, Geno will be caretaking a farm property that belongs to a friend of his father’s in exchange for residence in the farmhouse. He will be able to store the RV in the barn over the winter, which will provide an enclosed shelter for him to work on fixing it up (he is currently sleeping on a couch in the RV’s living section because the bedroom has a leaky ceiling).

Clayton Geno, Trevor Geno’s father, an IT specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., said his son’s plan to roam in the RV and get work along the way ad hoc echoes his own “walkabout” around the country with a friend in a VW minibus when he was a young man.

“He probably heard me romancing about my adventures,” said Clayton Geno, who gave his son a solar panel so he could power the kitchen equipment when the RV does not have access to a power hookup.

“He can come here, get the RV in shape over the winter, work and save money,” Clayton Geno said. “He can work on his music and find his vocation. He’s in a good place to do that.”

Diane Laroche, Geno’s mother, who works as a waitress at Frazer’s Place on Route 5 in Windsor, said her initial reaction when her son told her that he had acquired ownership of an RV and planned to live in it was “Here we go with another Trevor adventure.”

But although Laroche said she is sad that her son will not be within easy distance of the Upper Valley, she nonetheless respects his decision to “take life by the horns in this crazy world we have.”

The pandemic, like it has for countless people, fundamentally altered the world that her son was preparing to enter after high school.

“His high school prom was taken away from him. His college experience was taken away from him. But his life is not going to be taken away from him,” Laroche said about her son. “You’ve got to be proud of that.”

Contact John Lippman at jippman@vnews.com.

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