We made it back into Oregon this morning! So exciting! It feels so good to be so close to Bend and home. No accidents, no hospital visits, no storms that damaged the rig – we feel blessed. We’ve travelled for 19 months and 9 days and haven’t found anywhere as great as Oregon. Yes, we’re biased!
Over the course of our adventure, we’ve been asked dozens of questions about the trip, many of them the same ones over and over, so I wanted to cover them one last time, while I have time.
Questions for the trip
A: We wanted to show the kids how incredible the USA really is, to show them how regions are different, to show them that the news isn’t telling the good stuff, and to spend more time as a family before they hit high school and leave for college, or the military. Dan and I are very proud to be Americans and we know how lucky we are to be living here and we wanted the kids to know that, too.
- How can you afford it?
A: For years we spent less than we earned and saved a lot more, too. We sacrificed often. I wish I had a dollar for every time we were asked this question! We’ve spent about the same as we spend at home because the kids are no longer in competitive gymnastics.
- Most popular comment: “I wish I could do that, but” and then the person would list all the reasons they couldn’t go live their dream like we are. To that I say, “we had a list two pages long of why we couldn’t do this trip, and there were 15 reasons still on it when we left, and we still WENT.” At some point you just have to take a chance and LIVE YOUR DREAM. Whatever your dream is…
- How did you choose where to go?
A: We each had our own places we had to see and for years had kept a file of special places that we’d read about that sounded good. We left a lot of time for adding in things and if we missed something, we didn’t stress about it. We tried to pay attention to the weather patterns so we could be warm, but not too warm.
- How could you take your kids out of school?
A: Easy. We knew what they’d learn on the trip would be worth 10 years of brick and mortar schooling. We transferred to online schooling with our school district.
5.5 If you did it in 1998, why did you do it again?
A: In 1998, Dan and I had quit our careers, sold our home and put our stuff in storage to do a similar trip. We lived on the road for 6 months and many times we said, “when we have kids” we’ll do this or that. We had hoped to leave in 2010, but the economy tanked and we had to wait until late 2013. We did it again because we still hadn’t seen every state! Sally had 5 left when we started the trip, and still has Alaska to do someday. Dan did Alaska years ago. so only has North Dakota left. The kids have been to every state except Alaska, Montana and North Dakota. Sally: I really wanted to see the whole USA before I travelled internationally so I wasn’t one of those dumb Americans who knew nothing about my own country before going elsewhere and thinking that was culture. We’ve got culture in our own backyard!
- What do the kids think?
A: Honestly, it was hard at first, but of course, now they like it.
Eliza says “I think it’s great and it was worth everything. The only bad thing was online school and being away from my friends.”
Nate says “online school was horrible, but other than that, it was good. Trying all the food was good.”
Sally says “I was hoping they’d blog their thoughts the whole trip, but that didn’t really interest them. They were glued to their IPhones like every other teenager, so they kept in touch with friends.”
- What was the hardest part?
A: Leaving. We left a perfect life. The first 90 days were pretty tough. Dan had just retired, Eliza and Nate had left their friends, and Nate and I had bruises from bumping into things in the small space. In all my planning and reading of other families’ stories, I never even considered that it would start so rough.
- How did you choose your RV?
A: We lucked out! We’ve had RV’s since 1998, so we’ve had experience with different models. When we added the dogs to the trip, we knew our Class C (without sliders) wouldn’t be big enough for 6 of us. We started looking online for bunk model Class A’s (big front window) and had settled on a Tiffin when Dan happened to see this Monaco for sale in Bend. Do your research. Inspect them carefully. Be ready for problems.
- What’s been the best part of the trip?
A: Spending time together as a family, seeing all this country has to offer. Living our dream. Seeing people we love all over the country. Getting to hug them and spend quality time with them. Those we missed seeing are the only regret of the trip.
- What’s your favorite place so far?
A: New York City! We didn’t expect to like it as much as we did. We are not city people, but we had a blast. We would have stayed longer if we could. Our RV park was across the Hudson in Jersey City, so we got to start each day riding the water ferries. We could see the Statue of Liberty out the front window of the RV. We were able to climb to the crown because we got tickets months before. It was all just magical. Eliza and I saw a play and watched the sunset in Times Square. We ate some of the best food of the whole trip. We will definitely go back.
- What’s been the worst place so far?
Sally -New Orleans. We were ready to experience the history and beauty here, but we could barely find it. We aren’t recreational shoppers, eaters or drinkers, so that doesn’t leave much of New Orleans. Our negativity could be due to the continual rain and the fleas the dogs got at the RV park. Our expectations were too high . Beautiful gardens.
Dan – the Crazy Horse campground in New Hampshire
Nate – mosquitos in Michigan and Wisconsin. Likes the state, not the bugs.
Eliza – anywhere between Florida and Colorado – we were just doing school, the weather was terrible, and the RV was cold.
- How was the driving?
A: We have driven 19,000 miles in the RV and another 13,000 in the tow vehicle!!! That’s a lot of driving!!!
Dan – for the most part, pretty good. He didn’t like driving in Maine because the roads were so horrible
Sally – Great when I could get my hands on the wheel. Dan liked to be in control and felt responsible for our safety! Dan and I love drive days because we get to talk about where we’ve been and where we’re going while enjoying the incredible scenery of our country. I will miss it. I won’t miss the other crazy drivers who pass us on both sides. I will never drive in Houston again, worst drivers in the country. Florida was second. Gas prices were crazy all over, with Canada being the most expensive, even converting it. Boise has construction all over, ugh.
Eliza – the drive days were long at the end of the trip
- Did I read that you had problems with the RV?
A: Oh, did we have problems! We bought a new model so that we wouldn’t buy anyone else’s mistakes, but it seems to be that the RV industry thinks it’s normal for RV’s to have problems for a year, and the new owner gets to fix all of them. We spent the first 6 months at home with the RV at the dealer for one thing or another. One month on the road found us at a dealer in CA who helped us solve a huge problem – there was construction debris where it shouldn’t have been. We spent 3 days in Decatur Indiana at the plant getting two pages of items fixed. All under warranty. We had a “roadside” fix of a broken cable in Minneapolis and another onsite fix in New Jersey. We’re taking it to the Cobourg plant next week to get everything fixed perfectly in preparation for selling it. From talking to everyone else on the road, ALL RV’s have problems, but Monaco does a good job of working with you to solve them.
- Why did you leave in December?
A: When we found out that Dan could retire early, we decided not to wait for the school year to be out in June. Now we are so glad we left in December – we’ve gotten to see so much more of the country and NE Canada. We wish we had another 6 months.
- How is everyone getting along?
A: Pretty well, but we’ve had our moments. It helps that we all like and love each other. Dan and I have fought, mostly over driving, and yet, we’re living a dream, so we’re also happier than ever. Someone told me recently that it’s good for kids to see their parents fight, and then stay together, because that’s healthy and normal. Eliza and Nate are getting along really well because they’ve only had each other. There weren’t a lot of teenagers on the road! There’s a Jimmy Buffet song that says “you take the weather with you” and we’ve found that to be true. Don’t expect an adventure like this to fix your relationships or change anything – you’re still you, you’re just you living an adventure. You’ll be you when you get home, just an enhanced, happier version. We’ve had several people say they could never spend that much time with their family, that it would drive them crazy. That’s so sad.
- What was the hardest thing you ran into?
A: The weather. Everywhere, and I mean everywhere we went, the weather wasn’t “normal.” Hotter, colder, wetter or stormier than usual. We did a ton of planning based on the historical weather patterns, so it was hard to get used to the opposite. We were in the Denver area for the wettest May in recorded history. We were in Florida for the one winter I’ll ever be warm – and it wasn’t. Eliza and I wanted our money back! The only time we were grateful was the many weeks on the East Coast when the humidity wasn’t as bad as normal.
- Are you eating out all the time?
A: No, not really. We have a convection oven, 3-burner gas range and a big fridge – so we can eat anything we want, anytime. We don’t do fancy cooking, so the lack of extras was fine. We’re not foodies.
- What’s been your best meal yet?
A: Grandma Helen’s tops the list. We looked forward to it for months. Chicken enchiladas. The casino in St. Louis for Dan’s birthday was second. We aren’t gamblers, but we wanted a buffet so Dan could chow, and this place put on a spread that we still talk about. A deli in NYC was 3rd. Pizza in NYC was 4th. A bagel lunch in NYC. A Mexican dinner with John in AZ. Nate’s birthday dinner at Hu Hot outside Denver was great.
- What was your favorite campground?
A: Usery State Park outside Phoenix was amazing. Huge cactus right in the front window. It was warm in February, imagine that. The North Rim of the Grand Canyon. No utilities so it was a good old fashioned campground. Tom Sawyer along the Mississippi was outstanding for the view and barge traffic. Darlington Provincial Park outside Toronto was right on Lake Ontario and the view was breathtaking. Trail of Tears on the Mississippi had barge and train traffic, wow. Joseph Peninsula State Park is a hidden gem. Between a bay and the gulf, the wildlife and sunrises and sunsets were amazing.
- What was the most awe inspiring?
A: Niagara Falls. We were surprised at how beautiful they were. The roar and mist were awesome. The boat ride was a blast. You just cannot believe the noise and how huge the falls are, it doesn’t seem real. We’ve got waterfalls in Oregon, but these make your jaw drop. Seeing the Manhattan skyline at night was pretty cool. The Grand Canyon didn’t awe the kids like we thought it would – they’d seen so much already.
- What was the scariest?
A: Anytime we were near a tornado or hail. We really didn’t want our home to disappear or be ruined. There’s so little you can do to stay out of the weather. NYC wasn’t the scary place we thought it would be – even at night.
- What was the quietest time of the trip?
A: We spent December in the Keys and it was heavenly quiet at our RV park on the gulf side. The wind through the palms was the most soothing sound. Hiking on the north rim of the Grand Canyon was also peaceful. Maine, few people on the back roads. Campgrounds that were empty in the off-season were wonderful.
- Did you need a tow vehicle?
A: Yes! We did it in 1998 without a tow vehicle and couldn’t go all the places we did this time. Ours was so light we could barely tell it was behind us. You can tow heavy vehicles, but your gas mileage will be next to nothing. My favorite was a 40’ Class A that passed us – towing a truck towing a boat, with a golf cart in the bed of the truck. Talk about taking your home with you!
- Did you read anything to inspire you?
A: Besides the Bible everyday? We read “Your Money or Your Life” by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robins in 1998. It changed the way Dan and I wanted to live. We’ve never been impressed by money or titles, so for us it made sense. I reread it on the trip and loved it all over again. I also reread all of Jan Karon’s Mitford series and this time wrote down all the quotes I like, they are so inspirational. I lost track after I read 247 books in the 19 months. Dan read more classics, and spent tons of time researching math and science for the kids. They didn’t get to read as much for fun because of all the online school requirements.
- Can you come back?
A: Yes! And we expect visitors in Oregon, hint, hint…
- Was this your best experience so far in life?
A: Other than getting married, having kids, and Dan donating a kidney to Ryan, YES. Living our dream is such a thrill and feels so good to accomplish such a huge goal. Now we know we can do anything!
- Would you do it again knowing all you know now?
A: Of course! Absolutely. Would your children? Yes, tomorrow. It would be a lot easier next time; we’d know everything would be okay at the end. Life isn’t meant to be perfect and we are not in control. Any tough stuff that came our way just reminded us that we are always held with love in the palm of God’s hands, and we need to rely on Him first and foremost.
- Do you think it brought you closer together as a family?
A: Definitely. We were close before, but now we can name something funny that happened somewhere and just crack ourselves up. We had a perfect life before, with a strong faith, good marriage, happy, involved kids and a beautiful home, and we’ll have it again.
- Do you think it was the optimal time in the children’s lives?
A: Yes! As teenagers, they understood where we were and they are old enough to remember the trip and appreciate it. If we’d left in 2010, the kids wouldn’t have remembered as much. Also, we needed to do it before high school so they can enjoy those years with their friends. If they were younger, more things would have been a “wow”, whereas now they could see through them. I’m so proud of them for being polite to others the whole trip.
- What were your top three experiences?
A: Other than seeing family and friends:
- Niagara Falls and the kids getting to turn on the lights
- New York City – the subway, Statue of Liberty, food
- Nate – Grand Canyon, NYC, hiking
- Eliza – NYC, Cedar Point/Sandusky, hiking in the SW, seeing animals
- Dan – Niagara Falls, Grand Canyon hiking with Nate, seeing family and friends, cool bike rides
- Sally – NYC with Eliza, kayaking in the Keys, swimming at PEI
- What were the worst three experiences?
A: Other than people who don’t know how to drive?!
- The weather – hail, storms, floods, tornados
- People everywhere! Too many people all around us too often
- Online school – the busy work, hours and libraries
- What were your favorite moments?
A: Again, hugging family and friends tops all. Running the bases at Field of Dreams, hanging off the CN Tower in Toronto, riding the subway to Coney Island
Eliza –getting to Grandma’s, seeing NYC skyline at night, Niagara Falls
Sally – riding the ferry to Mackinac, diving into Lake Ontario, driving back roads of Maine, learning something new everyday
Nate –seeing the dead guy on the trail, seeing all the military related sites around the country, seeing the Blue Angels in Florida
Dan – getting done with a complicated drive day, arriving safely at the next campground, sitting at Niagara Falls, finishing big bike ride into Ouray
- How did you plan your route?
A: Dan did most of the hard work. Initially it was just to get to warm weather and then stay warm. We wanted to see things on our “list” and had to work in where all our friends and family live. There were places Dan and I had been before that we wanted the kids to see, and there were places that we’d dreamed about for years that we “had” to see. We used the Good Sam huge campground book, the internet, and a ton of phone time to make reservations and then confirm the reservations later.
- Where could you live forever?
A: Not the RV!
Dan – could live in Charlotte, NC, near his twin
Sally – Bend, Oregon
Eliza – Home, Bend, Oregon
Nate – Oregon, Miami, Florida (if there weren’t so many old people), Colorado, NM, Utah, AZ area, San Diego
- How many old friends did you see?
A: This was the best part of the trip – seeing old friends and family – beyond heaven.
Here’s the list of love:
Dad, Mom, Jeff, Shelby & Terry
Scott Mize – our first fun lunch
Hawk, Jen, Keira, Laurilei, and Aisling
John, Wilma and Steve
Eliza’s gymnastics team and moms
Joey and Olga
Jack and The Field of Dreams actors
Grandma Helen and John
Larry and Sandy
Josh, Anna, Evan, Andrew, Sophie and Liam
Sally and Teresa and Helen
Robert, Cindy, Andrew
Al, Sue and the dogs
Mike, Leigh, Ellery, Isabella and Samuel
Maureen and her family
Lisa and Eric
Jim and Gail
Dave, Claudia, Luca and Owen
Kevin, Bridget, Greta, Jordan
Dad and Mom
Murray and Monica
Kurt, Cindy, and Katarina
Susan and Kaitlyn
Mr. E and wife
Ryan, Carrie, Mallory, Holly and Paige
Uncle Bob, Aunt Cathy, Amy
Joe, Sara, Maddie and CJ
Ryan’s whole family
- Where would you go back to and spend more time?
A: Grandma Helen, Uncle Dave’s, San Diego, the loop through Colorado past Rock Cut, NYC, Quebec, Montreal, upstate New York, outer banks of NC, Louisiana (Nate) for the food
- What sticks out in your minds? What do you keep coming back to?
Eliza – the same places and times she’s mentioned before
Dan – the moment we pulled out of our home for the last time – exciting
Nate – got older and TALLER
Sally – Lived our Dream. We did it. We didn’t just talk about it, we did it. Took a ton of hard work and was worth every penny and every mile. Loved every minute!
- What will be branded in your lives forever as a family?
A: That we had to/got to spend 19 months within 40’ of each other! We were physically close the whole time…!
- What’s America really like up close?
A: It’s beautiful! No wonder they wrote a song about it!
Eliza – It’s very diverse and different than I thought it would be, but a good different.
Nate – that most places are very similar, but when you spend a couple weeks and do stuff in them you get to know them better and see how each state is unique
Sally – Incredible! I am so grateful to wake up in the USA each day. The people are nice all over, if you are nice to them. I was sad that we were in Chicago for the worst weekend of murders in history and wish that cities could figure out how to combat crime, deter gangs and provide housing for the homeless. I was astounded that the shopping experience is the same all over the country. Miles and miles of box stores just like home, even in Canada on the drive to Niagara Falls.
Dan – different than what he expected in some places. The NE was more treed than he thought it would be. It’s all pretty cool. Didn’t go anywhere he didn’t like.