Category Archives: Travel

Life at home…

We’re home and happy!  I just started a new blog at sallysbendblog.com, so come on over if you want to hear about what it’s like to live in one place after 588 days of fun.  It’s hard.  It’s wonderful.  It’s the best thing for our teenagers.  Plus, we live in Bend, Oregon = paradise!

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Day 589 of Life on the Road as a Family – Campground Ratings

IMG_2937This was our last campsite!  Nice shade trees and grass, but no place for the car other than where it is right there in front.  This isn’t an ideal campsite, but we’ve been in MUCH worse.  We kept track of the RV parks and campgrounds as we went, and we’ve been asked so many times which one was best tht we decided to share our list.  Remember, this was our dream trip, not yours.  Sometimes we moved quite often and sometimes we stayed a month. It was hard to fit everything in to the 19 months!

CAMPGROUND RATINGS & MEMORIES

We have loved every minute of our 588 Days of Life on the Road as a Family and wouldn’t change one single moment. That being said, we’ve compiled our notes of the campgrounds so we’ll know what to go back to and what to skip. We thought we’d share to help others find a good campground or save them the pain we experienced.

Dan and I are both perfectionists and when we left home we were considering buying or building our own RV park, so we paid attention to the details, and how each park could be better. Also, we are two very honest people and we expect that from other people. Many times we were surprised by a campground’s ability to stretch the truth. Please, do your own research and don’t believe even half of what each place advertises. Their pictures are always an enhanced version and we rarely saw what they had captured. Always ask what the cancellation policy is, because you may want to leave early if it’s a bad CG. (We never did, just toughed it out.)

Keep track of the deposits you pay prior to arriving because often they tried to charge us again. Many are Mom and Pop businesses run by the nicest people in America, but with sketchy business skills.  We only had 3 out of the entire trip that lost our reservation, but we were successful only because Dan got confirmation emails from the parks, and called in advance to confirm our reservations, too. It takes time, but it allows you peace of mind prior to arriving, and then arriving to actually have a campsite!

If it’s a Good Sam park, you have an assurance that it’s a decent park, although their ratings are usually inflated. Unfortunately, parks do not tell the truth about WI-FI availability, even when they say they have it. (Cell service doesn’t exist in many parts of the country, so even using your own hotspot can be hard.) We had problems finding campgrounds in Arizona and Florida because they have many 55+ parks, others don’t want teenagers, and others don’t want dogs. We prefer state and national parks, but many don’t have full services, (water, sewer, electricity) which is fine for short term stays, but not when you are full-timing with a family of four, two dogs, and you like to shower in your own bathroom or do laundry in your rig. If you need 50 amps, make sure to tell them that. We did, but a few times we still ended up with only 30 amps.

If you value privacy as we do, let it go for the duration of your trip. Sites are small and on top of each other in most places. You get to meet a lot of people that you normally might not hang out with at home. You can look up RV park reviews online, in multiple spots. Do your homework, but still expect to be surprised. We were many times, for good and bad. It’s all part of the adventure.

Dan did the majority of our trip planning, researching online and with the Good Sam book, calling if he had questions.   We started out “winging it” and soon found that it wasn’t the best way to be assured of a campsite when you pulled in, and they usually give you the crappy ones. We always asked, “does your Wi-Fi work for schooling?” and we were always told yes, only to find out later that it rarely did. Large files take time and the RV parks don’t want to pay for that.

So for what’s it worth, here are our opinions! We are doing this for others, as much as to have our memories all in one spot. We kept journals, but hopefully this will be easier to refer to when people ask, “What’s the best RV park or campground?”

Dates     Campground Comments Ratings
12/21-26/13 Worldmark, Gleneden Beach OR We stayed in a condo here for Christmas week with Sally’s family; the “camping” was great. 10+
12/27 Sunset Bay State Park, Coos Bay OR This is our favorite CG in Oregon. Older, sites not huge, but beach/gardens/tide pools = excellent! 10+
12/28 Harris Beach State Park, Brookings OR Another of our favorites, with old sites. On a cliff over the ocean with awesome views & fun beach. 10+
12/29 Wal-mart, Ukiah CA We pulled in just as 6 police cars were chasing a Bronco through the parking lot – not a good start to our first stay. We had driven further than we intended, and couldn’t find a CG. It’s free, but not always the safest and obviously, no hook-ups.   You have to ask the manager if you can stay. 5
12/30-1/5/14 Olema CG, Olema CA We were there at a slow time, so it wasn’t too crowded. Sites were barely graveled. Near Pt. Reyes Natl Park , San Fran and wine country. Would be a zoo in the summer. Showers great. 6.5
1/6 -1/12 Vineyard RV Park, Fairfield CA We arrived with an RV problem, and the front office staff was extremely helpful. It’s a beautiful RV park – nice sites, vegetation growing all over, good sized dog park, nice shade. 8.5
1/13 Lost Hills RV Park, Lost Hills CA Right off I-5, we stayed there because they advertised WIFI, and we needed it for school.   It’s new, so red dirt all over.   To use the WIFI, you had to sit IN their main office. This was our 1st lesson in false advertising. 2
1/14 Pyramid Lake Rv Resort, Gorman CA Gross! Better to stay in state CG xx I-5. NOT a resort – our 1st time with that kind of false advertising as a “resort”. Wifi worked, probably because no one else was there. Overpriced. 0
1/15 – 1/22 Santee Lakes Regional Park, Santee CA This was a beautiful park and we would go back. It is built around 7 man-made lakes, and had many amenities that we didn’t even have time to use. Only 15 miles outside San Diego. Safe at night – you are locked in with a code to come back later. Good vegetation. Cold pool. 9.5
1/23 Shangri-La RV Resort Park, Yuma AZ So excited to hop in the pool in the heat – only to pull into the park and find a postage stamp sized pool filled with people crowding/standing up in it. “Dog park” was a nearby empty lot. Mostly full-timers for the winter; glad to be only 1 night. 5.5
1/24 – 2/6 Usery Mtn Regional Park, Mesa AZ We would go back here! Incredible cactus all over the park and beautiful views/sunsets. No sewer, but the showers were excellent in new buildings. Nice large sites with some space between Rv’s. Great location to Phoenix, biking, other tourist attractions in area. 10+
2/7 – 2/14 Gold Canyon KOA,   Apache Junction AZ It was a good park – pool, hot tub, showers – but we were packed in back to back. Nice people. 8
2/15 – 2/18 Prince of Tucson, Tucson AZ Ouch. Right off freeway, so even with huge cement wall, you could hear the traffic. Mostly full-timers who went nuts when they saw our kids. Pool okay.   Packed in too tight, could barely get awning out. Stayed there because right on touted biking trail along the non-existent river. 4
2/19-2/20 Cochise Travellers RV Park, Benson AZ We would go back here!   New, nice big sites, all amenities, mini-golf, great pool and hot tub. 10+
2/21 Sunny Acres RV Park, Los Cruces NM Perfect spot for just one night passing through. Shade, big sites. 8
2/22 Davis Mtns State Park, Fort Davis TX Dan & I stayed here in 1998, so we wanted to go back to show the kids the wild javelinas – which are no longer there, darn. Cool stone building on top of mountain. Good for one night only. However, hilly terrain road to get there. Kind of a trauma to drive it in a big rig. 7
2/23 – 2/25 Big Bend National Park, Big Bend TX The ranger at Fort Davis told us we could easily drive Hwy 170 in our big RV, and boy was she wrong. The views were spectacular, but we had to disconnect the tow vehicle to make it up and down the tight rolling hills. There was one hill that was a 15% grade up and down. Very short, but nevertheless. The Big Bend campground itself is still a parking lot, with small sites and no shade. But you have to visit this national park – it’s awesome! Really cool to go across to Boquillas, Mexico on a flat bottom boat.   Take your passport; it’s a manned border cross. 4
2/26 Rest area outside Sonora TX This was our second foray into a free camping night and we could have stayed here a week, it was so nice. Tons of other RV’s, car campers, and truckers spent the night, too. 9
2/27 – 3/5 Carefree Traveler’s World Park, San Antonio TX Good location – right on river walking/biking trail and easy to downtown. Nice little pool.   Great rec room. Small, crappy sites. 7.5
3/6- 3/12 La Hacienda RV Resort, Hudson Bend TX This was our least favorite park because our expectations were too high. It is NOT a resort. Cold pool. Dogs in the laundry room. Full-timers abound and nightly parties were the norm. Sites were an ok size, but the whole park was loud and dirty. 30 minutes to get into Austin. Zip line closed. Located out in the middle of nowhere. 1
3/13 – 3/19 Westlake RV, Houston TX Nice pool and other amenities, but the sites were tiny. Good location for sight seeing in the area. Traffic was horrendous in Houston – worst drivers in USA. Safe, locked us in at night. Had a dog wash station. Free popcorn in the rec room. 6.5
3/20 Riverview RV Park, Vidaliaya LA Longest day of driving yet (384) miles led us to this beautiful park right on the Mississippi River. They often flood, but it was a great CG. Fun walking trail along the river so Dan could do his Parcour! Nice big sites and a sweet staff. 9
3/21- 3/23 Natchez State Park, Natchez, MS It was okay, but not what we remembered from 1998. Wouldn’t stay here again. Ticks, small site. Again, not much fun to drive to in a big rig. 5
3/24 Pecan Grove RV Park, Lakeview AR Stopped here so we could visit Dan’s niece, and one night was enough. Grassy, dirty sites. Dogs couldn’t be out, too dirty. This is for full-timers. 1
3/25 – 3/27 Hot Springs National Park, Gulpha Gorge CG, Hot Springs, AR We would stay here again! It’s first come, first serve, which is tough with such limited sites and not many RV parks in the area. We arrived early in the morning, so were able to get a site. Big sites, nice location for hikes, cute park. 9
3/28 – 3/30 Maumelle CG, near Little Rock, AR We would stay here again!   Right on the Arkansas River, so beautiful view from our water front site. No sewer, but had electricity and water. No TV!!! 9
3/31 – 4/1 Graceland RV Park, Memphis, TN Gross little old park, but it’s right across the street from Graceland, safe at night.  Worth it to stay there for Graceland tour. 4
4/2 – 4/6 Cages Bend CG, Nashville, TN We had high hopes for this CG because it’s on a lake, but it rained all week, so we didn’t get outside to enjoy it. Would have been better with a boat. Okay drive to Nashville. 8
4/7- 4/8 Fort Massac, Metropolis, IL Set back a little from the flooding Ohio River, our site was also flooded and the 30 amps didn’t work. The bathroom showers were scary. Fort Massac wasn’t open for tours anymore, no money to fix it, but we did get to visit Superman downtown and go see the Grandma Helen’s quilt at the National Quilt Museum in Paducah. 6
4/9 – 4/10 Trail of Tears, Cape Girardeau, MO A favorite from 1998 and 2014, too! Sites are huge, right on the Mississippi with tons of barge traffic aand the railroad runs right by, too. Small CG. Great history in this area and the bike riding on the roads was a blast of a roller coaster. 10
4/11 – 4/14 Babler State Park, Chesterfield, MO This park is so nice!   Outside St. Louis, it’s set in a hilly area with tons of nice park roads to ride on. The WI-FI worked. Showers were good. Snowed. 9.5
4/15 – 4/18 Monaco Plant, Decatur, IN If you buy a Monaco RV and need it fixed, this is the place to go. Nicest people ever. Crappy CG   – only had electric, gravel parking lot. Free. 3
4/19 KOA ,South Bend, IN Closest CG to Notre Dame, nice place. Treed. Great owners. 7
4/20 – 4/22 Illinois Beach State Park, Zion IL On Lake Michigan, they’ve done many improvements to the park since we stayed here in 1998, but still don’t have sewer and the only site big enough for our rig was in an old parking lot way at the back of the park. Fun 50-minute train ride into Chicago. Right on the water. 7
4/23- 4/24 Jack’s Place, Dubuque IA This isn’t a CG, but the home of Jack, who knows everyone who is anyone in the USA. The only reason we left his driveway was to go visit… 10+
4/25- 5/11 Grandma Helen, Maxwell IA You wish you could stay here, too! Nothing like Grandma’s in Iowa. Between her driveway and the machine shed, we managed to avoid the tornados, thunderstorms and hail. 10++++++++
5/12 – 5/15 Lebanon Hills CG, Eagan MN Outside Minneapolis, nice county park. Had a cable break on a slider, so we couldn’t move the rig until it was fixed and they were really nice about it. Near Bob & Joey = heaven. 9
5/16 – 5/18 Al & Sue’s, Stillwater MN Staying with people you love is better than any CG, anywhere, anytime. It’s just hard to leave. 10+
5/19 – 5/22 Devil’s Lake State Park, Baraboo WI Pretty cool park!   Would stay here again. Big grassy sites. Great hiking on the mountain and around the lake. Old fashioned log lodge w/great history.   Felt like summer camp. 10
5/23 – 5/27 KOA, Madison WI Nice park, typical KOA.   We were 1st into the pool!     Great location for exploring the Madison area, but too near the highway – tons of continual noise. 6
5/28 – 5/31 Peninsula State Park, Fish Creek WI Stay here if you want to explore Door County – it’s beautiful! The sites don’t have sewer, and the showers were just adequate.   Try a fish boil – fun. They don’t spray for mosquitos, so it was bad. 8
6/1 – 6/2 Mike & Leigh’s, Iron Mountain MI Nate’s godparents and their adorable children. Took the coolest mine tour ever and wanted them to hop in the rig and go with us. 10+
6/3 – 6/8 St Ignace Straits State Park, St Ignace MI We stayed here in 1998, and couldn’t wait to get back! This park is on the UP, between Lake Superior and Lake Huron. You get a view of the bridge at night, can ride the ferry to Mackinac Island, and take a day trip to the Sioux St. Marie locks.   They don’t spray for mosquitos here and the showers were full of them. They don’t trim the trees either, so only a few sites have a view of the water. We got sick from so many bites. 10 for location, 3
6/9 – 6/10 Finn Rd CG, Essexville MI Gross! From the description, we thought we’d be on the lake, but the CG was a ½ mile back, down a soggy trail. There was no beach. Good place to do laundry and sleep in. Don’t go. 3
6/11 – 6/12 Wayne County Fairground, Belleville MI Stayed here so we would have an easy commute to Detroit and Leon & Lulu’s. The circus came to stay, too! Wouldn’t go back. 3
6/13 – 6/15 Cedar Pt Amusement Park, Sandusky OH The best roller coasters in the USA! Excellent CG, met many people who come here for a week every year. Weird eyeball-less bugs all over the rig. On Lake Erie – beautiful views. Saw more tattoos & smokers than ever before, anywhere. 10
6/16- 6/18 Evangola State Park, Irving NY On Lake Erie. Old park, old sites, old spa buildings on the lake. We’d go back! 8.5
6/19 – 6/21 Jellystone Niagara Camp Resort, Niagara Falls, Ontario Canada These parks are perfect if your kids are 4-10 years old. Ours are teenagers, so the wagon ride, trampoline and craft times weren’t a draw, but you definitely pay them anyway. In their zeal to sell us tickets for the Canadian based ferryboat into the falls, the staff lied and told us the Maid of Mist was no longer running. We didn’t have an international calling plan, so we rode our bikes to the falls to check it out and the next day walked over the International Peace Bridge to the American side and took the Maid of the Mist boat tour. It was a very special place to visit and we’d go back, but stay elsewhere. Kids got to turn on the lights for the falls that night!!! 5
6/22 – 6/24 Darlington Provincial Park, Ontario Canada On Lake Ontario, this was Sally’s favorite park of the whole trip. We had a big site right on the water and the view was spectacular.   They have a “no radio” policy, so we didn’t have to listen to loud music from other sites. Great swimming! Rode the commute train into Toronto so the men could do the CN Tower Edgewalk, 1168’ up. 10
6/25-6/26 Wellesley Island State Park, Fineview, NY Part of the ultra-rich 1,000 Islands area, 2 1/2 days was not enough time in this historic area.   CG was ok, nice big sites, but no full hook-ups. 8.5
6/27 – 6/29 Camping la Cle Des Champs, St. Phillip, Canada This CG was crazy because there are many full-timers living here and they have gone all out decorating their sites. The pool had live music and they were still working on improvements when we left.   Easy bus ride into Montreal.   Not everyone spoke English. 8
6/30 – 7/1 Camping Domaine de La chute, St. Appollinaire, Quebec Don’t ever stay here!   Set in a beautiful area, this dumpy park was like a small city, with one ingress/egress. We could barely get the rig to the site the “roads” were so narrow. The site was an uneven piece of grass, with only 30 amps. Close to Quebec City, but after exploring there, we checked out a day early. 0
7/2 Khatadin Shadows CG, Medway, ME Old-fashioned CG.   Weird sites at all angles. Old pool, not really clean. 4
7/3 – 7/5 Mataquac Provincial Park, New Brunswick Canada Gorgeous CG right on a lake, with nice sites and tons of trees. Got stuck in the tropical storm left by Hurricane Arthur and luckily moved sites before trees came down on us. 4,000 trees down. 8
7/6 – 7/9 KOA, Prince Edward Island Canada We arrived a day late and they were nice about it. Huge site right on the water, but no swimming because it’s a red clay beach.   Should have camped on NE side of island. Typical KOA, packing people in. Incredible lobster dinner at Richards, must see. 6.5
7/10 – 7/11 KOA, Nova Scotia Another typical KOA, packing people in – our neighbors set up a living room outside and danced to music 2’ away from our rig! Good location to beautiful Halifax. 2
7/12 Bay of Fundy National Park, New Brunswick Nice campground, easy drive to see the tides change. You must go see this!!! 9
7/13 Sussex CG, New Brunswick DO NOT EVER GO HERE.   They lock you in from the start and you have to buy a key card for $25 to go in /out. Pool okay, but manager went off on two teenagers. Many full-timers, gross sites. 0
7/14 – 7/15 Cobscook Bay State Park, ME This was a “rodeo” to get into! We’ll never forget it. The sites are small, awkward and not level. Not an RV friendly campground unless you have a smaller RV. 0
7/16 – 7/19 Hadley’s Point, Bar Harbor, ME Do not stay at this campground. Small sites, could barely get in/out. Can ride the bus to Acadia National Park, which is overrun with tourists; felt bad for even going there. 0
7/20 Stonybrook CG, Hanover, ME Good for one night.   Mini-golf, pool, old rec room. 2
7/21- 7/24 Crazy Horse CG, Littleton, NH Run by a couple of aging hippies, they had “inspirational” signs all along the driveway, but fudged on their access to the lake, Wi-Fi, and the ability to get into our site.   Another rodeo. Don’t go, there are better CG’s in area. Great pool. Advertised as Big Rig friendly. I disagree. Not fun driving off the freeway to this campground. Very hilly and unmaintained roads in the CG. 0
7/25 – 7/27 Northshore CG, Burlington, VT This CG was packed in, but it’s close to the coolest bike trail and the Wi-Fi worked! Go here! 8
7/28 Shelburne Farms, Shelburne, VT Good for one night only, old and quaint. 5
7/29- 7/30 Queechee State Park, Hartford, VT Stay here! Huge, beautiful sites with hiking nearby and easy access to local attractions. However, dry camping only but beautiful and quiet with shade. 10
7/31 Derry Wal-Mart, Derry, NH Changed our plans so had to stay here, level, OK. 5
8/1 – 8/7 Minuteman CG, Littleton, MA In the trees, outside Boston and other historical sights. An old KOA, steep driveway to get in. 8
8/8 – 8/10 Shady Knoll CG, Cape Cod, MA An old CG on Cape Cod; there would be better ones. Crammed us in, little shade. 5
8/11 Salt Rock CG, Sprague, CT Way back up in, off the road, small crappy sites, don’t go here. 2
8/12- 8/13 Cozy Hills CG, Litchfield, CT Stayed here because it was close to a friend, don’t go here. Tiny roads through trees, then made us pull into a spot where the front of rig touched the tent in another site, even though other empty sites available. Weird. 0
8/14- 8/20 Liberty Harbor RV Park, Jersey City NJ Stay here! It’s an ugly gravel parking lot, but who cares because it’s close to the water ferries that take you to Manhattan so you never have to drive. Statute of Liberty close, great skyline pics. 10+
8/21 – 8/23 Big Timber CG, Cape May, NJ Huge CG with many full-timers who party every night. Okay, but look for better CG in area. 6
8/24 – 8/30 Warwick Woods CG, Elverson, PA Nice old CG, wooded, okay site. Excellent old pool. Near Hershey. Nice owners. 8
8/31 – 9/2 Granite Hill CG, Gettysburg, PA Spent Labor Day weekend here, which is always a zoo, but then everyone left and it was so nice. 8
9/3 – 9/4 KOA Harpers Ferry West, VA Stay here!   Excellent pool, big sites and close to historic sights. Morning mist best in USA. 10
9/5 – 9/11 Bull Run Regional Park, Centreville, VA Nice park, but driving back into takes 15 minutes from main road. Fun amenities close up after Labor Day. 30-minute drive to light rail for 30-minute ride to DC. Too far out. 8
9/12 – 9/18 Cherry Hill Park, College Park, MD Stay here! Better drive/commute into DC. Small sites, but revamping whole park. Great pool. 8
9/19- 9/21 KOA Charlottesville, VA We stayed here only because it was close to Monticello and wouldn’t stay here again. They said the pool would be open and the Wi-Fi would work – neither was true. A little grubby. 4
9/22 – 9/24 Pocahontas State Park, Chesterfield, VA Great park. Wi-Fi worked at an outbuilding. Stayed here because close to Richmond. 8
9/25-9/28 KOA Cape Hatteras, NC This place had 243 sites and would be a zoo in high season. We had a great site backed up to the Atlantic, which you could hear over the protective berm, but couldn’t see. The storms had flooded the campground, so we could barely walk around.   The pool and slides were fun, but very cold. Nice lounge area to use Wi-Fi. 10 for location, 3 for
9/29 – 10/1 – Jordan Lake St Rec Area, Poplar Pt CG, Apex, NC Backed in to a spot right on the lake and we were so excited to swim or play in the water.   You might be able to in the summer. Only H20 & elec. 7
10/2 – 11/1 Dave & Claudia’s, Charlotte, NC Heaven! Staying with family is the best! Neighbor didn’t appreciate the RV in the swanky neighborhood, so we stayed in the house. BLISS. 10+++++++
11/2 – 11/4 James Island CG, Charleston, SC Huge CG with tons of full-timers, paved paths, huge dog park. They were putting up electric Christmas decorations all over. Easy drive into beautiful Charleston. Would stay here again. 8.5
11/5 – 11/6 Ft. McAlister State Park, Savannah, GA Beautiful old CG with huge sites, tons of bugs, no water view. The fort is a little old building. 7
11/7- 11/8 Jekyll Island CG, Brunswick, GA This is an OLD CG with mud/dirt all over. Most people there to party hard and loudly. Incredible island with great bike paths and beaches. Easy access to St. Simons Island. Find another CG. Would not stay here again. 0
11/9 – 11/15 Anastasia State Park, St. Augustine, FL The CG was set way back from the beach, under a canopy of trees and has huge sites. It’s the ultimate Florida beach. Both dogs got ticks so bad it took an hour to pick them off. No sewer. 8
11/16 – 11/22 Fort Wilderness CG, Disney World, FL Oh, stay here during the holidays! Campers put up huge outdoor Christmas displays – so fun. Easy access to all the DW parks. Can rent golf carts if you don’t want to bike all over. Good site. 10+
11/23 – 11/26 Jetty Park CG, Cape Canaveral, FL Anything would have been a let down after the high standards of DW, so this CG would be ok for a regular stay. Near the beach and you can watch the gigantic cruise ships leave from here. 8
11/27 – 11/30 Miami Everglades Resort, Miami, FL Very nice CG, huge grassy sites, quite, clean bathrooms, great pool/hot tub, easy drive into Miami, dog walking path all around perimeter. 8.5
December 2014 Grassy Key RV Park, Marathon Key, FL Nice, small resort with gulf access, small pool, clean gravel, tiny sites. Extra charge for electric. They don’t spray for no-see-ums, ouch. 7
January 2015 Crystal Lake RV Resort, Naples, FL Great RV park for older full-timers. Huge paved sites with gorgeous landscaping set on 2 man-made lakes. 2-mile perimeter road great for walking/biking.   Perfect pools and hot tubs. 10
2/1 – 2/7 Ocalla North RV Park, Reddick, FL Old CG out in the country with many full-timers, grass sites and an old pool. 1 of few in area that would take under 55 and pets. 7
2/8 – 2/21 Peninsula State Park, Port St. Joe, FL Another of Sally’s favorites! Way out on the peninsula between the gulf and the bay, great beaches, tons of wildlife, only H20 & electric. 9
2/22 – 3/6 Henderson Beach State Park, Destin, FL Beautiful park with huge private sites. Long walk to the beach. Only H20 & electric. Too close to the highway and development on both sides. 8
3/7 – 3/20 Big Lagoon State Park, Pensacola, FL OK, but disappointing after the last 2 great state parks. Nice walking paths. Had to drive to the beautiful beach, Gulf Islands National Seashore. Near the Blue Angels home base. 6
3/21 – 3/27 Jude Travel RV Park, New Orleans, LA Worst week of the trip.   Do not stay here! Little more than a gravel parking lot in a dangerous neighborhood. Owner has 11 + cats and our dogs had fleas for 4 months. If you are a recreational shopper, eater or drinker, stay closer to NOLA. 0
3/28 La Fleur Bluff State Park, Jackson, MS Good for one night, on the water, big sites. Find a Sweet Potato Queen party! 8
3/29 – 4/4 Tom Sawyer RV Park, West Memphis, AR Stay here! Right on the Mississippi, it was barely below flood stage when we arrived. We watched barges go by night and day.   Only RV park we stayed at with free laundry. Incredible views. 10+
4/5 – 4/16 Downtown Riverside RV Park, Little Rock, AR Nice old gravel parking lot that’s been turned into a city owned RV park. Right on the Arkansas River, with bridge accesses to Clinton’s library and downtown Little Rock.   Hopping town, nice people, very cool bridge lights. Loud freeways. 9
4/17 – 4/23 Twin Fountains RV Park, Oklahoma City Okay, but the pool wasn’t open, the Wi-Fi didn’t work and the sites were tiny & packed in. Clean. 6
4/24 KOA, Goodland Kansas Stayed here to avoid the tornado elsewhere. Cute little town and a nice CG. 8
4/25 – 5/9 Greeley RV Park, Greeley, CO This is the only game in town, so stay in another town! We lived here briefly in 2000 and they haven’t done any improvements to it since. Sad. 1
5/10 – 5/24 Riverview RV Park, Loveland, CO Right on the Big Thompson river, we were so excited. Down in a canyon, no Wi-Fi/cell service. Tons of full-timers, gravel sites. Stay elsewhere if you can find it. Sites are right on top of each other. 2
5/25 – 5/30 Chatfield State Park, Littleton, CO Great park. Big paved sites. The area was flooding, so we couldn’t ride the loop. There is a model airplane park that you can hear throughout the campground. Easy light rail ride into Denver from a nearby station. 9
5/31 – 6/6 Cheyenne State Park, Colorado Springs, CO The view from this CG is incredible! Nothing like it anywhere else. At that altitude, the storms are intense with wind and hail trying to move us off the mountain. Easy hikes. Backs up to NORAD. The staff is rude. Good Colorado Springs access. 7
6/7 – 6/11 Taos Valley RV Park, Taos, New Mexico Nice CG with full amenities and vegetation between the small sites. No pool, darn. Easy biking into town. Would stay here again; love Taos and the surrounding area. 8
6/12 –6/16 Santa Fe Skies RV Park, Santa Fe, NM We didn’t have a good feeling about this spot, maybe because we had strange full-timers on both sides of us. Gravel sites, no pool. Would not go back. 3
6/17 – 6/23 Alpenrose RV Park, Durango, CO Gravel, grass and shade, but they’ve set up the sites so you share with your neighbor, so you have no room outside at all. Small pool with the deck chairs bolted down! Tons of full-timers. Another RV park closer to town would be better. 3
6/24 – 6/27 Mesa Verde National Park, Cortez, CO An older CG, the sites aren’t really big enough for newer, larger rigs like ours. We were lucky that Dan can drive it into any site.   But better to stay in the park if you are doing the tours because it’s an hour drive in. 5
6/28 Page Lake Powell CG, Page, AZ 102 degrees so we asked for a spot in the shade, but they gave us full sun and our A/C couldn’t keep up. Went back in to ask to move, but 7 people checking in. Close to Glen Canyon Dam and groceries. Packed people in too tight. 3
6/29 – 7/5 Grand Canyon National Park, the North Rim, AZ BEST CAMPSITE EVER!   Would go back here in a heartbeat.   Older CG, no utilities at all, so have to run generator to keep rig from dying. Quiet. Huge sites on the edge. Easy hike to lodge. 10+
7/6 – 7/11 Zion River Resort RV Park, Virgin, UT This CG had it all – pool, paved site, rec room, store – except down in a hole so no cell service!   1 mile either way there was cell, argh. We needed it after being in the Grand Canyon, so were disappointed. They advertise Wi-Fi – which worked for about 10 minutes. Would stay closer to Zion National Park next time in town. 8
7/12 – 7/15 Ruby’s Inn, Bryce National Park, Bryce City, UT 1 of 2 CG’s right outside park, it had full hook-ups, but the sites were packed in. Is the original CG. Good shuttle service to park. Scary, dirty pool. 4
7/16 – 7/18 Canyonlands RV Park, Moab, UT Love this little park, even if they do pack them in! Right in town, Dan and I stayed here in 1998.   Under new ownership, cleaning it up. Good pool. 8
7/19 – 7/22 Pony Express RV Park, Salt Lake City, UT Owners are the same as Canyonlands so the service was good, but this park is new and really well done. Huge paved sites with grass and a trail along the Jordan River for biking or walking. Easy 8 minutes into Salt Lake City with a car. 8
7/23 – 7/25 3 Island Crossing, Glenn’s Ferry, ID We love this park! 3rd time here and it’s still quiet and beautiful. Excellent emigrant museum. Right on the Snake River, no sewer, cute town nearby. 10+
7/26 – 7/29 Boise KOA, Boise, ID Lost our reservation, but treated us nice. Tons of full-timers. Nice grass, tree. Tight sites. Quiet. 5.5
7/30 Burns RV Park,   Burns, OR We’ve stayed here coming and going from OR. Only game in town. Old. 7
7/31 – 8/3 Deschutes County Fairgrounds, Redmond, OR Near our storage unit, so we made reservations even though the county fair will be going on.   Beautiful views of the Cascades from the sites; there have been numerous national Good Samboree’s held here. 9

Day 588 of Life on the Road as a Family – Home!

IMG_2912We’re back!  We drove the RV 19,032 miles in 19 months, 10 days and 4 hours and made it home to Bend, Oregon without a single traffic accident – how lucky we are!  Nate drew our progress on this little, old map we used to refer to for school, and now I want to frame it.  We went to 42 states, some multiple times as we wound our way around the USA and NE Canada.  We also drove the tow vehicle another 13,000 miles.  Every mile was awesome and we’d do it all over in a heartbeat.

It’s almost an out of body experience to be home and have everything be the same, while we have been all over this incredible country of ours and have so much crammed in our brains.  Plus a few thousand pictures to remind us when we forget!  When Dan and I finished our trip in 1998, re-entry was tough.  There were so many places we still wanted to see and we weren’t sure what we were stopping for.  Now we’ve seen everything we had been dreaming of, and are ready to get the kids through high school and resume our friendships here.  Home is an excellent four letter word.

Day 587 of Life on the Road as a Family, Answering Questions

IMG_2897We 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

 

  1. Why?

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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…
  1. 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.

  1. 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!

  1. 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.”

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. What’s been the worst place so far?

A:

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.

  1. 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

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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!

  1. 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.

  1. Can you come back?

A: Yes! And we expect visitors in Oregon, hint, hint…

  1. 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!

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. What were your top three experiences?

A: Other than seeing family and friends:

  1. Niagara Falls and the kids getting to turn on the lights
  2. New York City – the subway, Statue of Liberty, food
  3. Nate – Grand Canyon, NYC, hiking
  4. Eliza – NYC, Cedar Point/Sandusky, hiking in the SW, seeing animals
  5. Dan – Niagara Falls, Grand Canyon hiking with Nate, seeing family and friends, cool bike rides
  6. Sally – NYC with Eliza, kayaking in the Keys, swimming at PEI
  1. What were the worst three experiences?

A: Other than people who don’t know how to drive?!

  1. The weather – hail, storms, floods, tornados
  2. People everywhere! Too many people all around us too often
  3. Online school – the busy work, hours and libraries
  1. 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

  1. 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.

  1. 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

  1. 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

Jay

Bob

Robert, Cindy, Andrew

Joey, Anya

Al, Sue and the dogs

Mike, Leigh, Ellery, Isabella and Samuel

Maureen and her family

Greg

Stacy’s mom

Lisa and Eric

Jim and Gail

Dave, Claudia, Luca and Owen

Kevin, Bridget, Greta, Jordan

Dad and Mom

Bend friends

Murray and Monica

Kurt, Cindy, and Katarina

Susan and Kaitlyn

Scott

Mr. E and wife

Ryan, Carrie, Mallory, Holly and Paige

Uncle Bob, Aunt Cathy, Amy

Joe, Sara, Maddie and CJ

Ryan’s whole family

  1. 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

  1. What sticks out in your minds? What do you keep coming back to?

A:

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!

  1. 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…!

  1. 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.

Day 584 of Life on the Road as a Family, only 3 days until we’re home…

IMG_2783Nate and Eliza hanging out on Tablerock and checking out the Boise foothills.  It was a hot hike up to the top!  Ryan grew up nearby and Carrie does it all the time, but it was the first time for the rest of us. The view was worth the hike!

IMG_2786Our LAST hike of the trip!  Wah!  I’ve been weepy for the last 7 days. Last this, last that, oh, it’s been a BLAST.  Every minute.  I’d do it all over again.

IMG_2797We hiked through the quarry on the way back down and the view was beautiful the whole way.  Creepy to be able to look into the Old Pen.  The city of Boise is behind them.

IMG_2806After a picnic lunch in the park, we walked through the Nature Center.  Nate was the only mature enough to take this photo and not be in it.  We’ve seen cutouts all over the country, but never of owls – so funny!

IMG_2821The night before we were able to hug Carrie’s side of the family, and tonight we hugged some of Ryan’s siblings and his dear parents.  Just the nicest people ever and we wish they all lived next door.  They were all grateful for Dan’s sacrifice and were kind about saying so.  For Dan it wasn’t a sacrifice though, it was a gift he was glad to give.  Seeing Ryan with his family made Dan’s kidney donation to Ryan even more poignant.

Another fun day in Boise; we’re exhausted!

Day 583 of Life on the Road as a Family, Boise

Carrie and I were up early to exercise at her incredible gym, Shine Fitness, with 8 other ladies who value a good workout. Angela, the owner, was kind enough to allow me to attend her class at no charge, and gave me a wonderful t-shirt to remember them all by.  It was a great, hard workout and they couldn’t have been more welcoming.  Perfect way to start the week!

IMG_2691

After a fun lunch at Big City, we all headed over to yet another bike shop to try to buy a tire for my recumbent bike.  Lucky me, Dan was able to fix my flat months ago, but the replacement tube we had for this flat was too big for the tire – even though they were both 20’s.  We didn’t know it needed to be a European 20, 406.  Now we know!

IMG_2705Our next stop was the Boise State Capitol and here we are in front of Idaho’s replica of the Liberty Bell.  Every state has one, with some being easy to find like this one, and others being hidden away.  We weren’t able to take a tour of the capitol because you have to make reservations two weeks in advance, and I hadn’t done so because we never even suspected that we would have to.  No other capitol we had been to required that!  We wandered around on our own, however, which was just fine.  Our LAST capitol of the trip and because we’d had an excellent tour in Salt Lake, we knew much of the area’s history.

Our LAST capitol, doesn’t seem possible.  We’ve toured:  Sacramento, CA, Phoenix, AZ, Austin, TX, Little Rock, AR, Nashville, TN, St. Paul, MN, Madison, WI, Montpelier, VT, Concord, NH, (we tried at Boston, MA, and Providence, RI), Washington, D.C., Richmond, VA, Jackson, MS, Little Rock, AR, Oklahoma City, OK, Denver, CO, Santa Fe, NM, Salt Lake City, UT and finally Boise, ID.

Sacramento is the most impressive, inside and out, and we thought it was funny that the tour guide said Arnold’s governor’s portrait wasn’t hanging in the capitol yet because Maria wouldn’t give it to him.  Phoenix was dirty, small and sad, but their outdoor mall was really well done. Austin was huge and fun because we toured with friends.  Little Rock was forgettable – so  much so that we made plans to go back the next year when we went through because none of us remembered that we had been there before!  Nashville had school tours going on, so we cut our tour short for the sake of sanity.  We’ve always liked St. Paul for its history, location and view.  Madison was another favorite. Right in the middle of town, they are so progressive that they have their farmers market on the grounds on Saturday and the place was hopping inside and out.  The tour of tiny Montpelier was excellent from start to finish and the capitol is beautiful.  You can skip Concord if you’re in the area, ick.   Boston was closed for some strange, unusual reason, and Providence was closed for Victory Day, which we’d never heard of. They are the only state to still celebrate this day on the second Monday in August- Victory over Japan.

I’m a little biased about the nation’s capitol and I think everyone should visit!  I loved seeing it again, and even with all the security changes, it’s a magical place. The story of our history depicted in the building and on the hill is incredible.

You can skip Richmond, too.  Our guide thought Virginia was the only state in the nation and continually referred to everything as “we are #1” in this and that.  It got to be a little bit much.  The capitol served as headquarters for the Confederate Army, too, but the building itself isn’t noteworthy and they’ve done a weird visitors center underneath it.

Eliza and I toured Jackson one Saturday afternoon after washing the dogs, so we were filthy. We didn’t expect it to be open, then didn’t expect to be let inside. They were in a special session. We didn’t stay long, so I would go back someday for the full tour.  Plus, I NEED to see the Sweet Potatoe Queen Parade.

Once again, Little Rock wasn’t memorable, but worth an hour to see the statue of the Little Rock 9 on the outdoor campus.  Oklahoma City was the only capitol to have a working oil rig on the grounds, which is so appropriate for their area.  Beautiful remodel on the inside.  We’ve always liked the Denver capitol for its history, location, and the famous step outside which is one mile above sea level.  The funny part is that different groups  keep measuring and so they move the marker!

The Santa Fe capitol looks like any other corporate building from the outside, so we weren’t sure we were in the right place. It is in the shape of the Zia Sun Symbol, which is a circle with four points radiating outward.  It is also on their state flag, too.  It represents:

-the earth, with its four directions,
-the year, with its four seasons,
-the day, with sunrise, noon, evening, and night, and
-life, with its four divisions—childhood, youth, manhood, and old age

We had to make an appointment, but we called the same day and got one for an hour later.  Our guide was a college student who was working there for the summer and was able to answer every question we had.  Santa Fe is famous for its art and the capitol has over $6 million worth hanging on its walls.  We could have spent a week and not seen it all. They are juried in and most of the art is by famous local artists.  It’s the best art we’ve seen anywhere on the trip.

Salt Lake was a nice tour and a great view from their hill.  Their remodel and earthquake prepping is amazing in its scope and expenditure.  So Boise was fun because we toured with Ryan and Carrie and the kids.

IMG_2732Our last capitol (Well, until we drive to Salem someday…!)

Day 582 of Life on the Road as a Family, Boise, Idaho, with kidneys!

IMG_2681We’ve been looking forward to spending time with  Ryan and Carrie’s family for months!  We finally got to meet their adorable daughters in person when they came to the RV for dinner.  Dan donated a kidney to Ryan on July 2, 2012.  Carrie is Dan’s cousin, Ryan is her husband.  Dan’s mom and Carrie’s mom are sisters.  It’s a miracle that the donation came together as it did, and this was the first time we were able to celebrate Ryan’s health and Dan’s donation together.

In 2012, Dan had started the process to donate a kidney anonymously.  For years, he had wanted to give this gift.  There are over 80,000 people on the waiting list for a kidney, so we knew it wouldn’t take long.  Meanwhile, in Boise, Ryan’s kidneys were failing and he was going to be put on dialysis, waiting for a kidney.  Carrie posted a prayer request online that Dan’s mom Helen forwarded to him and after Dan read it, he told his mom he would start looking into the chance that his kidney might be a match for Ryan.  When Dan and Carrie talked on the phone the next day, it was the first time they had met! They are cousins, but Carrie is much younger and they had lived in different states their whole lives, so had never met.  Ryan and Carrie then had to decide if they wanted Dan to start testing, as you can only test one donor at a time. Ryan has many siblings, but for health reasons, two of them were already unable to donate.  In Ryan’s case, a sibling’s kidney might end up with the same damage as his own because his body would attack it, too.

Once they decided yes, Dan finished his testing in Bend and a date was set for all of us to be in Seattle.  It all went very fast.  We cancelled a vacation to Yosemite, and instead spent my 50th birthday literally running from doctor to doctor to make sure Dan was cleared to donate.  We had a scare when spots were found on his lungs and had to make the informed decision that it wasn’t cancer, and many doctors agreed.  (It was probably calcium deposits from inhaling grain dust and other things growing up on the farm in Iowa.) Still so scary that he was risking his life for someone else and might have health problems of his own.

But we were praying constantly.  For guidance. For peace about the decision and the timing. For Dan’s safety during the surgery and for success and health for Ryan after the surgery.  As you can see by the picture, Ryan is healthy!  He had a harder time than Dan did after the surgery and still has to take medication, but he’s a different color than he was the first time we met him (3 days before surgery) and he’s living a full, happy life with his family, thanks to Dan.  Dan’s recovery was minimal thanks to an incredible surgeon and the great physical shape he was in.  (Anyone can donate, please look into it!)

We spent two weeks in Seattle before Dan was released to go home, but we didn’t spend much time with Ryan and Carrie because he was in the hospital for longer and having some difficulties. We were so glad that the surgery had gone well for him, but we didn’t want to be intrusive.  Dan had undergone a battery of tests before the donation, including a psychological one regarding his feelings if the donation didn’t work out.  He said that he’d be fine if the kidney “didn’t take” for Ryan, but in reality, he still felt responsible and so was happy that the surgery worked for Ryan.

The next few days are our chance to spend time with Ryan and Carrie and the girls and we are so grateful for the opportunity.  Look out Boise, here we all come!

Days 579- 581, 3 Island Crossing State Park, Idaho

IMG_2516The drive from Salt Lake City to one of our favorite state parks was a long one so we all move around the rig and change seats during the day.   Eliza and I are sitting (buckled) in the front passenger seat for one of our last times, so we took this selfie and then we just couldn’t believe who was lounging on the couch behind us!  Jessica isn’t supposed to be on the furniture!  But look how cute she is…

IMG_2528Taken from the Emigrant Museum, the Snake River is that green belt in the middle and the cut in the mountain in where the wagons came down the hill in the mid-1800’s.  This was the most dangerous river crossing of the whole Oregon Trail.  They had been travelling for over 4 1/2 months and the last two days of 30 miles were without water. They were happy to get to the river for their livestock to be watered, but then they had to get themselves and their belongings across.  Many emigrants didn’t know how to swim, of course, so there were many fatalaties.  The local Native Americans helped when the tensions weren’t high.

This is our 3rd time staying at this campground. The first time Dan and I stumbled upon it and we were just entranced by it’s beauty and quiet location. The museum is tiny, but chock-full of history and done in a manner that honors both the emigrants and the Native Americans; as in, it tells the truth, not the truth our history books taught us.  We stayed here in 2008, and wanted to come back so the kids could see it and learn the history of the area again.

The town of Glenn’s Ferry itself is cute and we were able to do our grocery shopping, but the real draw is the river, the huge green trees all over, and the peaceful setting.  We knew this part of our last week on the trip, so we cherished every minute.  Great meals, fun bike rides and non-stop games inside, outside, and by the fire.  It’s probably the laziest we’ve been the whole trip!

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