It was four people, one motorhome named Boss Hogg, a tow vehicle named Roscoe, four bikes and one of those truly epic opportunities of a lifetime. Recapping what we saw and what it all meant to us seems overwhelming. It's surreal. Flash back to several years ago when we pulled into an RV lot and wandered through a few model "homes". I'm not really sure why or what lead us there but I said, "What if we pulled the kids out of school, bought a big bus and traveled around the country for several months." I don't know if I was serious or not but if you know me, I'm the type of person that would do just that. And I did. We tossed around the idea for several years and we kept chickening out several times. It seemed a tad crazy , expensive and just non realistic and in the end we couldn't justify the whole thing. But...one day something changed. We were in a transition phase and the time frame presented itself. So we gambled that the experience was worth the risk. My boys are growing faster than I can process and I wanted to do something that would bring us all together and create a bond that was beyond the obligatory family relationship. We drove to Mandeville, bought it and headed back to Jupiter with a 5 mile test drive under our belt. There's nothing like jumping in head first. We spent two weeks packing it up and preparing to leave town for an extended period of time.
A week or so into June we rolled out of Jupiter and headed north on the Turnpike. We made our way out of Florida and explored a number of springs along the way. I wasn't sure about these things. Aren't they always closed for bacteria? Like the brain and flesh eating kind? Nobody got that I guess or at least it hasn't shown up yet. Boys show me my biggest fears. We explored 16 national parks and countless state parks, monuments and random dangerous places. I had to learn to let go and let grow. To the best of my ability with constant prayer and the help of the Lord.
We bought a Tiffin motorhome that would turn out to be even better than we could have imagined. Besides being a highly respected brand, if not the most highly respected, it's made in my sweet home of Alabama. We originally looked at an even larger model but this one was just right to start with as we jumped into the world of RVing. A residential sized fridge was a must and turned out to be a wise choice with two rapidly growing and constantly hungry boys. It was more than spacious and I never got cabin fever - not even once. The sofa chair pulls out to be an L shaped sofa for additional seating. The fridge and the L shaped sofa were musts. Did I mention the L shaped sofa? Instead of the space eating bunk model, we opted to have one kid sleep on the queen size pull out and another on the drop down bunk over the cockpit. Should we need more space, the dinette turns into a bed as well. It was a great choice!
Now that we had a motorhome, we needed a tow vehicle or what we came to learn is called a "toad." We didn't pull any of the 3 SUVs we have because they were so large and heavy. We found a manual Jeep Liberty here in Jupiter that was meant to be. It even matched the motorhome. We felt 65 and retired. That's how Roscoe came into the picture.
We made our way through Alabama and stopped at the Tiffin factory in Red Bay for a tour and a tweak. The kids loved it and they already picked out our "next" model.
Well hello Nashville! What a fun-packed week we had there. It's become a boys tradition whenever we are near a football stadium to snap a pic if possible. Check Vandy off the list. Any chance I get to see my nieces and nephew is a real treasure and painting with them an added bonus. We also caught up with old friends at the Brentwood Country Club for an afternoon of swimming. The Pharmacy gets a thumbs up from Wells and Wyatt the milkshake connoisseurs.
It was in Nashville that we crossed paths at the KOA with an older couple from Pasadena who also had a Tiffin motorhome. We got to talking and quickly discovered he was one of those people you meet that you may never see again but also would never forget. It was a true gift to meet him as he sat down with my husband and pretty much mapped out our entire trip around the west. He was a vast amount of knowledge as to what roads to avoid and what not to miss. I scribbled about this great couple in my journal so I wouldn't forget his gift to us. It's often the smallest ways we help someone that display Christ the most.
After Nashville we worked our way to Memphis. We climbed to the top of the pyramid and took in Beall Street. Up next was Arkansas where we spent a few days with my in-laws. We took the boys trout fishing on the White RIver while we were there and spending the afternoon with our guide, Willard, was my favorite part of the outing. I loved his stories and hearing about his first trip to the beach last year. He didn't much care for it and that intrigued me to no end! I've never heard of such a thing.
At this point, it was off into the unknown. Minus one trip in college to Taos, I had never been west of Texas until the RV trip. First up was Kansas City. What a great place and a little reminiscent of my beloved Ft. Worth.
And then there was Omaha, another wonderful surprise. We really liked it and had the best pizza ever at Pitch in the Dundee area. The people are so very nice and it didn't take me long to fall in love with America's heartland. I couldn't think of a better name for that part of the country.
This brings us to South Dakota which was by far, one of my favorites. As a flatlander, I absolutely loved it. The prairies dotted with barns had me from the moment we crossed the state line. I has so many pre-conceived notions about what SD was like and boy was I wrong. I can't wait to return!
The 1880 town was a real hit and we all enjoyed it. This started another trip tradition of watching whatever movie was filmed in the area we were in. Here we stepped into the set of Dances With Wolves and then piled onto that L shaped RV sofa to watch the film together that evening. Memories we will never forget.
This was one of my favorite experiences on the trip. A lonely road in the middle of the St. Pierre National Grasslands. We unloaded the bikes and set loose. Score one for wide open spaces.
We coincidentally took this trip on the 100 year anniversary of the National Parks system. We visited Big Bend in April and quickly realized what a treasure they are to our country. The boys both got a NP Passport where they could gather stamps at each park and monument we visited. Our first park on this trip was the Badlands and it remains one of my favorites to this day. The term "other worldly" came up over and over again for good reason. These are little pockets of amazingness all over this vast and spectacular country.
As Jason Aldean sings about, the Fly Over States are worth exploring and I dare say way better than either coast. After the Badlands, we headed into the Black Hills to see the one and only Mt. Rushmore. It's an amazing piece of art and I think we were the only Americans there. That actually turned out to be a theme of the trip. I can't believe how many foreigners were at parks and monuments all across the country! I hope as many Americans are seeing our country as well.
Custer State Park was up next and what a great experience. We saw Bison and fed the donkeys which the boys loved. We were advised in advance to take treats as they will eat right out of your hand or your car window for that matter.
Speaking of Custer, we couldn't be in South Dakota without experiencing his Last Stand. Last year in homeschool we did an overview of US History to prepare for this journey. I reviewed the battle with them prior to visiting and hoped they would take something, ANYTHING away from it so I could bask in my homeschool success and glory. For once it went my way and just that actually happened. I'll take this moment of success as there have been plenty of doubtful, hair pulling kinds of days. The boys stood there in those grasslands looking at history in the face. It was alive and I could see it. They would forever know that Custer's Last Stand wasn't just some boring paragraph in a textbook. It was real and it was piece of the puzzle that is the America we know today.
After a full day of exploring nights were spent like this. With Fox News we felt at home wherever we went... ;)
We experienced the legend of Wild Bill Hickok in Deadwood and the legend of Harley Davidson in Sturgis.
This brings us to Wyoming. Hello beautiful! Mountains with a wild west cowboy vibe made my heart beat a little faster. We woke up to a most gorgeous view in the form of Devil's Tower. An early morning fog rendered it invisible until mysteriously it rose out of the mist. Binoculars allowed us to see the daring climbers that scaled the walls and slept in hammocks overnight. No thank you. I enjoyed watching though. Our family tradition continued as we once again piled onto that L shaped RV couch and all watched Close Encounters of the Third Kind and saw the magic mountain in a whole new light.
We left Devil's Tower and headed west to spend a few days in both Buffalo and Sheridan.
The boys will fish anywhere including in the creek that runs through the middle of town. Wyoming did not let them down and the crystal waters across the state begged for exploration by a modern day miniature version of Lewis and Clark.
From here we headed up into Montana. All that big sky was nothing short of dreamy. After a short stay in both Big Timber and Butte, we rolled into Missoula. Besides the BBQ restaurant named Notorious P.I.G, I mostly remember the glorious store called the Good Food Store. A little heaven right there as it had been a while since I saw a Whole Foods. If you know me well, you know I inherited a love of good grocery stores from my mama. She would've liked this one! After Missoula, we spent a week at an RV resort on Flathead Lake in Polson. It was like a vacation in a vacation. When you're moving all the time, staying at a place like this with firepits and workout rooms and your own yard is a welcome break! We explored all the surrounding towns like Whitefish, Kalispell etc.
It was onto Idaho at this point. We spent a week in Blanchard just north of Coeur D'Alene. We had no WIFI at all in the motorhome while we were there and as hard as that was to get used to, I LOVED it. Oh boy do I have a love-hate relationship with technology and social media. This forced break was awesome. My husband, on the other hand, was less than thrilled as he made quite a few long drives into the nearest town to conduct business. We pulled into the Stoneridge Motorcoach Resort and I recognized a Tiffin Phaeton with California plates and a tan tow jeep. As fate would have it, our friends from Nashville were here in the middle of NOWHERE! We were all excited to share where we had been and how helpful his knowledge was to us. They were staying there with RV friends that they have known for like 40 years. How great is that - to have friends for that long that you RV with. Awesome!
This is such a broad overview of what we did and there are so many little unplanned things that we remember the most. From the silver mines in Wilson to the hanging bridge in Kootenai Falls, it was an explorers dream. We worked our way back towards Montana and stayed in Bozeman for a few days. We loved Bozeman! What a cool town. We shopped the main street and hung out at a great coffee shop. At this point, it was time to tackle Yellowstone. If you're planning on going, just know it is crazy busy during the summer. We were at the tail end of the season and many kids were getting ready to head back to school so it wasn't too bad. It's a lot of work to explore the large parks but it's so worth it!