I know, I know, we’re supposed to be better about keeping everyone up to date, and quite honestly, keeping a better log of our year of adventure so that we, ourselves, can one day look back on the details. Hopefully moving forward, we will be able to carve out more time to at least blog twice a month. Ideally, David and I would love to post after each place we stop, but it’s not always the most pressing item of the day. If you’ve been following along with my Facebook posts, you know that homeschooling has been a great feat to tackle, and we are still ironing all of that out. My guess is that we’ll get that down to a science (pun intended,) about next May. Nobody ever said that the things required to make this lifestyle happen would be easy, but they sure are worth it. I could go on and on about the ups and the downs, and the life lessons learned already, but I’ll save that for another day, and focus today on what we’ve been up to.
If you have chosen to follow us on Instagram, let me apologize to you and request that you make a shift to following us on Facebook for now. Truth be told, I’m just not efficient on Instagram yet, and have been going to my comfort zone of Facebook. (Learning Insta is wayyyyyyy down on the list of priorities right now.) Also, our main intention in documenting any of this is to have a manifesto of memories created, and to inspire those that are open to it, not to attract a ton of followers or advertising dollars. Perhaps, that will change one day, and in the mean time, if anybody wants to give me a lesson on Instagram, let me know.
Currently, we are all driving in the truck, having just crossed into Canada, so I’m going to get the help of all five of us to recount the many places we’ve been over the last month and a half. Here we go, in five sentences or less for each stop, in order to keep this from turning into a novel-you’re welcome! (Spoiler alert, I fail horribly at this goal.)
Yellowstone National Park & Cody, WY
Having spent a couple of summers in Cody as a kid with my grandparents, it was very special for me to get back there and share it with my family. If you have a couple days to spend in Cody, definitely visit The Buffalo Bill Cody Museum, the soda pop saloon, go to the rodeo, visit the Japanese encampment, and use Yelp to find a great place to eat, while shopping downtown. As for Yellowstone, do not do what we did and only give yourself two full days there. Yellowstone is a HUGE park, and if you don’t want to be in the car constantly, you need more time, like five days. You could spend an entire day each at Mammoth and Old Faithful Village alone, and you will want to see the lake, Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone Falls and so much more. Yes, the wildlife is very real, and up close and personal. We wore bear spray like a boss, and practiced using it since we were camped in the area of the park with the highest grizzly population, south of Alaska. Dave saw grizzlies while driving to a café for Wi-Fi each morning, but the girls and I only saw one black bear taking a nap next to the road. However, we saw enough bison to satisfy a lifetime’s desire of seeing bison, and had one very close encounter with three extremely large bulls. (Okay, so this five sentence thing is not going according to plan so far, better luck in the following paragraphs.)
Medora, North Dakota
One might ask why we would stop here, and it goes back to a time that was pivotal in us making the decision to travel full-time-While at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta last fall when we were camped next to a full-timer, and they told us their favorite place they had visited so far was Teddy Roosevelt National Park in Medora, ND. It did not disappoint, from it’s incredibly cute small town with educational experiences all around, to the superb family friendly outdoor musical, to great ice cream, to the serene and quiet national park (with more bison,) to the herd of wild horses that crossed our path. (See Terra’s “Finding Joy Moment” below for more details about this encounter.) One of our favorite memories about Medora was it being the first place we got all of the bikes out, which lead to us riding them for days, hardly ever getting in the truck during our time there, which was a much welcomed change after weeks of a lot of driving. We have since used and loved our bikes A LOT. The girls were also inspired by a local singer to create a new song for each state we go to, and we will be posting video of their creations soon. (Six run on sentences, we’re getting closer.)
For such a simple stop, that started out as a place to stay for a few days between North Dakota and Minneapolis, it turned out to be extremely memorable. First, one of our worst fears came to be as we got routed up a dead end road on our way to the campground, and Dave and I faced our greatest test in communication in 12 years of being together. We luckily both survived it, along with the truck and trailer, and only a hand full of “F-Bombs” were used. This town exposed us to a small piece of the 10,000 Minnesota lakes, inspired us to add “Lake House” to our vision boards, gave us RV park Christmas in July, and allowed the girls to find more kids than they could play with at any one time, leaving Dave and I to enjoy some MUCH needed adult time in our outdoor rocking chairs, while barely seeing the girls for two days. The town of Alexandria also put on a great Friday Night Street Fair, complete with a turtle raise, which delighted the girls, and gave me an opportunity to shop some really cute boutique stores. (It was also the first town with a Target, thank the sweet baby Jesus!)
Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota
First, what a cool city, we could totally live here if the winters didn’t rival Antarctica and the mosquitos weren’t the size of a small pigeon! We stayed about 30 minutes north of the city at a state park, which was beautiful, but made getting to the city and back hard with traffic. It also gave us our major “first world problems” experience-no Wi-Fi with three homeschoolers and two entrepreneurs. Most of these campgrounds are set up for weekend visitors enjoying a vacation, not people running a lifestyle out of their trailer. (This means using our hotspots IF they’re strong enough, or loading everybody and all of their things up to go to a library or coffee shop, both of which have their own challenges.) We went to the sculpture park, rode 7 miles around a small chain of lakes, while unashamedly bribing Aubree with dessert, we ate a delicious “Juicy Lucy,” learned so much at the animal conservatory, experienced our first of many “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” restaurants, opened and closed Mall of America, spent a day lounging by the lake, and visited some of Dave’s long time friends that live there. There is so much that we didn’t do in The Twin Cities, and we would love to go back one day!
Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
First, thank you to all of the people that have since told us that had we asked them if staying in The Dells for 9 days before we went was a good idea, they would have told us, “heck no!” Very helpful! Where were you all when we posted it to Facebook? Bahahahaha! In all seriousness, this is a really cool place, and there is so much to do, it just feels a little bit like the Las Vegas of Wisconsin, with flashing lights and “The Best” tour or show over here, or over there. I can definitely see where during the cold Wisconsin winters, you would want to spend time in the water park capital of the world, in one of their indoor water parks. We loved paddle boarding and kayaking on the Wisconsin River, learning about the incredibly unique river walls, spending the day at Noah’s Arc Waterpark, doing a Duck Boat Tour, eating at our first Pizza Ranch, (Yay for tasty gluten free pizza,) going to the public library to work and homeschool, going to the science museum, and being close enough to a friend’s lake house that we could go visit them for a day. If you ever make a trip to The Dells, please reach out and we can let you know where your money is best spent, and where to stay, if you’re camping. We definitely recommend making a trip here, but we can assure you that you won’t need nine days there, trust us! (I think it’s safe to say that the five sentence thing has gone out the window, but if you’ve made it this far, you’re likely in it for the long haul.)
Madison (An Unexpected, but Lovely City)
We originally had no plans to go to Madison, but we’d had our fill of the above mentioned town, and decided to be spontaneous. We loved Madison! The campground we were able to get into at the last minute was a little sketchy with a “Breaking Bad” like motorhome, cops showing up two days in a row, and a vibe that had us checking our bike and door locks regularly, but there was so much good too. A nature and bike trail went right through our campground, where the girls about peed their pants laughing at me as dozens of frogs jumped under my feet and around my ankles on our homeschooling nature walk, and I screamed like an ax murderer was chasing me every single time.
We were a ten-minute drive to UW, and Dave and I got a kid free date night on our anniversary. We plan to visit several college campuses along the way, but this was the first one we went to, and it was a great real world example that we were able to show the kids. Dave even looked up in state requirements of a 3.8 GPA and about a 1200 on your SAT’s, with only half of the yearly applicants getting in. With Miyah just starting her freshman year of high school, we had great conversations around college and the future. Madison also fit our “crunchy” lifestyle with their gluten free menu options, in addition to allowing my first opportunity to visit my beloved Costco to pick up some of our favorite organic and gluten free items. Dave and the girls often laugh at me about the things I get excited about on this trip, like Costco, Target, and Trader Joe’s. I’m a simple woman, that just loves the things and places that I love.
If you know your geography, you know that the Milwaukee-Chicago part of that title makes sense, but the Memphis part does not. Stick with me, here. We had been so excited to get to Milwaukee because we were all craving more socialization, and we knew that we had lots of friends and family waiting for us there. Dave’s Mom and Dad flew to Milwaukee from Colorado, and we had a bit of a family reunion with Beth, Bruce, Ada, Mario, Desmond, and baby Jacob. We visited the Harley Davidson Museum, set sail on a boat ride on Lake Michigan, went to some gorgeous city parks, stayed at our first Jellystone Campground, and had great conversation and time well spent with family. I worked much of the time there, if you want to call it that. When you love what you do, it doesn’t feel much like work. I was able to speak at an event that empowers and inspires women, while visiting several dear friends. As many of you saw on Facebook, I was given the opportunity to fly to Memphis on an all expenses paid trip to Juice Plus headquarters for a leadership program, which was absolutely incredible. I flew out of Chicago and back, so Dave and the girls took the train from Milwaukee to Chicago, where they spent the day living out a homeschoolers dream. They went on a historic boat tour, visited the Art Institute of Chicago, played around at The Chicago Bean, checked out Millennium Park, and went up Willis Tower, before meeting me for some Chicago deep dish pizza. We rode the train back to Milwaukee, arriving late at night, before embarking on our most anticipated stop of Mackinaw Island, where we will pick up at next time. Sneak peak, it is our most favorite destination so far.
Finding Joy Section-
Favorite Moment-There is so much time that has passed here and so much to recount, that I simply cannot name one favorite moment. My favorite part so far has been the hardest part-the growth. Each day there is so much that pushes me out of my comfort zone. I feel fear and uncertainty and joy, all within seconds of each other sometimes, and I know it’s changing me at a cellular level. I know without a doubt, that I will not end this trip the same person that I started it as.
Finding Joy Moment-I’m going to cheat and do two, since almost two months have passed since our last opportunity to state our joy.
- We were in Teddy Roosevelt Ntnl. Park, and trying to find a hike that was supposed to be the best place to watch the sunset, because you all know how much I love sunsets. Dave was navigating while I drove, but he got distracted when he was supposed to tell me to turn left where I turned right. We were almost back to the entrance of the park when he realized that we were going the wrong way. There was no place to make a U-turn, so I had to keep going quite a way, but when I finally got turned around, it was only seconds later when that gorgeous herd of wild horses and all of their babies came up the wash, and walked right next to the road. It was a breathtaking sight that we would have completely missed if we hadn’t made a wrong turn.
- The night that we got routed up the dead end road, the sun was just going down on the lake right next to us, and during a time that I felt like crying, I stopped and took it in. Sometimes we just have to take a minute to reground ourselves and remember that nothing is permanent.
Favorite Moment- I have so many favorite moments from this amazing trip it is so hard to just choose one! I do think that one of my favorite moments might have to be from when we were in Alexandria, Minnesota. On one of the days that we were there, my family and I went to one of the many lakes that were near our campsite. Jaelyn, Aubree, and I swam in the water while Mom and Dad were getting their suntan on. We came up with the idea of making tricks that all 3 of us could do. There was this crazy trick that we came up with that involved Aubree hanging onto Jaelyn’s back and Jaelyn sitting on my shoulders. It took so many tries but we were eventually able to balance ourselves for a good amount of time. When Jaelyn and Aubree fell back into the water, we were laughing so much. It was such a good moment that I truly enjoyed!
Finding Joy Moment- On one of the days that we were moving campsites, I had gotten sick. It was the day that we were leaving Minneapolis, Minnesota, and heading to our camp spot in the Wisconsin Dells. The day before we had packed up to leave, my family and I had gone to Mall of America and spent half of the day at the Nickelodeon World Amusement Park. While Mom and Dad went with Jaelyn and Aubree to ride some rides that were designed more for their age, I did all of the biggest rides. I didn’t get sick but the effect of the roller coasters seemed to hit me the following morning. I threw up a few times on our way to the Wisconsin Dells and when we got to our campsite, I was so tired. One of my main jobs in our trailer is helping set up the trailer when we get to a new camp spot. After the trailer was parked, I got out of the truck to get out and help but Mom told me to just chill until we opened up the trailer. I felt bad because helping my Dad set up the trailer is my responsibility and my mom was doing it for me. When we opened up the trailer, I tried again asking if there was anything that I could do to help but Mom told me that I could go and lay down to rest. I listened and climbed into bed still feeling a little bit sad that there wasn’t anything I could do, but then realized that some good came out of not doing anything. The good thing was, I got to take care of myself and sleep!
Favorite-The Black Cobra Slide at Noah’s Arc.
Find Joy-Well, we were in Medora, North Dakota it was constantly hot, and the only time you could do something outside was during the afternoons. So, while we were out and about one morning, it was hard finding options, but we saw a playground shaped as a town and knew we just had to go. We finally convinced mom to take us over there, and we darted to the wood playground. A few minutes later mom told us it was getting too hot and that we’d have to go find something else to do. That did not make me very happy! I followed her in a grumpy mood; we came across a theater that had a talking dog inside. Mom recommended we try that instead, so we went inside and bought tickets. Five minutes into the show, and I was already laughing out loud. When he asked for one kid to come on stage, I raised my hand, and to my surprise I was called on. I walked on stage, being filled with joy. If it weren’t for the heat, I would have never gotten to be on stage with a ventriloquist that was on Americas Got Talent!
Favorite-The day at Noah’s Arc.
Find Joy-When we went to mall of America the first ride we went on I wasn’t sure about it, but I did it anyway and after I got off I was really scared and I ended up crying but after that I felt the good inside.
Favorite- I’m not big on favorites. There’s too much to try and experience to single out any one “favorite”. Here are some highlights in bullet point fashion:
- Mountain bike rides with Miyah – We’ve found a new activity that is ours, and it’s been great having a new riding buddy. Our goal is to do at least one mountain bike ride in every state that we travel through.
- Family time – During our normal Castle Rock routine, everyone is busy. School, work, activities, friends, etc… While I enjoy all that stuff, it leaves little time for family togetherness. On this trip we’re still busy, but we’re doing things together and experience life as a unit. Its creating deeper relationships and connectivity amongst all of us.
- Bison encounter (mentioned above) – While this close encounter was certainly terrifying, it was amazing being so close to a wild animal. When there is no fence between you and the animal, it’s a different feeling for sure.
- Chicago – Spending the day in Chicago with the girls was a whirlwind. We started early and went all day. It was a fun filled day that we won’t forget.
- Family Reunion – It was great seeing my extended family in Milwaukee. So many memories growing up, and getting to check in with my cousins from time to time while meeting their kids for the 1st time is really special.
- Wife & Husband conquer the world everyday – Planning, executing, failing, recalculating, executing etc… this is the task that Terra and I take on everyday that makes this journey challenging, but incredible. Whether it’s our route, camp reservations, the trailer, the kids, homeschool, work etc… we work through it together. It has absolutely brought Terra and I closer, and we’re discovering more and more about each other and growing closer each day.
- Yellowstone – No wifi at camp in Yellowstone, so I had to wake up early and drive to this little café a few miles down the road. I’m there one morning and there is a group of people outside at 7 AM with binoculars. I go out and take a look and see 3 grizzly bears on the ridge across the river.
- Medora – Rode my back for 10 miles on the road, only to get a mile in on the single track, and it was so muddy it was impassable. Had to turn around and ride out on the road… boo. Found some really fun single track on the way back that I would have missed otherwise. Also, road for almost 4 hours and didn’t see anyone around for miles… thanks North Dakota.