A family on the road living fulltime in an RV.

Author: Jenn

Weekend in Wyoming: The Great American Eclipse

Leading up to the eclipse I was ho-hum.  It seemed like people has been talking about it for months and months. Friends of ours were going to a fulltime RV family…

Leading up to the eclipse I was ho-hum.  It seemed like people has been talking about it for months and months. Friends of ours were going to a fulltime RV family solar eclipse meet-up in Oregon but I thought it was just a fun little excuse  to get together or a theme or something. I just didn’t get the hype. As a child, I remembered seeing a partial eclipse and feeling underwhelmed. Then two weeks ago, I decided to look up what all the fuss was about and learned that this eclipse was special because it was going to cut across the entire United States. Cool. I also looked at the map and saw that the path of totality was crossing not too far north of us in Wyoming. I really wasn’t sure what the path of totality meant but a road trip sounded fun. Still we had just gotten back from a two month road trip and Thing 1 had only been back in school a week. Certainly, it wouldn’t be worth pulling him out for a day and driving five hours with toddlers for a two-minute and twenty-second show in the sky. After all, we would see nearly 90% covered in the Springs. How much better could 10% be?

100% better.

Not only was the eclipse one of the most incredible things I have witnesses in my life, the entire weekend was pretty darn magical.

Being last-minute planners meant we didn’t have reservations so we took our chances and headed up to Muddy Mountain, Wyoming in hopes of finding a spot to boondock on BLM land. It was getting dark as we wound our way up the dirt road and we were starting to get nervous about finding a spot to set up the RV. Parking in a campground after dark is not the best idea but finding dispersed camping on public lands after dark is dumb. Really dumb if you are pulling a big trailer. Of course, the setting sun didn’t stop me from jumping out to take a picture on our way up the mountain.

In the distance, we made out the outline a fifth wheel on a ridge. We hoped it was the overflow land we were looking for. It turned out it was. We couldn’t see much of our surroundings that night but we found a place to park.

The next morning we were surprised by splendor.

Credit for these photos goes to Thing 4 who takes it upon himself to wake me up before dawn. Day. After. Day.

Our spot was gorgeous. (Here are the coordinates if you want to bookmark it. 42.690362,-106.3228907)

And so was the view out our front door.

Paragliders came out to enjoy the quiet morning sky.

I would totally do this if I could get a written guarantee I wouldn’t die.

It was  perfect spot to set up our portable solar panel.

And the perfect place for some morning cuddles.

He’s totally worth the gazillion hours of lost sleep.

We took a morning walk down the dirt road. Nico got tired after five seconds and wanted to hitch a ride.

Then we took a drive around the area and may or may not have gotten chastised by angry ranchers for being on their land. We were driving down a dirt state road but somehow missed the sign that we were leaving state land and entering private property. Oooops. Our bad. We apologized profusely and promised to never do it again.

Later that afternoon, we took the Littles for a hike in the woods. We didn’t take any chances on meandering onto private land and chose a maintained trail in Casper Mountain County Park. Thing 3 gathered 10 thousand very special sticks.

Thing 4 fell in the grass and wasn’t sure what to think until his big brother “fell down” too. Then it was all giggles.

Thing 4 did most of the hike himself until he threw a rock on his own face. That takes skill. After that he was done walking and just wanted to ride.

Back at home Thing 3 played with the universal toy of childhood.

That evening the opening act was pretty spectacular.

And it kept getting better

.

And better.

And better.

Until the sun caught our trailer on fire. Kidding that’s he reflection of the sunset. (Can you imagine how cool this would look when we polish our trailer!)

We weren’t the only ones who enjoyed the show.

The Littles were pretty mesmerized too.

The sunrises and sunsets alone were worth the effort but we had no idea of the show that was to follow the next day.

Late the following morning, we set up our camera for the one picture we would end up getting and sat back to enjoy the show.

The eclipse began. It was cool and all but I started to feel a little smug like I was entitled to my “ho-hum” attitude.

Our neighbors, a group of aging hippies, were awesome and way more interesting than the eclipse. They set up a telescope that we could look through and shouted fun things like, “time for your edibles” and “everyone take off your clothes”. I want to be them when I grow up. 😉

They even provided entertainment. I really want to be him when I grow up. Like really.

The eclipse was slow-moving so between doing dishes, watching a unicyclist, and taking care of the Littles I checked it every 10 minutes or so. Thing 1 found a good spot to chill and cuddle with his little brother for a little while.

You might be wondering about what we did with the Littles during the eclipse. You aren’t alone. I spent a week worrying wondering about it because obviously I didn’t want them to lose their vision and by the barrage of eclipse safety in the media you would have thought the sun was a new phenomena. I have no idea how the entire world is not already blind. Anyway, the Littles don’t watch much television but this was one of those time when the benefits outweighed the waste of time. We set them up with a show, toys, and snacks in the RV while we enjoyed the eclipse right outside the door. It was a perfect set up because I didn’t have to worry about them trying to sneak a peek and I could micromanage remind my teens about staying safe without distraction. RVing for the win again!

The temperature began to drop and we put on jackets but even though the sun was nearly covered it was still pretty bright.

Until it wasn’t.

Suddenly, it started getting dark. Being in denial that the Bigs are actually pretty grown up, I was still worried about them frying their eyeballs. Then someone said, “The sunset is all around us!” I stopped worrying about the Bigs taking off their glasses to soon and spun around to take in the most amazing 360 degree sunset. Next someone else shouted, “Look at the corona!” I pulled off my glasses and, overwhelmed by the beauty and the most pure light I’ve ever seen lost my mind. Lost. My. Mind.

Don’t believe me?

Watch this video. Ignore my haphazard filming (I was focused on the eclipse.) and the fact I sound like a lunatic. It’s worth noting that I’m typically a pretty reserved person.

The eclipse was one of the most intense and beautiful 2 minutes and 20 seconds of my life. It was sublime in the truest sense of the word. Mind blowing. My body buzzed for a full 30 minutes afterwards. The moment when the last sliver of sun disappeared, that moment of totality when I took off my glasses, was like instantly being transported to another world. Everything familiar but so different. Completely surreal. A 360 degree sunset. And the corona of the sun… No words. Just awe.

And now I get it.

I’m already looking forward to 2024.

And here’s the one picture we got.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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What it Was Really Like for Our Family to Stop Full Time RVIng

This morning as I lay in bed awake but with my eyes closed, I listened to Thing 4 breathing near my cheek and felt the warmth of Brent’s body against…

This morning as I lay in bed awake but with my eyes closed, I listened to Thing 4 breathing near my cheek and felt the warmth of Brent’s body against my back. The night had been rough with Thing 3 waking up multiple times in tears and Thing 4 needing to be nursed for what seemed like a million times. But now with the soft grey light curling around the blinds, everyone but me was sleeping soundly. It was cozy. I didn’t want to wake up because that meant letting go of the comforting blanket of peace that surrounded us and embracing the everyday chaos of taking care of a toddler, baby, and two teens. Instead, I thought about how whole and safe I feel in our nest of a bed tucked away in the slide out of the RV. Eyes still closed, I reached out to tighten the curtain when my hand abruptly fell through the imagined wall.

I wasn’t sleeping in my nest-bed in the RV. I was sleeping on a new bed in a new house, a house without wheels. I wasn’t going to wake up and walk a few steps to our kitchen. I would walk up a flight of stairs. I wasn’t going to wake the boys up from their bunkroom 20 feet away to get started with their homeschool. I would go to each of their separate bedrooms to wake them up to go to school. I wasn’t going to have a day exploring new places. I was going to drive the same streets to the same places.

Saying goodbye to our beloved RV. The family who bought it has two little boys and lives in it full time too.

It’s been just over a year since we moved out of the RV. Even though we knew our decision to stop full time RVing was the right one, moving out of the RV was easier said than done. With the help of some friends, it only took a few hours to get all our stuff out of the RV. The emotional “moving out” has taken much longer. For Brent and I, it’s been a surprisingly difficult painful new “road”.

Settling down has been a kind of divorce. The dreams we had of our future have changed drastically. The way an identity can get wrap up in a spouse, much of Brent and I’s identity, naturally, got wrapped up into being nomads. Over the last year we have been fumbling around trying to figure who we are as suburbanites. I’m not intending to minimize divorce. One way to look at divorce is “a complete separation of two things.” Our two lives, the one on the road and the one in a house, are so completely different, so separate, and so often, very lonely.

But if living full time in an RV taught us one thing, it taught us we are adaptable.

Our last family photo in front of the RV.

The kids, as kids most often do, adapted quickly. The hardest months for the teens were when they started school but we were still living in an RV. The best part about our home on wheels were the wheels and when the wheels weren’t rolling it was an entirely different experience. They didn’t want to invite friends over or be dropped off at the campground. While Brent and I were more than happy to share why we lived in an RV, what mattered to the teens was what other people thought.

Our last campground as full time RVers, Garden of the Gods RV Resort, was a wonderful spot to visit but a bit cramped for an extended stay.

We had planned to stay in the RV for an entire year after being stationary but soon realized that wasn’t going to work. Not only were the boys embarrassed, our 41′ RV shrunk exponentially once we quit moving. Having Yellowstone or Lake Superior as the playground in your backyard is much different from the city campground where the RVs are crammed together like books on a bookshelf. So we found a house and a few months later said goodbye to the RV.

For months after settling down, I struggled on and off with depression It’s a rather long story but the short of it is I did not adjust easily back to life in a house after four years on the road. It’s been hard. Really hard. At times, I’ve felt like I’m 19 again but not in the life-is-an-open-road-awesome-way but in the lost lonely what-am-I-doing-way. It sucks to be 39 and feel like a depressed confused 19 year old.

So grateful for the hundreds of magnificent sunrises and sunsets that we witnessed all over our country.

 

I’ve been trying to feel grateful for the life we had and I do. I feel extremely grateful but when I only focus on being grateful and try to bury all of the other emotions, I feel bad. I feel angry at myself for feeling any other emotion other that gratitude. Then I feel disconnected from the people around me because “they don’t get it”. And mostly I feel guilt. Guilt for feeling angry and disconnected and for basically feeling anything else other than gratitude. So then I try harder to feel grateful and the cycle would continue.

Grateful. Anger. Disconnect. Guilt. Grateful. Anger. Disconnect. Guilt….

To break the cycle I needed to let myself grieve. It felt silly to grieve something that I realize I was very fortunate to experience like grieving a stain on a designer blouse. You know, first world problems. But judging my feelings only served to keep me on the disconnected emotional hamster wheel. So now I let myself grieve as needed and try to suspend judgment on my feelings.

Our stuff the day we moved out.

We spent years preparing to get on the road but didn’t give much thought for preparing to get off the road. There were practical and financial challenges like starting over with nothing in terms of furniture and selling our truck and RV to replace them with something more weekend friendly. The month following Thing 4’s birth our family couldn’t go anywhere together because our truck only sat five people. There were emotional challenges like letting go of my dream to homeschool the boys and watching our friends travel while we sit still. There were physical challenges like having a new baby and the hormonal sleepless nights that followed. There were relational challenges of connecting with each other in the mundane and finding friends in our new community. It was so easy to connect with other nomads but we’ve found it hard in a town of 500,000+ people to find our tribe. After four years in the slow lane, I had forgotten how busy people are and it’s been overwhelming. I can’t and don’t want to keep up and often feel like I’m on the outside looking in. To top it off, there is the spiritual challenge of having found my identity in the external, being a nomad, instead of finding it in the internal, which for me is God. Nothing like a little identity crisis to keep the emotional roller coaster oiled.

Brent and I experiencing Laird Hot Springs on the Alcan (Alaskan Highway) in British Colombia.

I once read an article that said having adventures, big and small, were the secret to long lasting happy marriages. I think about all the people I know who are happily married, not the ones who manage to get along and check off life’s boxes like efficient business partners, but the ones who delight in each other, the ones who share a certain noticeable energy that seems to propel them through life. I’ve noticed most of these people make adventure a way of life whether it’s driving across the county to see an iron bridge, taking a different way home just because, trying new restaurants, challenging their minds together, or spontaneously flying to France because they found cheap tickets online. (Umm…that would be my crazy parents.) This past year we’ve been so overwhelmed by adjusting back to a normal life with things like electric bills and school commitments that we’ve almost forgotten to have fun. It was like suddenly after 16 years our honeymoon was over.

RVing on the Homer Spit in Alaska.

Brent misses traveling full time just as much as I. The other day he told me he thinks about being in Alaska nearly every day. So even if it’s hard to connect over who is going to pick up the boys after school or do the grocery shopping, there is always the crashing waves along the Homer Spit or the golden leaves in Yukon. We can go there in our imaginations together as we continue to figure out how to have adventures while making sure the gas bill gets paid.

Life as a suburbanite isn’t all bad. Like most of life, it’s a matter of perspective and attitude. I’m slowly incorporating things that I used to enjoy about being in one place like going to libraries and getting in my  favorite cashier’s line at the grocery store. <== I’m obviously the life of the paaartay. Simple things that I didn’t realize I missed. I’m an introvert and homebody so it’s hard for me to get out and meet people but it’s happening. Slowly.

Thing 3 hiking with our toddler hiking group.

Slowly, I’ve been able to stop wishing I still lived in our past and embrace the moments I’ve been given in the present and the people God is putting in my path no matter where I am.

It may sound trite but every day really can be an adventure of some sort and I’m committed to finding that adventure even if it’s in my own backyard.

My happy place. (This was taken in Alberta, Canada.)

Plus summer break is just around the corner and the whisper of the open road is growing louder.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Great Gifts for RVers

Christmas is just around the corner and if you are like me a total procrastinator you still have some shopping to do or perhaps you have friends and loved ones…

Christmas is just around the corner and if you are like me a total procrastinator you still have some shopping to do or perhaps you have friends and loved ones asking what they can get you. If so this list of great gifts for RVers is for you!

Great Gifts for RVers

Instant Pot – A favorite among RVers, the Instant Pot was my Christmas gift from Brent in 2014 and we’ve used it nearly every day since. In fact, I just heard it beep signaling that our BBQ chicken is done. The multi-functional kitchen warrior is perfect for RVing as it serves many purposes: pressure cooker, rice cooker, slow cooker, saute/browner, yogurt maker, and warmer. We have the 6qt IP-DUO60 7-in-1 and it’s plenty big enough for our family. Regularly, I double recipes and as of yet I haven’t had a problem fitting it all in the pot. We LOVE our Instant Pot.

Foldable Vases – Inexpensive and perfect for RVing, a foldable vase makes a great gift for your favorite RVer. Foldable vases allow you to bring the outdoors in without taking up space or adding weight. On top of that, they are unbreakable which is always good when your RV basically experiences a mini earthquake every time you move it. They come in multi-packs and as singles. The first time I saw one was when a friend brought me one as a hostess gift and I have been hooked since!

Nesting Mixing Bowl Set  – RVers are always looking for space saving solutions and these nesting bowls with a colander and measuring cups fit the great gifts for RVers criteria. They are super cute to boot. We love ours because they are well made, pretty, and, most importantly, 9 items take up the space of one. We have the colorful set in the picture above but they also come in blue and grey.

Portable Solar Panel – We loved having a full solar system but that’s quite an investment and if you aren’t going to be doing a lot of boondocking then a portable solar panel is a better option. Portable solar panels allow you to keep your devices charged and a battery topped off for short stints off the grid. Of course, check with your RVer first before investing in such a gift.

Stainless Steel Wine Glasses – When we hit the road in our RV, we brought along our wine glasses. It didn’t take long until they all broke and we were drinking wine out of mugs. We put these stainless steel glasses on our wish list but ended up just drinking from mugs because we are classy like that. These are the only things on the list that we don’t own but wish we did. (Ahem) We think these would make a great gift for RVers even part-time ones. 😉


Magnetic Car Phone Mount Holder
– I’m always surprised when someone gets in my car or truck and says something about my cell phone holder. Maybe it’s because after living for four years on the road and still not knowing our new city very well, the first thing I do put the address of where I’m going into my phone. What do people do when they have to use the navigation apps on their phones and don’t have a holder? Hold it in their hands? Lay it on the center console?  When it comes to safety, I’m super uptight conscientious and this little contraption is wonderful. We put a magnet inside our phone cases and the phone effortlessly sticks to the mount that is in our truck’s cd player. We also have one that mounts in the air vent in our other car. Love these things. They are convenient and make using a navigational app safer.

Kindle – Most of my mentions of my Kindle are met with but “I love the feel of paper books.” I do too. More than the feel of paper books I the smell but when you live in an RV or travel a lot you need to make choices and finally getting a Kindle was one of the best purchases ever. In fact, we now own four Kindles, one for each person who can read. Two years ago, I got Brent the Paper White as a Christmas gift and since have confiscated it for myself. I love that I can take hundreds of books, a booklight, and a “highlighter” with me in one light device. Our Kindles include a Kindle Fire, a Kindle Touchscreen and an earlier generation of this one. Out of the three, the Paper White is my favorite. I really like the adjustable built-in light for night reading. Unlike my phone or a computer screen, the Paper White doesn’t give me a headache while reading at night. A Kindle is a perfect gift for RVers and travelers.

Gift Cards – If the gift card is for a full-time RVer, try to stick to larger national chains or internet stores like Amazon. Even though RVers take their kitchens with them, it’s still nice to not have to cook all the time so restaurant gift cards are nice as well. Or an Amazon Prime Membership is a great gift for full-time RVers if they don’t already have one. Our Prime Membership made getting items while traveling full-time so much easier.

Digital GiftsMusic, movies, and e-books all make great gifts because they don’t take up physical space. The movie RV is one of our favorites.

Walkie Talkies – Walkie talkies are perfect for RVers with children. The kids can play games with them and/or you can keep in touch. Read about the time our boys got stuck in “quick sand” and you’ll know why we think walkie talkies are a must have and makes great gifts for RVers.

Induction Cook Top – Campground fees almost always include your electricity so it makes sense to use electric appliances when possible and conserve your propane. This is why we regularly use an induction cook top. Another benefit is that it frees up another burner if you are cooking multiple dishes. Our induction cook top has held up well but if you are looking for something a little fancier with a little more wattage there is this one. Note: You must use cookware (I’m eyeing this set.) made out of magnetic-based metal to work with induction cook tops. Induction cook tops make great gifts especially for the very utilitarian RVers.

Aeropress and Coffee Mill – The Aeropress is another well-loved and often used item in our RV kitchen. In fact, Brent takes this with us whenever we travel because good coffee is a must. We’ve owned ours for three years (it too was a Christmas gift) and it’s still going strong. Being whole been coffee people, this hand coffee grinder is our Aeropress’s faithful companion. Where one goes the other goes and it doesn’t matter if we are 100 miles from an electrical outlet. With the Aeropress and coffee mill, all you need is water boiled over a campfire,, to make an amazing cup of coffee. These two together make great gifts for coffee loving RVers.

Hydration Pack – If your favorite RVers are outdoor enthusiasts gifts like backpack hydration packs will be appreciated.  In our experience, hydration packs are a must for hiking with kids. Our boys have Dakine hydration packs similiar to this one. Brent and I both have Camelbaks with insulated drink tubes (similiar to this one) that along with hiking in all temperatures, we wear when snowboarding.

Gift Considerations for the Full Time RVer

While part-time RVers may love “Home is where you part it” yard signs, cute camper trinkets, and adorable awning lights, the full-time RVer may be less enthusiastic about such gifts. The simple reason most full time RVers are concerned about space and weight and only carry what they really need or love. When your RV is your home, it forces you to be very selective about your belongings. Ask your favorite RVers if there is anything that they need or if you are unsure stick with gift cards or consumables. Please don’t gift your full-time RVing friend or family member large bulky items without asking first. If you really must purchase them a large gift that you think will be just perfect, buy it from a nationwide chain store and include a gift receipt. It’s not that full timers aren’t appreciative, it’s just the reality of living in a small mobile space!

Is your Christmas shopping done? Any great gifts for RVers you would add to the list?

Love and laugher,
Jenn

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Heart or Head – Searching for the Best Family Travel Trailer

Finding a new RV We began our search for a new RV the moment we decided to sell our old one. My heart bleeds gypsy blood and to not have…

Finding a new RV

We began our search for a new RV the moment we decided to sell our old one. My heart bleeds gypsy blood and to not have an RV would make the next few years feel even more like a prison than it already does. Okay, so I’m being a little dramatic but we love having an RV for many reasons. It makes traveling affordable. RVing allows us to be remote or as urban as we want to be. It’s one of the ways our family connects and creates forever memories. RVing allows for more comfortable and extended visits with family. I love my family but I also love my space.

Jayco pop-up trailer

When we first started RVing many years ago we had a pop-up trailer that we loved. We would park it under the shade of the Sequoia trees in the Sierra Nevada Mountains or along the California Coast. It was perfect for that time of our lives. Since then we’ve discovered we love winter RVing so a pop-up isn’t going to work. We’ve also grown a bit and were spoiled by our 41’ Gateway fifth wheel.

cedar-creek silverback 5th wheel camper

In between the pop-up and Gateway, we had a 35’ Cedar Creek fifth wheel. It was really great but the big boys really wanted more space if we were going to keep full timing and I was kinda tired of the small kitchen counter. The one thing we loved about the Cedar Creek was the shorter length opened up more camping options. Many parks have 35’ length restrictions and we fit in a lot of driveways. The Gateway at 41’ no longer fit in my or Brent’s parents driveway and occasionally we couldn’t stay in some parks because it was too big. We don’t regret purchasing the Gateway and would buy it over again if we were full time RVing but now that we aren’t, we are looking for something shorter so we have more options.

Last but certainly not least, we no longer have the diesel 3500 Chevy dually to pull the RV. After some discussion we decided that we didn’t want to continue paying those expensive truck payments for a truck that our entire family couldn’t fit in. In hindsight, we should have bought a less expensive truck that seated six. Or maybe not. Six of us in a truck would have been tight especially with two car seats. So after a lot of research we decided to buy a diesel Ford Excursion. I’ll do another post on buying the new SUV because a lot of  research went into it but the short of it is that it can seat six people comfortably and it can haul a heavy load giving us more options for travel trailers, the point of this post.

So without any more rambling let’s talk travel trailers. It seems to us there aren’t as many bunkhouse floorplan variations for travel trailers as there are for fifth wheels. Also there aren’t as many slideouts presumably to keep the weight down since slideouts are heavy. So we have been trying to prioritize and figure out our needs for RVing. While we aren’t full time RVing we do plan on taking a 2 month trip every year and want to be comfortable. So here is what we are considering so far.

Weight – A trailer that weighs less than 10,000 pounds unloaded (UVW). The lighter the better but we can go up to 10,000 as long as we make some modifications to the Excursion. Again another post.

New or Used – Our first two trailers were used and they held up great. Normally, we buy everything used so it was a big deal for us to buy a new trailer when we bought the Gateway. We had looked at probably over a hundred floorpans and it was the only one we loved everything about and it was new that year. Of course. We decided it was worth it to purchase the Gateway even though we rarely purchase new. We are facing the same problem again, a few of the floor plans we love are new this year. Obviously, we would prefer to keep cost down and purchase used. However, we don’t regret our purchasing the Gateway new at all. Surprisingly, it held its value very well and we sold it quickly. Since we had such a great experience with a new rig (the warranty is nice) we are considering new.

Slide outs – Are slide outs a must? If so how many and where? Two slide out bunkhouse trailers tend to put one in the back bedroom and another one in the middle living area. Three slide out trailers have a few more options. Some have one in the back bedroom and two in the middle. Others have two in the back bunkroom and one in the middle. A few have one in each room. Regardless, if we decide we “need” slide outs, we are trying to decide if we want more space in the living room or bedrooms. We are leaning towards extra living room space but trying to decide how important double living room slide outs are to us.

Bedroom Layout – At first it seems like the only travel trailer floor plan option was a back bunkhouse and a front queen bed with the head of the bed situated at the front of the trailer. But then I found the front bunkhouse models. These typically have more room around the master bed and since the littles sleep in our room with us (they do in our house too) this would be much more comfortable and give Brent a good space to work for extended trips. The tradeoff is a smaller bunk room but the teenagers they don’t need as much space as they once did since we aren’t full time. Even in our Gateway they spend a lot of time lounging in their beds so we are leaning towards a larger master bedroom.

“Character” – Before we went on the road we looked at a vintage bus and I loved it. It had so much character and personality. However practically outweighed personality for full time RVing. Since this one is for part time only, we are considering something more “fun” like a vintage camper. We love remodeling/renovation projects and think it would be fun to renovate and older trailer and make it something that “fits us”. However, vintage trailers sacrifice modern comforts and we just aren’t sure we want to sacrifice modern comforts.

Best Family Travel Trailers

It’s hard to say what “best family travel trailers” really are because each family has different needs. After months of research these are the travel trailers that we think would be best for our family.

Cougar X-Lite 32FBS

cougar

The Cougar X-Lite 32 FBS was the first travel trailer floor plan we came across with a rear master bedroom. When we went to Indiana over spring break, we saw it in person and loved it. There is a ton of space in the back bedroom and there is more floorspace in the Cougar front bunkhouse than some other travel trailers due to the slide out closet and two as opposed to three or four bunks.

cougar32fbs_3

The downsides to the Cougar are: it’s only available new and it only has one slide in the main area. However, since there isn’t an island the the floor space is about the same. It’s really just sacrificing counter space.

Highland Ridge Open Range Light LT308 BHS or Roamer RT310BHS

While at the dealership looking at the Cougar, we saw the Highland Ridge Open Range Light LT308BHS. I was impressed with all the space the moment we walked in. Although the master is in the front, there is still more room in the master than other travel trailers of the same layout because Highland Ridge adds 4 inches in width over the standard width of most travel trailers. When you are talking space in RVs a few inches can make a HUGE difference. Highland Ridge also comes with a 2 year warranty and is known for its quality build.

highland-rdge-RT310BHS-floorplan

The Roamer RT310BHS is basically the same floorpan but with an extra slide out closet in the front bedroom for a total of FOUR slides! 

highland-rdge-rt310bhs

We absolutely LOVE these Highland Ridge floor plans and if they were in our budget we would buy one of these in a heartbeat.

Puma 32FBIS

puma32FBIS

We haven’t seen the Puma 32FBIS in person but while I was searching for front bunkhouse travel trailer floorpans I came across this one. I love the layout with the master bedroom in the back and the double slides in the living area.

puma32fbis-1

We are concerned about how this one would do in colder climates though so we will be doing some more research. Also the front bunkhouse is a little tight if there is an outdoor kitchen but it’s fine without the outdoor kitchen. A few more with this great floor plan are the Prime Time Lacrosse 336BHT and the Prime Time Avenger 32 FBI. We aren’t familiar with the Prime Time brand but we love the layouts.

Grand Design Reflection 308BHTS

grand-design-reflection-308bhts-floorplan2

Grand Design is a newer brand. We toured a Grand Design fifth wheel when we filmed the reality show, Going RV, last year. They seem to be of very high quality. Then we went through one of their travel trailers at the RV show in Denver a few months ago.

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We really liked the finishes. Although the trailer has a front master bedroom, it felt a little more spacious that some of the others we’ve toured.

Cross Roads Zinger ZT29DB

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Thanks to my OCD, I’ve been checking Craigslist multiple times day and came across the Crossroads Zinger 29DB. We really like the back bedroom and how the bunks lie horizontally in the front cutting down on the length and weight of the trailer. While we don’t LOVE this RV, it’s affordable and would be comfortable for our family without adding debt. Since it’s used I wouldn’t have emotional hang ups about painting brand new cabinets and walls. It would be so much fun to do another RV makeover!

 Vintage Airstream

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For years, Brent and I have talked about buying a vintage trailer or bus.  In a post I wrote in March 2011, I mentioned my dream of rolling down a dusty highway in an Airstream, a shiny piece of Americana. We love bringing old things back to life. Although, we don’t have experience renovating a trailer, we did renovate two 1950s houses in California. A trailer can’t be that much harder to restore than a house, right? Years ago, when we bought our pop-up trailer, our tow vehicle was a Honda Odyssey so we were very limited by weight and budget. Today, we have a bigger budget and tow vehicle so maybe now is the time to pursue our dream of restoring and remodeling a vintage Airstream! We have a perfect space to park it while we work on it.

We’ve been researching and really love the 1980’s Excella models, particularly the 34 footer with the double beds in the back. We have all sorts ideas to customize it to fit our family and personality. The downside, besides the lack of slide outs, are the prices of older Airstreams are all over the map and good deals sell really fast. Seriously, we saw the exact trailer we wanted for $7200 but it sold the night before we called. The same models are ranging from 9K t0 20K and upwards! The upside is Airstreams are well built and hold their value.

There are so many choices and each one has their pros and cons. Do you have experience with any of these brands or models? Should we go with our heart and buy a vintage Airstream or use our head and buy a newer RV? What would you do? We would like to make a decision soon!

Love and Laughter,
Jenn and Brent

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Why Our Family Stopped Full Time RVing

A few months ago, after four years of full time RVing with our family, we made the very difficult decision to settle down. Settle down. Oh man…I’m still getting used…

A few months ago, after four years of full time RVing with our family, we made the very difficult decision to settle down.

Settle down.

Oh man…I’m still getting used to the idea. I knew settling down would be hard. I didn’t know it would be this hard. Every cell in my gypsy heart still tightens when I look out the window and see the same. view. every. day.

Rocky-MOuntain-NP-Brothers-at-Elevation-CO

Did you ever read those Choose Your Own Adventure books? I’ve been been wishing I could read ahead and see how different choices would affect the boys. Would they end up angry at us always wishing they had a chance to experience “normal” teenage life if we kept full timing in our RV? Or would they look back and say, “Man, my parents were great and knew what was best. I spent most of my life living in an RV seeing all these cool places!”

Alas, all we have is now. And right now a life with more routine and opportunities that come with living in community seems like the best option in our own Choose Your Own Adventure story.

George Washington Birthplace Jr Rangers

We are still struggling with all the changes and if you want to hear more of our reasons for putting the jacks down on our full time RV adventure keep reading. But be warned, I’m still wrestling with my emotions and our choices and at times, I feel like I’m defending our choice from my own inner critic.

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Brent and I so badly wanted to raise our oldest boys out of the box and in the slow lane of full time RVing until it was time for them to take flight on their own. We had so many ideas and plans for our family. During the first three years it seemed possible that they would grow up on the road happy and fulfilled but then they and their needs, particularly Thing 1, started to change. It was gradual but it became clear that full time RVing was no longer the best fit for our family. We were reluctant to admit it because Brent and I enjoyed our life as it was but we knew in our hearts that continuing to full time RV as a family would be…well…selfish. It wasn’t like we had to stay on the road. We weren’t following Brent’s work. We weren’t living in a RV because we were going through hard times. We were doing it because we loved the simplicity of life and it was fun. Crazy fun!

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Change is hard.

For the past year, we felt the wind shifting but we were in denial. We tried to continue on course against the wind hoping that things would return to what they were. However, in the quiet of night, I knew the change I was hoping for wasn’t going to happen. In those silent moments of raw honesty with myself what I wanted, as ridiculous as it sounds, was for the older boys to quit getting older. I wanted them to stay my babies forever and shelter them from life’s hardships. Living in the RV seemed to slow down time and kept them close. Kept them safe.

Writing-with-Quills

Thing 1 and 2 are not the boys they were when our family decided full time RV in 2011. Every day they were and are becoming more men than boys. And every day they have ideas on how they want to live. As hard as it is for Brent and I, we must gradually let go and let them follow their own paths and those paths were limited on the road.

They wanted experiences we couldn’t easily offer them. They wanted to experience school. They wanted to take piano lessons and martial arts classes. Most of all, they wanted friends, a community, who they can spend time with regularly. They were tired of saying “see ya later” without knowing when later might be.

As much as I want it to be, life isn’t about me. (<==This kinda sucks.)

Brothers at Petrified National Forest

In short, we decided to stop RVing full time for love of Thing 1 and Thing 2.

Brent and I chose to put our desires on hold for a few years to launch these two amazing young men into the world from a stationary foundation because after many long talks, hard cries (on my part), and prayers we felt settling down was the most loving decision for them. Unfortunately, we can’t read ahead like in the Choose Your Own Adventure books and make a decisions on the best of two outcomes. The thing is we will never know what was the “best” for them because we can’t live two lives and compare. Maybe one day we will wish we would have stayed on the road. Maybe not. It’s impossible to know. All we can do is make the most loving decision based on our present knowledge while considering what we have learned from the past and then hope for the best in the future. In other words, I can’t control everything as much I’d like to. Damn.

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When they are grown men and looking back at their childhoods, our biggest hope is that they know they were loved. An older wiser mom once told me that kids have “fuel tanks” and to make sure it’s filled with love every day because if it’s filled with love they are less likely to look for other things to fill it. Despite all our parental imperfections, baggage, and failures, we want them to know we love them “bigger than the sky times infinity”. We want them to leave home with filled love tanks. Our me-culture may tell us to do what’s best for us and “radical self love” is almost a religion these days. (BTW I’m all for “radical self love” when it’s not at the expense of others.) However, selflessness acted out with pure intentions in regard to the other may not be sexy but it is still and will always be one of the purest forms of love. And one of the hardest. Selflessness doesn’t come easy for me. I usually scoop myself the biggest bowl of ice cream. And take the biggest piece of cake. And tend towards putting my feelings above others.

Not this time.

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The boys are only teenagers once (For their sake…thank God Almighty) and they both wanted more “normal” lives. We’ve tried to convince them that “normal” is overrated 🙂 but no amount of talk was going to change their minds. They wanted to experience normal for themselves.

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Sure we considered the this-is-our-life-and-sorry-it’s-not-what-you-want-but-try-to-appreciate-and-learn-from-it approach. As parents we have that right to make the choices we think our best for our kids and family. The road may be “best” for Brent and I but, God willing, we have many years left as a couple to explore and experience life as we want but the older boys only have few years left as kids. They didn’t want to spend their teenage years living in an RV full time.

Sigh.

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There are so many wonderful things about RVing full time with kids and teens but the fact of the matter is full time RV was beyond amazing when they were younger but RV life could no longer provide for their expanding needs and interests. (Disclaimer: The pursuit of the following activities is a struggle because we are fully aware these actives are a privilege that comes with being middle class and certainly not necessary for a fulfilled life but they are fun, rewarding, and teach their own lessons.)

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Thing 1 Student Talent Show IMC ND

Thing 1 isn’t just good at playing the piano. We recognized he really has a gift as a classical pianist and needed a teacher and real piano if he was going to continue to grow. He could only learn so much online with a keyboard. (Keyboards, even weighted ones, don’t have the same dynamics as grand pianos.) To not recognize and nurture this gift would cause us and him real future regret. This is a special period in life where he has the time to sit and play for hours without adult worries. 

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Thing 2 wanted to spend more time with kids his age, try drama, and would like to eventually take up martial arts again. We also recently discovered since we’ve been stationary, that he has a knack for art. He has been invited to take a high school drawing class as a middle schooler and he had a blast performing in his first play last weekend.

These kinds of activities are difficult to do when you pack up and move every week or two. They require a long term commitment. We could have sat still for months at a time in campgrounds but that isn’t why we bought a house with wheels. And even if we did stay put for months at a time, it wouldn’t address the real issue consistency and friendship. The boys would know that goodbye was just around the corner and that was hard for them.

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Brent and I gave it our best to make full time RVing work for them as teens. We met up with road friends and family regularly. We traveled with other families when the opportunity arose. We spent two winters in the mountains snowboarding. We took Thing 1 to a music camp. We sought out opportunities for Thing 2 to pursue interests like gold panning. We let them have a say in the travel planning. We found online classes when we felt like we couldn’t meet their educational needs. 

Despite our efforts, full time RVing didn’t provide the one thing they craved more than anything which was consistency. Consistent friends. Consistent activities. And even more important, consistent wi-fi. 😉

Telescopes Egle Bay CA

There is only one of Brent and one of me and we couldn’t and didn’t want to be peers, piano teachers, math teachers, art teachers, spiritual mentors, and parents at the same time.  Not only did we feel that we needed more resources and consistency to help them grow into young men, RVing full time was losing some of its luster in their eyes. New places and new things had become mundane to them in a way. There were days they resented packing and days they rolled their eyes at the mention of visiting a national park. We tried to see our full time RV life from their perspective. They have visited every state except Hawaii, many of them multiple times. They have been to over one hundred national parks. I’ve lost count of how many museums they have visited. They’ve been to almost every major city and some of them more than once or twice or even three times. The third time to New Orleans Things 1 and 2 were leading us around the French Quarter! You might think the only thing to do in New Orleans is eat beignets. 😉 

Evening Kayak Fl

The boys certainly don’t dislike traveling (They keep reminding us we haven’t been to Hawaii and asking if there’s a chance we can go to Europe soon.) but they were developing a “been there and done that” attitude and were ready for new challenges, the challenges that come with dealing with teachers other than mom and relationships that are more face to face than virtual. Traveling full time in the RV gave them so many experiences and the life lessons are still unfolding, teaching us even now as we adapt to a stationary life, but there are lessons to learn from living in community as well.

English Ship Replicas Jamestown Settlement

Stocks Williamsburg VA

I’ll never regret our four years of full time RVing. The education and life experiences the boys received are priceless. The memories are too numerous to count. Our relationships grew in so many ways. We squeezed every last delicious drop out of full time RVing. So far they have been the best four years of our life but I’m hopeful we will seek out new adventures and the lessons we learned we will carry into our new chapter.

The last few months of adjusting to our new life have been hard but we keep remembering that this is a season. The winds of change never stop blowing and it won’t be long until we can pack up the RV and hit the road full time again.

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I remember a year or so ago Thing 1 and I were talking. He was having a hard time wanting both the adventure of RV life and the stability of being stationary. He missed our life in California but at the same time enjoyed our life of travel. It was a conversation we had often as we gauged the boys’ needs to make sure full time RVing was still working for everyone. During this one particular conversation his big brown eyes were contemplative and he asked,

“Mama, do you think someday I’ll be nostalgic for our life on the road?”

His thoughtful question made me smile and I said, “Yes. Yes, I do.”

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Today memories may still be fresh but the bittersweet ache of nostalgia has already set in.

And I wouldn’t trade it for anything. 

Love and Laughter,
Jenn and Brent

If you enjoyed this post consider connecting with us! 1. Sign up to have posts emailed to your inbox. 2. Subscribe to the RSS Feed or 3. “like” Newschool Nomads on Facebook  Simple dimple!

Like food and fitness? Follow along as I film a workout in every state and explore finding a healthy balance on the road at Girl Heroes!

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Used Heartland Gateway 3650BH for Sale

The time has come to sell our beloved RV, a used 2014 Heartland Gateway 3650BH. We searched for months and looked at many RVs before deciding on the Gateway 3650BH….

The time has come to sell our beloved RV, a used 2014 Heartland Gateway 3650BH. We searched for months and looked at many RVs before deciding on the Gateway 3650BH.

Heartland Gateway 3650BH for sale

She was perfect for our family and if we were going to do it again, we’d buy her. Honestly, we have no regrets but now that we are no longer traveling full time, it doesn’t make sense to keep her. Not to mention we no longer fit in our truck now that we are a family of six so if we did want to keep her we’d have to buy another truck. During this next season of our life it doesn’t make sense so we are hoping she’ll go to another family who will love her and have as many or even more adventures that we did!

used Heartland Gateway 3650bh for sale

She’s a very comfortable fifth wheel with 5 slides and thousands of dollars of upgrades including 600 watts of solar & expanded battery bank. We’ve maintained her well and have the preventative maintenance service records. We’ve never had any major problems and the minor ones the come with buying a new rig have been worked out for you. The back bunk room was modified to have a desk and more storage but it could easily be converted back to a third bunk and even a 4th bunk (trundle). Currently, she sleeps 6. We also modified the front closet where the washer and dryer would go. It is now an office/desk space, perfect for people who want to work on the road.

Asking $43,600 OBO. It’s one of the lowest priced Gateway 3650BH on RV Trader and those don’t include all the upgrades. Here is the link to the RV Trader ad.

We are also selling our 2008 diesel Chevy Silverado 3500 HD LTZ 4WD Crew Cab for $27,500 OBO. It comes with an external diese

Heartland Gateway 3650BH Photo Tour

RV-floorplan

The floor plan was the selling point for us. We loved the L-shaped kitchen as opposed to an island because it really opened up the floorspace between the couch and chaise lounge/chairs and the large bunk room was perfect for the kids.

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We love the large living space with plenty of room for everyone.

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It feels more like a small apartment than an RV.

kitchen1

Tons of counter space and the full size residential fridge is awesome for a family.

chairs

We found the stock chaise lounge uncomfortable and unsightly so replaced it with cute comfortable arm chairs. Bonus: the chairs are way lighter than the chaise. The newer model moved the heater to under the chaise so you have to work around the heater if you want to do something else in this space.

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We also replaced the stock sofa with a better made and in our opinion better looking sofa.

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Love the king sized bed and bookshelves on each side. The mirrored closet is large. We replaced the stock mattress with a higher quality and more comfortable memory foam mattress. (Note this is an older photo. We also replaced the curtains with patterned black out curtains and got rid of the bedspread. It was thin and scratchy.)

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In the master bedroom we also built a custom work space with a slide out keyboard tray. Desk could easily be removed and the space could be used for a washer and dryer (the white box are the hookups) or storage.

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The front bathroom has a toilet, sink, tub, shower and plenty of storage.

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The second bedroom has two beds, lots of storage, 2nd half bath, and television.

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We removed the sofa from under the right bed and built more storage and a desk. The storage and desk could easily be removed and converted to a bunk bed and a fourth trundle bed could be added. (That is an option on the Gateways.)

Half-Bath

The half bath has a rear entry door and more storage.

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The solar is great for boondocking and saving money on camp fees without sacrificing comfort. The 600 watts and extra batteries are enough to keep the residential fridge going indefinitely and devices charged.

Here is a list of all the specifications and upgrades.

UPGRADES Heartland Gateway 3650bh

600 W solar with expanded battery bay (six 6-watt golf cart batteries)
Memory foam KING bed (we replaced the stock mattress with a better one)
Residential fridge
JT Strong Arm stabilizing jacks
Replaced the factory tires with higher quality Greenball Towmaster tires (less than a year ago).
Custom curtains (black out curtains in bedrooms)
Newer couch (the stock couch was ugly and falling apart)
Replaced the uncomfortable lounge with 2 arm chairs
Shelves in cabinets (they come as big open cabinets without shelving)

INTERIOR FEATURES

2 Air Conditioners
Washer/Dryer Hookups
Kitchen Dinette: Booth that makes bed
Interior Flooring Type: Carpet / Vinyl
Master Bedroom: King Bed
Number Of Bathrooms: 2 (1 full bath with tub/shower and 1 half bath)
3 Televisions (one in living room, bunkroom, and outdoor kitchen)
DVD Player

EXTERIOR FEATURES

Outdoor Speakers
Large Basement Storage Compartments
Power Awning
Power Leveling Jacks
JT Strong Arm stabilizing jacks
Exterior kitchen with fridge and TV
Outdoor shower

Heartland Gateway 3650 BH SPECIFICATIONS – (Taken from Nada Guides)

Five Slideouts
Length (ft-in / m): 41′ 0” / 12.5
Base Weight (lbs / kg): 12999 / 5896.3
Carrying Capacity (lbs / kg): 2501 / 1134.5
Hitch Weight (lbs / kg): 2020 / 916.3
2 Axles
Air Conditioning (BTUs): 28500
Heater (BTUs): 35000

HOLDING TANKS – (Taken from NADA guides)

Fresh Water Capacity (gal / L): 57 / 215.8
Gray Water Capacity (gal / L): 80 / 302.8
Black Water Capacity (gal / L): 80 / 302.8
Propane Capacity (gal / lbs): 14.2 / 60
Water Heater Tank (gal / L): 10 / 45.4

If you know anyone in the market for a used Heartland Gateway 3650bh feel free to pass this on. We’d appreciate it!

Love and Laughter,
Jenn and Brent

If you enjoyed this post consider connecting with us! 1. Sign up to have posts emailed to your inbox. 2. Subscribe to the RSS Feed or 3. “like” Newschool Nomads on Facebook  Simple dimple!

Like food and fitness? Follow along as I film a workout in every state and explore finding a healthy balance on the road at Girl Heroes!

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Farewell to Full Time RVing with Family

Looking in rearview mirror of the last four years of our full time RV adventures, I see a road littered with memories… The emotional up and downs of going through years…

Family on the Road in RV

Looking in rearview mirror of the last four years of our full time RV adventures, I see a road littered with memories…

PicMonkey Collage Stuff Before the Road

The emotional up and downs of going through years of stuff and young boys sorting through piles of toys pondering what to store and what to give away. Little did we know that they would outgrow them before those boxes would be opened again.

5th Wheel LOOK!

Thing 1’s face at the sight of our new (used) RV being delivered. The RV I had to decide to buy without Brent because he was too busy with work to go look at it!

Downtown Ventura

The lights of Ventura disappearing behind the mountains as we drove north on the 101 exchanging the known for the unknown.

Boys in Tree Houston

Chasing deer, catching frogs, climbing trees, skipping rocks, getting stuck in mud, and building forts.

Father Son Nakomis Beach

Collecting sharks teeth and seashells along the Gulf Coast of Florida.

Brothers at Fredericksburg National Battlefield

A trove of plastic gold Junior Ranger badges earned by once eager little boys who pinned them to their vests with pride.

Jennn Boys Couch RV

Cozy afternoons spent cuddling on the couch.

Family at Capital Washington DC

The history of our country coming to life as we visited places like Jamestown, Boston (where we were evacuated to an under ground tunnel),Philadelphia and Washington DC.

Snowboard Family Epic Mix

Our “epic” four months camping with friends and learning to snowboard in the wildly beautiful Rocky Mountains.

Hike to Delicate Arch Moab

Long and short hikes, steep and flat hikes, wet and dry hikes, hot and cold hikes…each one a stamp on my soul reminding me of the majesty of our Creator.

RV Walmart Calgarly Canada

Overnight stops in parking lots and rest areas where I forgot what was outside our RV windows because family, not a place, is home.

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Two pink lines on a white stick that turned a quiet morning after a long night along the coast of Washington upside down.

Dixie RV Heartland Gateway 3650BH

Searching for and finding the perfect new RV.

PicMonkey Collage pregnancy baby shower FL

A surprise baby shower thrown by a group of wonderful gypsy mamas.

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A baby boy born at home

Thing 1 Piano Alaska

The sound of Thing 1’s keyboard filling the RV.

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The 6000 mile drive from Key West to Alaska with a 6 week old baby.

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Being surrounded by the sublime wild that is Alaska.

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Pulling into campgrounds after dark and waking up to glassy lakes and mountain vistas.

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A pug who made it to 49 states before giving in to his failing body and saying goodbye in Portland, Oregon.

RV 101

White knuckles and held breath while taking hairpin turns on Highway 1. (Note: don’t take Highway 1 to Fort Bragg if you are towing a 40’ fifth wheel. Take Highway 20 instead. TRUST me.)

friends

Traveling with fellow RVers and the friendships that grew.

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Big brothers bonding with with their little brother.

Snowboard Couple Epic Mix

Snowboarding dates with my love. (How I loved living in a small space with this man.)

Presque Isle Family Bikes OH

Bike rides through forests, down paths, and over desert rocks.

PicMonkey Collage friends 2 RV

The smiling faces of friends, from Washington to Florida and everywhere in between, who graciously opened up their driveways and homes so we could reconnect.

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Games of chess and family movie nights.

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A family who is now complete.

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Swimming with manatees, snorkeling, horseback rides on the beach, campfires, museums, glaciers, sunsets, battlefields, RVing at the beach, amusement parks, detours, breakdowns, gold panning, getting lost, boat rides, mountain ranges, wildlife, small towns, huge cities, a reality show episode, new friends…

I could go on and on about the places we’ve been and the things we’ve done but the last four years have not really been about places and things, they’ve been about simplicity and family.

A picture may be worth a thousand words but even that’s not enough to describe the love we have for our boys.

Brothers Jamestown Settlement VA

Our boys.

Our boys, who in four short years, became young men. Young men who tilt their heads downward to give me a kiss. Our boys who have not only grown in size but in number with the addition of Things 3 and 4.

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Our boys.

They’ve taught us so much about ourselves, sometimes more than we wanted to know. Living in an RV has been challenging at times and every so often I wondered what the hell we were doing but mostly it was amazing. We wouldn’t trade anything for these four years spent exploring the country in the RV with our boys.

There is nothing we wouldn’t do if we knew it was best for them.

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Even give up the life we love so much, our life on the road.

Soon I’ll share the details of why we have chosen to give up RVing with our family full time and later I’ll share what’s next for us but today I’m just going to remember and give thanks for the time we had on the road together.

Thank you for being part of the journey. We hope you stick around as we figure out the next chapter.

PicMonkey Collage first and last family

Love and Laughter (and tears),
Jenn and Brent

If you enjoyed this post consider connecting with us! 1. Sign up to have posts emailed to your inbox. 2. Subscribe to the RSS Feed or 3. “like” Newschool Nomads on Facebook  Simple dimple!

Like food and fitness? Follow along as I film a workout in every state and explore finding a healthy balance on the road at Girl Heroes!

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RVing Full Time with Kids: What homeschool (roadschool) curriculum do you use?

Any homeschooling parent knows the thrill (or dread) of choosing curriculum. Some of us feel like a kid making a Christmas list, spending hours pouring over the hundreds of choices….

Homeschooling Books2

Any homeschooling parent knows the thrill (or dread) of choosing curriculum.

Some of us feel like a kid making a Christmas list, spending hours pouring over the hundreds of choices. Others of us approach the task with terror as if the wrong curriculum will somehow land our precious ones in jail.

Choosing curriculum can be overwhelming to say the least.

For me, there used to be an underlying pressure to choose the “best” curriculum similar to researching and picking the safest car or best vacuum. (<== OCD much?) I may have traded a few months of my life researching curriculum when we first started homeschooling 6 years ago. It seemed like, if I just read every. single. review. and every thread on every homeschooling message board on the entire internet I would find that perfect curriculum and my kids would be on their way to Harvard before their 13th birthdays.

But you know what I’ve learned?

Curriculum does’t really matter all that much.

Whaaat?

Yeah, curriculum really doesn’t’ matter all that much.

Seriously. Homeschooling is about so much more than stuffing our kids with “the right” facts and formulas and meeting “standards”. Who cares if my kid goes to an Ivy League or any school for that matter if he (or me) is a punk or unhappy or sees learning as a chore.

Homeschooling is about developing character.

Homeschooling is about connecting and growing relationships with family and the community.

Homeschooling is about really getting to know your kids…the lovely and not so lovely parts.

Homeschooling about finding and nourishing strengths and addressing weaknesses.

Homeschooling is about learning to love learning.

Homeschooling is about cultivating curiosity.

Homeschooling is about learning to be a self motivated learner instead of spoon-fed.

Homeschooling is about meeting the needs of your child and your family.

Homeschooling is about so much more than curriculum.

That said, one of the questions I get asked most often is, “What curriculum do you use?”

So here it goes… Remember this is what worked for our family in each particular season of life.

Our Homeschool and Roadschool Curriculum List

(The older grade is followed by the younger grade. If only one publisher is listed it means I used it for both boys. For math and grammar I often used the same publisher but different grade levels, i.e. Level 1 and Level 4, but I only listed the one publisher.)

Year 1 – Grades 4 and 1

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After months of research, we decided we wanted to follow the Classical model of eduction. In the beginning, we were going to follow the classical model of education to a T. It would only be a few short years until my kids were reading the Odyssey in Latin. Reality check! It didn’t take long for me to realize that wasn’t going to happen. For the most part, we have stuck with the history cycle and somewhat with the stages of learning but realized we couldn’t, or rather didn’t want to, “do it all”.

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Like falling in love, our first year of homeschooling was a mix giddy excitement and weighing self-doubt.

History/English

Tapestry of Grace

Math

Singapore

Science

Apologia Elementary Series

Grammar (Thing 1 only)

Rod and Staff

Spelling (Thing 1 only)

I cannot remember what we used this year!

Phonics (Thing 2 only)

Hooked on Phonics

Explode the Code

(To this day, teaching Thing 2 to read has been of my most satisfying and rewarding experiences. I’ll never forget those mornings snuggled together on the couch listening to him slowly sound out words and watching the joy on his face when he would get them on his own. He still loves to read and we can’t keep his Kindle filled!)

Handwriting

A Reason For Handwriting

Handwriting without Tears

Co-op

We also joined a homeschool co-op this year and took a mix of classes to compliment what we were learning at home.

Year 2 – Grades 5 and 2

PicMonkey Collage Beacon Hill CA

Our second year of homeschooling, we enrolled the boys in a new a hybrid classical school. It was a fantastic year blending the best of both worlds. The boys were home with us four days a week and went to school three days a week. They got the benefits of a classroom setting, like positive peer pressure (and a teacher who could keep up with Latin) and I got a break. Since I didn’t need to create schedules, choose curriculum, and find social opportunities our homeschool days were even more relaxed. The one thing I would have changed about this year was math. At the time, the school used Saxton which turned out to be a poor fit for both boys. Not only was it boring but it was less advanced than their previous curriculum. When we went back to homeschooling the following year we had to go back a year in Singapore.

Year 3 – Grades 6 and 3

English Ship Replicas Jamestown Settlement Jamestown Settlement Armor

Year 3 was our first year of roadschooling. Like watching a 3D movie for the first time, this was the year where learning came to life as we visited battlefields, swam with manatees, explored cities, experienced caves, imagined life as an American colonial , hiked mountains, stayed on a farm, canoed with alligators, and experienced more in one year than many people experience in a lifetime.

Thing One Port CharlotteFamily Statue of Liberty NYC

We started with the curriculum below but after about six months gave “unschooling” a try before going back to a more scheduled approach. I’m glad we tried unschooling but it didn’t work for us at that point in our lives or perhaps I just didn’t give it time. Another post all together. After our failed unschooling attempt, I added an additional writing program because I wasn’t thrilled with Sonlight or Rod and Staff’s writing components.

Stocks Williamsburg VA

I should add that although we do subjects like spelling and grammar, I consider them “throw away” subjects. (Don’t hate, you grammar Nazis.)  We do enough to understand the concepts but we don’t waste time with unnecessary drilling and extra practice. We would rather the boys spend the time reading or exploring.

Thing 2 Cannon Chickamauga GA

This year we also abandoned book science and took a hands on approach by taking advantage of our travels to national parks and museums. The boys earned over 50 Junior Ranger badges that year. It was also an amazing year for history as we read books like Johnny Tremain, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, and Moccasin Trail and then visited the places in the stories.

Family at Capital Washington DC

History/English

Sonlight

Math

Singapore

Science

National Park Tour, Junior Ranger Programs, and many museums

Grammar

Rod and Staff

Handwriting

Handwriting without Tears (Thing 2 only)

Spelling

Phonetic Zoo by Institute for Excellence in Writing

Writing

Institute for Excellence in Writing

Year 4 – Grades 7 and 4

Junior Rangers Olympic NP WA 1

Our second year of roadschooling was similar to our first year as we continued to explore the United States with the exception of Thing 1’s work. His work was more challenging than the previous year and we began to do some testing. I did not do standardized testing but subject testing so he would learn test taking skills should he need them later down the road. 

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After many years of Singapore math I realized I couldn’t keep up with Thing 1 so began the search for a new math curriculum that required less parental involvement. We tried the Art of Problem Solving which would be amazing for the right kind of kid. It was a horrible fit for us. After a few more weeks of research, I narrowed math down to Math-U-See, Teaching Textbooks, and Life of Fred. Thing 1 looked them over and chose which one he wanted to study. He chose Life of Fred and after two years I can’t say enough good things about it. (The Kahn Academy was used as a supplemental resource for extra practice when needed and not as a stand-alone program.)

Family by Yelllowstone Sign

We decided to start Latin this year but abandoned it about 6 months later. 

Noah and the boys Breck Ski School

A huge highlight of the year was four months in snowboard school at Breckinridge Ski Resort where the boys went from falling down the mountain to riding black diamonds.

History/English

Sonlight

Math

Life of Fred

Singapore

Kahn Academy (Thing 1 and 2)

Science

Apologia General Science

Apologia Elementary Series

Grammar

Rod and Staff

Writing

Institute of Excellence in Writing

Handwriting

Handwriting without Tears (Thing 2)

Spelling

Phonetic Zoo by Institute for Excellence in Writing (Thing 2)

Latin

Getting Started with Latin

Year 5 – Grades 8 and 5

Family 2 Denali The Mountain Alaska

 

Thing 2 Glacier Cruise AlaskaThing 1 Exit Glacier Alaska

The focus for our third year of roadschooling was preparing Thing 1 for high school level work and continue to make learning as fun as possible for Thing 2. Of course, as we traveled we continued to learn through experiences.

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The highlight of our travels this year was visiting our 49th state, Alaska! During the long drive through Canada and Alaska, we listened to many audiobooks like Call of the Wild, White Fang, Hatchet, and Jason’s Gold as we drove through and visited many of the places in the stories. Thing 2 also developed a fascination with gold panning so he spent many hours reading about gold panning and then gave it a try himself near Girdwood and Chicken, Alaska. Roadschooling at its best!!!

History/English

Story of the World

A Variety of Historical Fiction

(I picked books based on the time period we were studying or the places we visited.)

Math

Life of Fred

Singapore

Kahn (Thing 1 and 2)

Science

Apologia Physical Science

Apologia Elementary Series

Grammar

Rod and Staff

Spelling

Phonetic Zoo by Institute for Excellence in Writing (Thing 2 only)

Year 6 – Grades 9 and 6

I can’t believe I’m a mother of a high schooler and we’ve been on this homeschooling journey for six years!

Thing 1 Eagle Falls Tahoe CA

Our fourth year of roadschooling has been a big year for Thing 1. Per his request he wanted a challenging curriculum because wanted to make sure he is “keeping up with school kids”. It has been a struggle for me because, frankly, I see much (not all) of traditional school as a lot of nonsense and wasted time. While we’ve kept up with the core subjects, we’ve allowed plenty of room for freedom to explore, create, and have avoided traditional textbooks and boring assignments. Brent and I have encouraged the boys to think out of box and question the status quo.

Telescopes Egle Bay CA

However, Thing 1 is getting older and we wanted to respect his desire for a more traditional course of study. He has expressed that he wants to go to college and hopefully receive some scholarship money. That means “the game” of test scores and graduation requirements needs to be played to a certain extent. We know there are untraditional ways to gain entrance into college and receive scholarships but we do want to keep as many paths open as possible for him.

Reluctantly, we arranged his course of study to meet traditional future college entrance requirements and enrolled him in a virtual school for a few classes. It was tough transition. First, it was our first experience with the Common Core math standards. As you know, I question any sort of blanket “standards” and the status quo. However, after a year I think the new standards are beneficial in helping kids gain a true understanding of math instead of relying on memorizing formulas. The virtual school math has also been very challenging because, although he has a teacher he “can” go to with questions, he has been responsible for learning the concepts himself and he has had to be accountable to someone other than me. A good thing! For the most part, it has been a valuable experience as he has learned the hard way to manage his time and seek out resources on his own to help him understand concepts. (Unfortunately, his algebra teacher were less than helpful.)

Brothers Snowboard RV 3 CO

As for Thing 2, the goal has continued to be keep learning as fun and interesting as possible. He reads, reads, and reads. He isn’t crazy about math but I’ve insisted that he keep up with “requirements” because math is one subject that is hard to catch up should we decide to stop homeschooling. He, too, enrolled in a virtual school math class and also received an A both semesters. The biggest change for him was more independent learning. The previous 5 years I was more hands on but with Thing 3 in the picture it became increasingly difficult. Thing 2 really stepped up and took initiative to complete assignments on his own.

History/English/Bible

My Father’s World Ancient History and Literature

Mystery of History

Math

Florida Virtual School – Honors Algebra and 6th grade math

Kahn

Science

Tried Florida Virtual School but switched to Apologia Biology

Finished the Apologia Elementary Series
(Thing 2 read every book over the years except Chemistry.)

Grammar

Rod and Staff (Thing 2 only)

Intro to Technology

Florida Virtual School (Thing 1)

Honors Web Design

Florida Virtual School (Thing 1)

Guitar

Florida Virtual School (Thing 2)

So there it is…our curriculum choices over the last 6 years. 

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How I miss our early years of cuddling on the couch while reading stories about pharaohs and pioneers. Even though I tried to be intentional and savor the moments with them, it has all gone by too fast. I wouldn’t trade our early years of homeschooling or the adventures of road schooling for anything. The only thing I would do differently is start homeschooling sooner and not worry so much about picking “the right” curriculum in the beginning because homeschooling is about so much more!

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Parked in Park City, UT

Home to me is an open road ahead with Brent by my side and my kiddos tucked in the backseat.  (And a fat black cat sharing shotgun.) The drive from…

Home to me is an open road ahead with Brent by my side and my kiddos tucked in the backseat. PicMonkey Collage Driving to UT

(And a fat black cat sharing shotgun.)

The drive from Lake Tahoe, CA to Park City, UT was longer than expected.
(It always is.)

I’m not sure why every time I map up to our location I actually think we’ll get there in the estimated time.
↑↑↑
(The power of postivive thinking does not seem to apply in this case.)

PicMonkey Collage Winnemucca NV

Our first night we made it to Winnemucca, NV.
The following morning, we treated ourselves to a rare breakfast out at The Griddle.

RV 4 Bonneville Salt Flats UT

The highlight of our drive to Park City was stopping at the Bonneville Salt Flats.

PicMonkey Collage Bonneville Salt Flats 2 UT

We thought it would be dark by the time we got there but instead the sun had just set.

The only word that comes to mind is magical.

PicMonkey Collage Bonneville Salt Flats UT

It was like Mad Max meets Monet.
(That’s “magical” right?)

RV 4 Park CIty UT

It was dark by the time we made it to Park City. We bloodied our truck and trailer on the way up the mountain when we ran over an already dead large animal after the car in front of us swerved at the last minute to miss it.
Bam.
It was scary.
(Thankfully there was no damage done.)

PicMonkey Collage 3 rv park city ut

We were hoping for lots of snow but aside from a few days we didn’t get much.

Panorama Snowboarding Park City UT

Our RV park was an easy 10 minute drive from Canyons Resort.

Thing 1 Snowboarding 3 Park City UT

PicMonkey Collage Snowboarding Park City UT

10957345_549346941873599_6951440577815107661_nThis is what the boys do when they are with their dad.
(Brent said it was actually very crowded and safe up there. But still…)

Brent Thing 1 Snowboarding Park City UT

Snow Trees Canyons Resort Park City UT

Thing 1 Snowboarding Park City UT

PicMonkey Collage 3 ice castles ut

One evening we headed over Midway to see the Ice Castles.PicMonkey Collage 2 Ice Castle UTBecause of Utah’s unusually warm winter they were only open for a few days.PicMonkey Collage 1 Ice Castles UTWe purchased tickets for the first time slot of the evening. I’m glad we did because when we left there was a line of cars over a mile long waiting to get in the parking lot.

PicMonkey Collage Olympic Park 2 UT
Utah Olympic Park was only a few minutes away from our RV Park.PicMonkey Collage Olympic Park 4 UT  PicMonkey Collage Olympic Park 1 UT

It was interesting and worth a stop.
(Does anyone else like to daydream about being an Olympic athlete?)

Park City UTDowntown Park City with its old school charm was nearby.

PicMonkey Collage Park City UtSundance Film Festival was going on while we were there. We looked for Roberty Redford without any luck.
PicMonkey Collage Park City 3 UT

We also tried to get tickets to one of the kid’s movies but they were sold out.

RV 11 Park City UT

Our Park City Experience at a Glance

Where We Stayed:

  • Park City RV Resort – This was small, well-maintained, owner owned park with a GREAT location. The daily rates are on the high side but a weekly or monthly rate is much more affordable.

The Highlights:

  • Bonneville Salt Flats – So the salt flats aren’t in Park City but we stopped on our way there and they were so cool!
  • Canyons Ski Resort – It’s part of the Epic Pass and a really fantastic resort. The boys also tried Park City Ski Resort but thought Canyons was much better.
  • Utah Olympic Park – Worth a quick stop and the museums are free.
  • Ice Castles – Maker reservations for an early time slot. Ours were for the first time slot and when we left there was a line of cars at least a mile long waiting to get in the parking lot. However, this could have been due to the warm weather and short season for the ice castles.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Like food and fitness? Follow along as I film a workout in every state and explore finding a healthy balance on the road at Girl Heroes!

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Thing 3 in Lake Tahoe (Weeks 34 and 35)

So my mom is now combining weeks. What is that all about? I mean seriously shouldn’t this be a weekly face? Maybe it’s becase I keep her so busy that…

So my mom is now combining weeks.

What is that all about?

Thing 3 Little Hat Tahoe CA1

I mean seriously shouldn’t this be a weekly face?

Maybe it’s becase I keep her so busy that she doesn’t have much time to be on the computer.

PicMonkey Collage Thing 3 Pulling Up CA

After all I started crawling. Then the following week I tried pulling myself up.

Standing Thing 3 CA

A few day later…success!!! Watch out big brothers. I’m coming after your stuff!

PicMonkey Collage Thing 3 Stairs lake tahoe CA2

Pretty soon I’m going to tackle the stairs!

THing2-Thing3-Eagle-FallsCA

Thing 3 Fox Hat CA

Thing 3 Brent Hiking Lake Tahoe CA

Lake Tahoe was fun. We did things like hike and go on walks through the campground.

Thing 1 Reading to Thing 2 CA

My big big brother read books to me.

PicMonkey Collage THing 3 guitar Thing 2 Lake Tahoe CA

My big brother let me play his guitrar.

PicMonkey Collage Thing 3 Sunny Lake Tahoe CA

Unfortunately, I got yelled at by Meow Cow.

He just doesn’t understand how much I love him.

Thing 3 Fox Hate Tahoe CA

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

If you enjoyed this post consider connecting with us! 1. Sign up to have posts emailed to your inbox. 2. Subscribe to the RSS Feed or 3. “like” Newschool Nomads on Facebook  Simple dimple!

Like food and fitness? Follow along as I film a workout in every state and explore finding a healthy balance on the road at Girl Heroes!

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