A family on the road living fulltime in an RV.

Category: Family on the Road

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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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.

PicMonkey-Collage-brothers-fly-TX-AK-NC

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!

PicMonkey-Collage-brothers-vista-CO-LA-NM-VA2

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.

PicMonkey-Collage-More-Brothes-TX-NC-GA

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.

Brothers-on-Gator-Thing-3-LA

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.

Brothers-at-Colorado-National-Monument-CO2

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.

PicMonkey-Collage-brothers-all-over-US2

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.

Thing-1-2-Chairlift-Tahoe-CA3

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.”

PicMonkey-Collage-brothers-then-and-now

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

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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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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.

living-room-2

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

living-room

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.

couch

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.)

office

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.

baathroombathroom2

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

bedroom1

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

bedroom2

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.

RV-solar2

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

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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.

Exit-Glacier-Hike-Collage-Alaska

Being surrounded by the sublime wild that is Alaska.

Lake-meziadin2

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

remembering-nigel

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.

PicMonkey-Collage-brothers

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.

PicMonkey-Collage-Chess-Jenn-Thing-2-NM

Games of chess and family movie nights.

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A family who is now complete.

PicMonkey-Collage-Family-on-the-Road-2011-2015

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.

Bradbury-Science-Musuem-Brothers-NM

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.

Fort-Union-National-Monument-Ruins-Brothers-NM

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

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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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Not All Birds Fly South: RVing in Lake Tahoe

Two and a half years ago if you would have asked me where I wanted to spend winter, I would have quickly said Florida, Southern California, or Arizona. Then I…

Two and a half years ago if you would have asked me where I wanted to spend winter, I would have quickly said Florida, Southern California, or Arizona. Then I spent a winter up in the in the mountains of Colorado and fell in love. Fell in love with snowboarding, the beauty of snowcapped mountains, the coziness of the RV, and, mostly, watching the boys passion and joy for snowboarding take off.

We spent last year in Florida waiting for Thing 3 to arrive. This year we were anxious to get back to mountains and prepared for a three part “Not All Birds Fly South” winter adventure.

IMG_2750PicMonkey Collage Tahoe Hike CA

Lake Tahoe, the second deepest lake in the United States, was the first stop of three.

family-tahoe-ca-new-years-15

new years eve 2015 tahoe ca

Being the exciting adventures we are, we kicked off the New Year with a family game about American history and a bottle sparkling cider. The questions were so hard and the facts so obscure that we could only answer a few of them. I think we’ll stick with Uno. It’s easier and takes up less space.

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Processed with VSCOcam with c3 preset

Thing 1 2 Chairlift Tahoe CA

The boys were excited to explore the different ski resorts using our Epic Passes. They were also excited to be old enough to be dropped off at the mountain after school. This is what I’d call a fun way to get in PE!

PicMonkey Collage Garrett engaged

 

Brent’s brother, Garret, and his girlfriend, Kelly, came up for a few days. The boys and Brent went riding with them one day and Garret asked Kelly to marry him on top of the mountain. Classic “Go big or go home” Garret style.

rv tahoe ca rv tahoe valley campground ca

We had high hopes for lots of snow but no such luck. Aside from the night we drove in (of course!), the temperatures were unseasonably warm and not a single storm passed through during our two week stay.

Brent Thing 3 Tahoe Hike CA

With the warm weather winter hiking was extra fun. One evening, Brent and I hiked a bit on the Tahoe Rim Trail with Thing 3.

PicMonkey Collage Emerald Bay CA

Brent THing 3 Hike Eagle Falls CA

 

Thing 1 Eagle Falls CA

We enjoyed a family hike on Eagle Falls trail. The older boys complained at first, as is customary, but once we were on the trail they went up ahead of us and seemingly forgot we were watching them. It was pure joy seeing them talk and laugh together. These are the moments I wish I could tattoo on my heart.

Thing 1 Eagle Falls Tahoe CA

This guy’s smile has been melting my heart since 2000.

PicMonkey Collage Eagle Falls Hike CA IMG_2011

Truckee CA PicMonkey Collage Truckee CA

We spent and afternoon in Truckee meeting up and having pizza with an old college friend of mine.

Donner Lake CA1

Emigrant Musuem Truckee CA

PicMonkey Collage

After walking downtown Truckee, we headed over Donner Memorial State Park to learn about the Donner Party tragedy because, admit it, learning about people resorting to cannibalism to survive is fascinating.

Brent Thing 3 Instagram IG Lake Tahoe CA

It was a good two weeks and as much as we enjoy the snow, I have to admit I’d kinda like to see Tahoe in the summer and maybe we could swim in instead of walk on the lake!

Lake Tahoe at a Glance:

Where We Stayed:

RV Tahoe Valley CA

  • Tahoe Valley Campground–  The park was quiet (maybe because it’s off season), clean, and a great location within walking distance from stores and restaurants. It was about a 15 minutes drive to Heavenly Ski Resort.

The Highlights:

  • Snowboarding at Heavenly Ski Resort
  • Hiking Eagle Falls Trail in Emerald Bay State Park
  • Donner Memorial State Park
  • Downtown Truckee
  • Driving around the lake for the gorgeous views.

Where We Ate:

  • Best Pies Pizzaria in Truckee – We had the Best Pies Signature Pie and Pizzadilla. Both were really really good! The Pizzadilla is folded up like a quesadilla.
  • Blue Dog Pizza in South Lake Tahoe – I guess we like pizza. Not particularly memorable but certainly good.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Buying our New Fifth Wheel at Dixie RV

Buying a new RV was a big decision for us. A really big decision. Our old RV was already paid for and it had become our home so we were…

Dixie RV Heartland Gateway 3650BH

Buying a new RV was a big decision for us. A really big decision. Our old RV was already paid for and it had become our home so we were reluctant to part with it. However, our family was in the midst of some changes. Last summer, we found out we were expecting another child. Around the same time we decided to stay on the road indefinately but felt like our preteen and teen needed more personal space so we began our search for a new RV.

After looking at more models of RVs than we could count we found one with a floor plan we loved, the Heartland Gateway 3650BH. Our only hesitation was that it was a brand new model and we had planned to buy used. It would be another year or so before used RVs of this model would start to hit the market. Back and forth we went on whether to buy new or used.

After looking at nearly every bunkhouse fifth wheel on the market, we felt like if we were going to buy used we would basically be getting the same floor plan we already had. The Heartland Gateway was the only RV that had nearly every feature we wanted. Finally, we decided the new RV would give us the extra comfort and space we craved. (You can read more about the features, why we decided to finance it, and watch a video here.)

Dixie RV Hammond

So our search for an RV took a new direction as we started shopping for the Heartland Gateway 3650BH with the features we wanted at a price we could afford. Our search led us to Dixie RV Superstore. One early morning, I couldn’t sleep so I got out of bed and went online again to search for more dealerships carrying the Heartland Gateway line. I came across Dixie RV and they had a lot of Gateway bunkhouses in stock. They also had quite a few with the optional features we wanted. So I sent them an email with an offer. Later that day, we received a phone call from Dixie RV and began the purchasing process.

It was January and Indiana, where we were staying, was being hit by heavy winter storms. We weren’t able to get down to Dixie RV which has locations in Florida and Louisiana for a few weeks so we took care of the paper work to get financing over the phone and by E-mail. Everyone was so nice and helpful. I was particularly nervous that’s my role in the marriage) because we had never purchased a large item brand new. Dixie was able to get us a great rate and our payments ended up being lower than we had budgeted for! I was shocked by how smoothly everything went.

The Gateway with the features we wanted was located in Louisiana so we made plans to go there to pick up our new RV. A few days before we were scheduled to pick it up, Dixie contacted me and said they had found a crack in the bathtub and wanted to make sure it was okay if they switched us to another stock number with the same features. Brent and I were  grateful that they had found the crack in the tub before we got there to pick it up. While the crack would have been covered under warranty, it would have been a hassle to get it fixed. Their thorough inspection saved us time I’m sure.

Dixie RV Superstore Hammond

The day we picked up our RV was exciting. We got there early so we would have plenty of time for the remaining paperwork and to take pictures and video for our blog.

Lifetime RV Warranty

First, we met with the finance department to sign our final loan documents. Regina in finance offered us a few different extended warranty packages but there was never any pressure to buy. We decided to pass and stick with the factory warranty and the Lifetime Warranty that covers a few other major components as long as you keep up on the yearly maintenance.  It is my understanding that the maintenence can be done at different participating dealerships throughout the country. We haven’t used the Lifetime Warranty so we can’t speak of its service but it’s nice knowing we have it.

There was a bit of an unexpected wait to pick up our RV because Dixie had noticed a small chip in the front cap paint and wanted to fix it. A rock had probably hit it while it was being transported from the Heartland factory in Indiana to Louisiana. It didn’t really matter much to us but Dixie wanted to make sure everything was perfect. While we waited we explored the facilities.

Dixie RV Showroom

Of course, the boys wanted to look inside some more RVs. It was nice that we felt welcomed to explore the RVs at leisure inside the large indoor showroom.

Dixie RV Hammond Lot

The outdoor lot is GIGANTIC. If you can’t find an RV to meet your needs here you won’t find one anywhere. It’s always interesting to see the different floor plans and features even if they aren’t what you are looking for.

Dixie RV Hammond Lounge

We spent some time hanging out in the customer lounge.

Camping World Dixie RV Hammond

The customer lounge is attached to a Camping World. Dixie is really a one stop shop for all your RV needs! We made a few purchases for the new rig.

Delivery Pad Dixie RV

Outside there are many service bays and RV pads with electricity for customers to take possession and stay in their new RVs. Dixie even let us stay an extra night so we could drive into New Orleans for a day!

Dixie asked us if we would mind giving a customer testimonial for their YouTube channel while we waited. Dixie has their own video team who produce videos of their inventory and customer testimonials. It was fun way to pass some time by reenacting the buying experience and sharing our story of full time RVing with a family with them.

RV Tour DixieHow to use RV Dixie

Finally that afternoon, we took possession of our new RV, our dream “home”.  Anthony from service led us on walk-through inside and out and taught us Brent how everything worked. After weeks of discussions and searching for a new RV, it was surreal to finally be in it. That night as we went to bed I knew that we had made the right decision and I was thankful that Dixie had helped make the process so smooth.

Dixie RV Superstore Review

Special thanks to our little photographer who helped take pictures!

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Little Big Guy, Thing 3 – Week 4

I’m one month old. What a great four weeks!    Napping is still one of the best things ever. My Papaw gave me the nickname Nobi-Wan Kenobi. My baby wrap…

I’m one month old. What a great four weeks!

Little Big Guy Week 4  Sleeping Baby Thing 3 Week 4 FL

Napping is still one of the best things ever.

Baby Jedi Week 4

My Papaw gave me the nickname Nobi-Wan Kenobi. My baby wrap is really a Jedi robe in disguise.

Thing 3 Hanging out with Daddy week 4

My neck muscles are getting stronger and I’m holding my head up more.

IMG_0158

 

 

Pee shirt week 5

It finally happened. I peed on my big big brother. Oooops!!!! He has been worried about this but he was pretty cool about it.

Baby Lunges Week 4

Mommy has been making my brothers “workout” lately. She says things like, “If you can sit around and play video games then you can workout.” She’s funny. It’s fun to watch my brother  do jumping jacks and even more fun when he lunges with me!

Thing 2 Thing 3 Week 4

Thing Two Thing Three Week 4

Look at that silly face!

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Mommy’s “21 Day Rest Rule” is over. Now we can go on walks!

Cleaning Out the RV Week 4 FL

Daddy organized the “garage” of our RV because we are getting ready to leave soon. I can’t wait!

noble-trip

Last but not least I got my first bath. My mommy and daddy put me in a robe afterwards and went crazy taking pictures. I feel like a superstar!

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument

I was only three years old when Mount St Helens erupted killing 57 people. It was a few years after the fact, that my child’s mind could process deadliest eruption…

IMG_8450

I was only three years old when Mount St Helens erupted killing 57 people. It was a few years after the fact, that my child’s mind could process deadliest eruption in the United States.

Natural disasters are strange mixture of terror and fascination. It was one of the first times I remember learning that nature can be volatile. That there was more to it than baby bunnies and daisies. Not only could the earth open up and swallow or whirring funnels reach down from the sky but the earth could explode and pour hot lava for miles. Mount St Helens was a landmark of my childhood.

IMG_8459

Thirty four years later, Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument still bears scars of her volatile and harsh past.

Running Mt St Helens WA

But there are also wildflowers and animals reminding us that following devastation there is rebuilding and rebirth.

Family Mt St Helens WA

Jr Rangers Mt St Helens WA

It’s a place of education and beauty.

Brothers Mt St Helens WA Visiting Mt St Helens WA Summer Flowers Mt St Helens WA Mt St Helens WA

In Memory of Mt ST Helens WA

Daisies Mt St Helens WA

After a few hours of learning and contemplating, we walked back to the car and I couldn’t help but notice the daisies.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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