We love the beach! We planned on traveling to the gulf coast and hanging out at the beach for several weeks, then return to Texas the end of July for my friend’s vow renewal. Then we would take off to celebrate Perry Christmas in Iowa, finish the Midwest states, then settle back in Texas for a couple of months. We decided to take a few extra days to get home, so we could check off a couple of states.
We added Illinois and Missouri to our map, which was pretty exciting, and that brings our state count to 13. So we are planning to head out in September and tour the south east. We hope to see Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Depending on timing, we may try see Georgia as well.
Even with everything going on the summer, we’ve gone and done something crazy . . .
Easter is holiday that is rich in tradition, as we celebrate Jesus rising from the dead, spending time with family; but what does that look like living an RV? Should we maintain our traditions, or should we make new ones? Our traditions have always been pretty simple - worshiping in the morning with our church family, ham and potatoes for lunch, an egg hunt and a small basket of goodies for the kids, and a wonderful afternoon nap.
This year ended up being quite a bit different for us; we still found a local church that had a sunrise service. It met at a park and had a pretty good turnout for 6:30 AM. We sang and worshiped, listened to the birds chirping, and felt the cool morning breeze on our cheeks. It was great service, but it was definitely bittersweet. I missed our church family, I missed the introduction to the God at the Movie series at our church, and I missed the kids going crazy over a bunch of plastic eggs. This year we decided to dye Easter eggs. We have only done this on other time and that was 7 years ago, so I guess we were due. The kids had fun, which is why we parents can handle the mess, I suppose. After church, we finished packing up and headed to our long awaited destination - the Grand Canyon! The drive was absolutely beautiful! Driving from the desert to the Kaibab Forest was amazing. I will miss the Saguaro cactus, but the beauty of the canyon easily makes up for it.
We arrived at the canyon, had small snack, let the kids open their Easter baskets, started dinner in the Instant Pot, then took the bus to the visitor center (we wanted to get a head start on the Junior Ranger Program Booklet). If you haven’t been to the Grand Canyon, you should go! Words cannot truly express the grandeur and your eyes cannot truly comprehend it either. It was chilly, so we didn’t stay long because we were not really dressed for it. But we are excited to return tomorrow and hopefully hike some of the Bright Angel Trail. The kids are excited about learning and exploring with their junior ranger books.
I can’t believe it has only been one week! It feels like so much longer. We have seen some strange things and some really cool things, and learned a little bit too. It has definitely been challenging, but we have seen some success as well. We started out not really knowing what we are doing, and well, still don’t really know. We are taking it one day at time.
We are finding the work/life balance to be extremely difficult.
Although we have been blessed to travel, we are not independently wealthy and Eric has to work 40 hours a week. Between driving, trying to see local sights, and getting his hours, time management is proving harder than we thought it would be. So the tough realization is that the kids and I may have to go and explore without Eric and that’s kind of a bummer to me. With that being said, It has only been one week, so we still have time to figure out what works best for us.
Although we are traveling, it is not a vacation.
It’s just a new way of doing life. We still have a budget we must follow. Even though we have set aside some monies for the fun things it is hard to stretch that for 7 people. We cannot afford to do all the cool touristy things, so we have to be creative to still experience local areas and have fun. We plan on seeing state and national parks which usually have modest entrance fees, so if we take some balls or frisbees and pack our lunch, it makes for an economical solution for a large family. Also we have been brainstorming ways to make additional income. I hope we have an epiphany soon!
things don't always work correctly
Oh my stars, our hitch! I have written about it a couple of times, and we have had two successful hitch ups with minimal time and effort. However, it has cost us more money. On our way to New Mexico we found ourselves in tight spot and we scratched Wanda again. Poor girl. I think this one will buff out unlike the South Padre incident. The hitch is an auto-slide and it didn't seem to be doing its job. I called the manufacturer and they were Johnny-on-the-Spot with a solution; we needed an adapter for our RV kingpin. By God’s grace, we were able to find a local distributor who was able to order the part and get it the next day and get it installed. I’m hopeful we have it all figured out and I won’t have to write about it again.
sometimes you have to go with the flow.
We are changing our attitude to one of gratitude, and realizing there may be time we need to go with the flow. Because we had to stay an extra day in Las Cruses, NM we were able to go the White Sands National Park and it was amazing! We didn’t know what to expect but were pleasantly surprised.
Our family thrives with routines and structure.
Since we take our house with us, most of our daily routines are intact, we’re just in a different location. However, just the fact that we are in different locations, doing unscheduled activities does disrupt the delicate balance but we have seen some growth already with the kids. We try to take votes to decide on activities which usually leaves at least one child not getting to do the activity they want. We’ve had some moments where we were able talk through without tears and bring the child to other side. And on another occasion, having a child not want to do the activity, but then love it so much they didn’t want to leave. So we are excited that the kids are giving things a chance and willing to experience new things.
we are so blessed.
Every day we are astounded and amazed that we are on the road and traveling. And today we have made it one week traveling and have traveled a little over 900 miles pulling the trailer and over 1400 miles if you include exploring miles. We are excited and looking forward to what the future brings.
Another trying morning with this hitch. I think it took us longer to get hooked up today than it did our first day. I know we’ll get the hang of it. I find myself already in a negative headspace about tomorrow morning. So, I am trying to have positive self talk, “I am going to direct him correctly the first time”, “we can do this, just like we did with the old hitch”. Here’s to another day.
We have realized that our children adjusted more quickly to the homeschool lifestyle that we thought. When in public school, the kids had to be up by 5:45 am, so I could start driving them to school by 6:40 am. We woke them up around 7:15 am and most of them moaned and groaned that it was super early. I am glad that they are sleeping in, I think the time change may have something to do with that too. We were planning to do school while on the road, but we just didn’t, so tomorrow we will! Everyday is an opportunity for learning.
We got on the road about 9:30 am, which wasn’t bad, but we hoped to be rolling out by 9. About half an hour into our drive, a warning light appeared on the dash, telling us to “check trailer brake wiring” or something like that. Thankfully, there was an exit coming up. Eric got out and checked the breakaway cable and the plug from the truck to the trailer. He thought maybe the truck to trailer connection wasn’t secure, so he adjusted them. I hopped out to check brake lights and off we wen. Eric was a little unsettled for several miles, but he calmed down. We were thankful that it turned out to be a minor issue.
We went a little further today than yesterday, so we had to stop to refuel. Our gas mileage was not as good as we had hoped, and according to Buck we only had 18 miles to go before we were out of gas. We had not taken into account that we were starting to change elevations and our truck was having to work a little harder. I did see one gas station along the way at some point, but there was no signage on I-10, so I’m not sure if it was opened or would have been able to accommodate us. Anyway, we made it to the gas station and Eric will now be even more cautious in his gas calculations.
We made it to the RV Park got unhitched, (which, by the way, goes much better than hitching up) and unloaded the truck. I went to the office to see if there were any landmarks or quirky things that were uniquely Van Horn. The staff laughed at me. I mean belly laughed. One employees said that many people come to take a picture of their weather vane. And another employee suggested we go see Prada Marfa. “What is that?”, I asked. She explained that it was an art project in the middle of nowhere and directed me to a postcard. Then I remembered reading about it online in a “things to do in Texas” article. I decided to see if Eric would go for the idea. I don’t think he wanted to go, but he loves me, so we loaded everyone up and off we went toward Valentine, TX.
The drive was beautiful, we saw Texas mountains (probably not considered mountains to those in Colorado, but mountains to Texans because we’re used to flat), some unique structures and what appeared to be some off grid living. It took us about 30 minutes or so from RV park to get Prada Marfa. Go ahead Google Prada Marfa, it’s so strange. What was was even more surprising were the amount of people, like us, who were there. I think in the ten to 15 minutes we were there, there were at least 20 that stopped to photograph it. Y’all, it is literally on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. I wish now that I would have crossed the highway to give you a better sense of the scale. My children did not understand the “art” of it. For some reason we had a hard time explaining to them that there are different art mediums and everyone has a different opinion of what is considered art. Well, it will be another memory for the children to remember me as weird. “Remember that one time mom had dad drive us to the middle of nowhere to the store where you couldn’t buy anything and it was supposed to be art?”, “yeah, she was so crazy”. Well at least that’s a conversation I hope they have. Also, behind the Prada Marfa was a lock fence. It was pretty neat. The kids really enjoyed looking at all of the different locks. We drove back and stopped at a historical marker, which made me laugh because it seemed they couldn’t decide who the well was actually named after, and that the mail route had an absolutely ridiculous name. We came home to perfectly cooked Instant Pot baked potatoes. We put on a movie for the kids and Eric and I began working.
We have been watching the weather because tomorrow is supposed to have some pretty substantial winds and strong wind gusts developing late morning early afternoon. Hopefully we can get up and going without much issue and miss most of it. All in all it was a pretty good day.
Today is the day! We have been making preparations and plans for about a year now for this very moment. We are tired; this week has worn us out, but we are also relieved and eager. Over the last year there were tears, times of joy, times of despair, times of excitement and times of dread. But we made it! We took a step of faith and God provided. We have a beautiful rig, a steady income and we are ready to go.
The RV hummed with excitement and anticipation this morning as the kids woke up, and our son was literally buzzing. Lots of smiles and hugs were given. With lots of reminders, the kids made it through breakfast, got dressed and found toys to play with while we traveled. It was good they were ready to get on the road, it made for some really compliant, though absent-minded children.
Overall, I was feeling good this morning. Slowly we began completing items on our checklist; Eric handles the outside and I handle the inside. It’s a pretty good arrangement. We took a picture beside the RV to mark this momentous occasion. Then we loaded the kids in the truck, so we could hitch up. I was starting to feel uneasy as Eric began backing up Buck to Wanda. Everything about this hitch is different and it didn’t help that the weather was cloudy, windy and chilly, we’ve decided the weather was being affected by the angst I was feeling about heading out and getting hitched up with the new slide hitch. We took a moment and prayed to calm my nerves and asked God to help us get through the next moments. It did help, but Eric and I struggled to communicate to each other during this process. The new hitch allows for more degrees of freedom than the last one, so it was harder for me to have clear sight lines for the kingpin. Eric can no longer see the hitch when backing up, so he needs me to direct him; however, when I am behind the truck he can only see my fingers in the side mirrors. We finally figured it out! Praise the Lord! I’m sure it was a good show to anyone watching us hook up this morning.
About an hour into the drive, my nerves were much calmer, my stomach was settled and I was able to eat a little snack, and the sun began shining brightly. It was a pretty easy drive, about 200 miles and only a little bit of construction and traffic. The kids did well, which I think had a lot to do with the excitement they were feeling. They played with dolls, read their books and looked out the window. I texted friends and family to ask for prayer and most of all, watched the mirrors and bridge height signs. If you remember in an earlier post, “Where it All Started”, we talked about not truly knowing the height of Wanda. Well she’s taller than we thought-she sits about 13’6”, so we’re definitely going to be more mindful. The RV park is about a mile off the highway, and is very clean and quite. We parked unhitched with minor difficulties, possibly the smoothest we ever have.
It turned into an absolutely gorgeous day today! It is 86 degrees Fahrenheit with a slight breeze and mostly sunny. I couldn’t ask for a nicer first day. We are parked right by the river, so we took a little walk, looked for minnows along the bank, and then had lunch. I am typing at the covered picnic table at our site while Eric and the kids are getting things together to take to the local park.
Last week just flew by and of course there is still a lot to do. Last night we sat down and with as much detail as we could, wrote down what we need to accomplish before Friday. My planner is full and I filled up tons of sticky notes. We are getting some routine maintenance done on the truck today and some not so routine work done (fixing a recall) and then, tomorrow, the new automatic slide hitch will be installed. I will continue finding a home for everything in the RV and finish up some pending orders. This afternoon I will start calling to reserve spots at RV parks.
I was hoping that these last two weeks would help us create some resemblance of a routine, but we have been busy, running things to storage, meeting with friends and taking care of last minute appointments. Last week, I spent a good chunk of time getting ready for family pictures. Eric and I are hoping that once we start traveling and don’t have to do the preparation work everyday that things will settle out. We’re hoping for work, school, travel and explore.
Everyone is excited as we talk about visiting zoos, national parks and of course the Grand Canyon. But being a larger family, we have to be budget conscious, so if we find some good, budget friendly things to do, we’ll definitely let you know. Last summer when we drove out to Maryland, we drive about 1500 miles in 3 days. We were on the road for 8-10 hours per day. Wowzer, it was awful. We were all tired and cranky, our tummies hurt because we were eating greasy fast food and not drinking enough water. We wouldn’t recommend it. This trip we have decided to take our time and try not to travel more than 4 hours or so a day. It will take us longer to get where we are going, but we are hoping it makes the traveling more enjoyable. Also, by traveling in smaller chunks, it should allow Eric to still get most of his work hours in on travel days. That’s the plan for now, sure to be revised. We are eager to get on the road and share our adventure with you. Stay tuned!
We have set a date. We are really getting ready to travel and live full time in our RV! Every day I am amazed at how much God has done for us and especially Him giving us such an amazing opportunity. I say this all the time, but it’s true; if you would have told me in January 2017 that I would have my house and most of my belongings sold, and be living in an RV, I would have laughed at you. I mean, laughing so hard I would be crying, laughing. That’s not just something I would do, not something that we would do. And here we are.
The to-do list seems like it’s a million miles long. The biggest thing on the list is to declutter. Since we have been stationary in the RV since our house sold in October, we have slowly brought things from the storage unit and very few things have returned back to storage. And the storage compartments under our trailer are so disorganized and full of well, I don’t know what. We need to replace the slide hitch; I think Eric will speak to that in a different post. It is necessary to weigh our trailer, Wanda, so we are not overweight. I have craft things everywhere, and I mean everywhere. It all requires a home. All of our items need to be secured as we travel. I know it will all get done, but it just seems like so much.
Of course, just like with every phase of this transition, I am full of emotions; we are all full of emotions. For the most part, we are excited. We are ready to see new things. This planning stage has been long, hard, looong and at times brutal. It has seemed really long and really fast all at the same time. So it’s exciting to think that all the hard work and effort has paid off and we are actually going. I’m personally excited to dust off my camera and dive back into photography. I hope to explore beautiful places, share beautiful experiences, and create beautiful memories with my family.
Here are a few of my favorite images from vacations.
If all goes well, we will be heading out March 16. Let's do this!!